The Next Ride: Sunday 2 December 2012 – Haywards Heath Circular (Ouse Trilogy Part III)

20 November 2012

Lindfield – Ardingly – Balcombe – Staplefield – Slaugham – Plummers Plain – Warninglid – Cuckfield

You want to come on this ride? Well, it’s LONG; it’s HILLY; and some of it is on BUSY ROADS. Still want to come? OK, but don’t say you haven’t been warned!

This is the third and last Ouse ride, continuing on from my Lewes-Haywards Heath ride of 20 May, which itself followed on from Seaford-Lewes on 22 January. As it is a themed ride, we can’t be too choosy about the terrain or the length of it. Our patience and/or stamina will be rewarded as we will eventually find the infant Ouse in a channel only a foot wide (though we probably can’t get to the actual source).

We’ll start off with a crossing of the river one bridge upstream from where we left it last time – at Lindfield Bridge. Then to Ardingly for a possible coffee stop, after which a big zig-zag and another bridge (Lower Ryelands Bridge) bring us to the most famous of all the bridges over the Ouse – the Ouse Valley Viaduct with its 11 million bricks. This is a railway bridge of course – the road crosses the river here at the somewhat humbler Upper Ryelands Bridge. 

We’ll then continue to Balcombe in order to access Rocks Lane and Rowhill Lane, which is a Big Hill, and I’m afraid it’s the “up” variety. We have whizzed down this hill twice on previous rides, and now it’s payback time. We will walk. At the top we get an impressive view of the viaduct, but a more impressive view awaits us later on.

Then off-road to Staplefield, where we will have lunch at the Victory Inn. At nearby Slaugham we’ll revisit the Ouse, which is now just a few feet across, behind the ruins of Slaugham Place and St Mary’s Church.

Now we have to get into detective mode, as there are conflicting accounts of where the river actually begins. V.M.Taylor’s River Valley Odyssey, which has provided some useful nuggets of information for the previous rides in this series, claims that it originates in “three small waterfalls” on the south side of an old hammer pond north-west of Slaugham. We will find these (one of which I think is what is known as a “fish ladder”) but we will then go on to look at the other candidate, which joins this branch further south. My money’s on this one; just about all the other authorities I have researched say that the Ouse rises “near Lower Beeding” – and they wouldn’t say that if they meant Slaugham, which is just as big; one actually mentions Plummers Plain, a sort of blip on the map which is near to Lower Beeding. It is here that we’ll find the second branch, disappearing across a field in a narrow trench.

Then we’ll speed back to Haywards Heath via Warninglid and Cuckfield, partly reversing the outward route taken on my last Haywards Heath ride, on 11th July 2010, and revisiting the delightful Blunts Wood & Paiges Meadow nature reserve. Before Cuckfield we get a splendid view of the viaduct in the distance, pretty well broadside-on. Tea at Haywards Heath if wanted.

In order to provide a little diversion from the hard graft, I will be distributing copies of my OUSE QUIZ at the start of the ride; judging and prizegiving will be done at lunchtime. To prepare for this, you may wish to consult the descriptions and reports for all three Ouse rides, and any others which seem relevant. (And yes, I realise the report for this one will not exist at the time; but you wouldn’t want it to be TOO easy, would you?)

Vital Statistics:

Start from Haywards Heath station at 10:00.
Length: 26 miles (a shorter version, 11 miles, is available for anyone who wants to get the train home from Balcombe and get their own lunch; alternatively you can join us at Balcombe for a 15 mile ride; let me know if you are planning to do this).
Duration: about 6 hours including coffee and lunch. (Longer with a tea stop)
Terrain: Mainly on hard surfaces. Some off-road. Some hills. Some busy roads: the B2028 (Lindfield-Ardingly) may exercise us a little, but the B2115 (Plummers Plain to Cuckfield) is quieter.
Lunch: Victory Inn at Staplefield
Getting there: Get the 9:14 or 9:34 train from Brighton. Londoners should get the 8:41 from London Bridge or the 9:02 from London Victoria. If joining at Balcombe, catch the 11:00 from Brighton.
Getting home: trains from Haywards Heath to Brighton at 08, 31, 36, 54 minutes past the hour and to London every 10-15 minutes.

N.B. Sun sets at 4. Bring lights.


The Last Ride: Sunday 18 November 2012 – Brighton to Berwick

20 November 2012

Fissiparous is a word meaning “having a tendency to divide into groups or factions”; it appeared in a clue in the Guardian crossword on Saturday. It is also a word that could be applied to the group of Clarionettes that assembled at the Palace Pier on Sunday. We had to divert from Madeira Drive onto Marine Parade because of a 10 km run, but when Mick led us back down to the promenade at Duke’s Mound, nearly half the riders decided on their own route and continued along the top of the cliff. A case of “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Saltdean afore ye” … talk about herding cats! We reunited later on. It was a bumper turnout; we welcomed newcomers David and Linda, who joined old hands Anne, Fred, Jim, Joyce, Leon, Mick, Nick, Richard, Roger, Steve, Sue and Suzanne. Angela joined the throng at Saltdean, making 15 in all, and equalling the record turnout of … errr … six weeks ago.

Group shot at Saltdean

The group at Saltdean

Anne’s ride description had included a reference to “pimping the ride”, and I was advised to google this phrase to find out what it actually meant. It’s OK – nothing to do with the sex industry – it’s apparently a slang term for doing up old cars (I think). So what she meant was that she and Mick had improved the orginal (cancelled) ride planned for 23 September, itself an improvement on one they’d led last year. I’d managed to miss that one, and indeed all the previous rides eastwards from Brighton, so was really looking forward to this. And I wasn’t disappointed.

After riding alongside the A259 for a while eastwards from Saltdean, we turned inland and went round the back of Peacehaven and onto a track that led past Hoddern Farm. Here we were on top of the world (well, actually only 70 metres up, but it felt like the top of the world) and under a clear blue sky we saw the whole of the lower Ouse valley spread out before us, from Lewes Castle to the swing bridge at Southease to the outskirts of Newhaven and the inevitable incinerator.

Down to Piddinghoe, and alongside the Ouse with its warehouses, boathouses and rusty hulks. This reminded Nick of the time he missed the boat for the Dieppe ride and had to wait 12 hours for the next one. (Prophetic words, as we shall see.) Then past the cormorant statue (which had a real cormorant sitting on top of it) and so to the Ark for lunch.

November 18, 2012: Brighton to Berwick (via Seaford)


Refreshed with massive portions of heartwarming food and the odd glass or two, we set out eastwards along a now-familiar route through the Tide Mills nature reserve and so to Seaford, where there was another outbreak of fissiparousness: Angela left to retrace the route back to Saltdean, and Leon, Roger, Steve and Suzanne departed for Seaford station. But there was some confusion here. Richard and I followed Fred as far as Splash Point before realising that he wasn’t part of the main group either and was planning to join the Seaford splitters; luckily we spotted Mick and caught up with his “23-milers”. But where was Nick? He had been seen on Seaford beach but nobody was sure which group he had opted for. Messages were sent. Much later a reply was received, from which we gleaned that he had … errr … got lost or been abandoned. Sorry, Nick!

Seaford Head

Fred’s photo of Seaford Head

So Anne, David, Linda, Joyce, Mick, Richard, Sue and I sped on along NCN2 eastwards, out of Seaford and onto another hilltop (though a much lower one) with an equally lovely view, this time of the Cuckmere valley and Friston forest beyond. Mick commented on the number of times Cuckmere Haven had been painted, with the meandering river, the cliffs and the row of coastguards’ cottages. Here we encountered serious mud, which made this a Proper Ride. (It’s not a Proper Ride without some mud!)


Cuckmere Haven

Over Exceat Bridge and then off the ghastly A259 onto the Litlington road, which runs along the east side of the Cuckmere. Litlington! Tea! I had often heard of the Litlington Tea Gardens but never visited; we got there and secured a sheltered table, just as the light began to fade. Tea, normal and Rooibosch, scones, jam, teacakes and a huge pile of cream; supplemented by Anne’s home made chocolate and fruit loaf, which featured in a new variation on Pass The Parcel, where the loaf was passed around the table, the loser being whoever was holding it when the waitress arrived.


Linda, Richard, Joyce and David at Litlington Tea Garden

The last leg was set against the backdrop of a magnificent sunset, with the yellows and oranges being reflected in the eastern sky. Then the lights came on; from the back I could see the dancing pattern of seven red flashing rear lights in the gloom. Then Berwick Station, and home.

November 18, 2012: Brighton to Berwick (via Seaford)

Nick’s Seaford Sunset

This was a wonderful ride on a lovely fine day, and featured some of the best views I’ve ever encountered on a Clarion ride. I’m sure I speak for all of us “Berwick 8” when I say how grateful we are to Anne and Mick for all their planning, preparing and pimping; and I think I can speak for the “Seaford Seven” too.


Clarion Christmas Social 2012

20 November 2012

Anne writes:

Xmas Social; Saturday 22nd Dec at Whitecliffs Cafe at Saltdean on the sea-front;1-3.30pm

Come for tapas & maybe more Xmas delights. Those that wish to can follow that with Xmas pud & custard or mince pies at ours – 31 Bristol Gate, just up the lane from the Marina, so on most people’s way home. I’ve just bought Fred & Jim’s friend, Paul’s, new Brighton game “BN1” so we can have fun with that too.

If the weather is fine & sun shines we could explore further at Saltdean with a walk along the secret Undercliff Walk at Peacehaven & if impossibly horrid, maybe some people can still make it to ours in East Brighton, at least.

Quite a few people have already told me they can come but the cafe would like numbers so that they can set a long table for us, so please let me know by email.

For more info on the cafe see their website, or visit; there’s parking, buses, or seaside ride or walk along the Undercliff Walk to just before the tunnel to Saltdean, then halfway up the cliff!


News and the North Laine cycle lanes

20 November 2012

Dear fellow members and friends 

Bradley Wiggins and his ‘guru’ Shane Sutton both being knocked off their bikes an injured within hours of each other has helped to focus some more minds on ways to make cycling safer. And now – STOP PRESS – Mark Cavendish. Statistically, of course, it’s already safer than most things (and ‘most accidents happen in the home”) as they used to tell us a few decades back. But things could be a lot better. We must give Brighton and Hove council some good marks; at very least they are trying. If you’re on the Bricycles mailing list you will have already seen Becky’s update about one recent development. She wrote:

You will see that many streets in North Laine have now been marked as two way for cyclists. This is a great improvement, and something for which we have campaigned for many years, so check it out! The council have been distributing postcards to encourage awareness of the change Motorists and pedestrians might need some time to get used to it. The work was not completed all at once, so some inconsistency in street signage was noted. Good to be extra careful in case some people are not yet familiar with the changes.

But, as so many have pointed out’ so much depends on attitudes towards road safety generally and cycling in particular. Motor vehicles are, of course, intrinsically more dangerous than bikes. But that doesn’t mean that being run into by a lunatic on a bike is a pleasant experience – as I can testify after my dramatic encounter with one the week before last. I was lucky – I got off with just the odd bruise and only the one on my left hand – which has kept me off the bike because gripping the handlebars and especially the brake is a still a bit painful – has caused me any problem. But this happened on the seafront where lots of little kids run about (and cycling is illegal) If the lunatic had hit a small child like he hit me I dread to think what the result might have been

*   *   *

We can still do with some ride offers for the New Year. Sue /Sikka and Tessa have one in mind but can’t make 27 January. Any takers for that date?


The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 123. Clarion cycling clubs take off

20 November 2012

Clarion cycling clubs had been springing up all over the place throughout 1895. Swiftsure’s notes from 9 November give some idea of how they had – and were continuing – to spread.

A Clarion C.C has been started in Hammersmith; meeting place Temperance Hall, Cambridge Road, Tuesdays 9 p.m. The secretary is H Cailay, 23, Fulham Palace Road, S.W. All unattached Clarionettes are invited to join.

I notice in this month’s issue of The Scout – which I think is the best we have had yet – that there are reports from only eight Clarion cycling clubs. What’s the matter with the other thirty? Surely they have some news, even though the riding season is over.

I scarcely think club secretaries realise how much interest can be awakened and a stimulus given to their work by the insertion of even the most common-place events through such a circulating medium as The Scout.

I am always willing – in the limited space at my command – to insert items of general interest or urgency in this column, but since The Scout is the recognised medium for the clubs, it should be worked and assisted to that end by all the methods and means at command.

I am hoping in the near future to see the National Clarion Cycling Club the most powerful body of its kind in the kingdom and my efforts will always be towards that end and aim

Next time. A “grate nite” in Birmingham

The Next Ride: Sunday 18 November – Brighton to Berwick

5 November 2012

[Note: the previous posting has been amended as below]

We’ve pimped our ride east on the NCN2 to Berwick, which had to be cancelled earlier in the “summer” as headwinds of 20+mph & torrential rain rendered it impassable, unpleasant & virtually impossible, although we did turn up in case there were determined masochists among our readers.

We’ve found another modification which renders the stony, pot-holey, steep & almost unbikeable section from Peacehaven to Newhaven, delightful. Come and see.

We’ve booked The Ark at Newhaven again for around 12.15 as we have a tea garden tea stop for later. The Ark has a very good fishy menu, being next door to the fish market with harbour views.

Back on the track after lunch we revisit the Nature Reserve at Tidemills – traffic-free to Seaford sea-front. No hopes for a swim there this time, but chance to sample our lovely deviation at Seaford Head. A very short section on busy road then a left turn back to peace & outskirts of Friston Forest. Litlington Tea Gardens says it’s open in good weather up to Xmas so let’s hope we have some. If not, hot tea needed can be amply provided at Alfriston. From there the NCN2 is very signed, off-road in places & swift for access to the train station. Trains at 15.48 & 16.48, Londoners can change at Lewes.

Meet at 10.30 at Palace Pier. Hope to use Undercliff but will check out high tide & pebbly conditions, which, though dramatic, could damage tyres, not to mention give riders a good soaking.

Distance = 24miles. If too much can return via Seaford station.

Hills – undulations, but impressive views!

Trains – 15.48 & 16.48 from Berwick. Stations at Newhaven & Seaford for early returners. or drop-outs.

Let’s hope the prevailing west wind prevails on Nov 18th & wings us on our way.


News: Guy Fawkes edition

5 November 2012

Dear fellow members and friends (or should I follow Swiftsure and say “cyclists and cyclistes”?)

Not much from me this week – 1895 stuff apart – but just a reminder that it’s not too early to take on one of the 2013 rides – especially those in January.  We’re OK for the rest of this year – thanks to Jim

See below for Anne’s early details of this year’s Christmas social – sounds great as usual.  Some will have already seen the message from Becky Reynolds of Bricycles but in case you haven’t, here it is



Achieving legal 2-way cycling in one way streets is one of our most important aims. North Laine has become far more accessible (or “permeable”) by bike due to the council’s introduction of contraflows in the last few days. Bricycles and CTC representatives have been campaigning actively for this since 1998 at least! An article has been published today at:

with a poll that is already closed (a majority against) and followed by some poorly informed negative comments. I wrote to the Argus yesterday in support of the contraflows. I don’t know if my letter will be published (I’ve pasted it below), but it would be good if the Argus were aware of the strength of feeling in support of these excellent pro-cycling changes, and also of the support for the people, notably Councillor Ian Davey who has been driving forward these improvements. We must counteract the bad press that follows many good council initiatives. We don’t want to go back to the bad old days when one contraflow took years and years to achieve!

Write to:
The Argus Letters and use any other medium to put forward our view.

We are at: Twitter:; Facebook:



Clarion Christmas Social 2012

I have booked the café on Saltdean sea-front for us on Saturday December  22nd  1pm-3.30pm

They do a super tapas menu & I’ve asked for a long table for about a dozen. I’d like to hear who would like to come so that they can be surer. The website does change a bit & I am awaiting further confirmation of the phoned booking I made about  2 weeks ago, but Mick & I & family have been there several times over the past year and always enjoyed it.  Angela mentioned it to us first & she recommends it.  Easy access on bikes, buses or cars, with parking over the road at Saltdean Lido.

Especially lovely if the weather is kind; though maybe difficult if it’s not-except for Angela & Helen!


The Last Ride – Sunday 4 November: Barnham, Boxgrove & back; over & under the A27.

5 November 2012

Jim’s plan for today was thwarted by the lunch venue being pre-booked by hordes & when the day dawned for revised ride the heavens opened – not just rain, but hail & deluge, unpropitious for cycling. However, forecasts foretold of brighter times to follow – after the 24mph headwinds had subsided, & Clarion is not for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, Mick & I voted for the softer option of taking the car to Barnham, rather than the train, arriving at the appointed time.

My phone rang & it was Jim saying Joyce, Sue, Terry & himself were assembled in the cold & awaiting our arrival. All were eager to start & attempt to warm up, so no photo but as swift a wend westward as headwind allowed, to Oving for the early lunch, passing some flooded lanes on the way. Last bit of the trip was along a peaceful lane, with swollen ditches on both sides reminiscent of the Pevensey Levels, but with more trees & sodden autumn leaves.

The Gribble Inn is an attractive, thatched pub with pretty garden & Egon Ronay accolades on the windows. The menu on blackboards & paper looked inviting & we all chose different dishes. The waitress took the first group photo of the day.

Lunch at Gribble Inn-exotic menu;roulade,pheasant, clams & game pud.

My butternut squash soup was too salty, but fishcakes with clam sauce were tasty. Jim’s spinach roulade looked good, as did Terry’s game pud. Mick said his pheasant pasta could just as easily have been a less exotic chicken pasta but, at least, it was interesting. Plenty of interesting dogs in the pub too, including this charming lamb look-a-like shivering outside in the weak November sunshine.

Joyce & Sue admire the lamb-like dog in snshine outside Gribble Inn

As we headed North after lunch it was necessary to cross the busy A27 where the traffic was all exceeding the speed limit as if 80 was the new 70mph.

Dicing with Death on the A27

More leafy lanes & lovely lakes followed as we cycled along by the Goodwood Estate with its lengthy stone walls, lush hotel, golf-course & sculpture park, amid woods with Downs on the horizon & the Halnaker windmill.

Halnaker Mill in the morning

As we climbed a small hill to reach the turn to Mount Noddy Animal Centre I was sad to hear that I had missed the donkeys in the roadside field. There would certainly have been some donkey photos if I’d realised. We visited the Lutyens house & garden & gawped until the gate opened eerily & automatically for us to enter – an offer we refused. In the barn cottage conversion nearby I stopped to photo some deer which Terry & Sue were watching, but they had realised that the deer were suspiciously still & unlikely to be living. [Photo on flickr if interested.]

Boxgrove Priory was a peaceful spot where we spent some time assessing how the ruin could be revived by a Channel 4 type makeover, such as some of us had seen the previous evening with an old water tower & Kevin McCloud in the middle of London. Sheep were safely grazing in the meadows around the ancient stone work & the sun shone for some photos.

A few more lanes led us to the splendid Aldingbourne Country Centre where a fine teatime treat awaited us. Nutty, fruity chocolate cakes, toasted teacakes, & hot drinks were quaffed & I explored the farm animals in search of the pigs I’d remembered from a previous visit. Didn’t find the pigs but saw some white peacocks & a sign advertising their alpaca poo as described on GQT as very suitable for adding to the garden neat. We decided not to take any for our bike baskets, Jim telling Joyce she’d have to return by a different train from him if she succumbed.

Last delights were the discovery of a subway under the lethal A27 as we headed south & the sun setting over the numerous puddles lending a pink sheen to the roads as they reflected the setting sun, the autumnal trees & cyclists’ shadows.

Pink road on the way home

Thanks to Jim we’d enjoyed a November ride in cold, damp conditions but among beautiful trees, traffic-free lanes & explored West Sussex’s heritage of ancient & illustrious buildings, inn, priory, manor house, Country Centre & windmill with ample time for tasty refreshments, heart-warming conversations on Clarion matters & healthy exercise on quiet country roads, immaculately planned by Jim & safely executed [thankfully no-one was executed on the roaring A27].


The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s

5 November 2012

122. A Seasonal tip on riding in mud (which might have been useful on 20 October) and more support for “Rationals”

From Clarion  9 November 1895.  A tip from Swiftsure

When riding in wet or thick mud, it is advisable to pump your tyres as hard as possible. I have always found that a tyre is more apt to slip if it has the least tendency to give, drag or roll.

And from the same edition

I should recommend all lady cyclists to carefully read the sensible and well-written “Hints to lady riders” in last week’s Cyclers’ News,

The writer therein mentions the case of a lady, who having just learnt to ride, had the misfourtune to have a piece of loose braid in the hem of her dress, and when going down hill one day, , the loose braid caught in the pedals. Being a novice she lost her head and nerve, and was badly thrown, breaking her arm in addition to other contusions.

The moral of such a preventable accident as that will be patent to every cylcliste who hasn’t yet adopted “Rationals”.

Next time   Clarion cycling clubs  take off.