The Next Ride: Sunday 29 July 2012 – Rye to Hastings via Brede Valley

17 July 2012

Udimore – Brede – Cackle Street – Sedlescombe – Westfield – Ore

I had this ride on the list a few weeks back, but removed it when I realised it would be, to borrow a phrase of Roger’s, too hilly for some. Then along came the Olympic bike ban on London trains, and this ride came back into the frame because it doesn’t involve any London trains. OK, it is hilly, but I reckon out of our huge membership there ought to be a posse of stout fellows and fellowesses who can manage it (I did, after all!). And it’s not as hilly as Polegate to Eridge – far from it! It’s also a very pretty ride – not just good views from the high points, but many tree-covered slopes which dapple the sunlight most agreeably.

The Brede is one of the two rivers that flow into the sea at Rye (or at least they used to, when there was sea at Rye). Its valley runs eastwards from Sedlescombe to Rye, with the railway joining it after Doleham, and we will follow it for 10 miles on the north side, initially at river level and then climbing to the ridge with the lane. We cross it at Sedlescombe, pass the Pestalozzi International Village, and then turn south-east towards Westfield (not the shopping centre!) and south to Ore and Hastings.

Lunch will be at the King’s Head at Udimore, which has splendid views across the valley. There is a possible tea stop at the Carr Taylor vineyard between Sedlescombe and Westfield. Tea and cake are reasonably priced, and there is also wine tasting on offer!

If all that doesn’t tempt you … I will be trying out a new facility with this ride: as we can now put each ride’s photos into a separate “set”, I will be posting some photos before the ride. (They are photos from the practice, of course!) I’ll put them up as soon as the previous ride is out of the way; so take a look and decide whether you can bear to miss it.

Length: about 20 miles.
Duration: about 5 hours.
Terrain: Some hard-surfaced (stony) cycleway, part of NCN2. Otherwise mostly quiet lanes. 2 miles of B2089. One very short stretch of the A28, on the pavement.
Hills: Well, although we are mainly cycling alongside a valley, the Brede has tributaries and these tributaries also have valleys … but we do not go above the 70m contour until right at the end, when we climb to the ominously named “ridge” at Ore. There will be at least four or five places we will need to dismount and walk.
Start at 12:00. (See below for location.)
Getting there: Train to Rye. Because of the limited bike-carrying capacity of the Brighton–Ashford trains, I suggest Brightoners divide themselves between the 9.20 and 10.20. I will be getting the 9.20, and heading for the Café on the Quay (directions below) as some of us did last time; this café is on our route, so I suggest we start the ride from there. Londoners may not be able to make this ride due to the bike ban, but you could try your luck via Ashford on the 9.37 from Victoria (southeastern side – not calling at Clapham Junction) or the 9.40 from Charing Cross. Those with cars can park at either end and use the train (note that this is not a circular ride).
Getting back: Trains from Hastings to Brighton at 3 minutes past the hour and London Charing Cross at 50 minutes past.

Directions to the Café on the Quay:
From the front of Rye station cycle up the wide one-way street at right angles to the railway. Turn right at the top, then carry straight on till you come to a roundabout on the A259. The café is on the corner to your left.


The Last Ride: Sunday 15 July – Bexhill to Polegate

17 July 2012

Pevensey Levels again

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?
Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?
Give them me.
Give them me. Give them me.


This is the beginning of Harold Monro’s poem Overheard on a Saltmarsh.1 This poem, which I remember from primary school, came to mind as we emerged into Saltmarsh Lane on Pevensey Levels, and I was amazed to find that no one else had heard of it. Later at the tea stop (the Old Loom Mill on the Cuckoo Trail) when, during a typical Clarion discussion, Angela said she thought the best moral code was “do as you would be done by”, I recalled Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby from Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, and I was gobsmacked to be greeted with blank stares once more. In fact I began to suspect that I was actually from a parallel world where these works existed, and had somehow stumbled into one in which they didn’t.


But to begin at the beginning. This ride drew the best turnout since mid-April, with 10 riders in all – Angela, Anne, Joyce, Leon, Mick, Rob, Suzanne, Tessa, our leader Roger and myself setting out from Bexhill station. We did a detour to look at the bus perched on top of the De La Warr Pavilion, apparently in the style of the film The Italian Job which I must admit is one piece of popular culture with which I was unfamiliar – or perhaps it didn’t happen in my world …

de la Warr-bus

Roger’s warning about hills was, I think, exaggerated; yes, we did have to walk up a few but they were generally manageable. And the rain held off – although it threatened, and after lunch (at the Red Lion at Hooe Common) we were so sure it was coming that we all donned our waterproofs, only to find at the next stopping place that we were too warm and they would have to come off. In fact I was rather taken aback when Tessa said to me, “Trousers off?!” (I am told that is the appropriate punctuation to convey the tone in which it was said) but recovered when I realised she was only talking about our plastic trousers. (I had to explain that no woman had ever said such a thing to me before …)

Roger’s stewardship was exemplary, with frequent announcements, delivered in a suitably authoritative tone, about the next stage of the ride, and where appropriate, warnings about riding carefully on the A259 or down rutted muddy tracks. Hooe Level – across which we had wonderful views of the sea – is separated from the rest of the Levels by Waller’s Haven, which Roger described as a river in the ride description, and Wikipedia calls a stream. It is effectively the lower section of the river Ashbourne, at least part of which (from the A259 to the sea at Norman’s Bay) is a man-made “cut”, made in 1402 by the wonderfully named Commissioners of the Sewers. Very probably the northern section, to Boreham Bridge, was also widened at some stage to enable iron products to be shipped from the ironworks at Ashburnham.

Pevensey Levels and Observatory

We crossed Waller’s Haven at Horse Bridge, and we were then on the Pevensey Levels, once a regular backdrop to our rides but it seemed ages since we’d been there and it was nice to be back. After the slightly scary Wartling–Pevensey road we were on quiet, flat lanes and could enjoy the view. I think it was at around this point that Joyce began to sing.

Pevensey Levels

I noticed that the Hailsham end of the Cuckoo Trail’s sewer replacement was now over three months behind schedule, having originally been due for completion at the end of March. (Perhaps we should tell the Commissioners? Ah, but Rob informed me that this sewer was, bizarrely, Australian-owned …) Then it was the Loom, lovely tea and cakes, and dispersal for various trains, Rob returning up the Cuckoo Trail to Heathfield. Thanks to Roger for a lovely ride. If you missed it there is more to come, as Tessa is planning a return to the Levels in the autumn.


1For the complete poem see, e.g.


17 July 2012

16 July 2012

I’m getting a bit concerned about so much of the burden of leading rides falling on Jim and Roger. Planning and leading rides can be great fun, but if you do it too much it can become more like a job than a form of pleasure and relaxation. I’m very willing to be “backstop”, although I haven’t been called on in that capacity since last December, but I will be away for both rides in September.

No one need become a “regular” ride organiser; if we had half a dozen people who would take on just a couple of rides a year – or even just one – it would take the pressure off Jim and Roger, and it would be good from the point of view of making things more varied too.

There’s no need to be totally original (which, since half our possible directions are under the Channel and we’ve covered so much of the dry ground, is getting increasingly difficult). On the blog and the old website are lots of descriptions of rides we’ve done. If you’ve been on one that you particularly enjoyed and would like to do again, why not lead it yourself? If you can remember who led the ride I’m sure that they will be only too willing to help with the details – I certainly will if it’s one of mine. And Jim has a whole list of rides anyone can use on

It doesn’t necessarily have to be one person who takes it on – we’ve had a few jointly led rides. When you think about it, the main points of having a designated ride leader or leaders are (a) so that you know somebody will be at the start point and (b) that there will be somebody who knows the way! Probably the first point is the most important of all.

So what about it?

Rides for 2012

17 July 2012

It is not possible to check train availability more than 12 weeks in advance so later rides will be provisional for this reason.

Sunday To/Led by
29 July Rye–Hastings via Brede Valley (Jim)
12 August Polegate to Vines Cross via Cuckoo Trail and back via Levels (Ian)
26 August  “Picnic at the Beach” (Roger)
9 September *  
23 September *  
7 October  
21 October *  
4 November  
18 November  
2 December  
16 December  Berwick circular (Ian)

* Ian not available as “back-stop”

The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 114. The Bounder gets an invitation and Swiftsure urges participation in Manchester Lifeboat Cycling Parade

17 July 2012

We left the Bounder a few issues back having a well-earned rest on a boat – the Ondine – heading up the Seine from Rouen towards Paris after having cycled from Dieppe to Le Havre. On the way he received an invitation from the Birmingham CCC.

Here is a letter from the O Groomie O, which I read with modified satisfaction as we steamed up the silver Seine:-

Dear Sir, The Brummagen C.C desire the favour of your presence at the second annual P.S.F. – periphery swelling function – We want to hold it about the second week in November, konvenient to you.

The dinner will be held at the Old Royal, a bigger and better place than last time. I suspect the man Sutcliffe will be present, also Nero Smith from Leamington, whom we met a fortnight ago, after having held a meeting there. He is tres comique.

Let me know when you can come, so that we may fix the room. We have had “good herbs” this summer, and have got things to show you.

Yours fraternally,
Tom Groom

Let the feast be prepared when thou pleasest good Groomie O. ’Tis all one to me so long as the Kakes and Klaret wine be forthcoming. Good old Nero. I would dwell upon those features once again. And instruct the man Sutcliffe that, as he fancy himself as humperpusher, I am prepared not only to knock the stuffing out of him, but to wipe the floor with his remains.

The same edition of the Clarion – 5 October 1895 – had this announcement and exhortation from Swiftsure in his “Cycling Notes”

The grand cycle parade and carnival, in aid of the Lifeboat funds, in Manchester next Saturday, the 12 inst is liable to prove one of the finest yet held for that good purpose. … It is hoped the Manchester Clarion C.C. will give the public a show of their numbers on that day. They can do it if they try. I see that the Birmingham Clarion C.C are becoming quite notorious at this kind of fun. In the parade at Redditch last Thursday week they carried away the third prize for muster, while Miss Muir secured the prize for best collector’s costume; and Captain Atkinson won a prize for the best decorated machine.

Let the Manchester C.C.C, therefore, try to follow their example. It is in a good cause.

Next time: Preparations for the Manchester Parade

The Next Ride: 15 July 2012: Bexhill to Polegate

7 July 2012

This ride was inspired by an earlier attempt to plan one from Bexhill to Battle and back: I got to Battle (just about) but decided it was too hilly to inflict on others. This ride goes west out of Bexhill and is not “too hilly”, just hilly.

We head north out of Bexhill and join the wonderfully named Turkey Road which takes us through some very pleasant countryside. Our first target is Who (what?), sorry Hooe. It’s not a very big place: most of its Wikipedia article is about the things that used to be there (school, shop etc). But there is still a pleasant-looking pub, the Red Lion, where we will have lunch. The name Hooe comes from a Saxon word meaning ridge – yes, it is up a hill.

After lunch we head down to the Hooe Levels (which are flat) and Horse Bridge which will get us across the Waller’s Haven; this is the river which eventually reaches the sea at Norman’s Bay. Onward to the hill-top village of Wartling– yes it’s up another hill but, since it’s the last one, walking will be permitted, or possibly compulsory!

We come down from Wartling onto the Pevensey Levels and follow quiet, flat lanes to the Cuckoo Trail where we can stop for tea at the Loom before jumping on a train at Polegate.


Meet: Bexhill station forecourt at11:20.

Getting there: Buy a return to Bexhill. Catch the 10:20 from Brighton. (The 10:29 gets to Bexhill at 11:35 with a change at Lewes, so if you have to use that one give me a call.)

This is a linear ride: If you’re coming by car you could park at Polegate and catch a train to Bexhill or vice versa.

Distance About 21 miles.

Hills There’s a mile or so climb to get out of Bexhill. After that we’re in rolling country so there are a few more climbs, but the prevailing direction will be down. After lunch, just one more serious climb and then it’s down and flat.

Off road A short section of the Cuckoo Trail.

Catering Lunch at the Red Lion in Hooe (01424 892371). Tea at the Loom on the Cuckoo Trail.

Getting home Train from Polegate to Brighton at XX:13 (direct) or XX:28 (change at Lewes).

My mobile 0789 985 1172.



7 July 2012

With photos playing a seemingly ever-increasing part in our ride reports it’s becoming difficult for people to get their reports in as early as in the past. So from now on the target day for the newsletter will be the Wednesday (early evening) following the ride. But as ever it can be delayed a little longer if someone can give a realistic ETA that’s a bit later. On the other hand, obviously if I have all the expected reports and other material by Tuesday, Monday, (or even Sunday evening) I won’t wait till Wednesday before sending it out. If this is likely to be a problem for anyone please let me know.

It looks as though our initial fears that bikes would be banned for all Southern trains until early September were premature. But after my recent experience trying to get sense out of Southern about the Chichester ride the day before the London to Brighton (anyone do it this year, by the way? If so let’s have a report) who can be sure? (Come back British Rail – all is forgiven!) So I’ve put myself down for a ride based on Polegate station for 12 August, but I do have a possible local (trainless) ride in mind if that’s not possible.

Much appreciation (awe and congratulations) for Jenny’s John O’Groats odyssey. [scroll down for Jenny’s report]. It inspired Peter Roscoe to send on her report to various people he thought would be interested. It seems to have awakened memories. First here’s Peter’s message:

Clarion Friends

I enjoyed reading the attached so much I just has to pass it on.

I had to smile when Jenny remarked about the Brompton with only 6 gears – well I suppose it was a Brompton.

In the first half of the 50’s we rode one single fixed wheel for everything. By the 1960’s I had conceded but on a tour of Norway in 1961 with Bury Clarion there was also a Prestwich club using roughly the same route – one of their members was on fixed – 60 inches as I recall!


And here’s a reply that Jenny’s report and Peter’s comments inspired.


My father tells a fantastic story of his days in Keighley Velo which he formed in the 1940’s with his mates, including Doug Petty who went on to ride the Tour of Britain. They rode from Keighley toScotlandand back in a day. It must have been 250 odd miles. He did it on a 3-speed bike and survived on jam sandwiches and water. I mentioned this to Doug Petty a few years ago. He said it was ridiculous looking back on it but then again they were all hard as nails in those days. He said they turned it in to a night-ride regular but had to pack it in because they lost someone.

My father always boasted of being a professional cyclist. He was a telegram boy for the Post Office, riding a bike 8hrs a day!

Great stuff!

Nigel Clayton

Always good to hear about cycling in times past. Talking of which I came across a section in Swiftsure’s cycling notes about lamps in the Clarion, 2 November 1895. Very detailed – a bit like a Which report before such things were invented. But I fear it wouldn’t have been much use to Jenny on one of her night rides. At the end of evaluating the best available products of the day he concluded, ‘more depends upon a perfect wick and the oil used than on anything else.’


The Last Ride: 1 July: East Croydon to Greenwich

7 July 2012

Just before leaving for the station I saw a Facebook message from a friend doing the Capital to Coast 60-mile bike ride to and from Hove, saying they had already had hail, rain and strong winds so we packed or wore all the bad-weather gear & raced up, down and up Brighton’s hills to catch the 10.10 fast train to East Croydon. Met ride leader Jim and early arrivals Sue and Rob at the appointed tram stop. Messages to Tessa and Angelica confirmed they were on their way but would be 10 minutes late. Phone call to our son Leon revealed he’d be 20 minutes late, so we agreed that the first six would set out and Mick would wait for Leon and catch us all up at the first park.

Jim led us six carefully over the tramlines and across the traffic, beneath the skyscrapers of East Croydon to the quiet suburban roads that were marked as bike-tracks. It was a fairly complicated route and Mick and Leon went awry as were given more direct (busier roads) directions but, after a couple of phone-calls, we were reunited. Nobody around in the park to take photos of the start of the ride so we saved that for later and continued semi-circumnavigating the deserted park, up a little hill, across some more tramlines, then a major road with pelican crossing. Here we were delighted to see a fast procession of thirty or so ponies and traps & horses and carriages, trotting and cantering down the hill, some waving and some weaving among the sparse traffic.


Having read in the previous night’s Argus that the Avenue Verte was now complete from London to Paris, I was looking forward to rejoining it (i.e., NCN21) in the wood in Spring Park, although I had missed some of Jim’s previous rides. At the blue NCN sign we bumped into a woman cyclist and her dog – she kindly took the group photo and posed for the camera as mascot.

1. In The Wood

Having gone east from Croydon we now headed north to Greenwich. Emerging from another park we were all feeling peckish, and Leon shared his home-made flapjacks to tide us over till we reached the Viceroy Indian Restaurant with its promised buffet lunch. Restaurant looked deserted but food soon arrived and was agreed to be good by all. I was glad to see a couple more customers arrive as we left.

Now the route went through a number of different styles of parks and we could enjoy the green peace and see a few other cyclists and a very few children enjoying the playgrounds. Where was everybody? Had they all gone to Hove for the 60-miler? Several picturesque spots merited photo-stops:

Views from the bridge of the two clear, shallow rivers (Pool & Ravensbourne) converging.


View ffrom the Bridge,over the confluence of the Pool & Ravensbourne Rivers.

An amazing, huge, deserted, wooden climbing frame in a wild park.

Amazing wooden climbing frame;abandoned. wish I could read the sign.

And then a helter-skelter of a bike and walkers’ bridge, which provided shelter when the rains came.


Up till then Sue and I had juggled our fleeces and cheap Lidl rain jackets as we sweated or shivered in succession. Rain didn’t last long, only until we were all geared up and then had to remove it all again as few feeble rays of sun appeared. As befits a Waterlink Way beside shallow, clear water, beneath willows and superb beech and plane trees, there were no hills to heat or hinder us, and we arrived at the Thames at Greenwich having enjoyed traffic-free trails the whole of the afternoon.


It was our 45th wedding anniversary so I’d hoped to meet daughter and grandchildren at Greenwich Park, but they were stuck at Westfield shopping for kids’ shoes, so we Barry three left the Clarion group to race out via Greenwich Tunnel and Isle of Dogs, to try to cycle to the Olympic Park and its nearby shopping centre, the largest in Europe. We were beneath the newly opened gondola to ExCel and cycled the blue, so-called cycle superhighway. I was disgusted that the DLR refuses to take bikes, but eventually we reached Westfield and found out where all the Londoners go on Sunday: shopping! The nearby new green “park” is closed off and will cost £10 to enter during the Olympics, but we had a view of the Anish Kapoor sculpture and the Olympic site from the concrete jungle of Westfield. Took a train from there to Liverpool Street and cycled to London Bridge station, having photo taken on the bridge with newly installed Olympic Rings hanging from Tower Bridge in background, and newly completed Shard to the side. Arrived home 9.30 pm for last minutes of the Euro football final, twelve hours after our start. From web reading of CTC accounts of cycling that ride I see that Jim did a fine job of navigating, and thank him heartily for a memorably Super Sunday.


Jim adds:

16. Old Royal Naval College

After the departure of the Barrys for a family reunion in deepest Stratford, Angelika led the remaining four of us across the wonderful Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and into the equally wonderful Island Gardens Café for a much-needed tea and cake stop on this very scenic north bank of the Thames, with its view across the water of the old Royal Naval College and the Observatory.

13. Greenwich Foot Tunnel

15. Island Gardens Cafe

We were now on the Isle of Dogs, and were given a comprehensive tour, initially east and northwards along the river bank, catching sight of the Millennium Dome (O2), the new Thames Cable Car and, in the distance, the Olympic stadium. Then inland alongside the West India Dock (which effectively cuts the island off from the mainland), towards the scene of much recent criminality, the Docklands banking district. (Oddly enough, though, I saw no police “scene of crime” tape.)

We chatted briefly to the crew of a Polish sailing ship (Zawisza Czarny) and then it was off again across the island.

20. Zawisza Czarny

There had been very little evidence of old buildings remaining from the time when the docks were in use, and very little photographic evidence either; but now we did encounter some cobbled streets, and saw a few old buildings that had been modernised and a few that hadn’t; and we found a few historical noticeboards, though there could have been more.

21. Old and New

Emerging back onto the Thames but now on the west side of the island, we worked our way westwards and crossed Tower Bridge, joining a much more crowded path on the southern side for the final leg of the ride, to London Bridge station – dominated by the now-complete Shard – and the Brighton train.


Thanks to Angelika for a wonderful tour absolutely packed with interest. And a good day to see it all – we all knew that, 24 hours later, these streets would be sullied by hordes of braying bankers swilling champagne bought with our money.



Cycling from London to John O’Groats in eight days

7 July 2012


I belong to a night-riding cycling club, based in London, called The Fridays (aka FNRttC, which stands for Friday Night Ride to the Coast, ). Our normal routine is to set off from Hyde Park Corner at midnight (so strictly speaking the rides take place on Saturdays!) and ride to somewhere by the sea (Brighton, Southend, Whitstable, Bognor, Newhaven, to name a few) for breakfast. Some hardy souls then cycle home again, while the rest of us take the train. This year our organiser Simon decided we should do a Tour, and settled on London to John O’Groats, starting with a night ride and continuing during daylight hours over eight days.

So on Friday 15 June a large group of club members set off from Wellington Arch as usual, but this time instead of heading south or east we went north. Many riders turned out to do the first leg with us, turning back at breakfast time or elsewhere along the route – there were 30 of us intending to go all the way to Scotland. We had a support van (driven by a club member, a gem of a bloke called Ian) which carried all our luggage for us, and we had to book our own accommodation from an approved list for each overnight stop. The club operates a well-oiled system of rolling waymarking and tail-ending, so no one ever gets lost or left behind, and techies deal with mechanical problems at the roadside. The van had to do several detours to bike shops as the ride progressed, due to some major problems such as rear mechs disintegrating or seatposts snapping, aside from the usual broken spokes and punctures. I’m very pleased to report that my lovely bike was trouble free throughout!

So from Hyde Park Corner we headed up the Edgware Road and out of town in the darkness. Night riding is fantastic – hardly any traffic, so we often have dual carriageways to ourselves in the early hours, and only the odd heckle (mostly good-natured, such as ‘Oi it’s the tour dee France!’) from late-night clubbers. This time of year it’s light by 4 am, and we had breakfast at about 7.30 am at a Tesco in Wellingborough that opened its café early especially for us. Then we pressed on through Saturday in good weather up some hilly stuff around Oakham, including the edges of Rutland Water where we saw an osprey’s nest, to arrive at Bingham in Nottinghamshire by the end of the day – a total of about 125 miles. Not too tired to go out for a meal and a few beers though, and we all slept very well after such a long distance!

On the Sunday we rode 80 miles from Bingham to York, heading through Sherwood Forest, using some A roads where the traffic wasn’t much of a problem and the surface was good and fast. York is a lovely place to stay and to cycle (very flat if you choose carefully) and a club member who lives there came out the following morning (Monday) to join us for a couple of hours as we headed on to Castleside near Consett in County Durham, a total of 78 miles that day.
Then the easy stuff came to an end, as on Tuesday we encountered what had been billed as ‘The Hell of the North’: cycling across Northumberland National Park which is just hill after hill after hill! No sooner have you reached one summit than you see the little cars in the distance coming down the next mountain you have to climb! Some of us did a bit of walking, but just on the most severe undulations. In deference to the amount of climbing we only covered about 65 miles that day, but it was very hard cycling and along the A68 too which was a mixed blessing. We crossed Hadrian’s Wall, and cursed the Romans for their habit of building roads that just go straight over the hills rather than round them! We were all ready for our beds in Jedburgh that night, where an amazing hotel owner looked after us supremely well and even did a pile of laundry for us overnight (thank you so much, Glenbank House Hotel).

Wednesday saw us heading up the A68 again, branching off and then rejoining it, pausing for elevenses at Lauder on our way to the Forth Bridge. We stopped for lunch beneath the bridge itself in pretty Queensferry then braved the side winds to ride over the road bridge. We weaved our way through Edinburgh, ruined temporarily by major works to install an unpopular tramway, and on to Kinross for our overnight stop – a total of about 75 miles for the day.
On Thursday we covered 85 miles from Kinross to Newtonmore, passing through Perth, crossing the silvery Tay on a private bridge and heading through Pitlochrie and Dalwhinnie. Heavy rain and a cold headwind that afternoon made the going very tough for us. Until that point we’d been very lucky with the weather, avoiding the worst of the very bad rain which either went ahead of us or opened up a little dry avenue for us to ride through. Worse was forecast for the Friday however, with signs up on local motorways advising people not to travel. So we decided to make a very early start and try to outrun the rain.

We did get away by 7 am, but a major mechanical problem caused us to lose our time advantage and later in the day the rain caught us with a vengeance. This was the day I was at a very low ebb, feeling that I could not go on and wouldn’t be able to do the final leg to John O’Groats the following day. The famous camaraderie of cyclists came to my rescue, however, as some stronger riders formed a little peleton around me and gave me a good tow along, accompanied by lots of encouragement and feeding me jelly babies and bits of flapjack. One thing a cycle tourist learns very quickly is that you must keep eating, an enormous amount, mostly starchy junk, and whether you feel hungry or not! Thanks to such a wonderfully selfless support system I made it to Tain in one piece, a trip that day of around 78 miles.
The next morning I felt much better, after a good meal and some restorative beer the night before, and the whole group made the final leg of 85 miles from Tain across Dornoch Firth to John O’Groats. The last 20 miles were in heavy rain against a fierce headwind, across a bleak burnt-heather moorland. JoG is nothing to write home about, as many people have said, so we had whisky in the pub, a photocall on the slipway, and then headed back 18 miles south to Wick for the night.

Jenny, Susie, Claudine & Miranda at the top of Berrievale

A total trip of about 670 miles, involving 10,600 metres of ascent, and everyone who set out managed the whole distance. Our steeds included a titanium tandem, a clunky hybrid with suspension, a very cool recumbent trike, a Moulton with lots of gears, and (maddest of all) a Brompton with only six! We entertained and supported each other in a way that would make the Clarions proud, and we all had a blast of a time. Would I do it again? Probably, but I’d want to take longer, do fewer miles per day, and have more time to stop and stare along the way – although with that particular group of friends I’d almost certainly go anywhere.

Oh and on the way back to London guess what happened? Our coach full of cyclists got a puncture! You couldn’t make it up.


Rides for 2012

4 July 2012

It is not possible to check train availability more than 12 weeks in advance so later rides will be provisional for this reason.

Sunday To/Led by
15 July* next ride – details below Bexhill to Polegate (Roger)
29 July Rye–Hastings via Brede Valley (Jim)
12 August Polegate to Vines Cross via Cuckoo Trail and back via Levels (Ian)
26 August  
9 September *  
23 September *  
7 October  
21 October *  
4 November  
18 November  
2 December  
16 December  

* Ian not available as “back-stop”