[More photos on Flickr]
The new idea is to spread Clarion groups over several trains to avoid the wrath of the station staff. The problem with this ride was that trains to Rye only leave once an hour, which means spreading is not straightforward; meanwhile each train is only two coaches, which makes spreading all the more advisable.
As it turned out, we did very well. Suzanne and I caught the 8:20 giving us plenty of time for a nostalgic, pre-ride spin from Rye down to Camber Sands, where Suzanne had spent several family holidays as a child. Angela, Jim (our leader) and Wilma were on the 9:20 arriving at Rye in good time to enjoy breakfast at a café by the harbour. Anne (happy birthday!), Joyce, Mick, and Sue were on the 10:20 and their arrival completed our group of nine riders.
We were out of Rye in just a few minutes and off the busy main road onto a pleasant track, which took us past Camber Castle, built by Henry VIII around 1540 as a defence against invasion from France. The track then took us on to Sea Road, leading Mick to say that it was good to be avoiding the A and B roads; we all politely collapsed laughing and tried to think of ways to discourage further comments of this kind. The first part of Sea Road proved to have quite a few bumps and potholes, but the wind was behind us and it was flat (like the sea).
At the end of Sea Road is the small village of Pett Level, which, Angela assured us, has a fossilised dinosaur footprint on the beach. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to stop and look for it; we all had more serious things in mind, namely hills and lunch. The rumour was that the latter was at the top of the former.
We toiled up Pett Level Rd; it was pretty steep and a few people resorted to walking. Then into Warren Road, which was pretty flat, until it became extremely steep and Jim said we could all get off, except Mick who was forced (by means of a challenge from Jim) to see how far he could cycle up it. He made it all the way to the top of what could well be the steepest climb ever on a B&H Clarion ride.
The treat at the top was the Coastguard Tea Room at Fairlight, which not only served tea, but also hearty meals, beer etc. A round picnic table for eight had been reserved for us on the patio, which meant that Suzanne (being backstop and therefore number nine) was the only one who got a proper chair. The round table naturally encouraged discussion, which focused mainly on the AV electoral system and whether or not we could stop talking about the AV electoral system and get back on the bikes.
It was pretty much downhill all the way to Hastings. Some riders sped off to the station to catch the 16:03 train, while others decided to seek out some of the joys of the Hastings Jack-in-the-Green Festival.
Glorious weather, yet another new and interesting ride, and good company! What more can you ask for? Many thanks Jim!