The Last Ride: Sunday 22 March 2015 – Polegate to Birling Gap

An overcast and cool spring morning attracted 17 cyclists to Jim’s ‘Polegate to Birling Gap (and back)’ ride. A relatively short route of 14 miles took us through Wannock, Filching, Jevington, Friston and a private residential road through the exclusively posh residences of East Dean.

The start at Polegate

The seventeen gathered at Polegate station for Jim’s ride were: Jim, Nick, Joyce, Leon, Anne, Mick, Angela, Sikka, Tessa, Richard, Delia, Rob, Fred, Julian, Roger and David.

Broken brake

[After the usual palavers when 17 cyclists with disparate bikes & journeys to the start point – ie Joyce’s missing gloves & Delia’s catching front brakes, plus having the group photo taken by a volunteer passer-by – we set out South over the level-crossing & past the traffic lights. Delia’s brakes had been examined by our best bike mechanics after their bashing in her car boot. Rob said she shouldn’t ride it as brakes were unsafe, but she decided to give it a go & tackled the hills easily. It wasn’t until after lunch at The Tiger that Jim, our leader, managed to fix the brake problem properly & she was grateful. – Anne]

Through the gates

The seventeen braced themselves for the unrelentingly steep hill leading out of Polegate towards Wannock and Filching. After completing the arduous climb in the lowest gears possible, we reaching the summit near Jevington and took the A259 for most of the route to the Tiger Inn lunch stop.

Top of the hill

The Tiger Inn was busy, so some of the group opted for lunch in the Hikers’ Rest cafe instead. Back in the pub, chips were being served in trendy metal buckets and Fred’s cauliflower soup was presented with a crouton floating like an island in the centre of the bowl. I was quite surprised to have my grated cheese and tomato baguette handed to me wrapped in cellophane without a plate, but perhaps they thought I was taking the food away with me. Apologies to the Tiger Inn staff for the specks of grated cheese I left behind at my table.

Lunch inside the Tiger

After lunch, we wandered over to the unofficial ‘Sherlock Holmes lived here’ blue plaque and marvelled at Jim’s bike maintenance skills as he mended Delia’s faulty front brake. Leon, Joyce, John, Delia and Mick (rather impressively cycling all the way back to Brighton!) took a left turn after leaving the Tiger Inn. For the rest of us, a right turn out of the pub led us down to the nearby Birling Gap.

Jim'll fix it!

We had just finished lunch so didn’t stop for a cup of tea in the Birling Gap cafe, but did stop to look at views of the Seven Sisters and a house built seemingly precariously close to the cliff. The sun even came out for a while during our brief stay there. Perhaps a pity we didn’t have time for a cup of tea in the Birling Gap cafe, which seems to have improved greatly since the National Trust took over ownership.

Birling Gap

Birling Gap

After leaving Birling Gap, the plan was to have a cup of tea in the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre. Unlike Washbrook Farm during our ride two weeks ago, there was no option to drink tea without paying a £6 admission fee. We all agreed this was an unnecessary expense and decided to try the Eight Bells pub for an afternoon cuppa instead. David, Anne, Angela and Jim stuck with the afternoon cuppa option in the pub, while the rest of us cycled back to Polegate to head back on a packed train to Brighton. I bumped into Jim later in the evening at a comedy benefit in Brighton, but forgot to ask him about the Eight Bells afternoon tea experience. Hopefully photos of the tea and cake break will appear on the Clarion Flickr site soon.

Nick, with additional reporting by Anne.

The Eight Bells

Afternoon Tea at the Eight Bells

[Many more photos – including close-ups of food – on Flickr]

Delia adds: I cycled the whole route from Polegate to Birling Gap and back. My brakes were fixed at the start and I was one of the front riders up THE hill. I would have liked a mention for being one of those achieving the HILL. I didn’t meet everyone on the ride as we were split for lunch so perhaps the writer of the report didn’t know who I was – I don’t think there was another Delia!

Leon adds: The four of us set off from the Tiger public house after our fond farewells to the group. We walked up a steep pathway along the side of a very dangerous section of the A259.

At the top with a ‘T’ junction Rob left us to ride back to Heathfield via Polegate, while Mick and John sped off to Brighton. Joyce and Leon cycled along the A259 to the Cuckmere Haven where we left the main road and spent a very pleasant half hour cycling the National Cycle Route 2 along the river Cuckmere and over the downs to Seaford where we got the train back to Brighton.


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