When David & Linda did their recce for this ride they got soaked & so cold that Linda commented that a farmer who’d sheltered them had given her a hot water bottle to warm her up but yesterday was one of those “hottest day of the year so far” with pub gardens packed out & almost an hour’s wait for your food. Meadows were full of millions of summer blooms, verges blossomed & the trees & bushes filled with birdsong. David led us along, -well- up & down, some delightful tracks & everyone seemed to discover something new.
Although we all set out from differing starting points, some at Shoreham station, some at Brighton station, some by all on the bike & some by train, nine of us gathered at Portslade Station by the allotted time & had the obligatory photo taken by a passing mother & baby. Unfortunately we very soon lost John, but, even he was reunited with us at the pub in time for lunch photos & was able to continue with Joyce & Leon on their return. Many of us were not on top form & there was a debate on the efficacy of statins at Portslade station before we set off.
We soon left the busy traffic behind & set off through Benfield Valley Nature Reserve Bike Track to reach the Dyke Road Railway Track. Uphill sections were already testing my [lack of] fitness among others, but at the start of the track Sue & I were delighted to meet 2 ladies in wheelchairs descending with their clever dogs; one, though only a 2-year old pup, was trained to help disabled people & the other – a staffie/bulldog cross was a proud hospital visitor dog. All 4 shared how beautiful the day was & how lovely the path.
Mick & Rob admired the thousands, if not millions of white campions filling the fields & verges of the track.
We enjoyed the views from the top of the track, noting a haze over the west.
though gave up waiting for Joyce & Leon, who later told us they had found an even better track down to Saddlescombe.
At the very top of the hill by the Dyke Golf Course David suggested we stop halfway down at Summer Down for a group photo…
…then soared down to charming “Hikers Rest at Saddlescombe for tea, coffee, apple & ginger drink, grand cakes & for Sue & I – super carrot, parsnip & coriander soups.
A few undulations brought us to The Royal Oak where David had planned & booked our lunch for 2pm. The garden was absolutely packed & we were told the wait for food was 45mins to an hour. However, the food looked very good & David had prepared a quiz for us. It was finding the odd man out a la “Have I got News For You” based on our observations on the ride. The answer turned out to be “Spring” & Sue turned out to be the winner, which was very fortunate as it was her special birthday. The prize was a book of Bike Rides in Sussex & Sue was delighted.
We finally made phone contact with John, who had darted off from Portslade station & arrived at Henfield. He returned to the fold of our table in the garden of the The Royal Oak & we were all delighted to see him & hear all his news.
Other pub guests were eating the hedge!
John decided to return with Joyce & Leon & Leon wrote a report of their trip to read at the end. The remaining 6 of us set off around 3pm for the 10 mile trip back to Shoreham Station, finishing on the Downslink Trail. Here again there was a division, when Jenny & Mick opted for the more road-bike friendly Coombes Road & David, Rob, Sue & I opted for the flatter riverside route, admiring the swans, flowers, sculptures, water, traffic-free peace of the track. All met up at the Tollbridge & shared the satsumas Rob had brought & the chocolate Sue had brought,
then parted again, Sue & Anne for the train, Rob to his car at the station, Mick to cycle home against the strong headwind & David to his home on Shoreham Beach. We’d all had a grand day. Thanks to David & commiserations to Linda who hadn’t been able to join us as her bike chain had suffered an injury. Loads more photos on flickr as it was such a beautiful day.
Leon’s Report from The Royal Oak Onwards & Homewards.
Three of us broke away from the main group after our lunch stop and headed in the opposite direction, toward the A23.
We rode together until we reached Church Lane Newtimber where John rode off to Brighton via Pyecombe and A23. Joyce and Leon rode slowly down Church Lane that was normally car free but today there were many and the reason soon became apparent, Newtimber Place was a part of the Brighton Fringe and the grounds were open to the public.
We rode in and over the normally gated bridge over the moat and right up to the big house where we could investigate all the flowering plants, shrubs and trees in bloom, it was really wonderful.
Heading out again now towards Albourne on a very quiet section of the ‘Old A23’ and turning right onto the Hurspierpoint road into the village to take a quiet track around to College Lane and Belmont Lane and finally through the outskirts of Hassocks to the railway station in time to see the Brighton train pull out. The new station is now complete and the new lifts are a welcome addition that can accommodate two bikes and riders.
Thanks to David for arranging this rather pleasant ride that introduced me to another safe shortcut in Hangleton to avoid main road traffic.