[More photos on Flickr]
Twelve riders met at Berwick station: Angela, Anne, Jenny, Jim, Mark, Mick, Richard, Rob, Roger, Sue, Suzanne, and Tessa. Welcome to Rob on his first ride with the Clarion.
An early challenge was the Stonecross Lane BOAT (Byway Open to All Traffic), which has been resurfaced with chunky stone material, very unfriendly to cyclists. Many of us walked it, fearing punctures. From there we headed across the A22 to Chiddingly.
After passing the Six Bells in Chiddingly we all admired a beautiful Elizabethan mansion called Chapel Barn, which I later discovered (courtesy of the Internet) was an ancient house bought in 1496 by Sir John Jefferay and rebuilt in the shape of a letter E as a compliment to Queen Elizabeth I. We also rode through Muddles Green, which it seems was named after the man who owned the village smithy – Mr Muddles, a character straight out of Dickens by the sound of it.
Lunch was at the Blackboys Inn. We sat outside, trying to convince ourselves that it was warm and sunny when it wasn’t quite. The yellow-clad cyclists sat at a separate table from the less-professionally dressed majority (although no corduroys in evidence today as Fred wasn’t with us) and talked about gear ratios (I expect). The pub wasn’t as busy as we might have expected, given that it was Mother’s Day, and the food was very tasty, if a little on the pricey side.
We crossed the A22 again after lunch and came upon familiar territory in Harvey’s Lane where we stopped yet again to admire the distant statue of a fox. According to a man who was passing by with his dogs and a pram, the land-owner Mr Askew is (was?) passionate about fox-hunting, so erected the statue in honour of his esteemed quarry. I make no comment. We passed swiftly on into Green Lane.
At the point where Green Lane morphs into Novington Lane there is a double grave by the roadside, allegedly of two soldiers killed in a duel in about 1880. At this point Jim threw down his bicycle and challenged Mick to a fight to the death by bicycle pump. Despite early damage to his trusty weapon, Mick defended the challenge bravely and luckily no deaths occurred.
At Bishops Lane the ride broke into two factions, as Mark and I went off towards Barcombe – I was heading home and Mark was riding back to Brighton to get some training miles in. So what happened after that, someone else will have to report. Many thanks, Jim, for a lovely ride over new territory for many of us.
At Ringmer, Jenny and Mark peeled off to return home on varied routes. The remaining 10 enjoyed more lovely lanes and endured some ascents & headwinds, though none too severe. Jim called a halt halfway along one lane to point out the view towards Laughton Tower, which we had explored in March 2010 amid the raucous rooks. As we swept towards Glynde station I thought Mick said the train was at 3.10 and that sounded fairly imminent but when I saw, at the bottom of another hill with the ascent looming ahead, a field full of flocks of sheep & llamas, I really wanted to stop. There was a photographer there with his camera on a tripod, and gorgeous furry, cuddly beasts. I thought they were alpacas, but he said llamas, so assume latter. Daren’t stop to snap as there was a train to catch, so left an expert to capture the essential springiness & fluffiness of early April fields.
On top of yet another hill the fastest riders had reached the station & finally all bikes had been carried down to the right platforms, then we looked up the train times and found there was a wait of 45 minutes. Thus 7 of us locked our bikes (Angela was heading eastward to pick up her car at Berwick & Rob had stopped by the entrance to Glynde Place whilst we were swooping past fast) and walked to the Trevor Arms for cups of tea, coffee and three slices of chocolate cake, for much needed calories. Our two-carriage train from Ashford arrived packed out as usual, already three bikes in the allotted spot, plus luggage & baby in pushchair in aisle, but all seven of us were allowed on, fortunately, since next train was an hour away. Mick & I arrived back at Brighton in time to catch the last vestiges of the Food & Drink Festival on our way home & to bag a few bargains.
A great day out along quiet country lanes lined with celandines, early blossom, birdsong, some soaring descents & fine views, as well as ducks, a pig, donkeys, lambs, sheep and llamas. Thanks Jim for organising and leading us safely there and back.