14 February. Murky Valentine’s Day in Suffolk. 30 miles.

The origins of Valentine’s Day are murky and so it was very appropriate that Suffolk was shrouded in thick fog as 10 Windmillers gathered at The Red Lion in Great Wratting, feeling cold and not the least bit romantic. The forecast had been for mild weather, and the sun had been shining en route to Great Wratting and so there was the prospect of it breaking through, and indeed it did.

Coffee was served and lunch orders were placed before departing but due to snarled up traffic on the A505 and other places it took a while for all to assemble. Eventually, Maurice signalled the start and he shot off, lights blazing, hotly pursued by Andrew, Ken, Chris, Roger, Lawrence, Victor, Simon T, Graham and Martin. Graham had already clocked up 18 miles by setting off early from Ickleton, and would pedal back home at the end of the ride, thus laying an early claim to the 2019 longest distance award. Sandra – you have competition this year!

It was not only foggy but very cold and so we welcomed the first hill and yearned for more in order to warm up. ‘The views here are fantastic’, said Maurice at one point even though he could only see the end of his nose. But we believed him and just as we reached Glemsford for a coffee stop the fog lifted and we were treated to a glorious sunny Suffolk day.

There was some speculation that Glemsford had a café but after making enquiries anongst the very pleasant local population the ‘café’ turned out to be the village store which possessed a jammed up coffee vending machine incapable of producing a standard white coffee let alone a cappucino with chocolate stripes. However, after several bangs and opening up the interior to inspect the innards, Baristas Maurice and Simon unjammed it and succeeded in persuading it to produce some brown coloured liquid. Meanwhile, other Windmillers stood around talking to the locals, who had never witnessed such a gathering before of so many cyclists in their shop, and enjoyed some hot and spicy vegetable soup ladelled out by a member of staff.

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Barista Andrew with his finger on the button
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Barista Simon busy unjamming the machine – classic!
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Warming up outside even though Simon was baked in store
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Glemsford’s cultural centre

Having warmed up and said goodbye to Mr Gnome and his friends, we then enjoyed a Suffolk Spring day in all its splendour – wonderful views, pretty cottages and impressive mansions as we cruised through the lanes whilst also ascending and descending some significant hills.. Other than Simon’s chain coming off at one point it was an incident free ride despite the early fog, quite a lot of difficult-to-see potholes and recent hedgecutting.

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Big vista behind
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Big vista in front

By this time the temperature had probably reached an unseasonable 13C but we weren’t complaining and it continued like this all the way back to The Red Lion where it was good to be joined for lunch by Simon O and his dog, followed shortly afterwards by John B who had also been riding around the lanes. Valentine’s Day was in full swing, with the Landlord sporting a particularly interesting tie but in the interests of decency it is best left to the imagination.

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Simon and Chris dressing for lunch

And here is the route taken, a real half and half ride anti-clockwise. Half in fog and half in sun:

Great Wratting ride 14 Feb 2019

Thanks go once again to Maurice for planning the ride and doing a great job of not getting lost in the fog. Well done Maurice! And, of course, thanks to Andrew too for getting us to the starting line, and for the Strava map above.

Martin

 

 

 

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24 January 2019 – Fireworks at Abington Pigotts

whatsapp image 2019-01-24 at 15.54.44It was more like a Roman candle than a birthday candle fizzing away in front of Brian. He had bought the beers and the Windmillers – back from a 29 mile outing – had just finished a big lunch at the Pig & Abbott, when Landlady Pat surprised the birthday boy with a very large cake topped with a rather alarming firework. Pat stood by with advice on the best way to blow it out – but the pyrotechnics eventually fizzled out themselves and Brian was able to cut generous slices for all.

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Great Gransden – the oldest post mill in England – with some of the oldest cyclists

Twelve Windmillers – Maurice, Graham, Sandra, Deborah, Ken, Lawrence, Rod, Brian, Chris, Tom, Andrew – and his old school chum, Don – had set off from Abington Pigotts on a route that had taken in Steeple Morden, Potton, Gamlingay and Waresley, where we pulled in for coffee at the garden centre. Then on the return leg we took a diversion to visit Cockayne Hatley; a charmingly named little place at the end of a no-through road. Nice enough but – as Americans say of Canada – not for the whole weekend.

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Cockayne Hatley – our first (and final) visit

The outing would have been uneventful but for Chris taking a tumble on a slippery bend not far from the finish. Thankfully, the road was quiet and – apart from road rash and a very sore shoulder – Chris didn’t sustain too much damage. Just as well, as he is off skiing soon.

Back at the pub, we were delighted to be joined by Vernon, who’d heard rumours of free beer.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for planning the route and guiding us around – and to Andrew for getting us all organised.

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29 miles anticlockwise from Abington Pigotts

Brian

17 January 2019 – Soup Kitchen at Wendens Ambo

There was a certain aroma in the air as Martin emerged from his BMW; distinctly savoury, some likened it to Lancashire hot pot, others to boeuf bourguignon. Martin explained his misfortune; he had up-ended a pot-full of casserole in the footwell earlier in the week. We suspect it’s a new business venture; some sort of meals-on-wheels-for-the-well-heeled, or a soup kitchen for the super rich. We will let you know.

There were eight Windmillers gathering outside Andrew’s house in Wendens Ambo for the regular Thursday outing: Geoff, Chris, Tom, Roger, Sandra and Brian, plus Andrew himself and the fragrant Martin.

A quick risk assessment concluded that – barring an unlikely encounter with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Land Rover – the main hazards to look out for would be a low sun and frost in the shade.

Anticipating a cold ride, we set off at pace, heading out through Saffron Walden and Hadstock to Linton, where we passed a vaguely familiar rider going the other way. What with him being so well wrapped against the cold it was a while before it dawned on us that that did look like Victor. Likewise, with the low sun in his eyes, Victor had pulled up wondering whether he had just passed the Windmillers. But, sensible chap, he turned around and we all caught up; so now we were nine.

It wasn’t long before Tom pulled up with a flat tyre. Alas, his reputation as a mechanical wizard took a knock when he needed two attempts at the repair, though no doubt the poor chap was hampered by cold, numb fingers.

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Sandra supervises Tom’s puncture repair

With Tom re-inflated, we continued on through Little Abington, where we shouldered the bikes and took the footbridge over the A11, Babraham, Sawston, Whittlesford and Duxford, where we pulled in at Greystones for refreshment. Our first visit, the warm welcome, coffee and excellent cake were all very much to our liking; we shall return.

Then it was on to Hinxton, Ickleton (where we were minded to inspect Martin’s kitchen facilities – alas time was short) and up the steep incline of Coploe Hill to Strethall, where we spied a familiar figure on his shiny new e-bike. Maurice! Now we were ten.

Then came the best bit; whizzing down the long descent into Wendens Ambo and the warm embrace of The Bell, where we thawed out in front of a splendid log fire. It was here that John Bagrie turned up; now we were eleven! And this being Martin’s birthday, we enjoyed a few beers – not to mention stew jokes – at his expense. Cheers!

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27 miles anticlockwise from Wendens Ambo

Brian

21.01.19 -Return to The Bull

With the evenings drawing out, a later start of 15.00 at The Bull, Lower Langley would see 5 participants for this ride – Maurice, Nigel, Sandra, Andrew and Don Kent (AKA – Malbec Don) – Andrews school friend from Newcastle and a participant of some  ‘memorable’ Windmiller rides!! Great to have you back with us Don, if only for a few days.

Having cycled up with a gloomy sky, I was pleased to see this clearing as the guys arrived and we prepared to set off, for what would be perfect weather, if a bit breezier than expected for the journey of 18 miles, clockwise.

Setting out towards Little Chishill, taking care through the well rutted downhill section before turning up ‘The Three Hills’ section to Great Chishill, stopping for a breather and also a quick repair to Dons rattling mudguard using a trusty cable tie. Then on through Heydon to Elmdon, briefly stopping outside the Elmdon Dial, Don quick to spot a photo opportunity.

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Don – love you Babe?

With a chill forming in the air and before Don could even get his phone back in his pocket, let alone the many layers of gloves and mittens that needed to be removed to take the picture, Maurice, Nigel and Andrew had set off and were nowhere in sight. Having had the same difficulty on a previous ride, I stayed with Don to make sure we didn’t lose him. Catching up with the gang again at the Duddenhoe End turn and a notorious hill, on to Arkesden, Clavering, Stickling Green, passing the two windmills before veering off to Roast Green and Meesden Bury before dropping back to Lower Langley and a very warm welcome back at The Bull.

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18 miles clockwise

Thanks Maurice for another great ride and Andrew for organising us.

Sandra

07.01.19 – Short circuit of Buntingford

This first Monday ride of 2019 would be a bit windy, so the decision was made to reverse a regular route to take advantage of a tailwind on the return leg. Maurice, Andrew, Simon and Sandra (4) met outside The Tally Ho and set forth on the route below clockwise. Thankfully it was relatively well sheltered most of the way, just a few exposed sections, which make you appreciate the cover of hedges etc.,

Setting out from Barkway, we went around Barkway Golf course before turning to Wyddial and on to Buntingford, then through all the ‘Ends’ of Sandon (Lye, Mill and Green) to the centre, pond and Church, to veer off towards Kelshall but taking the hairpin bend before reaching the village, to head to Stumps Cross and its outstanding views on a clear day, from there it was Therfield, Reed and this was where the full force of the wind was apparent, as we coasted along ‘Reed Joint’ (never done that before)!!

Back to The Tally Ho for some Trelawny and nibbles with Saleesha as our host again.

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18 miles clockwise

Thanks Maurice for the route and Andrew for organising us.

Sandra

 

31.12.18 – New Years Eve – Finale for 2018

The last ride for 2018 would see Graham out for his first Windmillers Monday outing (still in the recovery period from recent surgery), riding up from Ickleton to join Sandra, Simon, Maurice (back on the repaired E-Bike) and Andrew (5) for yet another great ride. Arriving early and sampling the beer prior to the ride proved to be a good choice, as you’ll see later!

We set off towards Nuthampstead before veering off to Anstey, Meesden, Langley (Lower and Upper), Duddenhoe End, up to Elmdon and then heading back via Heydon, Gt Chishill, Shaftenhoe End back up to Nuthampstead. On route discussions of one of Graham’s favourite routes being from The Woodman to Anstey known locally as ’21 bends’, never counted them but I’m not sure that’s the correct number! With time and daylight in hand, we set forth along this delightful route. Andrew stopping abruptly, having seen an unusual dog being walked along with another dog and a couple of handlers, he knows the way back from here, so we carried on regardless. Graham and Sandra carried on to Anstey and then back to The Tally Ho, leaving Simon and Maurice cycling together (or so we thought!) and Andrew somewhere behind. By the time we got back to The Tally Ho we were ready for some more refreshments but total darkness, NO! Sign on the door, clearly crossed out 6pm closing and replaced with 3.30pm!!! A quick Google to see if anywhere else would be open proved disappointing, nothing obvious. We were soon joined by Andrew, in a rush to swap bike for Range Rover to go back and collect Maurice, the E-Bike had failed again, AH! At this point we realised Simon was missing and it was getting quite dark too, dilemma, do we go in search or wait and hope he finds his way back. Waiting was the chosen option and with Andrew heading back to fetch Maurice, thankfully they found him on his way back, having gone into The Blind Fiddler, Anstey to get directions, all’s well that ends well but still no beer, this is where Maurice would be our saviour and invited us back to his for some delightful Abbott before he was due to go out partying the night away and welcoming in the New Year. Much appreciated Maurice. While at Maurice’s, Simon told us of exploits and then realised, that with The Tally Ho being closed, that would be why he recognised so many people in The Blind Fiddler and they recognised him too!! If the locals go there too, maybe it’s worth a visit too soon.

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21 miles anti-clockwise

Thanks Maurice for organising the ride and Andrew for organising us.

Sandra

24.12.18 – T’Was Xmas eve

With most windmillers on their travels to family or to find more festive weather and maybe a bit of Apres ski or last-minute buying and wrapping presents, this afternoon/evening would only yield three riders, Maurice, Simon and Sandra.

And what a lovely ride it would be, almost clear skies and very little wind. Having arrived early at the The Tally Ho, the festive party atmosphere was in full swing, after a swift half and some words of caution from the locals regarding cycling in this area, into the evening sporting faux antlers (rutting season is in full swing)!!

We set off for the 19 mile circuit before heading back to a warm welcome from Saleesha and some delightful refreshments, there also seemed to be a bit of a competition involving Xmas jumpers, the winner was a rather dazzling one with flashing lights, sadly no pictures, as we could only cope with a few seconds at a time!!

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19 miles

Thanks to Simon and Maurice for joining me, Maurice for opting for and guiding us around the gentler route with less hills. (Sadly no E-Bike).

Sandra