Please be clear that while all are welcome to join us we each take part in rides at our own risk.
(Part II of the Route 21 Trilogy)
This ride has something in common with Ian McEwan’s Atonement. That does not mean that someone will be accused of a crime of which they are entirely innocent, nor that there will be guest appearances by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. No, the parallel with Atonement is in the fact that the ride, like the novel, has multiple endings. But more of that later (at the end, in fact).
We start out along the familiar Worth Way, and will get a glimpse of the frontage of Gullege, the old house which we saw the back of the last time we came this way (on the Bluebell Line ride, in March). Ian tells me that Pevsner had this to say about it:
A beautiful Jacobean house … (The) front is stone-faced, smooth, with three equal gables and mullioned windows. The other sides show their timber-framing. Good chimneystacks, one of star-shape, the others square, set diagonally.
However, when we reach East Grinstead, after a brief detour to look at the brand new Victorian railway station on the Bluebell Line, we just keep going – through East Grinstead’s High Street with its many old buildings, including the 400-year-old Sackville College, and onto the continuation of Route 21, known here as the Forest Way.
The Forest Way is a cycle route that is also, apparently, a Country Park – and very nice it is too, and dead flat of course as it is the continuation of the old railway line from East Grinstead to Groombridge (or Ashurst Junction to be precise). After a couple of miles we come to the ruins of Brambletye House. Pevsner again (via Ian):
The impressive ruin of the house which Sir Henry Compton built in 1631. Still entirely Elizabeto-Jacobean in style … The symmetrical front of the house is still easily recognised with its central porch, canted bays l. and r. and towers at the angles. These are of four storeys, and one has still got its ogee cap.
Then lunch at Forest Row; the Chequers Inn Hotel has a good range of reasonably priced dishes, and does not require pre-booking; so in fact we can, if we choose, decide to go somewhere else, such as the café next door which will also be open. And if anyone wants to bring a picnic lunch, they can probably eat outside the pub, or stop off at one of the Forest Way’s many picnic tables and arrange a rendezvous after lunch.
On the short trip between the cycle path and the lunch stop we will actually cross the River Medway. Luckily it is not as wide here as it is at Rochester, and doesn’t even get a mention on the plaque that records the history of Forest Row Bridge. But the Medway it is, and in fact we will cycle along its valley for some 6 miles before it turns abruptly north just before Groombridge.
The last 2 miles we will be on a country lane, and I am afraid there is some “undulation” here, but it will soon be over. At Eridge Station we wave goodbye to Route 21, which now points to Rotherfield and other places we will meet in the third part of the Trilogy. The Spa Valley Railway will be running trains into Eridge (but not steam trains I’m afraid as it is a Diesel Gala Weekend). We might get a cup of tea there.
We then come to the aforementioned choice of endings:
(Normal: 22 miles) Return by train from Eridge (via East Croydon).
(For Enthusiasts: 34 miles) Train to Uckfield, then cycle from Uckfield to Glynde (following the route of the second half of the Berwick-Glynde ride we did in April), then train to Brighton.
(Strictly for Addicts: 40 miles) Cycle back to Three Bridges the way you came.
(Strictly for Beginners: 8 miles) Return home by train from East Grinstead (via East Croydon).
Start at Three Bridges Station at 10:40 am (assemble by the cycle racks).
Suggested trains: 9:45 or 10:00 from Brighton; 9.54 from Hove (change at Gatwick); 9:27 from London Victoria; 9:42 from London Bridge.
Duration: The basic 22-mile version will take about 5 hours including lunch.
Return trains from Eridge (option 1) 15:49; (option 2) 16:00; from Glynde 17:53, 18:53.
This is a non-circular ride. Car people can park at Three Bridges but will need to take option 1, 3 or 4.
My mobile: 07742-963239.