A sunny Thursday morning saw eleven Windmillers – Deborah, Sandra, Lawrence, Andrew, Geoff, Simon, Ken, Tom, Brian, Maurice and this week’s birthday boy, Graham – setting off from the Henny Swan for a tour of the Suffolk / Essex border country.
Our first stop was for a photo opportunity at the Church of St Lawrence, Great Waldingfield, where we considered offering up a get well prayer for our pal Martin who is banged up in Addenbrookes Hospital recovering from a nasty virus. But on reflection, we thought it best to wait for pub opening time and toast him with a good ale.
Our next stop was Boxford where we pulled in at The Coffee Stop for refreshment. Still in Boxford and just a little further down the road, we pulled in again at Howard Watts’ garage and motor showroom. No Rolls-Royces or Bentleys here, but a fine collection of lovingly restored Ferraris, Porsches and E-Types – plus some less familiar models, such as the 1961 French Panhard. Howard, a friend of Maurice’s and a larger than life, diamond geezer of a character, was most welcoming, showing off his beloved collection and entertaining us with his many stories.
Back on the bikes, we took a diversion to visit Kersey; surely one of the prettiest villages in this part of the world.
Now well behind schedule and making best efforts to catch up, we were delayed yet again when Brian pulled up with a puncture. This was fixed soon enough – but not before we had endured Andrew’s usual sermon on the merits of Schwalbe Marathons.
One last challenge remained, the surprisingly hilly section around the village of Lamarsh, before we finally made the descent, hot and hungry, to the The Henny Swan.
Sharing a table in the garden, we enjoyed an excellent lunch plus several beers courtesy of Graham. We’ll be thinking of him next Thursday when he’s having his wiring checked out at Papworth. Good luck, Graham.
We also raised a glass to Martin, wishing him a speedy recovery and looking forward to seeing him out on the bike again soon.
Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising things.
Thursday morning saw eight Windmillers – Brian, Bruce, Deborah, Ken, Maurice, Roger, Sandra, plus birthday boy, Andrew – gathering in the car park of the Fleur de Lys.
Maurice had planned a special treat – a tour of P&A Wood, the local Rolls-Royce dealership. With much anticipation we headed out of Widdington, down the hill towards Henham and thence to Great Easton to look at some fancy motor cars.
We received a warm welcome at P&A Wood and they gave us the run of the place for as long as we liked. Wandering around the various workshops and showrooms, we were particularly taken with heritage models such as a 1912 Silver Ghost. A snip at £2 million, Maurice looked tempted but, alas, his barns are full.
Thankfully, the current range is more affordable, with some models going for as little as half a million quid. Once again, some were tempted but – could you fit a bike rack?
Having passed a very enjoyable hour, it was time to move on and, saddling up, we headed for Thaxted where we pulled in for coffee (and cake for Deborah) at Parrishes. The stop was timely as, once inside, the heavens opened and there was a 20 minute downpour. Maurice’s timing is uncanny.
Back on the bikes, the sun came out to dry the roads and an hour or so later we arrived back at The Fleur where we were joined for lunch by Keith.Andrew bought the beers – and a bottle of wine to boot – top chap. Happy Birthday, old timer.Thanks, Maurice, for another great outing.
PS – There’s more photos in our 2019 album here. And our 2018 album is here. Please feel free to upload your own photos.
Having gathered at The Red House at Longstowe this also proved to be a tour of windmills for the above 14 Windmillers including new boy Charles who lives in Chrishall. Welcome, Charles, even though he called us a bunch of old b******s! Clearly, he summed us up quickly and accurately. Setting off at the early hour of 9.00am, or thereabouts, the group headed firstly up the busy A1198 as far as the Bourn turning after which all was peace and quiet.
This is where we went:
The first windmill was spotted tucked away behind some trees in Kingston, so tucked away that it doesn’t seem to be listed on a Wikipedia list of Cambridgeshire windmills, but here it is all the same:
Shortly afterwards we crossed the Meridian Line with its attractive marker, unveiled by Sir Martin Rees, The Astronomer Royal, on New Year’s Eve 2000. Hopefully there were fireworks too.
Maurice always likes to sort the men from the boys with an early hill and he didn’t disappoint when offering us a steep ascent out of Haslingfield towards Barrington, but probably not quite as steep or long as the hill coming the other way from Barrington which we were able to cruise down at speed. Then it was through Shepreth and right towards Orwell where you could almost smell the coffee at Wimpole Hall.
Coffee at Wimpole Hall is always a delight except for the system which does not seem able to cope with a sudden onslaught of customers, despite the number of staff on duty. However, there were two queues this time which was better unless you were in the queue on the right! That was the more dangerous queue too with its large choice of cakes and buns on display.
Leaving the grounds in a westerly direction afforded a wonderful view of Wimpole Hall bathed in sun on what was a lovely spring day:
Then we continued through quiet lanes to Croydon and Hatley St George before turning north towards the Gransdens and more windmills for those who chose the blue route shown on Maurice’s map above. Victor, Charles and Simon O decided to continue on the red route.
Great Gransden Mill dates from 1614 and is a fine example of rural engineering. Restored in 1982 / 83 it is still in great condition but minus its sails.
By this time there were thoughts of beer and lunch back at The Red House but that didn’t stop a few Windmillers, those who show true respect to windmills, from stopping and admiring at close quarters the very attractive Bourn Windmill, set back from the road up a path. So whilst Simon T, Mike and Martin got chatting to the nice lady in the adjacent Mill Cottage, who offered to show us around the mill on a future occasion, the others decided to head back and quench their thirsts.
Finally, most gathered for lunch back at The Red House, including Ken who had hoped to catch up with us at Wimpole, and very good it was too although two of us subsequently wondered about the ham and egg mayo sandwich due to some after effects. It might have been the Belhaven!
Ric and Sandra clocked up much longer distances having cycled from their homes. Well done both.
Thanks to Maurice for a great route and to Andrew for getting us to the start point.
Having passed the Woodman in Nuthampstead the previous Monday and found it open Deputy Dawg Andrew decided to arrange a cycle ride from The Woodman as they are now open on Mondays !!
Two cycling sorties left at different times. The first Sortie led by Andrew with Simon Oughton, Mike Barker and Mike (Mike Barker’s buddie( AKA The Two Mikes)
Second Sortie led by John Bargie with Lyn Bagrie and Bridget Tarrington – good to see the fair ladies back in the saddle for Mondays ride.
Andrew’s group completed 19.76 miles in 1hr 52m leaving Nuthampstead east heading towards the sharp hill at Little Chishill, onwards passed the rally school and one of our favorite pubs The Bull in Lower Langley with Simons bike rattling over every bump we stopped for grease monkey Andrew to investigate. The investigation revealed that a front mudguard stay had become detached from the forks and if not corrected could have gone through the spokes catapulting Simon onto the road. With the aid of an allen key Simon was back in the saddle again.
Our route took us up the Roast Green passed Kell’s daughters house and down to the two Windmills where the flack began !!! All four cyclist where enjoying the downhill section to Starling Green single file, when out of the blue a white transit van shot passed us at breakneck speed and swerved towards us in a very aggressive manner. Andrew was in the lead and expected it to be the typical White Van Man angry builder, however he was shocked to observe on the back door “ROYSTON CYCLES” and presumably the owner Steve Meikie behind the wheel. This fella I believe lives in the Clavering area and was heading home.
Not only has he passed us before on a Monday evening at great speed however this is now the fourth time he’s done it. Maurice who know him plans to visit his shop shortly and make him aware, that if this unacceptable behavior continues we will ask all Windmill Club members to boycott his shop, we will report him to the authorities and we will inform Cycling UK of which we are members.
Composing ourselves we continued up the quiet lane to Starlings Green onward to Brent Pelham and for the first time climbed up the concrete road to Whitebarns Farm with stunning views of the contryside and Furneux Pelham passing the church with the Time Flies Mind your Business on the tower.
We stopped briefly in Little Hormead where Andrew chatted to his Farrier Richard Brookfield who is building a house there. Asked about how the build was going he replied “expensive”. Next village to pass was Great Hormead and onward to Anstey where the church bells were ringing somewhat I think out of tune or time ( I hope Two Scones Keith wasn’t suffering from a hangover as the sound would have been unbearable)
Finally three of the four took the twisty twiney road back to The Woodman while Mike Barker sped off taking the slightly longer route to the village.
Sortie 1 was delighted to see John, Lyn & Bridget comfortably propping up the bar and enjoying Stu’s hospitality.
In summery a lovely spring Monday evening ride slightly marred by Royston Cycles dangerous riving.
Framlingham was to be the start and finish of this delightful ride through Suffolk lanes, but not without an unexpected turn of events. Meeting first in a car park but then heading for The Crown Hotel in the centre of town for a coffee before setting off, Maurice (now Saint Maurice for reasons which shall be explained later) led the way followed by Andrew, Sandra, Ken, Ric, Brian, Tom, Chris, Graham, Mike (a friend of Maurice’s who lives in London and Aldeburgh who we hope we’ll see again) and Martin. This is where we went, clockwise:
Heading out of town we were soon treated to a spectacular view of Framlingham Castle, constructed in the late 12th century by the Bigods, a wealthy Norman family. But despite its design which was meant to withstand long sieges it was captured by King John in 1215, even though he and the Bigods had been best mates and had dined together in 1213. However, they must have made up as the castle was later restored to the Bigods but by the end of the 13th century it was decommissioned and became a luxurious home of the dukes of Norfolk for over 400 years before falling into disrepair. It has been used since as a County Court and by what appears to be a division of Dad’s Army during the second world war to resist a potential German invasion. It is now owned by English Heritage.
There was a strong wind blowing inland from the North Sea but we proceeded steadily through winding lanes, sand strewn at times, and past great seas of plastic covering crops such as carrots, onions and asparagus. We saw very few vehicles of any kind even when crossing the A12.
The smell of the sea got stronger as we entered Thorpeness, familar terrritory for Ken as a place to entertain the grandchildren on holiday. Thorpeness was the dream of wealthy Scottish barrister Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie. The idea for the lake, or Meare, which is never more than 3 feet deep, was sparked by one of Ogilvie’s close friends, J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, who knew the barrister well, and it was Barrie’s tales of the Neverland that inspired him to create the Meare complete with the Pirate’s Lair, Wendy’s Home, and Captain’s House. An eagle-eyed grandchild might even spot a crocodile in between the trees.
By this time, thoughts of the promised brunch ‘n’ beer in Aldeburgh began to take charge and so it was heads down into what was now a strong sea breeze, on the nose, as we cycled south with the sea and Maggi Hambling’s iconic Scallop sculpture on the beach to our left and marshes on our right – a great sight and seemingly always wind blown. Parking our bikes outside Maurice’s cottage we learnt that the Adnam’s shop had run out of beer but at 11.30am it was a bit early anyway and so we settled down to what turned out to be an excellent brunch in the nearby Aldeburgh Market Café, which Maurice had reserved, where an assortment of poached eggs, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, kedgeree and kippers were devoured, accompanied by excellent coffee. Definitely a place to revisit.
The homeward leg took us out of Aldeburgh along a bike path and then past Aldeburgh Golf Club with its 18 and 9 hole courses, the latter having wonderful views of the Alde Estuary leading up to Snape. Which is where we were heading but via Maurice’s favourite off road, sandy and sometimes boardwalk track through the woods and across wet and muddy marshes. All was going well until Andrew issued a loud **** as his bike ground to a sudden stop, luckily without throwing him off. His experience of balancing on water skis clearly came in handy. Unfortunately a tiny twig had flipped up into his chain and gears jamming the whole lot together and resulting in the bottom chain wheel and derailleur bracket snapping off completely, a repeat of what had happen a couple of years ago. Luckily, Tom was once again available with his chain shortening gadget and having donned surgical gloves he was soon at work carrying out a major operation to convert Andrew’s bike once again into a fixie. All this seemed to take less time than mending an average Windmiller’s puncture.
All was fine except for one thing. Andrew discovered the next day that he had left behind a key piece of cabling without which it would be difficult to carry out a full repair. Result – call Maurice, still in Aldeburgh, who offered to cycle back to the spot deep in the woods where the breakdown happened and, hey presto, he found the part! So, arise Saint Maurice, you’re a real Saint, and when you eventually get to heaven there’ll be an e-bike waiting for you! RHM has arranged it.
Andrew’s fixie gear had him spinning away like crazy but it was a good gear for negotiating a path down to the River Alde and up towards Snape. The views across the estuary with reeds swaying in the wind were breathless.
The final stretch from Snape took us to Campsea Ashe, across the A12 again (this time on a bridge) and through to Easton where thirsts and appetites were once again taken care of, this time by the friendly staff of The White Horse who said they could oblige with sandwiches even though we arrived on the stroke of 2.30pm when the kitchen normally closes. And good food and beer it was too – definitely another place to revisit, perhaps on a Tuesday when a special Malaysian menu is offered.
Finally, we cycled past the famous crinkle crankle wall surrounding Easton Hall Estate, thought to be the longest such wall in the country, designed for both strength and economy of construction.
The pro-Remain crinkle crankle wall in Easton
After 37 miles we were back in Framlingham and most were happy to get in their cars and return home but not Graham. What was another 70+ miles he thought? With Sandra edging ever closer to his current mileage of around 2,200 so far this year Graham decided that adding another 70 was a good way of keeping ahead, even if it did mean getting home at around 8.00pm! Well done, Graham. You are both an inspiration to us all. Correction! It was Sandra who was just ahead of Graham. Ed.
Many thanks to Saint Maurice for planning a great ride, Andrew for organising us and Brian for the map and several of the pics.
And a swift half it was too as seven Windmillers piled gleefully into The Woodman in Nuthampstead on this warm Bank Holiday evening having noticed that it was open, which was unusual for a Monday. The even better news was that it might open on Mondays in future too. And more good news came from Simon who said that he had persuaded his family of stoats to leave the Stoatel in his attic, but leaving behind the rotting carcasses of consumed rabbits and not paying their bill.
This made up for a somewhat sombre start to the ride as Andrew, Lindsey, Ken, Ann (on her sporty e-bike), Sandra, Simon and Martin gathered outside The Bull in Lower Langley at 5.00pm looking forward to a pleasant ride around the lanes followed by refreshment back at The Bull. But, alas, it was not to be. A sign outside said the pub had shut at 4.00pm and would re-open at 8.00pm which would have meant a 30 mile ride and that was not the plan.
The revised plan, once we got to The Woodman, was to have a swift half there followed by more swift halves in other pubs passed en route that we are not usually tempted to enter. It was a Bank Holiday after all, but all good plans go astray. This is where we went hunting:
Just before the 8 mile mark The Blind Fiddler came into view in Anstey and there were people sitting outside! Ah ha, thought those at the back of the ride but those at the front had already whizzed past and so the opportunity was lost. At the 10 mile mark in Great Hormead The Three Tuns also had people sitting outside enjoying the evening sun. This time thirsts were more apparent all round and so up the path we went only to be accosted by the landlord saying he was closing but that there was another pub ‘about a mile away’. However, our route did not pass another pub and so we proceeded to Furneux Pelham and stopped to admire the church and surrounding houses.
Then it was a left turn down a familar bone shattering concrete track towards Starlings Green and the outskirts of Clavering before heading back to The Bull at Langley Lower Green. With only a solitary swift half consumed and with many pubs seemingly closed or sold out after the record breaking temperatures over the Easter weekend, Andrew phoned around and discovered that The Pheasant in Great Chishill was open. So he, Lindsey, Ken, Ann and Sandra headed off there, Sandra having peeled off earlier to take a more direct route.
Thanks to Andrew for planning the route and enabling us to shed a few Easter Egg calories.
Thank God for Strava and similar apps. These may be part of the world of Big Brother, knowing exactly where we are at any point in time, but without these natty apps how could we possibly recall where we had been on this glorious Spring day, other than asking Maurice to resort to an Ordnance Survey map and a highlighter pen? Instead, with a couple of clicks we have the record immediately the ride is over. The wonders of modern science. So thanks to Brian for his Strava record of how we dutifully followed Maurice through his home territory of endless quiet lanes and along river banks. This was where we went:
Starting from The Golden Fleece at 9.15am, having placed our lunch orders, Maurice led the way clockwise followed by 10 other Windmillers – Sandra, Keith, Ken, Brian, Roger, Tom, Chris, Lawrence, Simon and Martin. It wasn’t long before we were going over fords or through them as we sauntered through very quiet lanes on this very warm day.
Conversation on our rides is always very varied, no less so on this ride when Simon told us about a problem he had with a stoat which had taken to killing rabbits and hauling them over his conservatory roof, making quite a racket whilst he was trying to read the paper in peace and quiet, and into his attic space where a gourmet meal was clearly then enjoyed by the family of stoats in the restaurant of the ‘Stoatel’. But instead of clearing away the remains, and choosing not to eat ears for some reason, the stoat left behind rotting carcasses of his / her kills, causing more discomfort for Simon. More anon no doubt.
Shortly after crossing Barwick Ford and ascending a steep hill, we came across a vintage sprayer and it’s operator, a local farmer who had built it many years ago. Tom was in his element chatting to him and learning of its pedigree – an old Bedford TK lorry which the farmer had converted into a fine looking machine, a bit outdated by modern standards apparently but clearly suitable for the farmer’s needs.
Tom deep in conversation about spraying with the owner of this fine vintage sprayer based on a Bedford TK
There were thoughts of coffee around the 15 mile mark but Ware was the destination via the Amwell Nature Reserve and the towpath alongside the River Lea. The water level was lower than usual which should encourage waders. Cormorants were busy building their nests in many places.
Coffee and cakes were consumed in our usual Italian café in Ware, after which we set off along the river path again towards Hertford. But we hadn’t gone far when Brian put in his entry for the Involuntary Dismount prize of 2019 by achieving a notable
whilst negotiating a barrier on the path at zero speed still clipped into his pedals. Luckily he seemed to escape with only a minor scratch.
The views along the River Lea towards Hertford are quite spectacular but we were soon climbing up the steep hill, having skirted the town, towards Dane End and back to Braughing, enjoying quiet lanes the whole way.
Back at The Golden Fleece it was good to be met by Andrew, just back from his Scottish trip cycling with Don Kent, and John Bagri also joined us having cycled around similar lanes. It was so hot, almost unbearably so, that some wished we had eaten the excellent lunch inside.
Thanks to Maurice for guiding us around his ‘own’ lanes once again. It’s always a big treat. And thanks to Andrew for organising us from a distance to ensure we got there on time.