The Last Ride: Sunday 18 September 2016 – Lucky Thirteen Cycle to Littlehampton

Shoreham Station

Saturday had been cold & dull with NE wind, but Sunday brought sunshine & thus a big turn-out for David’s ride from Shoreham to Littlehampton. For some of us it was a long ride – 30 miles there & back again, Mick found it not long enough so cycled from East Brighton & back home again, making 45 miles. Prudence cycled to Shoreham but took the train home from there with Tessa, me, & Sue, making her ride 35 miles approx.

The train out was full, with bike carriage loaded with Julian, Julia, Sue, Angela D. & the guard who told me to park in another coach. Tessa got on at Hove & joined my coach, along with a young woman with a huge case of luggage who was going to university in Wales for the new term & a mum & baby in a pushchair. In the rush & tumble of getting off at Shoreham, where the student had to get off, in order for our 2 bikes to get past the baby buggy, I realised, once the train had left, that I must have left my bike helmet on the train table. The guard at Shoreham made valiant attempts to intercept the missing helmet, phoning Worthing station & Lancing, but to no avail.

David, Mick, Prudence, Angela C. & Helen had made their various ways to the meeting point & we then set off, meeting Marilyn at Shoreham Beach. We progressed along the sea-front NCN2 route to Worthing, then on to The Bluebird Cafe at Ferring, which was very busy. Mick, Sue, & Tessa went in the sea for quick swim & some others queued up endlessly for their coffee & bit of cake. I was wary of the “outfall pipe” at the beach there, but David, who is a water engineer, assured me it was safe. However, there was a large group of contented seagulls enjoying the waters by the outfall, so I was not entirely convinced.

Beach at the Bluebird Cafe

We then wandered in & out of the private roads around the posh estates of Kingston Gore, Angmering & Rustington, admiring the large houses, mature trees & beautiful gardens & topiary. It involved lifting the bikes over several locked gates as the private estates were not welcoming cyclists. Thank you Mick & David for the heavy lifting.

Lunch was at the new harbour in a social enterprise cafe called Harbour Lights with good food & great views. A large group of swans with many brown adolescent cygnets lounged around & drank from a couple of buckets set out for them. You could see the water running down inside their long necks & we were lucky, after our lunch, to avoid the green, slimy deposits they left behind when they had taken to the water!

After lunch, Corinne & Julia decided they had had enough & decamped to Littlehampton Station for return train. Then there were 11. Think it was the same way back, but this time we stopped at the Sea Lane Cafe on the beach. By then there were less of us – fewer of us! Queues again & grand array of cakes & choccy tiffin. Julian decided he would go straight home from there & Angela D disappeared too.

So around 7 of us joined the queues for ice-creams, tea & cakes. Mick had a double chocolate & raspberry torte which was packed with calories, so he had to cycle all the way home to burn some of them off. Helen & Angela C. decided to cycle straight back to their transport at Shoreham too. Then there was 6 or 7, or 5!  All getting a bit tired by then & there were dark clouds & autumn returned after the morning’s Indian summer…

Marilyn stopped for a rest near home at Shoreham but gallant leader David, escorted us almost all the way back to the station & 4 of us caught the train, after a short wait of 7 minutes. This was enlivened by a seagull on the station’s corrugated roof who had in his beak … a pair of glasses! He was obviously delighted with his prize & I wished Fred had been with us to capture the moment for us all. If anyone has lost their specs recently they may be on the station roof!

At Brighton Station I asked again after my helmet & the security guard fetched a charming young woman Keeper of the Lost Property, who had no helmet but gave me a card with phone numbers to ring to report it.

I arrived home around 6.15 to find Mick had been back 45 minutes. Both tired after a very pleasant ride, with no hills, a new harbour & new restaurant – well worth revisiting. 13 is quite a large number to manage but no-one was lost & all enjoyed both the company & the cycling. Thank you David for leading us, shepherding us, reccying the ride with Terri’s help & “counting us out & counting us in” as in the classic Falklands War commentary. My maths is a bit wonky on the comings & goings but I believe we all had a marvellous day of sunshine, sea & fellowship, exercise, refreshments & chance to chat, socialise, swim & have a little adventure. Chat was varied as ever, with Brexit, Burma, Vietnam, Labour Party Leader Re-election & impending cycle restrictions on railway, on my list. The first on the list led me to happily recall Robb Johnson’s song on Brexit & since Ian asked previously for cycling songs, this was running round my head as the legs pedalled! “Turkeys voted Christmas,/Canaries voted cats,/Soldiers voted over the top/And the headless voted HATS!”

Anne

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