On the seafront, west of Worthing
Having nagged Roger to repeat his Highdown Hill ride ever since the last one, way back in September 2009, I was looking forward to this one; but as I set out it didn’t look as though it would be a very popular ride, due to the overcast skies and forecast of rain, quite apart from the mention of a h*** in the ride description. But twelve Clarionettes (Anne, Elaine, Graham, Jim, Julian, Marilyn, Mick, Richard, Roger, Sikka, Suzanne and Tessa) decided to brave the weather, and prove the Met Office wrong – which we did, as we enjoyed warm and sunny weather nearly all day, with just a little breeze and about five raindrops towards the very end.
My report of the previous ride reminds us that Highdown Hill is actually only 81 metres above sea level, and thus considerably less of a hill than, for instance, the Cuckoo trail, which rises through nearly twice that amount from end to end. As before, we approached it cunningly along its gentle northern slope, arriving in astonishment to panoramic views of Worthing, Shoreham, Brighton and even (some of the very clear-sighted among us claimed) Seaford Head.
Looking eastwards from the top of the hill
But first, there was the getting there. This ride started from Worthing, not Goring as last time, so we had a bit further to ride. As before we went through Ferring, over the Rife and alongside it, then inland to Angmering. At one point it was suggested that we should be re-named the Clarion Walking and Cycling Club, because it was impossible to ride through the long grass alongside the Rife. Only later did Roger admit that he’d missed a turning so that we had a lot more Rife than we should have had, ending up on the beach.
Ferring Rife, looking north towards Highdown Hill
Walking through the long grass
This was a picnic ride, with the picnic planned for after the ascent. But Roger had also mentioned a shop in Angmering village for anyone needing to buy food, and in the end we had our lunch on the village green here rather than waiting for the hill. We had crossed the A259 via a huge footbridge which had shallow steps (so no good for wheelchairs, as someone pointed out) with ramps at the side (so rather good for bikes).
At the top of the hill, some of us recalled that previous ride when we had seen a newborn calf. No such luck this time, but there was still the wonderful view. Then past the Miller’s Tomb (fully documented in my previous report) and into the garden, where the Miller’s somewhat premature building of his own coffin and tomb, together with the notice forbidding the scattering of cremated remains, lent a somewhat funereal aspect to the conversation.
After the garden, the café, which was still as delightful as I’d remembered it. Here, as we queued for tea and scones, bread pudding and other delicacies, we encountered an “off-duty” Clarionette, Annie Callaghan, who had come by train.
On the way back to Worthing station, we enacted an old Clarion ritual, the Puncture Repair. Mick had picked up a small, sharp chip of flint which had gone straight through his tyre. Luckily he had a spare tube, I had tyre levers, Richard had pliers, Tessa had a pump and Graham had experience. So most of the group sunbathed on the grass as the usual procedures – such as “forgetting which of two identical inner tubes is the good one”, and “trying to work out which bit of the chain goes round the gear wheels” – were followed. Meanwhile Julian explained how to tell a swift from a swallow by its flight behaviour, and I found a giant fungus that had come off a tree.
Finally Mick was on the road again and we sped on to the station, in time to just miss the Brighton train, Elaine and Graham having departed by car. There was a last minute drama at the station, as Julian’s chain came off and became firmly wedged between frame and cogs; even the pliers would not shift it, so he had to hobble home.
Thanks to Roger for a long-overdue repeat of this lovely ride.