4 July. Eco warriors and their tribe in North Norfolk. 35 miles.

What a day to choose to ride around North Norfolk! Maurice got it spot on with his weather forecast when he decided to choose a circuit from Fakenham for what turned out to be a glorious ride in perfect conditions. Assembling incognito in Morrison’s car park, or at least that was the plan, Maurice was joined by Andrew, Sandra, Keith, Brian, Ken, Roger, Charles and another eco warrior, Martin, who had borrowed Ann Worthing’s e-bike for the day. This was Martin’s first experience of an e-bike and he spent a happy day in eco mode, as did Maurice, marvelling at the speed, acceleration and range of the Trek bike.

This is sort of where we went, clockwise from Little Walsingham having first gone through the pretty villages of Little and Great Snoring on the way from Fakenham:

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A few modifications en route meant we cycled to Holkham Hall from the southern entrance and exited on the western side before visiting Burnham Thorpe and then stopping for coffee at The Hoste Arms in Burnham Market. The views on the way were stupendous:

 

 

 

Note the sad condition of the Lord Nelson pub in Burnham Thorpe (bottom row) which we last visited 3 years ago. There was still a lot of Nelson memorabilia in the pub at the time which hopefully as been preserved.

After coffee we set off for Wells via Burnham Overy Staithe and Holkham but did not take the path parallel to the beach behind the pine trees as time was pressing, or was it the thought of all that seafood in Wells fast disappearing on such a gorgeous day? A windmill seen from a distance near Burnham Thorpe, which can just be seen in the poppy pic above, came into closer view over the marshes on the way to Burnham Overy Staithe:

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Where shall we go for lunch? That was the big topic of conversation on entering Wells, minus Charles who had to head for home at Holkham.  Should it be The Wells Crab House where a group of Windmillers had enjoyed an excellent evening meal 2 years ago whilst on a 2 day outing to Norfolk? No, that was full. How about that pub at the top end of town or the one in the middle? Both sounded good but then a table was spotted on the good ship Albatros moored alongside the quay and the matter was settled quickly. The next hour or so was probably one of the most memorable lunches in the history of the Windmill Club. Words cannot describe the view from the boat as the tide was coming in, nor the conversation with the Dutch skipper who told us all about the history of the boat transporting horses during the First World War. These pics tell the story a lot better:

 

Note the Dutch pancakes, the excellent pints of Wherry and Roger, Ken and Martin listening intently to the Dutch skipper.

A quick visit after lunch to the Wells and Walsingham light railway terminus resulted in us just missing a train but we had an interesting conversation with the station master who, as Ken observed, looked more like a New York cop. Then it was back to Fakenham via Great and Little Walsingham but stopping at the spot near Great Snoring where John Tarrington sadly had a fall and broke his wrist badly. We held a minute’s silence in his memory.

Thanks to Maurice for organising such a great route and of course to Andrew for getting us to the starting line on time. Slapped wrists for those who didn’t obey his command to spread out in Morrison’s car park to avoid being caught for not shopping! And thanks also to Brian and Andrew for many of the above pics, and to Ann Worthing for the loan of her e-bike, and to Ken for carting it there.

Martin

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1 July. Bunch of b******s confirmed. 14+ miles.

‘Don’t worry, we’ll go easy on you’, said Andrew, prior to Martin commencing a ride again after an 8 week lay off. But being unable to make the start at The Bull, Lower Langley with Maurice, Andrew and Keith, at the apppointed hour of 17.00, Martin called the threesome at 18.00 from The Bull to find out where they were. ‘We’re at Strethall heading for Elmdon’, said Andrew, ‘Why don’t you head to Little Chishill, up the three hills to Great Chishill and we’ll meet you somewhere near Chrishall most probably?’ ‘Thanks a bundle’, thought Martin, expecting a nice level route somewhere.

So Martin set off and discovered the three hills were easier than expected. He continued towards Great Chishill and Chrishall, expecting to meet the others coming in the opposite direction. As there was no sign of them he called Andrew only to discover that they were holed up in Simon and Ollie’s house in Elmdon having a few beers and hadn’t let Martin know. ‘What b******s’, thought Martin, agreeing completely with the view of Charles on his first ride out with the Windmillers back in May. There was, however, an invitation to join them but Martin declined as he was already heading through Chrishall and did not wish to clock up more miles than necessary. Guilt then set in with the b******s, resulting in Maurice phoning Martin to say that Simon had very kindly offered to give him a lift back to The Bull if he could make it as far as Elmdon. But by that time Martin was already speeding down the hill from Chrishall and so politely declined saying he would meet them all back at The Bull. And that is what happened, both Martin and the b******s having clocked up around 14 miles.

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B******s at The Bull

It’s great to be back in the saddle again! And thanks, Simon, for the kind offer. I’ll take you up on it another time.

Martin

27 June 2019: Shotley Peninsula

No that’s what I call a Gatehouse. The Windmillers at Ewarton Hall

Thursday morning saw seven Windmillers set off from the Carrier’s Arms, East Bergholt, for a tour of the Shotley peninsula. Blessed with a lovely June morning, Maurice – followed by Andrew, Howard, Roger, Graham, Simon and Brian – led the way out into the Suffolk countryside.

Everything was going smoothly until our leader was brought to a sudden and unexpected halt, his chain jammed in the chainwheel. Dismounting, and with much effing and jeffing, Maurice tried freeing it with brute force – but to no avail.

We were pondering what to do next when Simon, reaching into his saddlebag, pulled out a large steel spike which, he maintained, was a tyre lever. Mmm, maybe for a tractor we thought, though some likened it more to a housebreaker’s jemmy. Whatever, in Howard’s capable hands it did the trick and – hey presto – Maurice was mobile again.

Ewarton Hall

Our next stop was at Ewarton where we pulled in to admire the 16th century Hall. Seeing us at the bottom of her drive, the owner came out to chat and filled us in on some of the history. The Hall was once owned by Anne Boleyn’s uncle and according to legend, Anne loved the place so much she gave instructions that her heart should be buried in the local church. The owner doubts whether Anne’s heart is really there though during Victorian times renovations did uncover a heart-shaped tin casket in the church. This is now buried beneath the organ with a plaque marking the spot.

The marina at Shotley Gate

Rounding the peninsula at Shotley Gate, we paused for a photo with the cranes of Felixstowe docks as a backdrop.

Back on the bikes we made the steep descent down to Pin Mill for a coffee stop at the Butt & Oyster. We sat outside taking in the view over the Orwell and speculating as to what else Simon might have in his saddlebag. Maybe a lump hammer or two?

With the wind at our backs, we made short work of the return stretch to East Bergholt and lunch at the Carriers Arms. 

From East Bergholt to Shotley Gate and back

We had clocked up 34 miles, apart from Graham who seems to be competing with Sandra to make the rest of us look lazy. He opted to cycle the additional 60 miles home to Ickleton. Cor blimey, Graham.

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising another super outing.

Brian

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

06.06.19 – Lucky for some thirteen !!

With the promise of coffee to start the ride, 13 eager Windmillers gathered outside the Red Lion at Great Wratting. Something was amiss though, the doors locked and no sign of life !!

We were almost ready to leave abandoning the early riser refreshment when a Mercedes estate car came careering into the car park, scuffing the front bumper and then parking, hitting a post holding up a lean-to building, watching on anticipating the demise of the building and spilling the baskets that were perched on the roof all over the car, amazingly this was not to be, lucky escape there. Coffee would soon be available, courtesy of the young man driving the car, something had been lost in translation/organisation or clearly forgotten, I think it was more likely the latter!!

Quickly downing the coffee and ordering lunch, we set forth to Kedington, Hundon and Stradishall. Maurice leading the posse comprising Roger, Victor, Lawrence, Simon, Chris, Deborah, Howard, Keith, Graham, Sandra, Geoff and Ken. The pace was fair and the group had split into two as the call came out for the obligatory Windmill (Stansfield) photo opportunity.

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There is a Windmill in the background, really!!

We regrouped for a full team photo call at Hawkedon

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As you can see it was yet another glorious day albeit a bit windy at times. Setting off again, it wasn’t long before the group was somewhat stretched out, some of us not getting any warning of a ford as we headed downhill at speed, missing the road route to the right of it and having to take the wet path, Victor managed to find a shallower path but as I was trying to avoid him, the only option was the deeper part which resulted in a rather wet foot. Catching up again, we were grateful of The Angel at Glemsford and the planned coffee and cake stop, well again something in the translation/organisation went astray and the cake was lacking, the Landlady was willing to head to the local store but we declined, perhaps thinking of our figures!! Simon though, took it upon himself to indulge us and while the coffees were being made he set off at speed and cleared the shelves in the store of everything sweet and gooey, returning only to find that no-one had bothered to think of him and having to get his own coffee, well done Simon, the cakes went down a treat.

On leaving Glemsford, we headed to Pentlow and the pace was still quite high, with the wind on our nose and the group got stretched out even more, leading to 5 of us missing a turning and doing the route below, while the others cut across country. All was well and we regrouped back at The Red Lion where we were joined by Martin, great to see him and hopefully seeing our jolly faces after another lovely ride, will aid his recovery. Looking forward to having you back riding with us again soon.

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32.5 miles clockwise

Thanks Maurice for another great ride.

Sandra

30 May 2019: Widdington to Finchingfield

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High fives at Finchingfield Windmill

A warm and sunny Thursday morning saw twelve Windmillers turning out for a ride from Widdington to Finchingfield and back. Joining us for the first time was Howard who, having bought a car from Maurice’s nephew, had been given a hot tip; check out the Windmill Club! Howard joins our growing contingent of riders from Saffron Walden.

We were also glad to see Graham back and looking fit as a fiddle.

Picking our way through the contractors digging up the road outside the Fleur de Lys, Maurice – closely followed by Andrew, Sandra, Deborah, Ken, Graham, Ric, Chris, Geoff, Roger, Brian and Howard – led the way out towards Debden and on to Radwinter.

We noticed Geoff wasn’t riding his usual machine; alas it had been stolen while on a cycling holiday. But there was a happy ending – within a few days of reporting his loss the insurance company had stumped up the money in full. Geoff will be out on a new bike – same as the last one – very soon.

Arriving in Finchingfield, we found Bosworth’s Tea Room had closed, been refurbished and had now reopened as Winners Tea Room. And very good it was too, with better cakes and better coffee.

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Winners Tea Room, Finchingfield

On the return leg, and just a few hundred yards from the Fleur, Roger pulled up with a puncture. What is it with that section of road at the top of Widdington? Roger is the third Windmiller – after Brian and Martin – to suffer a puncture there.

Arriving back at the Fleur we were greeted by John Bagrie and, rearranging the tables, the whole gang of us sat down to a fine lunch in the garden. It seems hardly a week goes by without a birthday and the associated pressure to buy everyone a beer. This time it was Ken’s turn.

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Happy Birthday, Ken

Inspired by our recent visit to P&A Wood, Deborah had brought along a family heirloom. Written by her grandfather-in-law, Bryan Goodman, it was a boxed, gilt edged, two volume history of the Edwardian Rolls-Royce. Very impressive.

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Deborah’s book

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35 miles clockwise from Widdington

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising another fine summer outing.

Brian

Footnote: Riding home through Newport after lunch, Brian and Ric had to swerve to avoid a semi-naked man, chased by a policeman, running at full tilt down the middle of the High Street. Newport, eh? A little town full of surprises.

23 May 2019: Ireland

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Brian returns to Ireland  . . .  in Bedfordshire

Thursday’s outing saw the Windmillers pay a return visit to Ireland – not the Emerald Isle – but a little place of the same name in Bedfordshire.

Setting off from the Cock at Broom, Brian – followed by Andrew, Bruce, Keith, Lawrence, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Tom – led the way around a 26 mile circuit very similar to last year’s but with some off road additions. What’s more it was polling day – this time for the European Parliament – and indeed we passed many a polling station along the way.

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Keith’s got a cool new bike and matching outfit

As last year, we pulled in at the Shuttleworth Collection to peek into the hangers full of restored aeroplanes before continuing on through Ickwell – surely one of the prettiest villages in Bedfordshire – Northill and the delightfully named Moggerhanger. All had polling stations, but all seemingly devoid of voters.

Venturing off road, we joined the Ouse Valley Way, now part of National Cycle Route 51, following the line of the old Varsity Railway which used to run between Cambridge and Oxford until it was axed in the Beeching cuts of the 60s.

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The blessed St Lawrence . . . this time in Willington

Joining the road again at Willington, we paused for a photo beside the 16th century dovecote before pulling in for coffee and cake at Cardington Barns.

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Windmillers at Willington Dovecote

Refreshed, we made short work of the return leg – via Ireland – to Broom and a warm welcome at The Cock where we were joined by John Bagrie. Rod bought the beer – Happy Birthday, Rod! – and told the best Brexit related joke; something about the backstop being an item one purchases from the surgical counter at Boots.

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John enjoying lunch

While lunching we were very pleased to hear that Martin’s prolonged stay in Addenbrookes had finally come to an end and he is on his way home. The following day we also heard that Graham’s visit to Papworth had been successful and mercifully brief. We shall expect full reports from you both – but spare us any pictures.

We look forward to seeing Martin and Graham back on two wheels again soon.

Brian

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26 miles anticlockwise from Broom