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25 June 2020: Feeling the heat at Wimpole

Ah, those idyllic summer rides; tyres singing on the tarmac, the wind in your hair, the breeze in your gusset.

The warmest day of the year saw nineteen Windmillers turn out for a tour of Fowlmere, Shrepreth, Littlington, Wimpole, Barrington and Newton. Not just socially distanced, but widely distributed around a 29 mile circuit, our runners and riders were Maurice, Andrew, Howard, Charles, Ric, Geoff, Graham, Martin, Suzanne, Chris, Tom, Deborah, Jenni, Roger, Rod, Ken, Yorkie Brian, Brummie Brian and Lawrence.

Maurice having planned the route, Andrew ensured our starts were spread out, half of us going clockwise and half anticlockwise. And Lawrence, top chap, hosted the beer and charity box in his garden at Fowlmere.

Maurice, on his antique yellow bike, sustained an early puncture but – as the rest of us weren’t around to help (ie hinder) – he had it fixed and back on the road in record time.

Hard luck, Maurice

Crossing the Wimpole estate, we pulled in for a takeaway coffee at the café. The service was so slow, however, that Martin and Suzanne attempted that old queue jumping trick of striking up an avid conversation with a friend near the front. Alas, a brisk rebuke from upstanding members of the National Trust saw them suitably shamed and sent scurrying to the back of the queue. Tut, tuts all round.

Shady characters at Wimpole
Howard, seemingly sitting on a pedal. I didn’t know you could do that

Lawrence, keen to get back and host the Fowlmere refreshments, pushed himself so hard he could barely walk after dismounting. And Simon whizzing around to finish in a personal best time, was disappointed to narrowly miss his target of two hours. Maybe next time – with the help of shaved legs and some figure hugging lycra – he will fulfil that dream.

Cheers, Lawrence
29 miles whichever way you go

Brian

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5 March 2020: Wet? Not ‘arf!

The morning had started fair, twelve Windmillers exiting the Golden Fleece car park heading for Clavering. But poor old Maurice suffered an early setback when the e-part of his e-bike gave up the ghost and he was forced to return to the pub leaving us at the mercy of Andrew – who assured us he knew the route. We looked at our feet, “Mmmm, we’ll see.”

We needn’t have worried. We suspect he made it up as he went along but Andrew’s route, while distinctly wiggly, took us along quiet lanes in picturesque countryside.

27 miles anticlockwise – and looking a little lost around Clavering
Deborah and Graham circumventing a road closure

Sixteen miles in, we pulled up for refreshments at Poppy’s Barn, our first visit to this little gem of a tea room in the middle of nowhere; the tiny hamlet of Butt’s Green being the nearest habitation. The coffee and cake were exceedingly good and Graham spoke highly of the hot chocolate with marshmallow topping.

Graham’s sugar fix

We may have been cosy in Poppy’s but outside the weather had taken a turn for the worst; steady rain. Exiting the tearoom, we huddled under the barn eaves, donning oilskins and sou’westers while we contemplated our options. Go back inside and eat more cake? Send Sandra on alone to fetch her van? She didn’t like that idea at all. Resolute, we mounted our dripping wet bikes and – heads down – pedalled the 10 miles or so back to the pub.

Landlord Peter gave us a warm welcome and served up an excellent lunch; we particularly enjoyed his pie and a pint fare.

For the record, the 12 hardy Windmillers gently steaming in the Golden Fleece were: Maurice, Deborah, Andrew, Nigel, Ken, Martin, Sandra, Graham, Victor, Rod, Lawrence and Brian.

Despite the weather it was a very enjoyable outing. Many thanks to Andrew for improvising such a good route. Let’s do it again on a fine day.

Brian

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31 October 2019: Sixteen for Halloween

Wot, no shorts?

Sixteen Windmillers! A record turnout, not to mention a serious overtaking challenge for the hard pressed motorists of Cambridgeshire. It was Halloween and the cast list for our rocky horror show was: Ken, Sandra, Andrew, Geoff, Howard, Tom, Ric, Simon, Vernon, Roger, Graham, Lawrence, Keith, Charles, Brian and Deborah; the latter fashionably late but catching up with us a mile down the road.

The ground frost had lifted by the time we got going but even the hardiest among us had decided to forgo the shorts; indeed some were wearing ski gloves.

Ken – this week’s routemeister – had devised a 30-ish mile circuit starting just off the A14 at Boxworth and taking in Papworth Everard, Abbotsley, Waresley and Cambourne. A novel route, especially so for the farmer who took exception to Ken’s shortcut across his land in a bid to avoid the Papworth Everard bypass. The first dozen of us got across before the mass trespass was spotted, but the tailenders – Tom, Ric, Graham, Lawrence, Sandra and Howard – got waylaid and told in no uncertain terms to sling their hook. With the peloton now divided, there was a 15 minute delay while we all caught up with each other again – on the Papworth Everard bypass!

Hanging out at Abbotsley while Roger mends his puncture

The only other incident of note was a puncture sustained by Roger but this was soon mended.

Pulling in for refreshments at Waresley Park Garden Centre, we enjoyed coffee and cake and debated the issues of the day – polling dates, England’s chances in the rugby world cup, ailments – you know the sort of thing.

Simon gets his sugar fix

Lunch at the Golden Ball on this our first visit was excellent and – a lovely surprise – Maurice turned up looking hale and hearty just two weeks after his operation. Sitting next to him, Brian tested Maurice’s reaction time – not to mention his patience – by tipping a pint over his leg. Thankfully, it wasn’t the one with the stitches.

Good to see Maurice back

Thanks, Ken, for planning an excellent outing; Andrew too for getting us all organised.

29 miles anticlockwise from Boxworth

Brian

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24 October 2019: Spooky Cake

The season turns, nights draw in and Windmillers wrap up warm against the autumn chill; apart from Sandra, Simon and Charles who, being made of sterner stuff, refuse to give up the shorts until Jack Frost nips at their kneecaps.

Ready for the off

So it was that Sandra in her lycra summer wear, Simon in his Baden Powell britches, and Charles in his signature stripey socks, met up with the rest of us in our sensible leggings. We were at The Woodman for our weekly Thursday outing and, for the record, the others in our gang were: Ken, Martin, Graham, Lawrence, Roger, Brian and Deborah; the latter looking remarkably spry considering she had finished a night shift just a few hours earlier.

Setting out from The Woodman, Sandra – this week’s routemeister – steered us via Wyddial to Buntingford and then on through Westmill, Great Munden, Moor Green and Ardeley – where we pulled in for coffee and cake at Church Farm. The place was decked out for Halloween and the cake selection featured various spooky treats. Graham sampled the Halloween Chilli Sponge while Simon opted for the Bloodstained Victoria Sandwich. Meanwhile Deborah – with an afternoon’s horse riding still to come – kept going with strong coffee. 

Fashion icons Charles and Graham modelling a range of autumn wear
Deborah looking forward to a caffeine fix

Refreshed and back on the bikes, we followed Sandra out of Ardeley towards Cromer for the return leg to Nuthampstead. With the sugar beet harvest in full swing, the roads hereabouts were liberally coated in mud and we soon assumed a somewhat mud-speckled appearance. When the rain arrived it was a mixed blessing; we got wet – but we also got clean again.

Brian looking forward to a restorative pint

Tumbling back into the Woodman, we were delighted to be joined by John Bagrie while Deborah headed off to the stables. We enjoyed a pint and a jolly good lunch.

Back at The Woodman

It had been an excellent ride along a well chosen route: scenic and almost traffic free. Thanks, Sandra.

30 miles clockwise from Nuthampstead

Brian

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3 October 2019: On Maurice’s home turf

Thursday morning saw 12 Windmillers set off from the Golden Fleece at Braughing, Maurice leading the way, followed by Andrew, Ken, Keith, Howard, Charles, Roger, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon and Brian.

Born and bred hereabouts, Maurice needs no map. He led the way south – through Puckeridge, Levens Green, Sacombe Green and Bengeo – to Hertford where we picked up the Lea Navigation towpath. Then it was a leisurely ride along the riverside to Ware and a welcome coffee stop at the café in the town centre.

Refreshed, we continued along the river as far as Stanstead Abbotts where, leaving the towpath, we turned northwards for the return leg – via Hunsdon, Barwick and Standon – to Braughing.

A puncture in Keith’s rear tyre entailed a small delay but, with Howard’s help, this was soon mended and we were underway once more, arriving back at the Fleece soon after 1 o’clock.

A delightful morning was topped off with an excellent lunch served up by Landlord Peter.

Thanks, Maurice for your intuitive, satnav-like guidance around the quieter lanes of North Herts. Andrew too, for getting us all organised.

Brian

31 miles anticlockwise from Braughing
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26 September 2019: Milling around at Bourn

Bourn Windmill

We felt slightly giddy, standing on the mill floor as the entire structure – tower, sails, the lot – turned through all points of the compass. Propelled by our unseen friends outside, our little world was turning; twenty-odd tons of oak, cast iron and millstone creaked alarmingly about our ears as sunbeams and shadows danced across the internal walls.

Sandra and Lawrence doing all the pushing while Roger and Martin discuss Brexit

We were on another of Martin’s marvellous outings. You may remember the last one involved crossing an expanse of open water in a small boat. This time we were getting up close and personal with some 17th century heavy engineering.

Simon, Victor, Claire, Howard and Geoff showing how it should be done

Setting out from Abington Pigotts earlier that morning, Martin had led the way – via Hatley St George and the Gransdens – to Bourn where he had arranged a tour of the mill. Our host Kate plus volunteers Derek and Claire were expecting us and gave a warm welcome.

Built in 1636, Bourn is one of the oldest windmills in England and a designated Ancient Monument. Perched in lovely countryside to the west of Cambridge it is owned and cared for by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future.

Derek and Claire gave us a fascinating insight into the ingenuity of millwrights – before splitting us into two groups: the innies who were to be whirled around inside – and the outies who did the pushing. Innies and outies then swapped over so all had a turn at pushing / feeling queasy.

Afterwards Kate invited us into her garden where we enjoyed tea, coffee and some wonderful home-baked treats. Delightful as it was, we had another 17 miles to go and so, thanking Kate, Derek and Claire for their hospitality, we saddled up and set off on the return leg.

Kate and Martin

Approaching Harlton, Martin led us off road and up hill on a rough track for a mile or so before before descending towards Orwell. Then it was on to Meldreth, Bassingbourn and eventually the home straight back to the Pig and Abbot.

Over a hearty lunch and a beer there was much talk of windmills followed by a fierce debate as to whether Landlady Pat’s meat pies were superior to her meat puddings; opinion was divided and we agreed to return and gather more data in the near future.

For the record our gang of cyclists comprised Martin, Andrew, Sandra, Ken, Howard, Roger, Ric, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon,  Vernon and Brian – and we clocked up 32 miles.

32 miles clockwise from Abington Pigotts

Thanks, Martin, for another excellent outing; Andrew too for the logistics. And a special thanks to Kate, Derek and Claire for their hospitality. Great cakes, Kate!

Checkout the CPPF website for further information on Bourn Mill – and there are more pictures in our 2019 photo album – including a video of us turning the mill.

Brian

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6 September 2019: Ahoy, shipmates!

How many Windmillers can you fit in a small boat? Well now we know: eleven, including bikes.

Room for 6 more

Martin had promised us a day at the seaside. So it was that eleven Windmillers set out from Brightlingsea for an outing to Clacton. It was an unseasonally chilly morning so we left our buckets, spades and bathing costumes in the car.

“Are we nearly there yet?” was the oft-heard refrain as we pedalled after Martin for some 16 miles – through Great Bentley and Thorpe-le-Soken – before finally seeing the sea at Walton-on-the-Naze.

The Naze Tower

We pulled in for coffee at the Essex Wildlife Trust café, adjacent to the historic Naze tower. It was a timely stop as Keith had just developed a puncture.

Puncture repairs

Refreshed and with Keith’s puncture mended, we set off along the promenade for 12 traffic-free miles taking in Frinton, Holland-on-Sea and Clacton. And what a blissful ride it was, under wide blue skies with a clear horizon and very little wind.

Clacton Pier

Pulling up at Point Clear, we could see our destination 500 yards away across Brightlingsea Creek. Martin made a call to check the foot ferry was operating. It was; which was just as well – the return by road would have meant an extra 20 miles and no lunch.

“About that ferry I ordered . . .”

It was at this point that we started having doubts about Martin’s plan – as we traipsed after him, pushing the bikes with some difficulty across several hundred yards of shingle and sand. There was no sign of a ferry – or even a jetty – and how exactly would we get off the beach and on to a boat? Wading with bikes held aloft? There was nothing at the water’s edge, not even a footprint – just an expanse of open water between us and Brightlingsea.

Brightlingsea – so near, and yet so far

“Mmmm,” said Martin as, pulling out his phone again, he made another call. Lo and behold, a little boat chugged out of Brightlingsea harbour heading our way. Reaching the shore, the skipper lowered a landing ramp and invited us aboard. What all of us? On that little thing? Bikes too?

Five minutes later and now fully laden the little craft was ferrying us across the creek. What larks!

Finding our sea legs
A motley crew
Galley slaves

Disembarking at the town jetty, we saddled up and rode the last few hundred yards to The Rosebud where we lunched in the garden overlooking the Colne Estuary.

Landlubbers once more

For the record the eleven Windmillers were Martin, Andrew, Maurice, Deborah, Graham, Charles, Keith, Lawrence, Roger, Ric and Brian.

Well done, Martin, and many thanks for a wonderful day. We never doubted you really.

Brian

Cheers!
36 miles clockwise from Brightlingsea

PS There’s lots more pictures in our 2019 album here

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22 August 2019: Therfield

A sunny Thursday morning saw twelve Windmillers setting out from the Fox & Duck, Sandra leading the way followed by Ken, Howard, Charles, Rod, Ric, John, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon, Neil and Brian.

This being her home patch, Sandra knew well the quietest, most picturesque lanes as we followed her through Sandon, Cumberlow Green, Warren’s Green and Weston, stopping only for Brian to mend a puncture.

Descending into Baldock, we pulled in for coffee at Delizia where the proprietor, shrewdly spotting an up-selling opportunity, plonked a large tray of croissants and pastries in the middle of our table. Within minutes they were gone, leaving only crumbs and sticky fingers.

Blood sugar levels restored, we mounted up and headed for Ashwell, from where – taking our lives in our hands – we crossed the busy A505 and headed back to Therfield via Sandon and Kelshall.

Arriving at the pub, we met up with John Bagrie, enjoyed a beer on the green and inspected Neil’s impressive tool collection before sitting down to a restorative lunch.

Thanks, Sandra, for a lovely morning’s ride.

Brian

30 miles clockwise from Therfield

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15 August 2019: Hartest

Thirteen Windmillers set off from The Crown for a 31 mile jaunt around the lanes of south east Suffolk.

Andrew, Sandra, Ken, Howard, Roger, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon, Tom and Brian followed Maurice out of Hartest and on through Shimpling, Lavenham and Brent Eleigh to Acton, where we pulled in at Wally’s Shed for refreshment. Tucked away on an industrial estate, Wally’s offers good nosh at keen prices. Where else would a cost conscious Windmiller enjoy a round of toast and a mug of tea – and all for £1.10?

In Wally’s Shed

Back on the bikes we made short work of the return leg via Long Melford, Glemsford and Hawkedon, arriving back at The Crown bang on time for a 1 o’clock lunch. No bargain basement prices here, just some really good cooking.

Lunching at The Crown

Nobody got lost, wet, stung or fell off.

Once again, our thanks go to Maurice for researching a lovely route on quiet roads – and Andrew for finding out where’s Wally.

31 miles clockwise from Hartest

Brian

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1 August 2019: Stevenage Orbital

Andrew, Graham, Ken and Maurice at Emily’s Tea Room

Thirteen Windmillers set off from The Rising Sun, Halls Green, for a 28 mile loop around Stevenage. Leading the peloton was Maurice closely followed by Andrew, Ken, Keith, Howard, Rod, Roger, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Nigel and Brian.

Among the hazards of summer cycling are close encounters with wasps. Sure enough – and within a few miles of the start – Graham was stung on the lip. The poor chap has had more than his fair share of facial injuries recently and – although there was no blood this time – the swelling was impressive and Graham soon looked like he’d done a few rounds with Mike Tyson. Passing through Codicote, we stopped at a chemist for sting relief.

Our next stop was for refreshment at Emily’s Tea Shop in Whitwell. A favourite with local cyclists, the North Herts Club were there in force. Decked out in matching blue livery they made us Windmillers look rather dowdy in comparison.

Back on the bikes, we made short work of the return leg to Weston and Halls Green where John and Vernon joined us at the pub for a welcome beer and a good lunch.

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising everything.

Lunch at the Rising Sun
28 miles clockwise

Brian

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20 June 2019: Hertfordshire Hills

Raring to go? Or shall we just stay here in the garden?

Thursday morning saw eleven Windmillers gathering in the garden of the Golden Fleece at Braughing – Ric, Roger and Sandra arriving on two wheels while the rest of us – Maurice, Keith, Howard, Charles, Rod, Chris, Victor and Brian – arrived on four.

Being such a beautiful morning some were tempted to stay in the garden and natter away for an hour in the sunshine. Alas our leader had other plans and – Landlord Peter having taken our lunch orders – Maurice led the way out of Braughing for a tour of the Herts hills.

Crossing the Rib at Barwick

Some five miles in – and for reasons unknown – some in the lead pulled up unexpectedly and poor old Charles, ploughing into the back of the peloton, took a tumble and gashed his knee. Old soldier that he is, he shrugged it off, got back on his bike and carried on.

The rest of the outing was thankfully uneventful, taking in the villages of Cold Christmas, Thundridge and Bassus Green, the blood trail from Charles’ knee proving helpful for the tailenders to follow.

After 24 miles and several stiff ascents, Church Farm, Ardeley, was a welcome sight and we pulled in for coffee and cake.

Paying our respects to Thomas Clarkson

Back on the bikes we made short work of the remaining 8 miles, stopping just once at Wadesmill to admire the monument to Thomas Clarkson (1760 – 1846), leader of the anti-slavery movement.

Arriving back at the pub we enjoyed a beer and a good lunch, well satisfied with our 32 miles. For Sandra, however, that was only the warm up. She texted later that day to say she had clocked up 126 miles. Respect!

32 miles clockwise from Braughing

Thanks, Maurice, for organising another excellent outing.

Brian