Lewes – Barcombe – Lewes
‘For whom the tolls?’
Jenny described her ride as short but sweet and that is precisely what it was. Lewes Station car park made an excellent meeting point for both train and car-borne members, despite the shock of a new £1.00 fee being expected on a Sunday for actually parking a car there. Jenny set off in a north-westerly direction happily followed by Tessa, Ian, Richard, Angela, Roger, Suzanne, Fred, Janet and Sue. From the quaint delights of Cliffe High Street we quickly found that Tesco’s car park made a quick and easy escape from the bustle of the town centre. Suzanne and Fred vied for ‘Straggler of the Week’ by preferring Shanks’s pony to get them up the hill at Mayhew Way – so much better than these new fangled bi-cycle machines. In no time at all we were strung out in Indian file, along the pavement along Malling Down … and where the pavement narrowed we skimmed past our first toll house.
It was lovely to get off the busy A26 to amble along Wellingham Lane and left into Barcombe Mill Road. Jenny made sure we had plenty of time to admire the fish ladders at Barcombe Mills and then on to the toll bridge. Four wheels and one horse would have cost a whole 1/6d, so our 20 wheels would have cost us the whacking sum of 7/6d, but as we were not in the company of an equine we managed to cycle over for free.
A quick whiz past the late lamented station (1858 – 1969) -> café (1969 – 1980?) -> restaurant (?) and the even lamenteder pub still nostalgically remembered in its heyday as the Anglers Rest (the pub formerly known as … wait for it … the Railway Inn) was followed by a slow struggle up the hill to Barcombe Cross. This brought us to the delights of the Royal Oak and its brand new publicans. After the traditional Clarion ‘moving of the tables’ (not an attempt to get in touch with the supernatural, merely a natural desire to sit all together) we settled down to wait for our selected meals when our Carshalton contingent TJ and Joan joined us. Chat ranged from that nice man Mr Portillo, to plans for future rides, to the vagaries of the English language (according the Americans, the Canadians and the Australians).
After a long, leisurely lunch it was off again through the quiet lanes. It was overcast. It was cold. The wind tended to whip. But how lovely to be able to see through the newly trimmed, winter-bare hedges over to the swell of the Downs ridge to the south and across rolling countryside in almost every other direction. Brown and grey were the predominating colours, but what a huge variety of browns and greys they were. (End of purple passage – Stella Gibbons, eat your heart out.)
And whither did Jenny lead us? Very kindly, it was to her own home, where those who could stay were plied with tea, biscuits and probably sympathy for those with overstrained muscles. A welcome end to a welcome bit of exercise with friends.
A big thanks to Jenny for organising the ride and ‘going the extra mile’ by providing afternoon tea.
Tessa adds: When we arrived at Jenny’s house in Cooksbridge, our numbers diminished. Roger, Suzanne and Janet had work commitments to get back to. The rest of us fitted nicely into Jenny’s dining room to drink large mugs of tea and eat biscuits. We formed a circle of chairs and conversation bounced back and forth, ranging from anecdotes of Berwick Church frescoes to stuffed badgers.
As the light began to fade, we set off on the busy A275 with our new leader Sue. We forked left to Lewes where Ian left us to ride fast to the station to drive back in daylight. Rather than follow the streets, Sue led us through a series of tiny lanes and snickets, past the Pells pools, over a steep bridge (‘Another hill!’ said Fred) through the park alongside the Ouse. At the station, Angela, TJ and Joan left us and our groupsave of 4 did not have long to wait for the Brighton train. We all decided we had cycled the perfect distance that day.
Thank you Jenny!