The last ride: 2 December 2012 – Haywards Heath Circular (Ouse Trilogy Part III)

Report on Jim’s Ride to the Source of the Ouse

The 2nd day of December 2012 seemed fated. Anne and my trip to London to celebrate our daughter’s 40th birthday was cancelled at the last minute due to the dreaded lurgy now known as the norovirus. We made haste, phoned Jim, struggled to load the bikes into the car and began to reverse out of the driveway. An awful grinding noise ensued. On investigation we discovered Anne’s helmet trapped underneath the car. Fortunately she was not wearing it at the time.

A delay followed while the helmet was removed, utterly crushed. One of the tyres appeared to be low. Could a puncture have been caused I fretted. A fresh call to Jim and we made our excuses. Jim mentioned, however, that if we were able to come, then Angela was due to join the clarionettes at the Half Moon at Balcombe at 12 and we could meet up there.

A trip to the garage re-assured me that there was no puncture so we set off again and arrived at the Half Moon by 11.50. Half an hour later another call to Jim elicited the information that lunch had been transported to the Victory Inn at Staplefield. From a gastronomic point of view this turned out to be a definite plus.

Jim had suggested we drove to Staplefield but lacking exercise and fresh air we decided to ride. Making our way in the direction of Handcross we turned off down the long and exhilarating descent of Brantridge Lane. As usual the exhilaration got the better of me and I arrived at the Victory Inn just as the party were ordering their drinks. A quarter of an hour later with the fourth phone call of the morning I learned that Anne was at the other pub in Staplefield but was now on her way to join us. Wherever it is one goes after the doghouse I was already in, I was ordered to it.

Jim, Linda and David, we learned over lunch, had had a hilly morning and fine views.

Ouse Valley Viaduct

Angela had indeed joined them at Balcombe and they had all left the Half Moon 5 minutes before our arrival. We all enjoyed the meal, most had soup or a substantial sandwich and I had tapas for one (is that an oxymoron?). David produced a print out of the Ouse, the Adur and all their tributaries. He had also discovered a cycle tour company that will do a 7 day tour of the Ouse for £750 or so. After our pints several of us made a brief exit to explore the source of the ooze. A group photo was taken outside the Victory Inn.

Haywards Heath Circular Group

It was a bright clear day but the warmest part of it was definitely over by the time we set off and with nightfall approaching we made swift progress, the warmth of cycling uphill was almost welcome. We stopped outside the church at Slaugham.

Haywards Heath Circular

but declined Jim’s invitation to explore the off-road fields behind it where we might glimpse this mysterious source. We continued, stopping again opposite a lovely hammer pond where on other side of the road there was a pretty water staircase which some had falsely claimed to be the true source of the Ouse. Our scientist leader assured us that it was not.

We went on to Plummers Plain, stopping only to disconnect Angela’s front brake which was impeding her progress. We turned back towards Cuckfield. For a few seconds some of us stared reverentially down at a rather dirty ditch which Jim assured us was the real source of the Ouse.

Our goal having been achieved and dusk approaching fast we made our way swiftly through the charming, albeit undulating, High Weald until, arriving in Cuckfield, there was a pause and I heard the words llamas and photos. With a groan I made my excuses and pedalled back to Balcombe for the car while everyone else went on to Haywards Heath Station.

It should be noted that David and Linda both cycled from Lancing before the ride and back again afterwards, thereby adding an extra 20 miles to their day not bad on their second Clarion ride.

As always with Jim’s rides this one had been meticulously researched. Thank you, Jim.

Mick

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