10 January 2019: Raising a glass to John Tarrington

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John Tarrington

We had just completed Thursday’s ride and were back in The Fleur when we heard the dreadful news that our good friend and cycling buddy, John Tarrington, had died. John had suffered a stroke while on holiday in Spain and, sadly, did not recover. Our thoughts were with Bridget and his family.

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Maurice, Andrew, Geoff, Deborah, Roger, Chris, Ken, Sandra and Victor at Hazel End

Over lunch we reminisced and swapped John-stories. For one, he had a fine singing voice; something we only discovered last year when, over a beer after a Monday evening ride, the conversation somehow got around to Rogers & Hammerstein. John professed to being a big fan and, before we knew it, launched into Some Enchanted Evening. A few beers more and he’d done all the big numbers from South Pacific, Carousel and Oklahoma.

A very fit cyclist with a head-down-and-go-for-it style of riding, John was also known for falling off his bike more than most, to the extent of sometimes needing medical attention.

There were lots more John-tales: how he didn’t know how to put on a duvet cover; he was the scourge of countryside fly-tippers; too many to mention here.

We shall miss John – a much loved Windmiller and true friend – and the many happy times we shared.

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36 miles anticlockwise from Widdington
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Cheers, John
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3 January 2019: Westmill’s Thorny Roads

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Windmillers at Therfield; note the e-bikes in pole position

With the hedge flailing season in full swing and the roads strewn with thorns, it was a miracle nobody had a puncture; not even Deborah!

Eleven Windmillers – Maurice, Rod, Ken, Nigel, Lawrence, Andrew, Chris, Geoff, Deborah, Graham, and Brian – had set off from The Sword at Westmill on a very cold Thursday morning. Maurice, astride his shiny new e-bike, guided us around a 29 mile circuit, stopping for coffee at Ardeley, before returning us all safely to the pub for lunch.

Nobody got lost and nobody fell off; a fine start to the New Year.

Brian

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29 miles anticlockwise from Westmill

27 December 2018: Tinsel Toes at Bartlow

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Graham, Julia, Maurice and Sandra at Helions Bumpstead

‘Twas the second day after Christmas – which probably explained the low turnout; there were just five Windmillers on Thursday morning’s ride.

Maurice had picked a new venue – The Three Hills, Bartlow – as our starting point. Joining him were Sandra, Graham and Julia (both had cycled from Ickleton) and Brian, who turned up on a particularly muddy bike, having taken an off-road route from Great Shelford.

Setting off towards Castle Camps and, with hardly a mile gone, Brian pulled up with a puncture; a thorn in the tyre, no doubt a result of his off-road escapades. But this was soon fixed and we were on the road again.

An uneventful seventeen miles further on and we pulled in for coffee and biscuits – remarkable value at £1 per head – at the Red Lion, Great Wratting.

Back on the bikes we made short work of the return leg to Bartlow.

Weather-wise, it had been an unusual outing; starting warm (for the time of year) but ending decidedly colder – so we were glad to tumble back into the cosy bar at The Three Hills, something of a gastro-pub, where we enjoyed a fine lunch washed down with a few pints of Woodforde’s Tinsel Toes.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for picking the venue, mapping the route and leading the way. Thanks too, to Sandra, who deputised for Andrew as communications manager.

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28 miles anticlockwise from Bartlow

Brian

17 December. E-breakdown in Elmdon.

E-bikes are great but, boy, when they go wrong they are difficult to fix, as Maurice found to his cost again today. And without a bike AA to call out who do we rely on in times of a breakdown?  An off-duty Windmiller of course, which was indeed the case  in the middle of Elmdon when Maurice’s rear hub disintegrated resulting in an extremely wobbly wheel that stood no chance of getting back to Barkway.

And so it was that having set off from the Tally Ho! at 2.30 pm on what could prove to be the darkest ride of the year, Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Keith and Martin had time to take in some fine views before Maurice’s hub began to complain.

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Andrew, Maurice and Keith stopping to admire the view near Great Chishill, with Barley and Great Chishill windmill behind them.

On we went without a hitch until Elmdon where Sandra, Keith and Martin waited for  some time before Andrew appeared announcing that Maurice had suffered a hub failure. But then Maurice arrived, gingerly, saying that his steed would go no further.   Initial thoughts were that a volunteer might head back to Barkway and rescue Maurice and his bike but that would have meant leaving him in a bus shelter for 45 minutes in the cold December gloom. But then thoughts of local Windmillers Ken and Elmdon Simon were had and after a couple of phone calls Ken was found delivering Christmas cards in Ickleton which he promptly finished and rushed back home and sped up to Elmdon to offer his services, having not removed his golf clubs from the back of his car. Before  he arrived who should drive past but Simon who also offered to help but as Ken was already speeding towards Elmdon, Simon decided to take advantage of Ken’s taxi to the Tally Ho! and climbed in with Maurice leaving Maurice’s sick steed to be collected at a later time.

Whilst all this was going on the remaining Windmillers carried on towards Duddenhoe End , spotting a fine herd of deer en route including an Albino, and then through the usual lanes to the Langleys, Meesden and Anstey.

Here is the route taken:

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It was almost dark when after 19 miles we entered the Tally Ho! to find Maurice and Simon (who we were of course surprised to see) already propping up the bar but no sign of rescuer Ken who had to get back, presumably to deliver more Christmas cards. A convivial evening it  turned out to be, with possibly two new recruits from behind the bar, Pete and his wife Maggie, who were helping out whilst Saleesha and her husband were away.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route even though he was unable to complete it, Andrew for his organisation and Ken for his sterling rescue service.

Martin

20 December 2018: Braughing Again

20181220_093227Barely a week had passed before the Windmillers were back at Braughing, gathering once again in the car park of the Golden Fleece. Notable this week were Sandra, in festive headgear, and Peter the Birdwatcher, a new recruit who we had met last Thursday at Amwell Nature Reserve. Joining them were Maurice, Andrew, Vernon, Lawrence, Geoff, Ric, Rod, Keith, Roger, Nigel and two Brians; fourteen Windmillers in all.

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Stopping for a breather at St Nicholas, Great Munden

It’s not often that we lose riders but somehow – and within minutes of setting off – fourteen became twelve as Peter and Brumme Brian, having missed a turn in Puckeridge, sallied off alone into deepest Hertfordshire.

It was another two hours before we all met up again at Church Farm, Ardeley; Brian and Peter having enjoyed a relaxing 9 mile cruise in the sunshine – whereas Maurice had cracked the whip and driven the others at pace to clock up nearly twice that distance. Brian and Peter were chatting over a second coffee as the main peloton arrived, looking distinctly warm.

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Together again in Ardeley

Back on the bikes – and now making a special effort to stick together – we completed the 10 mile return leg to The Golden Fleece where Landlord Peter served up another excellent lunch.

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28 miles (but only 18 for Peter & Brian)

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for leading the way (even if you did lose a few of us for a while).

A Merry Christmas to all our readers!

Brian

13 December 2018: Braughing, it’s so Bracing

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Windmillers bound for Ware

Maurice, Andrew, Martin, Graham, Sandra, Bruce, Roger, Lawrence and both Brians – ten Windmillers in all – turned out on a chilly Thursday morning to cycle from Braughing to Stanstead Abbotts and back.

Twelve miles in to this hilly 30 mile circuit, we pulled in for refreshments at the Ware Café. Locals looked askance as we commandeered and rearranged tables, stripped off our outer layers and generally got the place all steamed up – but the coffee was good and the mince pies were a real treat.

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A colourful trio; Graham, Brian & Sandra

Back on the bikes we continued south along the Lee towpath, pausing to admire the famous 18th century Gazebos on the far side.

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Some of Ware’s famed riverside Gazebos

Further along the river we stopped again to take in the view at Amwell Nature Reserve.

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Bird Scarers at Amwell Nature Reserve

Leaving the river at Stanstead Abbotts, we headed northwards through Hunsdon and Widford before stopping off at St Thomas’ Church, Perry Green, where we visited the grave of Maurice’s grandparents. Reflecting quietly at this peaceful spot, Maurice reminisced about Annie and Harold. Harold – who used to drive a steam traction engine – passed away in 1993, aged 101.

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Maurice, proud grandson of Annie and Harold

Setting off on the final leg, Maurice led the way through Hadham Cross, Barwick and Puckeridge, before returning at last to Braughing and The Golden Fleece. Standing around the bar, we teased Landlord Peter – who has ridden with us in the past – about not seeing him on a bike for nigh on two years. But he took it well and served us up an excellent lunch at the long table.

As ever the conversation was wide ranging; we were particularly impressed with Yorkie Brian’s knowledge of 1960s Formula 1 racing drivers.

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30 miles anticlockwise from Braughing

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for planning and organising things, and for generally looking after us so well.

Brian

Christmas lunch, 12th December.

This year we decided to make a change and go to a new venue, The Red Cow at Chrishall, where 29  Windmillers and their guests met to celebrate Christmas and to review a year of cycling in 2018. As it was such a lovely day, albeit a bit chilly, Andrew rode up from Wendens Ambo, Sandra rode up from near Royston, Simon came from Littlebury Green and Ken, Graham and Martin climbed up from Ickleton. All needed brandy after getting back home.

Meeting at 12.00 for 1.00pm gave everyone a good chance for a chinwag before sitting down to an excellent lunch with dishes including starters of parsnip soup, chicken and ham terrine, and smoked salmon; mains of turkey with all the trimmings, pheasant and pork casserole, sea bream and a chestnut and onion tart for the veggies; followed by a selection of puds including the Christmas variety, and cheese for those without a sweet tooth. And a very good lunch it was considered to be too, with good service, all washed down with some fine wines and beers.

Here are some pics of the happy occasion (with apologies from the photographers whose cameras could not cope very well with the lighting conditions):

 

After lunch, Andrew rose to his (remarkably steady) feet and commenced the formal part of the proceedings by firstly thanking Maurice for all the planning he had done during the year which enabled many enjoyable rides to be had. Maurice then rose to his (fairly steady) feet and thanked all the members for taking part and contributing £3.00 per ride for the charities we support. This resulted in the distribution of a total of £2,000 to four charities:

£250 to Cystic Fibrosis, £750 to the Eve Appeal for research into womb cancer, £500 to EACH, (East Anglian Children’s Hospice), and £500 to Macmillan Cancer Research. This was greeted with much applause from the assembled gathering.

Andrew then asked Martin to rise to his (not so steady) feet to announce the results of his analysis of the year’s blog. He started by stating that the blog was in its 4th year and had been viewed over 5,000 times to date. In 2018 it had been viewed 883 times so far by 421 visitors from countries including the US, France, the Netherlands, India and the United Arab Emirates. He thanked his fellow bloggers Brian and Sandra, plus Andrew who helps out if necessary. Here is a link to all the blogs since it started: https://thewindmillclubdotnet.wordpress.com .

No. of rides since 4 January 2018: 77 (approx. 80 for the year as a whole to 31 December)

Total distance to date: 1,994 miles

Av. distance per ride: 25.9 miles

Longest ride: 51 miles (never again)

Shortest ride: several of 17 miles on Monday evenings

Largest mileage by members: Sandra (3,000 miles+), Andrew (2,500 miles), Ric (unknown but often rides to and from starting point) and new member Graham expected to be in fierce contention in 2019

No. of pubs visited: 22

Most frequented pubs: The Tally Ho! – 17 times, The Bull – 13 (+ a few visits whilst en route to The Tally Ho!), The Fleur de Lys – 9, The Fox and Duck – 5, and 3 times each to The Pig and Abbot. The Black Bull, The Fox and Hounds, The Bell and The Sword Inn Hand.

Largest no. of riders on a ride: 15 on Vernon’s birthday on 8 November, when he bought a round of drinks (was there a connection?)

Other birthdays celebrated: Brian, John T, Maurice, John B, Andrew, Sandra, Ric, Keith, Lawrence, Ken and Martin (apologies for any omissions)

Smallest no. of riders on a ride: 1 – just Sandra on a cold day on 8 Jan, when The Tally Ho! was shut too at the end of her ride. What lengths will some people go to in the interests of the club?

Deaths: None

Accidents, illnesses and ailments: No falling off ladders this year (Nigel, last year) but there was Ric’s nasty accident on 24 May when he hit a pile of loose gravel and fell off breaking his collar bone. But a quick recovery had Ric back on his bike, which needed straightening out by Maurice, by 12 July. Well done, Ric! Very few illnesses or ailments except for Maurice’s hip operation on or around 17 May followed by lunch a week later at The Fleur and back on an electric bike on 28 June. A remarkable recovery – well done Maurice!

Then came a few prizes ahead of the official awards ceremony which would come later:

Involuntary dismount prize 2018: Several candidates including Martin, Brian, John B and Bruce but the winner was Roger who fell off twice the same day and also subsequently fell backwards off a bench on 6 September whilst clutching his pint of beer without spilling a drop. He promised to repeat his party trick at the Christmas lunch but failed to do so (sensibly).

Top speed prize 2018: Andrew and Martin both claimed 33.4 mph on 3 September and will be awarded the prize jointly unless anyone else has a better claim.

Entertainment prize 2018: Entertainment is forever present in The Windmill Club but there is only one true enter’tenor’ amongst us and that is John ‘the Tenor’ Tarrington who twice entertained us in The Tally Ho! with his butcher friend Julian to wonderful renderings from South Pacific, Oklahoma and other Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. John gets the Entertainment prize.

Punctures: 16. Martin had 4 of these and Deborah had 2 the same day and has only been a member since September. The Puncture Prize 2018 went to Martin and Deborah jointly.

Dodgy Bike Prize 2018: Several candidates – Tom had a problem with his nuts on 29 March, Keith with his spokes on 21 June but, for the second year running, Andrew had problems with his gears / chain and so won the prize once again.

Getting lost prize 2018: only one candidate – Maurice who gave us a tour of Bury St Edmunds’ suburbs when we were meant to be heading for Ickworth. Perhap’s that’s why the first lines in Maurice’s version of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ read: If you can keep your head when all about you are lost And blaming it on you ……’  But could anyone do any better?

Stuck in the mud prize 2018: again only one candidate – Andrew, who led us off road down a mile of thick Essex mud on 31 May. Vernon’s language even frightened some ducks looking on.

Photographer of the year 2018: Brian, once again, for often lying down on the ground determined to get a good shot, David Bailey style.

Keeping cool in road rage incident prize 2018: Lawrence won this coveted prize for remaining remarkably cool whilst being screeched at by a large lady in Nayland on 25 October, whose husband had scraped Lawrence with his Ford Focus. But Lawrence got his own back having flipped their left hand wing mirror whilst being scraped and removing the car’s fuel filler cap in the process.

Martin went on to say how careful Windmillers need to be at all times when out on the road.

To wind up (not before time) Martin drew attention to the huge amount of admin that Maurice and Andrew undertake for the benefit of all members, assisted by Sandra and Brian who also plan rides at times, and thanked them all. Andrew sends out 100’s of emails each year and also organises events such as the Christmas lunch. This led up to the prize of:

The Unsung Hero of the Year 2018,  which was awarded jointly to Andrew for all his hard work and to Ric for recovering so quickly from his accident and hardly mentioning it, plus clocking up so many miles on his bike. Well done, lads!

Andrew then introduced Simon, ex-landlord of The Pheasant in Great Chishill, who was our special guest together with his wife Ollie. Simon recounted the early days of The Windmill Club when, out jogging, he happened to meet Maurice on his bike and that’s how it all started. He also regaled us with some great jokes in true Simon-style and threatened to join us once again on his new bike which has been waiting patiently in his garage for some time to hit the road. He would be more than welcome.

Finally, Andrew took to the floor again and thanked Simon for his and Ollie’s unfettered support for the club, presenting them with a bunch of red roses. He then announced the most important awards of the year:

The Golden Pedal Award : to Brian for his unstinting support as photographer, blogger, bike transporter and being willing to help out at any time.

The Clubman of the Year: to Sandra for hardly missing a ride, clocking up 3,000+ miles, making a massive contribution to the club in so many ways, from planning rides to mending punctures, and putting up with so many eccentric blokes.

The Super Clubman of the Year: to Maurice for his grit and determination in keeping going as his hip deteriorated and his equal determination to get fit and back on a bike as soon as possible after his operation, whilst all the time planning rides and helping us all to raise the handsome amount of £2,000 for charity.

Well done to all our special award winners!

Happy Christmas one and all.

Martin