11 April 2019: London

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Windmillers at the Cutty Sark

“Mmmm,” pondered Martin, a replacement inner tube in each hand, one with three old repair patches, the other with just two; it was a tricky decision – and it took  two attempts to repair the puncture. Meanwhile the rest of us lolled about in the sunshine. It wasn’t exactly a peaceful spot – we were within spitting distance of the Blackwall Tunnel. But eventually Martin managed to re-inflate his tyre and we were back on the road.

 

We were halfway around our annual outing to London. Thirteen Windmillers: Maurice, Andrew, two Brians, Martin, Keith, Simon, Geoff, Rod, Graham, Victor, Roger and Peter had set off at 9am from the car park of the Lee Valley White Water Centre at Waltham Cross.

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Ready for the off at Waltham Cross

It had been a very chilly start but Peter – who had found time to slip away from his duties at The Golden Fleece – arrived in shorts, brave man, and Graham, having cycled all the way from home, wasn’t feeling the cold at all. More of him later.

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Limehouse Basin

Maurice led the way out and on to the River Lee towpath. Heading south, we warded off the cold by keeping up a good pace along the 12 mile stretch to the Olympic Park. From there we crossed the Lee and followed the Hertford Union Canal for a further couple of miles, eventually reaching the Regent’s Canal. Then it was another two miles to Limehouse Basin and the Thames, where we paused to take in the City skyline.

20190411_105412We stopped for coffee and cake at St Katherine Docks before crossing the river at Tower Bridge, where we encountered the only heavy traffic of the day. Then it was back along the south bank, stopping for an aperitif at The Blacksmiths Arms, before heading on to Greenwich for lunch at the Trafalgar Tavern.

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There’s no ‘arm in it

Back on the bikes, we looped around the O2 and took the cable car over the river; the views were superb. Landing on the north bank, we wound our way through the backstreets of Canning Town and back on to the River Lee towpath.

20190411_151343Heading north we took the return leg at a more leisurely pace, arriving back at the cars around 5pm having clocked up 44 miles; apart from Graham who had continued pedalling northwards and all the way home, clocking up some 120 miles! Well done, Graham, we reckon that’s a club record.

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44 miles – anticlockwise around Docklands

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for planning a truly exceptional day.

Martin might appreciate this old Clarence Carter classic from 1970, “Patches”

And there’s many more pictures in the Windmill Club photo album.

Brian

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4 April. Iron men and women go to Ely and back. 51 miles.

We knew this was going to be a long day, and probably a windy one, but that didn’t stop 9 hardy  Windmillers from gathering in the Trumpington Park and Ride for a 51 mile trip to Ely and back. Graham, Sandra, Victor and Brian clocked up even longer distances having started from and returned to their homes, so well done those four, particularly Victor who had a dodgy front brake with pads that were stuck on for part of the way.

The others on this jaunt were organiser Andrew, Keith, Lawrence, Geoff and Martin. Having all assembled safely, off we whizzed alongside the busway to Cambridge station and then guided by Brian through the side streets to a convenient underpass at the junction of East Road and Newmarket Road and down to the River Cam.

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Baits Bite Lock on the River Cam on a sunny Fenland day

Instead of going clockwise as on previous trips we decided to go anti-clockwise to try out a new route and also have a coffee break at the Wicken Fen Visitor Centre café. This worked out well on the whole except that National Cycle Route No. 11 came to an abrupt stop at Waterbeach, even though it was marked on the map, and became a series of stiles and gates which had to be crossed whilst heading towards Lode resulting in this becoming an Iron Man challenge, particularly when lifting Geoff’s e-bike over a gate.

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Big Fenland skies near Waterbeach

Once we were back on No. 11 near Lode we had a glorious ride across the open Fens with a strong wind on our tail resulting in a fast journey to Wicken, arriving at 11.30am after 18 miles. Lawrence spotted a Marsh Harrier circling for its prey and Sandra thought it might have had a mate too. A great sighting. En route to Wicken we passed the infamous cock-up bridge and of course had to be photographed against it:

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Stopping to admire the cock-up bridge near Wicken
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The Wicken Fen Visitor Centre and café on the right

After coffee and cakes we set off for another 10 miles to our favourite lunch stop in Ely, Peacocks, via more riverside roads and tracks and under the newly constructed bridge carrying heavy traffic from Ely to Newmarket. This made the final hop into Ely somewhat easier than on previous trips, particularly as the bike path had been well repaired too.

Lunch was quite superb – a friendly greeting, a large table (the owner knew we were coming thanks to Brian phoning ahead), and excellent food washed down with some fine bottled Elgood’s beer from Wisbech (for those not worried about falling asleep on the homeward leg).

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Lunch in Peacocks, Ely
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Tea has its benefits too it seems. Note the reference to the EU.

With 28 miles under our belt, there were no takers for the train home and so after lunch we set off on the homeward leg via Witchford, Wilburton and Cottenham knowing that a Fen blow would be on our noses most of the way. And indeed it was but we plugged on, heads down and getting relief at times from roadside hedges and trees. Just after crossing the River Ouse, Graham and Sandra peeled off and went down the main road to  Cottenham whilst the others took a minor back road and then to the River Cam via Landbeach and Milton. At one stage Victor took a minor tumble at a road junction after which repairs were attempted on his front brake without much success which resulted in Victor having effectively pedalled uphill across the Fens. So the prize for losing the most calories on the ride definitely went to Victor.

Once back in Cambridge, Keith, Brian and Martin decided they could not manage another inch without some refreshment and so they headed for The Salisbury Arms in Tenison Road whilst the others returned to Trumpington via the busway.

Here is the route taken:

Ely circuit 4 April 2019
The ‘mountain’ shown at 28 miles was in central Ely! Mapometer claims 50 miles but most satnavs recorded 51/52 miles.

Thanks to Andrew for organising a great ride. Let’s hope Route 11 near Waterbeach gets established for real in the coming months, so please lobby Sustrans!

Martin

 

All Fools Day 2019. 20 gentle dental miles from The Tally Ho!

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DIY dentist Andrew seeks new clients – any takers? Spot the glued in molar, using an Indian mixture of ground glass and resin. Answer below.

It was way past noon and so no practical jokes on this All Fools Day were allowed, which was a bit of a shame. But Andrew’s DIY dental treatment gave us much to laugh about.

It was also our first summer-time ride which meant no more lights to lead our way back to The Tally Ho!. Instead we could generally dawdle and just admire the views if we chose to. And so it was that six not-so-foolish Windmillers, comprising Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Keith, Peter and Martin, turned out on this fine Spring evening at 4.30pm for a 20 mile ride around our quiet lanes. This is where we went:

Tally Ho! All Fools Day ride 2019

Speeding past a lone cyclist near Barkway Golf Club established quickly that he lived in Furneux Pelham, didn’t know Roger (‘Is he the blind ex-Olympic rower?’, the chap asked) and showed no sign of wanting to ride along with us for fear of being left behind. That’s what happens when two e-bikes are in the pack – Maurice charging along up front and Hot Rod sweeping up the rear. It was good to have Peter out with us again, who has no problem keeping up with an e-bike.

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Stopping for a breather. From the left, Rod, tooth puller Andrew, new boy Peter, Keith and Maurice

It wasn’t long before the aforesaid Furneux Pelham with its lovely church and its motto Time Flies – Mind Your Business came into view. Then it was left up a farm road passing the same elderly gent and his dog who we often meet at that time of day, bidding him a cheery hello and getting one back in return. The downhill concrete track was once again a real bone shaker if taken at speed, enough to shake Andrew’s new tooth out but it survived, and it wasn’t long before we were back on the tarmac proceeding towards Clavering.

It felt strange not to stop at a wide open Bull at Lower Langley but chips were on offer once again and so we sped on towards Little Chishill passing many sunlit cottages on the way:

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Master W J Bates’s farm was passed before taking care descending the steep bumpy hill to Shaftenhoe End, after which there were a few humps and bumps before climbing back into Barkway.

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Maurice and his new dentist – the others had all gone on ahead not wishing to sign up

Back at The Tally Ho! the Trelawney was as good as ever but Martin settled for a Captain Bob brewed by a Maldon firm which he also declared excellent. Saleesha’s chips were good too.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride and congratulations to Andrew on his DIY dental skills. I for one will stick with my usual dentist, thank you all the same.

Martin

Answer: top row, 4th from the right. Pretty neat, eh?

 

28 March 2019: Milling Around at Woodbridge

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Woodbridge Tide Mill

Thirteen Windmillers set off from The Fox Inn at Newbourne for a forty-odd mile outing to the Suffolk coast.

Or at least, that was the plan.

Maurice – followed by Ric, Graham, Tom, Deborah, Keith, Martin, Andrew, Geoff, Lawrence, Ken, Simon and Brian – led the way southwards through Felixstowe and out to the tip of the peninsula, from where we would catch the ferry across the Deben to Bawdsey. Alas, the jetty was strangely quiet and, looking our way, the patrons of the nearby cafe were shaking their heads sadly. Maurice went along the jetty to read the notice and came back looking decidedly sheepish; the ferry was closed until April 1st.

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Felixstowe Ferry – but where’s the ferry?

Clearly, we had options:

  1. Hanging around for four days until the ferry opened.
  2. Swimming across, it couldn’t be more than 100 yards.
  3. Or just milling around for 10 minutes while Maurice poured over the OS map.
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Where to next, Maurice?

Maurice soon came up with fallback plan. Back on the bikes, we followed him inland on a gravel track along the Deben to Falkenham and thence back through Newbourne to The Fox where we pulled in for coffee and some further route mapping.

With lunchtime little over an hour away, a short hop to Woodbridge and back seemed our best bet and so, draining our cups, we headed north to visit the Woodbridge Tide Mill.

Pausing for photographs, we then headed back to Newbourne. Somehow on the return leg we managed to lose half the peloton – but all were eventually reunited at The Fox where we enjoyed an al fresco lunch in glorious sunshine.

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32 somewhat improvised miles

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew organising the day.

Brian

25 March. We survived the A505 ride. 20 miles.

Four Windmillers, Maurice, Andrew, Keith and Martin, gathered in the car park of The Tally Ho! in Barkway at the later time of 4.30pm for a ‘leisurely’ ride, as advertised by Andrew. And leisurely it was except for a short hairy stretch on the A505.

The plan was to take in the views on this glorious March evening, starting on the ridge heading towards Therfield and then descending to the A505 before climbing up to Sandon via Maurice’s ‘valley’ route. All went well until we experienced huge volumes of traffic whizzing along the A505. Was the A14 closed somewhere we wondered? It was only a few hundred yards from the Therfield junction to the Sandon junction but judging when to make a break for it exercised our minds for quite a while. Keith was the first to pluck up courage, followed by Andrew, Maurice and finally Martin with rear light flashing.

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Phew! We made it. The A505 survivors.

After we had duly recovered we could revert to taking in the vast views east and west as we climbed steadily towards Sandon.

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Can you see what I see?

The ‘valley’ became quite a steep climb as we approached Sandon, puffing and panting like a steam engine in the case of Martin. Another stop was called for to regain breath and also to take a pic of a magnificent magnolia tree in full bloom in a local’s garden:

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Continuing on past Lyn and John B’s house, we were soon in Buntingford and heading back via the usual route through Wyddial, stopping once again to pay homage to Visions of Loveliness Lane.

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Pylons marching into the sunset near Wyddial

Saying farewell to Keith who cycled back to Anstey, from whence he came, Maurice, Andrew and Martin headed back to a packed Tally Ho! to enjoy good chips and Trelawney bitter once again.

Here is the route taken:

Tally Ho! A505 circuit

Rod, if you’re reading this, we need to enlist your help in persuading Herts CC to construct cycle paths alongside the A505 between the Sandon and Ashwell Station junctions! And if everyone writes in support of such a scheme, you never know it might happen.

Thanks go to Maurice for planning the route, even if we did put our lives at risk! The views made it all worthwhile. And thanks to Andrew, as always, for his organisation.

Martin

 

21 March. Roger’s Blue Egg birthday ride. 33 miles.

If Roger’s birthday had been publicised in advance, the Fleur de Lys in Widdington might have been crammed even further with Windmillers at the end of the ride but, even so, it took two tables to fit everyone in. A large turnout of 14 Windmillers – Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Keith, Ken, Brian, birthday boy Roger (sporting a Val d’Isere induced suntan), Ric, Simon, Deborah, Nigel and Martin – and joined later by Vernon and John B, meant we kept the kitchen staff very busy.

The weather was perfect for cruising through Essex lanes to the Blue Egg café at Great Bardfield and back. Setting off at 9.30am, the quiet route that Maurice had devised took us on a figure of 8 via Henham and Thaxted on the way out and Debden on the way back.

Blue Egg ride 21 March 2019

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Getting ready for the off

After a safety briefing about keeping in groups of 4 / 5 to enable cars to overtake, we set off down the hill from Widdington towards Henham and found the roads to be unusually quiet. Then it was through to the outskirts of Great Easton before heading north to Thaxted and on to Little Sampford before reaching the Blue Egg, famous for its cycling fans and the size/quality of its scones. Would Keith manage two we all wondered? But, alas, he could only consume one which was hardly surprising. It was gratifying to see other scone consumers, including Deborah and Martin putting the cream on top of the jam, Cornish style.

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A baker’s dozen en route to the Blue Egg.  Simon looks as if he has had enough, with a concerned Ken looking on, but he was just fine!
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In fact, this was all that Simon needed.
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Don’t look at this company’s website!

The Blue Egg gave us their usual warm, efficient welcome and we were soon enjoying good coffee, scones, toast and other goodies, cheered on in the knowledge that it was Roger’s birthday and free beer would be on offer later on: img_20190321_113842535

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Lawrence and Ric, the bearded duo

The return leg via Debden resulted in one group taking the on-road route back to Widdington whilst others look a left down Rook End Lane and then off-road along a dry track, cutting some of the corner off. So the mileage of some could have been another mile or so, except for Ric, Brian and Sandra who all cycled to and from Widdington clocking up another 35 miles or so each. Congratulations to all of them.

Back at the Fleur de Lys, we celebrated Roger’s birthday in fine style whilst enjoying an excellent lunch.

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Cheers, Roger! Happy birthday.
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Andrew’s daughter, Caroline, was there too with husband Tony, expecting their first child in September. Keep off the beer, Caroline!
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The top table, with Vernon just back from Australia.

Thanks to Maurice for a great ride, to Roger for the drinks and to Andrew for his organisation.

Martin (whose daughter Jessie produced a sixth grand daughter for Martin and Penny later the same day)

 

18 March. On and off road for 24 miles, then chips.

The promised chips at The Tally Ho! finally materialised when bowlfuls galore appeared from Saleesha’s kitchen at the end of this glorious late afternoon Spring ride. Ready to gorge on them were Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Keith, new boy Peter and Martin. We had met Peter before when he was doing a stint behind the bar of The Tally Ho! whilst Saleesha was away and so it was very good to have him join us. Peter’s wife, Maggie, also rides, both of them having cycled 20 miles earlier in the day.

And so it was that the assembled crew set off at 4.00pm to enjoy the local lanes. Here is the clockwise route taken:

Tally Ho! circuit 18 March 2019

Maurice led the way at a brisk pace and it wasn’t long before the three hills leading to Great Chishill were despatched, helped by a following wind. The views towards Great Chishill windmill (‘our’ windmill) and beyond were at their best in the afternoon sun.

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Five windmillers at five to five in Elmdon.

Maurice fancied trying the new off road route between Elmdon and Strethall which he had heard good reports of when we did it without him recently in the opposite direction, and so off we went in the Ickleton direction before turning right up quite a steep hill to the start of the newly laid track through Elmdon woods. And it wasn’t a disappointment – a bit stony here and there, to be expected, but a pleasant diversion from the usual on-road route to Strethall. In a few week’s time the woods will be ablaze with bluebells.

In Strethall,  Andrew stopped to admire a Fox Red Labrador puppy out for a walk with its owners, and to discuss its parentage – no relation to his dog it seems.

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The Fox Red Labrador puppy having a sniff in Strethall.

Next stop was probably the most-photographed place in this blog – Arkesden – and deservedly so as it must rank as one of the prettiest villages around. It was looking particularly nice this evening with the stream alongside the High Street flowing well, flanked by daffodils on the banks.

Windmillers admiring Arkesden, once again

 

Thoughts of chips and beer must have encouraged Sandra, Keith and Peter to charge off at high speed soon after Roast Green, leaving Maurice, Andrew and Martin to bring up the rear at a more sedate pace. But we were all rewarded with excellent chips and, of course, excellent Trelawney too. It was good to meet Peter’s wife Maggie again and we hope she may join us on a future ride.

Thanks to Maurice for taking us off the beaten track and to Andrew for organising us.

Martin