9 December. A circuit from The Green Man, Thriplow. 17 miles.

Andrew was busy beating (birds, not carpets) and so Martin offered to organise a shortish ride from The Green Man in Thriplow, on what seemed early in the day to be a ride that might be cancelled due to high winds. But with a forecast of sun and less wind as the day went on it seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, and so it proved to be.

Simon and Charles were the other takers for the 13.30 start. Meeting in the bar beforehand we bumped into Lawrence who was not dressed in his snazzy new cycle outfit, modelled recently on Garret Hostel Lane bridge in Cambridge, but in serious lunching gear having met a couple of chums there. And what a good place it is to eat too. The roaring fire and good ales makes it a fine pub to visit on a winter’s day.

Charles was suffering from a bad back having slipped down some stairs just a day or so earlier at a swimming pool in Abu Dhabi and so was high on pain killers. Well done, Charles, for giving it a go and after a long flight too. That’s Windmill stamina for you.

This is where we went, anticlockwise:

Green Man Thriplow circuit

The stretch from Fowlmere to Flint Cross on the A505 was blissfully quiet due to the road being dug up in the centre of Fowlmere. (There are so many similar roads that one wonders if Jeremy Corbyn’s free broadband for all has already started?)

It was still distinctly windy but the long climb from Flint Cross to Great Chishill was an absolute breeze (ugh!) with the wind dead behind. All it needed was a small sail and no pedalling would have been required. Half way up we had to stop, not from exertion but to take in what must be one of the finest views in South Cambridgeshire, looking towards a copse near Heydon:

img_20191209_140650548_burst000_cover
Charles and Simon (scaring the crows) with Heydon in the background

Once at the top of the Great Chishill mountain it was more or less downhill all the way from Heydon to Chrishall Grange which was just as well as the wind was on our noses. Then it was down Grange Road to Duxford with the wind behind before re-crossing the A505 at Whittlesford and taking an off road track back to Thriplow which, thankfully, was not too muddy.

Thanks to Charles and Simon for joining me on the ride. Hopefully, Charles will be less black and blue by the time of the Christmas lunch.

Martin

 

 

 

5 December. Thank you, Dr. Beeching. 34 miles.

img_20191205_125018684_burst000_cover

The Flitch Way used to be a single track railway line between Bishops Stortford and Braintree but, thanks to Dr. Beeching who redrew the railway map of Great Britain in the 1950s, it is now a delightful cycle / pedestrian route instead which our leader for the day Graham incorporated into this ride, commencing in Old Harlow where Graham used to work.

Unfortunately for Graham, who decided to cycle from Ickleton to Old Harlow down his former cycle commuting route, he picked up a couple of punctures probably from the hawthorn needles which cover the lanes at this time of year. It was a bitterly cold and foggy morning and having struggled to replace the first tube his hands were somewhat numb by the time the second happened and so with time pressing he put out a MAYDAY call which Brian picked up and diverted towards Stocking Pelham where Graham was stranded. Meanwhile, several of the others on the ride had gathered at The Queen’s Head or nearby due to the road outside being dug up, and headed to a cosy caff in the back room of the local shop to keep warm with mugs of coffee.

Eventually, Brian and Graham arrived but there was still the second puncture to mend.

20191205_100457
Graham and Martin hard at work whilst Andrew stays erect with a bad back
img_20191205_101158111_hdr
Job’s done! Everyone’s happy!

And so, 45 mins later than planned Graham led Andrew, Brian, Ken, Rod, Roger, Geoff, Howard and Martin eastwards and downwind along very quiet lanes, several of them National Cycle Routes, towards our coffee stop at the Meadow Hill café in Dunmow, where the fruit cake, buns and scones were declared to be excellent.

Fruit cakes in Dunmow

After coffee it was time to head back west and having crossed the busy A120 via a bridge we were soon cycling along the very straight Flitch Way with just the odd barrier to squeeze through here and there, and little or no mud – definitely a ride which Graham could have declared ‘guaranteed mud free or your money back’ but after last week’s experience decided it might be wiser not to. Eventually we came to a halt, appropriately enough, at Stane Street Halt, where trains had to be flagged down if a passenger wanted to get on. And for those wishing to get off, passengers had to ask the guard who then had to ask the driver if he would be ever so kind as to halt at Stane Street. Guards had a useful job to do in those days!

img_20191205_124747187
The history of Stane Street Halt and the wildlife around it today

 

img_20191205_124729446_hdr
Windmillers waiting patiently for the next train to Bishops Stortford

We exited the Flitch Way at this point and then made our way around Hatfield Forest to Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath, all looking glorious in the winter sunshine.

img_20191205_130916243
Geoff and Rod approaching Hatfield Heath
img_20191205_130855748_burst000_cover_top
‘Brokeback’ Dawg feeling the pain?
img_20191205_131020790_hdr
Wintry sky over Hatfield Heath

The wind appeared to increase a bit on the final leg and so we were ready to sample some fine ales and enjoy a hearty lunch when we arrived back at The Queen’s Head.

This is where we went, the Flitch Way being the easy bit to spot:

img_1048

Thanks, Graham, for arranging a fantastic ride and for introducing us to your old stamping ground in Old Harlow. We’re glad you accepted a lift back to Ickleton with Ken. Two punctures is quite enough in one day.

Thanks also to Andrew for organising us all and we hope his back is no longer broke.

Martin

 

 

 

 

 

28 November 2019: A Muddy Birthday for Lawrence

“Guaranteed mud-free or your money back” was Brummie Brian’s sales pitch for Thursday’s ride; a rash promise considering it had been raining steadily for two days.

Keeping dry in Cara Coffee

Ten Windmillers – a goodly turnout considering the weather – met up at Cara Coffee in Great Shelford. Joining Brian were Deborah, Roger, Charles, Rod, Howard, Victor, Tom, Yorkshire Brian – and Lawrence, this week’s Birthday Boy, resplendent in a new all-weather top; a present from a doting daughter.

Lawrence modelling the new season’s cyclewear

Setting out from Shelford we headed for Hauxton, crossed Trumpington Meadows to Grantchester and on to Coton, where we took the cycleway into Cambridge. Pausing for photographs on Garret Hostel Bridge, Charles yelled encouragement to the tourist punts passing on the river below. Poor souls, they looked chilled to the bone. Why go punting in winter, anyway? Beats me.

On Garret Hostel Bridge

Weaving through the town centre, we followed Brian to Jesus Green and thence along the River Cam towpath through Chesterton to Milton, where we pulled in for coffee at Grounds Café.

It was in Milton Country Park that the first mud-related mutterings were heard from the peloton. “It’s not mud, it’s moisture,” yelled Brian over his shoulder. But we were soon back on the road and, mutiny averted, we headed for Landbeach and then on to Waterbeach – where we rejoined the riverside for the return leg to Cambridge.

Some were heard to liken the towpath to a mud bath. “The drainage is a little patchy,” conceded Brian, staying well ahead of the pack and not daring to look back.

Deborah, “Mud? Wot mud?”

Nearing Chesterton, Victor took a tumble, a victim of the wooden rails along the towpath that have claimed Martin and Vernon on previous outings. Glad to say, the involuntary dismount was momentary, indeed, executed in some style and – in a trice – Victor was back in the saddle, unscathed, nay unmudded.

Crossing town again, we joined the cycleway running along the guided bus track, the home straight back to Great Shelford, where we were delighted to find Ken, Martin and Maurice waiting for us at The Square and Compasses. We enjoyed a good lunch and Lawrence, top chap, bought the beers. Happy Birthday, Lawrence!

29 miles clockwise from Great Shelford

Brian

21 November. Geoff’s Ridgewell ride. 30 miles.

Starting from The White Horse Inn in Ridgewell on the A1017, between Haverhill and Castle Hedingham, this was a canny figure of eight ride devised by Geoff which took in some delightful new lanes whilst also incorporating some familiar ones. Assembling at 9.00am to have coffee and place lunch orders, eleven Windmillers set off soon afterwards led by Geoff and followed by Andrew, Rod, Ken, Roger, Lawrence, Deborah, Graham, Tom, Howard and Martin. Unfortunately, Charles had suffered a puncture on his car en route but he caught up with us later.

This is where we went, in a clockwise direction:

Ridgewell ride

Before setting off, there was some concern about the health of both Andrew and Roger as both appeared to be trying to access the defibrillator on the pub’s outside wall:

img_20191121_092037890_burst000_cover
Luckily, it was a false alarm – just too much coffee

The roads were wet and muddy in places, but not too bad, and the day was reasonably warm compared to recent weeks which made for a very pleasant ride through typically quiet Essex lanes. There was only one point where a decision had to be made as to whether to use a bridge over a ford or go for it, the majority deciding to take the safe route whilst others took the plunge.

Lawrence and Graham decide to take the plunge.

After 16 miles – perfect timing – we pulled into the Blue Egg café outside Great Bardfield, which must surely represent the best run caff in East Anglia. They not only serve wonderful coffee and cakes, at good prices, but also cope with sudden onslaughts of customers with great ease and efficiency. (This Editor is not on commission.)

Putting on weight with Blue Egg delicacies.

Ready for the off once again, with Charles now on board too.

Heading through Great Bardfield we had to stop, of course, for a photo call outside Gibraltar Windmill which has been converted into a residence:

img_20191121_113518353
Gibraltar Mill is a three-storey tower mill with a boat-shaped cap. The mill has four double Patent sails carried on a cast-iron windshaft and is winded by an eight-bladed fantail. The tower is 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) to 4 feet (1.22 m) thick at base level. It is 32 feet (9.75 m) high, 20 feet (6.10 m) diameter at base level and 13 feet (3.96 m) diameter at curb level. The mill is 44 feet (13.41 m) high overall. The windshaft carries a wooden Brake Wheel with 90 iron teeth, cast in six segments. The Wallower was an iron mortice gear, with 44 wooden cogs. It was carried on a cast-iron Upright Shaft. The Great Spur Wheel had 88 cogs, and drove two pairs of millstones via Stone Nuts with 18 cogs each.[Now you know!]

img_20191121_113631331
A rainbow of Windmillers outside Gibraltar Mill, Great Bardfield

Skirting Finchingfield and its fine windmill we continued northwards to Howe Street and then back to Ridgewell via Stambourne Green and Birdbrook to a warm welcome and excellent fare at The White Horse, where it was great to be joined by Ric who had cycled over from Harston and Brian who had come by car, making it 14 for lunch.

img_20191121_133923364
Windmillers enjoying a fine lunch in The White Horse Inn

Thanks were given over lunch to Geoff who organised a superb ride and led us around the lanes using the latest handlebar mounted technology.

Needless to say, Graham had cycled to Ridgewell from Ickleton and refused the offer of a lift back, clocking up around 70 miles for the day and adding to his total of several thousand miles this year. Well done, Graham!

Martin

 

18 November. Great Chishill windmill in all its glory. 9 miles.

img_20191118_150838838_hdr
A lonely looking Rod in front of Great Chishill windmill

There were just two Windmillers, Rod and Martin, who embarked on this cold but glorious Autumn ride from The Blind Fiddler in Anstey at 2.00pm, to ensure we got back in time before darkness set in. But once we got going we soon warmed up, not only through the effort of pedalling but also when we stopped at Maurice’s house for a cuppa. Thanks Maurice and Linda!

The aim was to explore a hamlet near Chrishall, known as both Building End and Builden End, but with the sun low in the sky and Great Chishill windmill looking spectacular we had to pay our respects, which Rod very kindly offered to do. This must be a first to have a solitary Windmiller posing in front of a windmill.

img_20191118_150942917_burst000_cover
This is a self steering windwill (in theory) using the circular sail on the back – none of that heaving on a bar which is necessary on the Bourn windmill

Having stripped off a layer due to the climb up to Barley and Great Chishill, we were soon descending to the turning to Building / Builden End, where we reckoned the dead end lane with some lovely old houses and cottages would become a smooth byway. Charles J had already indicated that this would be the case but it was a joy to behold – a smooth wide track that climbed gently and emerged on the road towards Lower Langley. A useful discovery.

img_20191118_153408037_hdr
The  Building End / Langley Lower Green byway 

Then it was past the closed Bull and on towards Brent Pelham before returning to Anstey and receiving another warm welcome from the landlord and customers of The Blind Fiddler.

This is where we went:

Anstey Building End circuit 18 Nov 19

Thanks, Rod, for accompanying me! We had a good ride.

Martin

 

 

14 November. Pub closed? Not to Windmillers

Lunch in the Fleur

Rarely does poor weather force cancellation of a Thursday outing. But sometimes it does, triggering our well rehearsed contingency plan. We call it “Let’s have a bloody good lunch.”

So it was that Martin put away his Blackwater Estuary map for another day and we opted instead for a short trip to our favourite local, The Fleur de Lys.

Alas, Landlords Chris and Ellie had been forced to close for the day as the water main supplying Widdington had failed. Even the road into the village was closed while contractors dug it up to repair the pipe.

But all was not lost; a quick call to Chris and he offered to open up specially for us. We even managed to sweet talk our way past the contractors and the Road Closed signs.

Ric, Geoff, Andrew and Graham, determined to clock up at least a few miles in the saddle, cycled to Widdington while the rest of us – Lawrence, SimonT, SimonO, Maurice, Ken, Howard, Martin and Brian – took the easy option and drove there.

Chris and Ellie did us proud by improvising an excellent lunch of chips and sandwiches. God knows how they did the washing up, maybe they used beer. Many, many thanks to them both.

Brian

11 November. Road closed? Not to Windmillers. 20 miles.

img_20191111_152630097

Occasionally Windmillers come across closed roads that can easily be got around, usually on a path for pedestrians. This time it was different. There was no path but just heaps of spoil from a large trench being dug in the road between Langley Lower Green to Roast Green. After much squelching in sticky mud and traversing ditches the refuse-to-be-beaten Windmillers got through.

Earlier, the gang of five including Andrew, Rod, Simon, Nick and Martin had departed on a circuit from the Blind Fiddler in Anstey for a change, on a route devised by Martin. The Blind Fiddler’s opening hours were conducive to an afternoon ride in mid-November, being open all afternoon. This is where we went:

Anstey circuit 11 Nov 19

Unfortunately, Nick had fallen off his bike the day before and was still suffering a bit and so he peeled off in Nuthampsted at The Woodman. The remainder continued past Bridget Tarrington’s house, who we look forward to seeing at the Christmas lunch, and then to the spoil heap via Shaftenhoe End, Little Chishill and Langley Lower Green, passing en route the byway from Building End near Chrishall which we aim to try out one day.

Having hauled Rod’s heavy e-bike through the mud and scraped the mud off it, and our shoes, on we went through the now fading light but enjoying the sunset and reasonable road conditions despite the amount of rain that had fallen recently. A nice surprise was the lack of a ford on Violets Lane near Washall Green, enabling us to climb the concrete track to Furneux Pelham. From there it was a steady ride back to a warm welcome at The Blind Fiddler, and sustenance in front of a roaring fire.

img_20191111_174101204
A fireplace timber acquired from another pub?

The story of the blind fiddler of Anstey.

Martin