L-R Rob, Jim, Angela, Sue, someone hiding, Corinne, Chris, Joyce, Kate, Helen, Julia, Suzanne, Leon, Roger
Fears that an Easter Sunday ride might be unpopular were clearly unfounded, as it attracted no fewer than 18 riders – the highest turnout this year. Setting off from Lewes Station were Angela, Ann (Link), Chris (our leader), Corinne, Helen, Jim, Joyce, Julia, Kate, Leon, Nina, Pauline, Rob, Roger, Sikka, Sybille (a friend of Chris’s from London), Sue (Priest) and Suzanne. There was even a cameo appearance by Jenny at lunchtime, so I suppose you could call that 18½. Chris had advertised this as an “Easter Bonnet ride” and although nobody wore a bonnet, Chris’s bowler hat was very impressive, and Helen had brought daffodils, and Easter treats to hand out at teatime.
Helen with flowers and treats
Chris had changed the advertised route slightly, so at Earwig Corner we set off along the Ringmer road, most of which is now accompanied by a cycle path. Before getting to that, however, we had to cross the A26 and negotiate the nasty junction with the B2192, and it was here that Joyce was struck by the wing mirror of a car from the Uckfield direction rounding the very sharp corner rather too quickly. The impact was hard enough for me to hear it perhaps 30 metres away, yet the driver didn’t stop. Joyce had a bruised arm and was understandably shaken up, but managed to get back on her bike after a few minutes’ delay.
From Ringmer we took Ham Lane back to the A26 and rode alongside it on the old road as far as the Cock Inn, then after a short time on the racetrack itself we reached the Barcombe road. I had not encountered this road before, nor seen the fascinating array of channels and ponds at Barcombe Mills, and I was able to add Pikes Bridge to my collection of Ouse bridges made during the Ouse “trilogy” in 2012.
Lunch at the Royal Oak was a very pleasant affair, the pub having prepared a table for 16 people which was almost square, so that we could all talk to one another with ease. Three of our number sat outside with sandwiches, and Jenny popped in with another group on a little 50 mile ramble to somewhere or other. Nina, Pauline and Sikka went home after lunch.
Chris had decided to give the “Newick neo-nazis” a miss, so after Newick Park we stopped at a left turn that would take us back down south. Well, actually, about half of us stopped, but unfortunately the other half had already sailed straight on. They were out of the range of my whistle, so we took advantage of an athletic-looking rider overtaking us to ask him if he could send the “splitters” back when he caught up with them.
Helen and Ann
United again, we sped down this deligthful lane, at the bottom of which was a bridge over the Longford Stream, a tributary of the Ouse which joins it near Isfield (and which we had of course crossed on the way up, at Longford Bridge). Along Markstakes Lane and so to a place shown on the map as “South Street”, but described by Chris as “Chailey”. A lot of these little villages seem very spread out – there are actually at least three Chaileys (North, South and – well, middle I suppose) and also three Barcombes of course, not to mention East Chiltington (of which more later) which is nowhere near West Chiltington. We sat in the garden of a very nice pub (the Horns Lodge), had tea, coffee and hot chocolate, with Helen handing out the treats, and talked about diverse topics including internet porn – well, my table did anyway, while the other table burst into a rendition of “Daisy, Daisy”, and Angela suggested that bicycle-themed songs be mandatory for future Clarion rides.
We stopped in Honeypot Lane to have a look at the old Chailey Workhouse – later Lewes Institution, then Pouchlands Hospital, now luxury flats. Chris had worked here briefly in the 1970s, and we shared memories of the bad old days when anyone who was slightly “abnormal” (including women whose only “deviation” was having illegitimate children) were banged up in these dreadful places and kept subdued with large doses of largactyl, and how much had changed since then.
The old workhouse
Then back through the lovely quiet lanes of East Chiltington, with Ann and Sybille stopping off at Cooksbridge for a snack, and the remainder splitting at Offham, the “Offham Offroaders” (Chris, Rob and myself) taking the steep, knobbly and slightly-muddy Landport Track and the “A275 Daredevils” (Sue, Angela, Corinne, Helen, Julia, Kate, Roger and Suzanne) staying on the road. Joyce and Leon were last seen going into Offham Church.
At just under 21 miles and pleasantly sunny if a little fresh, this was a perfect early spring ride. Thanks to Chris for organising it, and to everyone who participated.