Eleven riders grouped at Hassocks station for the start of a picnic ride. They were Roger our leader for the ride, Suzanne, Anne and Mick, Tessa, Joyce, Sue P, another Sue (a friend of Tessa), Wilma, Angela and Leon.
The day looked changeable with respect to the clouds drifting gently past allowing some bright and warm sunshine to enrich the beautiful Sussex countryside.
We passed through Hurstpierpoint and Albourne on our way to our first stile of the day at Blackstone. Eleven bikes were lifted over onto a small dirt footpath with nettles and overhanging brambles to test our riding skills. There was another stile when we left the path.
Soon after we were racing along towards Henfield where some of the group needed to spend a penny. ‘Leon, you know Henfield, where are the toilets?’ ‘Just up there near the library’, came the answer. But there was a locked door, so there’s no ‘P’ in Henfield on Sundays.
The One Stop shop wasn’t much better at selling picnic food either. Well you can’t win them all, but in Henfield you can’t win at all.
On we went, speeding down to the river Adur and our picnic place. It was a pleasant spot on the west bank of the river overlooking swans slowly swimming upstream. The sun shone on us and we enjoyed friendly conversation and food. Joyce spoke of an idea she has to organise a trip to Bath next spring to ride the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. This was met with enthusiasm.
Picnic over, we then went up to Spithandle Lane and Wiston where we spent the next hour taking tea and cake. A most pleasant visit.
Time to think of moving on. On leaving the tea-rooms, Tessa and the two Sues left the main group to return home early to keep appointments. The remaining eight started our first climb of the day. Up the first stage of the Chanctonbury Ring hill as far as the Long Barn, where we encountered the first of three or four locked iron gates blocking our progress. Each one needed considerable effort lifting eight bikes over. Then onto another footpath with more stiles to lift bikes over. Never mind the day was still good and we hadn’t had any rain, yet.
No sooner had we entered Steyning than the rain started, slowly at first but increasing to a downpour by the time we reached Coombes. The rain was warm and not too unpleasant. But it was all over by the time we arrived at the Old Toll Bridge. But wait, where’s Mick? Mick was wet and decided to get home fast. This left seven riders to reach the Shoreham-by-sea railway station where Anne and Angela were to get the train back to Brighton. Now there were four of us, Joyce, Suzanne, Roger and Leon.
The sun was shining again and the roads were dry-ish. The lock gates were open; the only open gates all day. On the way along the Basin Road Roger and I tried to clock 28mph, but we were getting tired and could only reach 23mph – this was after 25 miles and umpteen stiles and locked gates to drain our energy! Who said it’s because we’re getting old? We will not be old for another twenty years.
The sun was glorious, shining on the seafront buildings of Brighton, while in the east dark clouds hung in the sky like steel-grey blankets waiting to soak some other cyclists. The next to leave the dwindling group were Roger and Suzanne. Thank you Roger for a splendid ride, despite the gates. I was next to leave when we got to West Street with a ride up to the station. Joyce cycled on alone.
Thank you and goodnight.