The last ride: Sunday 4 September – Three Bridges circular

[More photos on Flickr]

Angelika, Jim, Rob, Roger, Sue, Suzanne and Tessa met at Three Bridges. We had a staggered arrival, on trains from Brighton, Clapham Junction, Haywards Heath and Hove. A newspaper stand outside the station announced ‘Ex-Mayor in TV Auction’. At lunch Roger confessed he was tempted to add ‘No Bids Received’.

2. At the Start

The Worth Way is my kind of off-road, a smooth disused railway track. Trees protected us from a misty drizzle. At Rowfant Station (boarded up) we admired the quality of bricklaying in the bricked up door of the ticket office – it was seamless with the rest of the building – a touch of Surrealism, Rene Magritte maybe? I thought. The suburbs of Crawley Down followed, we rejoined the Worth Way, passed a 16th Century manor house [Gullege – Jim] with an interesting star-shaped chimney, too far away to really admire. Suzanne wondered if the advent of the railway so close to them had caused the owners of the manor house to protest in a 19th century version of NIMBYism.

7. Red Riding Hood

At East Grinstead station, the track ended and we headed towards our lunch stop in Lingfield on some delicious long downhill swoops. It started to rain properly as we neared The Star and during lunch we looked out on pouring rain. At lunch Jim asked us if we had noticed a road sign in the village saying ‘Free Will Counselling’, prompting Roger to confess what he nearly did at Three Bridges station. Lunch took a while to arrive, but when it did, was served altogether and was appreciated. No politics today, ‘Slimmers World’ and ‘Freecyle’ were among the subjects discussed. Jim took a photo of my empty plate for the report, another touch of Surrealism?

5. Empty Plate

We decided against visiting the church in Lingfield and headed off into Surrey where after Crowhurst we voted to take the off-road path Jim had discovered on his practice ride. It was not my kind of off-road – bumpy and fringed with massive stinging nettles, but Sue handed out dock leaves at the end.

6. Lingfield

After the Bentley half mile we passed through Blindley Heath and Smallfield, mostly on country lanes but with a short section of A22 in between.

Our tea stop was a very jolly café in Horley where a cup of tea cost only £1. We sat outside as the sun and wind had swept away the rain.

13. Warning - Do Not Drive Horse Drawn Carriages on this Footpath

Soon we were at Gatwick, passing through the delightful Riverside Garden Park, landscaped with ponds and semi-tropical plants – another surreal experience – noise from planes, motorway and trains surrounded the tranquillity, as well as the smell of aviation fuel. The route back to 3 Bridges ran through Gatwick’s concrete jungle, deserted office blocks and boarded up industrial units. We passed Gatwick’s original 1930’s terminal, ‘the Beehive’ and small roads all named after famous scientists and engineers. We stopped for Jim to fix a couple of fake ‘Route 21’ signs to posts, not to mislead, but to clarify the route for those who will follow in our footsteps.

19. Fixing the Notice

At Three Bridges station, all except Angelika took the Brighton train, tired out by a wonderful well-planned day.

Thank you again Jim!

Tessa.

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