The Next Ride: Lewes to Berwick

4 May 2016

Ringmer – Palehouse Common – East Hoathly –
Whitesmith – Vert Wood – Ripe

I love those lanes to the north-east of Ringmer – Norlington Lane, Green Lane, Harveys Lane, Bradford’s Lane – and the lanes around Ripe: Mill Lane, Mark Cross Lane, Langtye Lane. Nice and flat, narrow and quiet, give or take the odd horse.

On previous rides we’ve tended to turn west after the fox statue, and make for Isfield. Maybe that is what Sue has in mind for her ride on June 26th; but we will venture eastwards today, and take in the delights of Palehouse Common and Hollow Lane (which might bring to mind a certain poem by T S Eliot …) before arriving at our lunch stop, the King’s Head in the delightful little Sussex village of East Hoathly which, in true Sussex tradition (think of the Grinsteads and Chiltingtons) is nowhere near West Hoathly.

A semi-traverse of Vert Wood if not too muddy, then into that lovely flat, open countryside to the north of the Downs (Laughton Levels?) and so to Berwick Station.


Start at Lewes Station at 09:30.

Trains: Get the 09:12 Bexhill train from Brighton to Lewes. It will probably be an electric train with plenty of space for bikes, as the maggots are resting today. On arrival in Lewes, remain on Platform 3 for a quick look at the latest railway history poster, and a game of guess-what-they-left-out. Then an optional repeat of my brief history of Lewes Station if anyone wants it.

Length: 25 miles.

Duration: 6 hours including lunch and cat herding.

Getting back: Trains leave Berwick hourly for Brighton at 40 minutes past the hour. If we arrive at the wrong time, the Berwick Inn has a bouncy castle we can play on.

Terrain: Flat – we never go above the 75m contour, and any “climbs” we might encounter are gentle ones. There is a very short section of the B2192, but otherwise quiet lanes and a reasonably hard track through Vert Wood. If not too muddy, we can also go via the Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve at the start of the ride.

This is a linear ride; anyone arriving by car can park at Lewes Station and get the train back there from Berwick; or park at Berwick and get the train to Lewes.


The Last Ride. Julian’s Report

4 May 2016

Brighton Palace Pier to Seaford via Newhaven. 1 May 2016

Sean and I waited until 10.10, but no one else appeared, and so just the two of us set off. The wind was light but cool and it was sunny with gently changing high altitude long cirrostratus clouds. At first along Madeira Drive we went within constricting barriers being prepared to protect vehicle exhibits. Then after Black Rock the undercliff path was not too congested with the adults, children in prams and on mini-scooters, dogs and a few other cyclists, and we heard and saw a few Fulmars. After the steep climb up out of Saltdean followed by the rapid descent we started on the labyrinthine back streets of Telscombe Cliffs to reach the northern parts of Peacehaven ending on the bus 12 route until turning off through Lower Hoddern Farm. Just beyond Hoddern Farm with its horse activities and a few overflying swallows, we had to get each bike on its side under the locked steel gate, but then gazed at the wonderful views across to Lewes castle, the white chalk cliffs of Cuilfail and to the east the Mount Caburn iron age hill fort, before zooming down into Piddinghoe village. A busy stretch of the road into Newhaven had to be endured until we reached the peacefully located harbour-side Ark pub, where Sean had his Lewes-brewed essential Harveys ale, while I had a pint of lemon and lime. The first ten miles had taken us exactly two hours.

After this short break, we went on the newly resurfaced path round the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve (as we did on 10 January), we saw a green brimstone butterfly and then reached the concrete way along the top of the shingle beach from Buckle into Seaford and on to the shore cafe just past the Martello Tower. Here Sean had a cup of tea and I ate a gorgeous mincemeat-filled thick pastry slice. We then biked to the Seaford railway station completing a further five miles from Newhaven. The ticket office was closed, the train had no guard to sell us tickets and it stopped at every station on the way back to Brighton. Sean got off at London Road and I changed to the Hove train on which I finally bought my ticket.



4 May 2016

Dear All

Good to see that we now have May, July and even August covered – which is most of the Spring and Summer. But we still need volunteers for the rides in June (12 and 26). If you are new to leading rides do have a look at Roger’s excellent guide.

Julian’s mention of the Martello Tower at Seaford got me thinking about coastal defences in Sussex over the centuries. One characteristic all, or at least most, of them have in common is that they cost an awful lot but never really got to be tested. I suppose, if you leave aside a few pre-historic hill forts the earliest is the magnificent Roman fort – Anderida – at Pevensey, which centuries later saw a Norman castle tucked into a small segment of it. Arundel, Bramber and Lewes castles are a few miles from the coast of course but they guard key strategic points in the rivers most open to be used by invasion fleets. Then we have Henry VIII’s series of forts designed to house batteries of cannons all along the South Coast, the Sussex example being Camber.

The Martello towers – not as Fred would have it Portillo Towers – were built all over the, then, British empire in the nineteenth century. They took their name from Martella in Corsica where an originally Genoese fort designed by Giovan Fratino back in the 1560s impressed British naval officers when it successfully resisted an attack by two of their warships in 1794. Dumouriez, the former French revolutionary general and now military advisor to the British government had a hand in suggesting that a variant of the design was what was needed to guard against a Napoleonic invasion. Rather ironically by the time a number were built around the SE corner of England – Seaford’s being the most westerly one – the battle of Trafalgar had made such an invasion a pretty remote possibility.
It was another Napoleon – Napoleon III – who triggered the next round of building of coastal forts – what are known as Palmerston forts. Both Newhaven and Shoreham forts are examples of these. Louis Napoleon had been elected as President of the Second Republic at the end of 1848. With his term of office coming to an end and the National Assembly refusing to change the constitution to allow him a possible second term – if I remember rightly this needed a 2/3 majority – he made a coup in 1852 and proclaimed the re-establishment of the Empire with himself as Emperor. [Napoleon II was Napoleon I’s son by Marie- Louise who died at the age of 21 in Vienna never having reigned unless one counts two days in 1815 following Waterloo when he was briefly supposed to be emperor – which of course Napoleon III and the Bonapartists did ]

Napoleon III was at first very keen to insist that “the Empire means peace” but when in 1859 he went to war against Austria in northern Italy in what became the first of the conflicts that led to the unification of Italy – sometimes known as the War of Liberation – this set off fears of more general Napoleonic aggression in Britain, and the Palmerston forts – or Palmerston Follies –after the then Liberal PM were the result.

I’m also forwarding the minutes of the national AGM and other info from Ian Clarke. Don’t forget Tessa’s Open House during the Festival weekends.


The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and Cycling in the 1890s

4 May 2016

The ‘Club Stewpot’ in The Clarion, 27 February 1897 began with the question of where the Easter Meet should be held. It’s interesting that one of the ‘candidates’ was Chester where the 2017 Meet is going to take place. Note the appearance of Brighton, More on this next time.


The Next Ride

21 April 2016

Sunday 1 May 2016: A Coastal Ride to Seaford. c 25 miles

Meet at Palace Pier at 10 am. The route will take us via Rottingdean, Saltdean, Telscombe, Peacehaven and Newhaven to Seaford.   There are some hills and a lot of flat bits including the Undercliff.

Several possibilities for lunch including the Cinque Ports pub

We can return from Seaford by train. There are trains at 27 and 57 minutes past the hour


The Last Ride. David ’s Report

21 April 2016

Three Bridges to Ashurst Forest – Saturday 16 April 2016

Jim was alone when he boarded the train at Brighton Station, fearing that there might be no takers for this Saturday ride in light rain, which was arranged to meet up with some of the London Clarion section at the Three Crowns pub at Ashurst Wood on their ride to Eastbourne. When he arrived at Three Bridges, Jim was met by Chris and David who had come by car, and Sikka, Tessa and Sue who had come from Hove and had taken an earlier train.

We immediately set off for Worth Way, which is sign-posted NCN21, soon passing St. Nicholas’ Church in Worth, the 4th oldest church in the country with its chancel arch and apse having been dated to between AD950 and 1050. As we had previously visited the church during an earlier ride in October last year, we continued over the M23 and followed Worth Way with David promising that the rain would stop by 11am. Soon after passing the disused Rowfant Station and Crawley Down Pond, we stopped to admire the architecture of the Jacobean house of Gullege, the home of the Alfrey family from 1361 to about 1662.

Gullege in 2016

Gullege. There was some debate about whether it was still occupied, or had deteriorated. Photos of Gullege taken in 2011 are available on Flickr, for comparison – Jim.

The imposing large chimneys were built as monuments to the prosperity of Elizabethan and Jacobean agriculture and the wealth created by the iron industry. There is evidence of human activity in the Gullege area dating from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.

East Grinstead

East Grinstead – one of the oldest high streets in the country?

Pressing on we navigated the Saturday morning traffic and shoppers in East Grinstead and the High Street, over-shooting the roundabout just after Sackville College, before doubling back along the Forest Way and then turning east towards the A22 and our lunch rendezvous at the Three Crowns. Looking back we could see Weir Wood Reservoir, formed by damming the valley of the River Medway, which is said to provide a daily average of 14,000 cubic metres of drinking water to the town of Crawley and other parts of Mid-Sussex.  A sewage works is located just north of the dam and a water treatment works at the eastern end of the reservoir, and discussion wandered on to the use of recycled water. It was suggested that whilst treated wastewater should be suitable for sustainable landscaping irrigation, some commercial and industrial needs, its use as drinking water should be considered with caution because of the secondary chemicals and heavy metals which would not be removed by the treatment processes. It was noted, however, that recycling is widely used in some countries such as Singapore, which suffer extreme water stress.

We were welcomed by a friendly publican and his team at the Three Crowns, and served with good food ranging from local lamb shank, fish pie, vegetarian lasagne, wraps and soup, washed down with Young’s and Ringwood beer and soft drinks. Ian also joined us here for lunch, having come by car, before our friends from London Clarion, Alex and Alan arrived for an energy break before the long ride to Eastbourne.

Group photo after lunch

L-R David, Chris, Alex, Alan, Jim, Ian, Sikka, Sue, Tessa. Photo courtesy of a long-suffering barmaid not used to cat herding.

Jim drew our attention to a plaque proclaiming that “an inn called the Three Crowns has been present on this site since before 1725, with early inn signs often reflecting loyalty to the Crown, and the Three Crowns is so named to celebrate James VI of Scotland’s succession to the throne of England on 24 March 1603. King James was now the first king of what he liked to call Great Britain, forever joining the ‘Three Crowns’ of England, Scotland and Wales”. Other references state that James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, which uniquely positioned him to accede to all three crowns after his mother was compelled to abdicate in his favour. In 1603, he succeeded the last Tudor monarch of England and Ireland, Elizabeth I, who died without issue, and reigned all three kingdoms for 22 years, a period known as the Jacobean era. Perhaps Ian can guide us on this anomaly and then we can suggest the plaque is edited.

Three Crowns plaque

After lunch we planned to cycle back the way we came along Worth Way, but initially made a small diversion to look at the ruin of Brambletye House that provides much mystery and romance within its Jacobean architecture of three ancient, stone towers, but few hard facts.

Brambletye House

At the top of the central tower is carved the date 1631, and the initials CHM and a weathered coat of arms above the door suggest the abode of Henry Compton and his second wife, Mary Browne. They came into ownership of the older double-moated manor at Brambletye by way of Richard and Edward Sackville, brothers of Henry’s first wife, Cecily Sackville, after his widowed mother married the 2nd Earl of Dorset, creator of Sackville College. The old manor at Brambletye is detailed in the Doomsday Book and handed down through the families of Montague, Aldham and Saintclare to Richard Lewkenor, local MP and County Sheriff, but fell into disrepair by the time of Henry and Mary’s marriage in 1620, and so Henry built a new house very close by, which rose up above the manor from an impressive vaulted basement. The moat of the old manor still survives, which we could investigate on a subsequent ride to this area.

Our thanks to Jim for another interesting and educational day out.


Ian adds: David has too much faith in my historical knowledge. But I won’t hide behind the usual historian’s excuse – “It’s not my period.”    When I learnt that we were going to a pub with that name  I assumed that the 3 crowns were England, Scotland and Ireland.  I don’t think Wales comes into it.  Very unfair etc and it was a very long time ago but I think the medieval monarchs – mostly called Edward – who built all those impressive castles in Wales to intimidate the poor locals just incorporated that country into the kingdom of England – which in those pre-national days was the sort of thing your kings and emperors went in for.  They would, I think, have been astonished and outraged by the suggestion that their new “subjects” should have been consulted.

Scotland of course remained a separate kingdom, though ruled from James I (and VI) onwards by the same blokes (apart from the interregnum) until the UK was created in 1707 – which,incidentally makes our state just a few decades older than the USA. Something many people don’t realise. James I a century earlier had been keen to promote the idea of Great Britain (which is simply a translation from the French Grande Bretagne– grande to distinguish it from (little) Bretagne, or as we say, Brittany.) But it sounds quite impressive, though it was slow to catch on until the Act of Union.

A second Act of Union – in, if I remember rightly (it really isn’t my period!) – 1800 added the Kingdom of Ireland and the UK remained The United Kingdom of Great Britain ( i e geographically England, Wales and Scotland) and Ireland” until Irish independence in the 20th century reduced it to “and Northern Ireland..”   It seems inevitable that if enough people vote to leave the EU in June that will be soon followed by a second referendum in what was often called North Britain in the 18th century – never really caught on permanently – followed by Scottish independence and the end of the UK. Which would be very sad, I think.

Well, you did ask, David!


21 April 2016

                                                              21 April  2016                                                             

Dear All       

Leon’s illness

I’ve received the following update from Leon which is typical of him in being so positive. I did check with him about including it in this newsletter. We all   hope that the treatment works as completely and as soon as possible.

Hello Ian this is my situation so far.

I have had a month of tests and have been told I have a malignant cancer in my throat and lymph glands. It is aggressive and will be treated as a priority with radio therapy starting on Monday 18-April and being five days each week for six weeks. Also I will have Chemotherapy one day each week for same period. It’s been recommend that I stay active and walk/cycle as much as possible but they say that as the treatment progresses I will become less energetic. Things will never return to the state I enjoyed previously.

Boots   Leon

Future Rides

As noted last time Jim’s ride planning meeting was very successful and has – so far – produced all the rides listed below. But we are still short of a ride for 15 May.  The next dates free after that are the two June ones.  One tip I picked up from Alex (of London Clarion) on Saturday is that he finds using Google Street view useful in planning rides.  It can sometimes save the need for a recon.

I’ve also heard from Dave Churchill who writes:

I have finally finished my 4 days training, including a compulsory CTC Group Leaders Certificate, as a South Downs National park Cycling Ambassador. In this role I will be leading /assisting with rides in the Adur Valley and surrounding area and in conjunction with M’s Cycles of Shoreham.

These rides are primarily easy rides aimed at either getting people that might be new to cycling to venture into the SDNP or have been absent from cycling for some time or lacking confidence to gain skills and experience. These rides will obviously make use of many aspects of the SDNP and will be on quiet roads and bridleways and cycle routes such as the Downs Link. They will be especially suited to families and young children as well as those wanting to venture off road on easy terrain and consequently easy paced.The aim is also that riders do not have to have mountain or trail bikes but road bikes with non slick tyres will be suitable.

There will be specific rides such as rides to Chanctonbury Ring that might be more suitable for specific riders or bikes but these rides will be described fully so that people can decide whether they want to go on them. Rides for specific ages or abilities can be catered for. A recent ride was to the site of the old RAF station at Truleigh Hill where an ex RAF Officer gave an interesting talk on its function and layout both during WW 2 and the Cold War.A cross section of ages was represented on the ride from teens to seventies as well as a cross section of bikes including a road bike accompanied by its rider in full lycra!

The surfaces ridden on ranged from local Shoreham roads to the minor road to Truleigh Hill and then on the South Downs Way.

The rides will take place every month and short ones are planned for the evenings where demand exists. A special point to note is that the rides will usually have one of the shop mechanics on the ride, a very useful thing in the event of incidents!

The rides will be publicised on the SDNP web site as well as M’s Cycles web site. For the moment have a look at  if you are interested

Autumn Meet

Jim writes:

The Clarion Autumn Meet is a weekend of cycling, based in Coalport on the river Severn in Shropshire. It sounds like the sort of thing those of us who are not into competitive or overly-energetic cycling might like: lots of rides for all ages and abilities (see the report “ A View From Jenny’s Chariot” in the recent “Boots and Spurs”). The 2016 Autumn Meet will take place on the weekend 14-16 October. Accommodation will be at the Coalport Youth Hostel:

I am planning to go, but it would be nice to know that there were others from Brighton going too. Please email me if you are interested.

To book a place, all you need to do is book your accommodation. But remember that youth hostels book up pretty early nowadays, so I’d advise you to get it booked soon. For those who don’t like sleeping in dormitories, there are 2 and 4 person private rooms that can be booked.

Tessa’s Open House during the Festival

Here is the flyer.   On the basis of past visits I can say it’s well worth dropping in.

Eflyer 2016



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