Categories
Braughing

Laughing in Braughing

“Can you sleep in it?” enquired Deborah pointing to Sandra’s big shiny van, “and what’s in there anyway?” Whereupon Sandra, sliding back the door, pulled out an alpaca, albeit a large cuddly one. Talk about Aladdin’s cave.

Sandra, “Any more questions about the contents of my van?

Then there’s Ann and Martin who, for reasons best known to themselves, gave an impromptu rendition of “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do” during lunch. They only knew the chorus so we have helpfully included the complete lyrics below in the hope that they will give us the full version soon. The Windmillers are indeed an eccentric, some would say slightly mad, bunch.

Not as worrying as it looks; just Graham helping Deborah adjust her saddle height

So it was that thirteen Windmillers gathered at the Golden Fleece for a 30 mile jaunt around the lanes of East Herts; Ann, Brian, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Martin, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Victor raring to go on a figure of eight route devised by Maurice. And what a route it was, affording magnificent views across the Hertfordshire countryside, the roadsides abounding in May blossom. Views naturally only come with hill climbs, of which there were a fair few, so it was with some relief that we pulled up for a breather and some refreshment at the Brewery Tea Rooms in Walkern.

The Brewery Tea Rooms

Set in a beautiful house, a former brewery to be precise, it serves excellent coffee and fabulous cakes, and we were very warmly received by the ladies who run the place. Why have we never been here before? We must return in the near future.

Topping up our caffeine and glucose levels

Back on the bikes we puffed our way around the remaining 18 miles, pausing occasionally for the pedallers to catch up with the electrically assisted. Cresting the final hill between Puckeridge and Braughing, we returned to the Golden Fleece looking forward to a beer.

Maurice, Ken and Andrew were there to greet us and, as ever, our hosts Pete and Jess served up an excellent lunch.

Cheers!
A 30 mile figure of eight: Braughing – Nasty – Great Munden – Wood End – Ardeley – Walkern – Benington – Whempstead – Haultwick – Nasty – St Edmund’s College – Puckeridge – Braughing

Thanks go to Maurice for devising yet another superb route, also Graham, Martin and Simon for the many photographs which are all available in the club photo album.

Brian


Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” is a popular song written in 1892 by British songwriter Harry Dacre. It is said to have been inspired by Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, one of the many mistresses of King Edward VII.

There is a flower within my heart, Daisy, Daisy!
Planted one day by a glancing dart,
Planted by Daisy Bell!
Whether she loves me or loves me not,
Sometimes it’s hard to tell;
Yet I am longing to share the lot
Of beautiful Daisy Bell!

Daisy, Daisy,
Give me your answer, do!
I’m half crazy,
All for the love of you!
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’ll look sweet on the seat
Of a bicycle built for two!

We will go “tandem” as man and wife, Daisy, Daisy!
“Ped’ling” away down the road of life, I and my Daisy Bell!
When the road’s dark we can both despise P’liceman and “lamps” as well;
There are “bright lights” in the dazzling eyes Of beautiful Daisy Bell!
(Chorus)

I will stand by you in “wheel” or woe, Daisy, Daisy!
You’ll be the bell(e) which I’ll ring you know! Sweet little Daisy Bell!
You’ll take the “lead” in each “trip” we take, Then if I don’t do well;
I will permit you to use the brake, My beautiful Daisy Bell!
(Chorus)

Categories
Ely The fens

Goosed in Ely

Fenland can be a disorienting place – with its 360° horizon, black earth, wide waterways and immense skies – but the National Cycle Network’s Route 11 is there to guide you from Cambridge to Ely on traffic free lanes and byways. So it was that eleven hardy Windmillers set off for Ely, a return trip of 40 miles or so, on a cold Thursday in April.

Cambridge Park & Ride: ready for the off

There was plenty to see along the way. Not only do the fens contain around half the grade 1 agricultural land in England but they are also home to herds of deer and rare breeds of cattle and ponies, while the numerous locks, sluices, pumps and dykes keep the waters of the Great Ouse and the North Sea at bay.

Along the way we pulled in for refreshment at Wicken Fen, the National Trust reserve where herds of free roaming konik ponies and highland cattle help create new habitats for wildlife. Their grazing keeps the landscape open and encourages the growth of wetland and grassland plants.

Windmillers stress testing a fenland bridge

It was here that Charles, Chris, Geoff and Ken peeled off and headed for home, leaving Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Howard, Martin, Sandra and Simon to continue on towards Ely.

We enjoyed a splendid lunch at Peacocks Tearoom and Howard, this week’s birthday boy, bought the drinks.

Sandra cringes while Simon struggles with tearoom etiquette . . .

It was as we were putting our helmets on for the return trip that Deborah got goosed – quite literally – by a goose that crept up from behind and pecked her on the bum, to much hilarity all round.

Never turn your back on a goose, Deborah
All set for the homeward leg

The return leg was thankfully somewhat warmer and Martin, Sandra, Brian and Howard pulled up for yet more refreshment at Anglesey Abbey, while Andrew, Deborah and Simon headed on back to Cambridge.

Martin ahead of Simon, with Ely Cathedral in the background

Thanks are due to Andrew for planning the outing and Howard, top chap, for buying the drinks.

Best wishes also to Simon as he is taking his Spanish GCSE exam later this week; good luck!

Simon, distracted as he mutters Spanish irregular verbs

There’s lots more photos here in the club album and, if you’re into horses, there’s further information here about the konik ponies.

Konik ponies as photographed by Deborah

And finally, if you want to read about our last visit to Ely, some three years ago, see here.

Brian

40 miles to Ely and back
Categories
Essex Ridgewell

Fifteen go watermilling

Living up to our club name, we rarely pass a windmill without stopping for a photograph – and sometimes even a visit. We have, indeed, been known to stop and admire one of those rare delights, a tidal mill. But never to my knowledge had we visited a watermill . . . until today.

So it was that some fifteen Windmillers stopped off at Alderford Watermill in Sible Hedingham where Martin had arranged for us to have a guided tour.

Alderford Watermill, Sible Hedingham

We were shown around by Owen, one of the volunteers who maintains and keeps alive this wonderful piece of 18th century engineering. Owen explained how parts of the present mill date from around 1720 when it would have been operated by a miller and one assistant producing coarse wholemeal flour. Over the years new power sources – steam, then oil, and finally electricity – were adopted to boost output and reduce the dependency upon river flow.

Owen’s guided tour

The mill finally stopped turning in 1957 and from then on the building was used for grain storage. Now owned by Essex County Council it is lovingly maintained (and continually restored!) by Owen and his fellow volunteers, the Friends of Alderford Mill.

Earlier at the White Horse, Ridgewell, fourteen Windmillers had gathered for our regular Thursday ride. We should have been fifteen but Simon was missing. We are used to losing him during, but not before, a ride and a quick phone call established that the poor chap had mixed up the meeting point with the ride destination. Yes, he was at The Blue Egg. We hung around until Simon eventually, and somewhat sheepishly, rolled into the car park. Now we were fifteen – and all off to, yes, The Blue Egg.

Simon heads back to the Blue Egg
Chris, Sandra, Maurice, Howard and Alan near Gibraltar Mill, Great Bardfield
Coffee and cake at The Blue Egg

As ever, Maurice had chosen a wonderful route; 32 miles on quiet lanes and in perfect spring weather.

For the record the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Sandra and Simon.

Thanks are due to: Maurice and Andrew for planning the day; birthday boy Charles for buying the beers; Martin for arranging the mill tour; and Owen for his excellent guided tour of the mill.

Millwrights Simon, Hazel, Charles, Andrew, Martin, Chris and Geoff
Simon putting his neck on the line
Simon again, this time wielding a millers thingummyjig
Charles – what on earth is he doing? – and Hazel
32 miles anticlockwise from Ridgewell
Back to the White Horse for lunch. Cheers!
Categories
Braughing Therfield

A low key St Patrick’s Day

It was a St Patrick’s Day outing so, by rights, Brian our resident Irishman should have been wearing green and buying the Guinness. Alas, he forgot to wear green – and he kept pretty quiet about the Guinness. Nevertheless, we were cheered by the prospect of free beer at lunchtime, courtesy of Roger, this week’s birthday boy.

It was a glorious spring morning with daffodils and blossom much in evidence as thirteen Windmillers set out from Therfield for a 30 mile tour of NE Herts. The gang comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Ken, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Roger, Sandra and Tom. Apologies / cast iron excuses had been tendered by Simon (covid), Martin (skiing) and Rod (Australia).

Ken, Roger and Graham at Cromer Mill

Mid-way around, we pulled in at Braughing where Jess opened up the Fleece specially for us and served coffee and cake in the garden.

Tom, Deborah, Sandra, Maurice and Nigel on top of the world

Back on the bikes we took the return leg at quite a lick, spurred on by the prospect of free beer. We were delighted to find Suzanne waiting for us at the pub; having cycled from Abington she was just as thirsty as the rest of us. But thirstiest of all were Graham and Victor who had also cycled from home, then done the 30 mile circuit and had yet to make the return journey. Well done, all

Ken, Howard, Graham, Tom and birthday boy Roger
Ric, Sandra, Maurice, Nigel, Suzanne and Victor

Thanks are due to Maurice and Andrew for getting everyone organised, plus, of course, Roger: thanks and happy birthday!

Brian

30 miles anticlockwise: Therfield – Kelshall – Sandon – Rushden – Ardeley – Great Munsden – Puckeridge – Braughing – Dassels – Great Hormead – Nuthampstead – Barkway – Reed – Therfield
Categories
Pig & Abbot

Happy Birthday, Maurice!

It’s a tricky time of year for the fashion conscious Windmiller. What’s one to wear on these between-the-seasons outings? With the exception of Victor, most agree it’s a little early for shorts and opt to retain winter leggings and layers. But then there’s Simon who, disdainful of cyclewear, nails it with white cotton twill shirt, cashmere cardigan and flannel trousers, making the rest of us look positively dowdy.

Deborah, Sandra, fashion influencer Simon, Alan and Geoff

So it was that Thursday morning saw the Windmillers heading out from the Pig & Abbot in various states of attire. Fuelled up on landlady Pat’s coffee and biscuits, Maurice, Charles, Howard Ric and Victor set off at a cracking pace, followed some five minutes later by Brian, Alan, Deborah, Geoff, Sandra and Simon.

Lounging around at Cockayne Hatley: Howard, Maurice, Ric and Victor

Seventeen miles in, we were eager to top up our caffeine and sugar levels and pulled in for coffee and cake at Waresley.

Stop pointing that bloody phone at me, Charles!
Simon making friends with the local wildlife

Back on the bikes, we headed for Great Gransden before turning south for the the return leg to Abington Pigotts.

Arriving at the Pig & Abbot, we were delighted to be joined by Lawrence. Birthday boy, Maurice bought the beers and we settled down to enjoy Pat’s excellent pies and the beer is excellent, especially when Maurice is buying.

Happy Birthday, Maurice!
30 miles clockwise: Abington Pigotts, Guilden Morden, Wrestlingworth, Cockayne Hatley, Potton, Waresley, The Gransdens, Hatley St George, Wendy, Shingay, Abington Pigotts

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for the route – and the beer. Also Charles and Simon for the photographs; there’s many more here in the club album.

Brian

Categories
Pig & Abbot

Haggis – and a tumble

Thursday’s ride was a memorable one for Hazel as, just a few miles short of the finish she took a tumble, sustaining some painful cuts and bruises, not to mention torn cyclewear and a damaged bike.

Hazel, before her involutary dismount

The mishap, at a tight bend on a quiet road, was most likely due to diesel spillage, a well documented hazard for cyclists and motorcyclists alike, and one we have experienced before; indeed, some of you may remember Chris suffered similarly, and at virtually the same spot, some three years ago.

We are glad to hear Hazel, while still feeling somewhat the worse for wear, is on the mend and we look forward to her joining us again soon.

A murky start to the morning

Confounding the forecast of fine weather, it was a fine drizzle that saw us heading out earlier from Abington Pigotts, a drizzle that stayed with us all the way to our refreshment stop at Waresley. Drying out over coffee and cake, some swapped stories of Burns Night suppers while others lamented they had never even tried haggis. Well today was their big chance.

Who’s for some Scottish offal?

The return leg was thankfully dry and sunny. Back at the Pig & Abbot we enjoyed a restorative pint before, summoned to our table, landlady Pat presented a magnificent haggis, prompting Andrew, our resident Scot, to rise and launch into – not just one – but all eight verses of Rabbie Burns’ Address to a Haggis. Mid-way through, and proclaiming, “An cut you up . . . trenching your gushing entrails bright” he waved a knife alarmingly close to Ken’s nose before slicing the beast open to rapturous applause, while across the pub vegans cowered into their nut roasts.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face

For the record, Thursday’s turnout was thirteen Windmillers, namely: Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Maurice, Rod and Sandra

30 miles anticlockwise from Abington Pigotts

A special thanks to Maurice for scooping up Hazel and her bike after the accident and ferrying both home.


Address to a Haggis, by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race! 
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 
Painch, tripe, or thairm : 
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace 
As lang's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill, 
Your hurdies like a distant hill, 
Your pin wad help to mend a mill 
In time o'need, 
While thro' your pores the dews distil 
Like amber bead. 

His knife see rustic Labour dight, 
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight, 
Trenching your gushing entrails bright, 
Like ony ditch; 
And then, O what a glorious sight, 
Warm-reekin', rich! 

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive: 
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive, 
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve 
Are bent like drums; 
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive, 
Bethankit! hums. 

Is there that owre his French ragout 
Or olio that wad staw a sow, 
Or fricassee wad make her spew 
Wi' perfect sconner, 
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view 
On sic a dinner? 

Poor devil! see him owre his trash, 
As feckless as wither'd rash, 
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash; 
His nieve a nit; 
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash, 
O how unfit! 

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, 
The trembling earth resounds his tread. 
Clap in his walie nieve a blade, 
He'll mak it whissle; 
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned, 
Like taps o' thrissle. 

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care, 
And dish them out their bill o' fare, 
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware 
That jaups in luggies; 
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer 
Gie her a haggis! 
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race
Categories
Therfield

Pedal bikes, e-bikes, motorbikes and classic cars

A frosty start to Thursday morning prompted Andrew – very wisely – to delay the start of our outing, so it was nigh on 10 o’clock before the Windmillers were seen heading out from the Fox & Duck for a tour of the hills to the south and east of Therfield.

Pedal bikes, e-bikes . . .
. . . and motorbikes

The highlight of our ride was the refreshment stop at Heath Farm, where Maurice and Lyn had laid on coffee and hot cross buns. Plus, of course, it’s always interesting touring the barns to view Maurice’s collection of classic cars and engineering projects – the latest of which is a motorbike engine conversion. Owning not one, but two 1957 Douglas Dragonflies, he has replaced one of the original 350cc flat twins with a 400cc, four cylinder Honda engine. The man never sleeps! Indeed, word having got around about this latest job, the editor of Classic Bike Magazine will be visiting tomorrow to interview Maurice and take pictures of the Dragonflies.

Not just one Douglas Dragonfly, but two! This nearer one with a 1976 400cc Honda engine

The petrolheads among us were also very taken with the Aston Martin DB5 Vantage engine slung in chains from the roof beams. All fuelled up and ready to roar, it would have been good to see it start up. However, lacking a silencer, we feared for our eardrums.

Admiring the DB5 beast

Thanking Lyn for the hospitality, we resumed our ride, heading for Nuthampstead – where we tipped our hats to John Tarrington – and thence Buntingford, before turning northwards for the return leg to Therfield.

At 24 miles, our route was somewhat shorter than usual but, given the late start, low temperatures and hilly terrain, not to mention the promise of free beer courtesy of birthday boy Brian, we were looking forward to returning to the – hopefully warm – embrace of the Fox & Duck. Alas, the heating had failed and the place was decidedly chilly, so chilly indeed that we asked to move tables; not that that made much difference.

24 miles anticlockwise from Therfield

But our lunch was good and we followed up with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday for Brian.

Happy Birthday, Brian

For the record, our turnout of eleven Windmillers comprised: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jeremy, Maurice, Rod, Sandra and Victor – plus Ken and Ann who had cycled out from Ickleton to join us for lunch.

Warm thanks are due to Maurice and Lyn for their hospitality at Heath Farm – the coffee and hot cross buns went down a treat. Also to Andrew for getting us all organised, as well as Howard for the photograph in the pub.

Could be our new club motto?
Categories
Ridgewell Suffolk

Eating well at Ridgewell

Two years on from our last visit, it was high time for a return to Ridgewell and The White Horse where, opening up early, the landlord welcomed us with coffee and took our orders for lunch.

So it was that eleven Windmillers set off from the pub, in some trepidation it must be said, given the mercury was barely above freezing and, to heighten our concern, within half a mile we encountered Graham coming the other way. Cycling out to join us, had been delayed by the icy roads. Oo-er, let’s take it steady, was the general consensus.

Le Grand Depart

That said, it was one of those sparkling, blue sky mornings and, wrapped up against the cold, it felt good to be alive, at least until the next patch of ice.

Eighteen miles in, and pulling up at The Blue Egg for refreshments, there was by now sufficient warmth in the sun for us to enjoy our coffee al fresco.

The return leg was just as lovely – and thankfully uneventful – as all riders returned intact and looking forward to a good lunch.

Back at the pub, we were delighted to be joined by Ken who, hearing rumours of free beer, had leapt in his car and driven across county lines to join us.

It was indeed Martin’s birthday and, toasting his health, we gave a stirring rendition of Happy Birthday before settling down to an excellent lunch. All agreed, the White Horse food was really very good and, at £11.95 for two courses, remarkable value to boot.

Lunching at the White Horse
Many happy returns, Martin
29 miles anticlockwise from Ridgewell

For the record, our team roster was Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Martin, Maurice, Roger, Sandra and Victor; plus Ken in civvies.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising another lovely outing – and to the landlord of The White Horse for his hospitality; we shall return soon.

Thanks also Charles, Deborah, Graham, Martin and Victor for the many photographs; too many to include here but you can check them out in the club album.

Check out also our last visit to Ridgewell back in November, 2019.

Brian

Categories
Braughing

Odd sock shocker

Did he get dressed in the dark? Does Fiona know he’s out? Will the polo club turn him away? Such were the questions troubling the Windmillers on seeing Charles – normally the acme of sartorial elegance – turn up in odd socks.

That aside, it was another good turnout; 18 riders, some arriving on two wheels, others on four, as we gathered in the car park of the Golden Fleece, Landlady Jess taking our orders for lunch.

Maurice led the way northwards out of Braughing, momentarily confusing those of us whose GPX devices advised heading south. No matter, within half a mile both Maurice and satnavs were in agreement as we headed for the Pelhams and Rickling.

It was a longish first stage, Maurice having planned our refreshment stop at the Silver Leys Polo Club some 20 miles distant. The polo season was long over – but there was a dressage competition underway in the arena. Simon, ever keen to get in on the action, got a little too close and was asked to step back lest he spook the horses. He has a similar effect on car drivers.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were enjoying coffee and some very fine cake, made specially in anticipation of our visit by the lovely lady who runs the clubhouse. She regaled us with stories of horrendous polo injuries, her own included. It’s not just falls, they can suffer some nasty facial injuries when struck by the ball. Apparently it is impractical to wear cricket-style helmets and face guards as they raise the risk of a broken neck when you fall. This summer alone, the air ambulance has paid the club two visits. And they say cycling is dangerous.

Back on the bikes, we headed for Standon and Puckeridge before returning to Fleece where Pete and Jess served up another excellent lunch. This week’s birthday boy was Chris, who duly bought us all a beer.

Happy Birthday, Chris!

For the record, this week’s team roster was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff,Graham, John, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon, Suzanne and Victor.

Good to see John again

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for planning the route and arranging things at the polo club, Andrew for getting everyone organised, Chris for the beers, and Martin, Graham and Simon for the photographs (too many to include here but they’re all in the Windmill Club Photo Album).

Martin’s new haircut; it’ll look good when it’s finished
28 miles clockwise: Braughing – the Pelhams – Rickling – Rickling Green – Manuden – Hazel End – Upwick Green – Little Hadham – Silver Leys Polo Club – Standon – Puckeridge – Braughing

Brian

Categories
Suffolk

Rede

Another fine Thursday morning saw Maurice’s gang – Jeremy, Ken, Rod, Chris, Brian and Charles – setting off from The Plough at Rede, followed some ten minutes later by Andrew’s gang – Alan, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Mike, Roger and Simon.

As ever, Charles was on top form, barking random greetings at startled passers by: “Top of the morning to you”, “Hello dear,” and “Nice dog!”

Maurice had planned our refreshment stop at the Guildhall tearoom in Lavenham, but Andrew’s peloton had other ideas. A chance discovery led them to Cafe Como in Brent Eleigh where they reported on the excellence of both coffee and cake. We must all return there some day soon.

A lovely place to stop off, Cafe Como at Brent Eleigh
Deborah, Andrew, Howard and Mike in the garden at Cafe Como

At 37 miles, this outing was a little longer than usual – and a hilly one too – so it was with relief that we arrived back in Rede, tumbling into The Plough for a very welcome beer and a slap up lunch.

Maurice’s gang at Brent Eleigh
37 miles anticlockwise from Rede taking in Hawkedon, Glemsford, Foxearth, Acton, Brent Eleigh, Preston, Lavenham, Bridge Street, Shimpling and Hartest.

Our thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things – also Graham, Charles, Simon and Brian for the photographs; you can find more here in the club photo album.

Brian

Categories
Suffolk West Wratting

Drizzled on

Thursday morning saw a goodly turnout of sixteen Windmillers set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a 30-odd mile tour of West Suffolk. Deceived by the forecast of a dry day, some were regretting leaving their waterproofs at home as they headed out into the persistent drizzle.

A fine dry day, eh? Then how come we’re all sheltering under a tree?

And it stayed wet almost as far as our mid-way coffee stop at the Fox & Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead; Landlady Kate once again kindly opening up early just for us.

Now dry and all smiles; coffee break at Steeple Bumpstead

Happily, this was an outing where nobody got stung or otherwise discombobulated – and Andrew managed to hang on to his wallet for the duration. It was good to see Mike back in the saddle looking fit as a fiddle. And we were particularly pleased to see Lawrence join us for lunch following his unscheduled sleepover in London.

Good to see Mike back in the peloton

For the record our intrepid sixteen were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon, Tom and Victor

Ric and his natty new shirt

Thanks are due, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for getting us all organised and Charles for the photographs. Rachel and Peter too for taking such good care of us at The Chestnut Tree.

Graham would have joined us – if he hadn’t been all tied up
33 miles clockwise: West Wratting – Withersfield – Great Wratting – Kedington – Boyton End – Stoke by Clare – Ashen – Ridgewell – Birdbrook – Steeple Bumpstead – Helions Bumpstead – Plumstead Green – Bartlow – West Wratting

Categories
Suffolk West Wratting

Cresting the Suffolk hills

Fourteen Windmillers – Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Ken, Maurice, Rod, Simon, Suzanne and Tom – set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a thirty-odd mile tour of west Suffolk.

It all went tickety boo; no punctures, no involuntary dismounts, and nobody choked on their lunch, despite Simon doing a funny dance routine.

Simon, our very own Fred Astaire

Mid-way, Maurice had arranged a coffee stop at The Fox & Hounds, Steeple Bumpstead.

Coffee time at Steeple Bumpstead

Safely back at West Wratting, we enjoyed a super lunch in the garden, courtesy of landlords Rachel and Peter, and we raised a glass to Lawrence wishing him a speedy recovery from his illness.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for planning it all and organising things.

33 miles anti-clockwise from West Wratting

Brian

Categories
Braughing Henham

Idling at Elsenham

Last Train to Clarksville . . . Midnight Train to Georgia . . . Chattanooga Choo-Choo . . . but alas, nobody sings about Elsenham and waiting for the barriers to open, even though there’s time aplenty, 15 minutes in our case, to draft a ditty.

So there we were exchanging banter with the crossing keeper, our party of ten Windmillers having just set out from The Cock at Henham, and barely 2 miles into a 30 mile tour of North Essex / North Herts. We had come close to being just nine Windmillers, Rod having forgotten his helmet and about to head home, when Landlady Mel, bless her, appeared with a spare one she keeps on the premises. Now that’s what we call a cycling friendly pub.

Brief Encounter

Some three trains later, the keeper opened the crossing and we were underway once more, heading for Ugley Green and all points west.

Maurice had promised us a flat ride but, e-bike convert that he is, maybe he no longer notices the hills. We certainly did and, as the morning wore on and the mercury headed upwards of 25C, our once-tight peloton became strung out over a mile or more. While some of us like it hot, others, most notably Simon, aren’t so keen and, by the time we pulled in for refreshment at Braughing, he was looking distinctly pink.

Simon wishing he’d brought his bathing costume

It was in Braughing that Maurice had arranged an out-of-hours visit to The Golden Fleece. Mid-way round and run by our good pals, Pete and Jess, where better to stop off and take on some much needed water, coffee and biscuits.

Cooling down at Braughing

Back on the bikes Maurice took the return leg at quite a lick, having promised Mel he would get us back in good time for lunch, so we were grateful when Henham and the The Cock finally hove into view. Sitting in the garden, we enjoyed a restorative pint while Mel’s team served up an excellent lunch.

Lunch at The Cock

For the record, our peloton comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Simon and Victor.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things, Jess and Peter for opening up The Fleece, and Mel for her hospitality (and helmet) at The Cock.

31 miles anticlockwise: Henham, Elsenham, Ugley Green, Little Hadham, Standon, Puckeridge, Braughing, Furneux Pelham, Stocking Pelham, Rickling, Henham

And finally, we wish our pal Lawrence, currently laid up in St George’s Hospital, a speedy recovery from his illness. We hope to see him back in the saddle soon.

Our very own St Lawrence; get well soon

Brian

Categories
Cambridgeshire West Wratting

Two take a tumble

At 390 feet above sea level, West Wratting can claim to be the second highest village in Cambridgeshire, beaten to the top spot only by Great Chishill, where Charles, sitting in his garden at a lofty 479 feet, can look down on everyone else in the county.

Gathering at The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting
Morning coffee

West Wratting’s other claim to fame is as the haunt of the mythical Shug Monkey. Cambridgeshire folklore has it that the creature – half dog, half monkey – haunts the road to Balsham. Nobody saw it, not even Hazel who, having enjoyed a pint of strong and possibly hallucinogenic rhubarb cider with her lunch, was the most likely of us to experience a vision.

At Graham’s recommendation, we were lunching at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting, a wonderful village pub, blessed with a particularly fine garden. Our hosts, Peter and Rachel, had welcomed us earlier that morning with coffee and we were now enjoying a fine lunch and some excellent beers.

Good choice of pub, Graham

It had been an eventful outing. Early on, Roger’s and Alan’s bikes somehow got entangled and they took a tumble in the road. Mercifully, they emerged relatively unscathed apart from the odd patch of road rash and bruising. Nothing as bad as the spectacular pile up on the opening day of the Tour de France.

Look carefully and you can just see Alan and Roger ahead, rolling in the road

We’d had a few mechanicals as well; a puncture for Victor and – more significantly – a seized bottom bracket for Howard. Victor effected his puncture repair quickly enough but Howard, unable to turn his pedals for the final mile, had to be pushed back to base by Ric.

Victor’s puncture repair
Ric pushes Howard home

We always make the time to pull over and admire the natural world. This time it was a silk tent in a hedgerow, the work of a small eggar moth caterpillar colony. Following emergence from their eggs, the caterpillars construct a tent consisting of layers of silk fibres.

Small eggar moth caterpillars on their silk tent

We pulled in for coffee at Café 33 near Stradishall. The place doesn’t look much – but the ladies make exceedingly good cakes; well worth stopping for when you next visit your relatives over the road at Highpoint Prison.

Café 33
Suzanne negotiates a roadblock

For the record, our riders were: Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Roger, Suzanne, Tom and Victor.

28 miles clockwise from West Wratting

Thanks, Maurice, for guiding us around another lovely route. Also Graham, Charles, Deborah and Hazel for the photographs. And Peter & Rachel for their hospitality at the Chestnut Tree; we shall return.

Brian

Categories
Essex

Poppies & Poo

Whenever we passed The Cock Inn at Henham, John Bagrie would go missing, which was a pretty sure sign that the landlord kept a good cellar. So it was high time we tried the place for lunch – and it didn’t disappoint. The food was good, and the beer, generously bought by Birthday Boy Geoff, was good too.

Ten Windmillers – Andrew, Brian, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Ric, Roger, Simon and Victor – had set out some three hours earlier from Henham bound for Broxted and all points east. Returning to the pub after an excellent ride, we were hungry, thirsty and – despite the dire weather forecast – thankfully dry.

Stopping midway at Finchingfield, we had enjoyed coffee and cake overlooking the green before returning via Thaxted, where we were delighted to see Ken and Suzanne waiting to join us for the final leg.

As ever, Maurice had devised a lovely route; the Essex lanes were traffic free and the roadsides seemingly ablaze with poppies.

And the poo? Well there was a pile of manure on the roadside in Stanbrook and Simon couldn’t resist the temptation to squat and pose for a photograph.

That’ll take two flushes, Simon

Thanks go to Maurice for the route, Andrew for logistics, Charles, Simon and Graham for photographs – and Geoff for the beer.

Brian

29 miles: Henham – Broxted – Thaxted – Great Bardfield – Finchingfield – Little Sampford – Thaxted – Cutlers Green – Henham
Categories
Braughing

Sunny Delight

Thirteen Windmillers, a veritable baker’s dozen, followed Maurice out of Braughing towards Puckeridge. Born and bred in these ‘ere parts, Maurice needs no map, knowing as he does every nook, cranny, lane and hedgerow, not to mention public house, within a 30 mile radius.

We were off on a 33 mile tour of North East Herts. Twas a lovely morning, and a goodly turnout to boot; following Maurice were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Nigel, Roger, Simon and Victor.

The highlight of this particular route is the delightful five mile section along the riverside, running from Hertford, through Ware and on to Stanstead Abbotts. And where better to pull in for refreshment than Ware Café, where we enjoyed coffee and cake in the garden.

An aerial shot taken by Graham
A ground level shot taken by Brian
And a flowery shot taken by Hazel

Setting off on the return leg, we headed for Hunsdon, Perry Green and thence Braughing where, pulling into the Golden Fleece, we were delighted to be joined by Suzanne who had pedalled all the way from Abington.

Our thanks as ever go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things; Simon who got stiffed with the rather large bill for refreshments at Ware; plus Charles, Graham and Hazel for the many photographs which you can find here in the club album.

33 miles anticlockwise
Categories
Cambridge

Destination Grantchester

Grantchester, according to the eponymous TV series, is the murder capital of East Anglia. Week in, week out, some poor sod gets bumped off, whereupon the evil doer is tracked down and unmasked by the local vicar-cum-sleuth. It’s Cluedo with clerics.

So it was on Thursday that we rounded up the usual suspects: gang leader Brian, followed by Alan, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger – and prime suspect Charles (aka Colonel Mustard, handy with a lead pipe, wrench, rope, revolver, dagger or candlestick).

Starting out from Trumpington, we headed for Cambridge and the fens. Guaranteed a hill-free ride, our regular e-bikers Rod, Charles and Geoff had opted to leave their e-machines at home and pedal the 32 miles unassisted.

Willingham Auctions

Mid-way, we stopped for coffee and cake at the Willingham Auctions Café, and it was here that we quizzed Deborah on how she came to feature in yesterday’s national newspapers pictured alongside the dashing Sir Keir Starmer. The photograph was taken in the 80s when they shared a student house in Leeds.

Deborah reminisces . . . happy days as a student in Leeds . . .
. . . with Keir Starmer in the foreground and Deb behind looking cool in shades

Setting off once more, we headed for Over before turning south and winding our way homewards through Longstanton, Oakington and Girton. Finally, skirting Cambridge to the west, we pitched up at the Blue Ball Inn, Grantchester and tucked into a well earned lunch.

32 miles anticlockwise from Trumpington
Categories
Monday rides

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Riding past Simon’s house on a chilly February morning, Jeremy and Brian spotted the man himself, togged out in gardening attire, trundling a wheel barrow across his estate.

“Not cycling today?” we cried.

“Weather’s not great . . . lots of pruning to do,” came the reply.

Grateful for a breather after the stiff hill climb up to Littlebury Green, we asked to see Simon’s famous ship’s bell. Found in a junk shop, he had lovingly restored it, built a frame to mount it, and given it to his missus for Christmas. It was indeed impressive; big and shiny. What else is there to say about a bell but could we hear it ring, please? Alas, it was a little early and Simon feared his neighbours would run for their air raid shelters.

Simon’s magnificent bell . . .
. . . he is particularly proud of his bell end

Once again, Charles hosted the club charity box – this time without the camera trap. It was here that Jeremy and Brian caught up with Andrew. Admiring Jeremy’s new helmet, Andrew and he swapped some rather alarming head injury experiences. That explains a lot, thought Brian.

Chez Charles – he reassures us our privacy will be respected

This day and age, it is hard to believe there is anyone left on the planet who hasn’t taken a selfie. Step up, Deborah Goodman. Her first ever effort, taken while stuffing a fiver into the charity box, shows she needs a bit more practice.

Deborah, concentrating hard

She reported the highlight of her ride was the slice of scrumptious Victoria sponge handed over the hedge by her friend in Langley Upper Green.

Deborah’s friend and a very welcome plate of cake

For the record, Monday’s team roster was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Julia, Lawrence, Martin, Maurice, Nick and Suzanne – all spread out over a 19 mile circuit. Let me know if I’ve missed anyone.

Martin and his carer. Keep up the good work, Suzanne.
She also helps out with Andrew
Jeremy and Brian
19 miles

Thanks as ever, Andrew and Maurice, for planning and organising everything. Thanks too, Charles, for hosting the charity box.

Brian

Categories
Uncategorized

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

Categories
Uncategorized

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