Jim, Wendy, Sikka, Graham and Sean (with his wonderful folding Brompton bike) met at the duly appointed time at Brighton Station, eagerly anticipating the delights ahead. Nick should have joined us but came up with the old slow puncture excuse! We would just have to manage without the Clarion official chip photographer.
Meticulous planning had been undertaken noting changes to train times, and Jim had spent hours at Brighton station checking that the London to Brighton bike ride on that day posed no problems. It was all OK: Southern had not even heard of it. (Well until Jim told them).
We approached the barrier but alas the Fat controller had woken up and slapped a bike ban on the line. Would the Clarionettes take this lying down? No! Flashing his Dr Who style travel pass (Which no doubt displayed the words “They shall pass you know it makes sense”). Jim remonstrated with the station manager for several minutes explaining that the Clarionettes were a special case and unlike any cycle club he had ever seen before or would again. In any event there were also only five of us and we were the only cyclists on the station, the hordes that were banned were nowhere to be seen. It worked – we were through and on our way to Three Bridges.
L-R Sean, Wendy, Sikka, Jim
Wot No Trains
Arriving at Three Bridges we expected to catch a train to Redhill in 15 minutes, having played how may bikes can you get in a lift and got to the correct platform there were no trains. Jim blamed it on a senior moment during planning and we had an enforced cafe stop. On the move again 45 mins later the driver promptly announced that his train would be terminated at Redhill due to signal problems further up the line “lucky there.”
At Holmethorpe Lagoons
Lakes Birds and Bike Chains
Finally half an hour late we started our journey via the delightful “Holmethorpe Lagoons Nature Reserve” where on a bridge between lakes we were able to observe Swans, Ducks, Cormorants, Geese and Grebes at least. Further on Sean caught a twig in his gears and his chain came off. For several minutes all of us including Sean were at a loss as to how to fix this on a Brompton until he remembered the trick to fold up the rear derailleur.
Honey for Tea
On again and further across Nutfield Marsh we discovered a lovely cottage selling local honey that Wendy, Sikka and Graham purchased.
We then passed Spynes Mere Nature reserve where according to Jim Shags were to be seen, except not today.
Then at Pendell we found an old tram fitted with an oriental tiled roof and a strange miniature smoke house.
Next on to Bletchingley where on a wooded off-road and uphill track Sean discovered the true off-road limits of the Brompton, taking a tumble. Sadly as he failed to take a selfie mid tumble and Sikka had no camera available the scene has passed into history unrecorded. Then we hit our major uphill of “Rabies Heath Road” to the usual complaints and past Raby’s Heath House. Well someone got their spelling wrong! Followed by a lovely descent via Tilburstow Hill Road where I at least hit 32mph and Hart Lane to the A22 crossing.
The parting of the A22
There was now only a mile or so to get to our lunch stop but we had to cross the A22. Overpass, underpass, no! We had to cross it. The road was only single carriageway but with a massive roar and cars speeding in both directions without any breaks. We thought this was the end, but Jim demonstrated his next super power by casually walking into the road with his arm up and lo the traffic stopped allowing the clarionettes to pass, then the roar continued.
The sun was out now and finally we arrived at the delightful Griffin pub where our table was arranged in the Chapel resplendent with Middle Eastern carpets, paintings and cushions. It was at this point that Sikka and Wendy discovered that not only were credit cards not taken but that they had forgotten to bring any cash or rather had spent it all on coffee and Honey. Luckily Jim and Graham were able to help out and an excellent meal was had by all. Both full and empty plates can be viewed on Flickr. Plus for addicts pictures of chips!
The Road to Horley
Following lunch we made our way the final and uneventful nine miles to Horley on largely flat roads. At one point we turned into Hare Lane where Jim announced that he had grown up on Hare Lane, just not that one. Arriving in Horley we were skilfully led by Jim to the nearest cash machine so that the lunch debts could be repaid and Sikka and Wendy were once again honest women. It was then agreed that we should go on to Gatwick to have more choice of trains. Jim led us via many twists and turns and via Riverside Park to Gatwick Station.
Arrivals and departures
It was now time to play how many bikes can you get in a lift again. Wendy, Sikka and Sean went first and then Jim and I in the next door lift, but which floor to choose Arrivals or Departures, no mention of trains for either! We chose Arrivals knowing from experience that the station was on that floor. We got out and the others were nowhere to be seen. Their lift came down again and was empty. Jim then bravely re entered the lift system to find them and several minutes later they all emerged. Please note Departures is for planes not trains!
Then in the station more lifts to the extreme annoyance of a waiting horde with cases wanting to go the other way. Sean caught a Hove train and the rest of us a train to Brighton.
Thanks to Jim for another wonderful and as it turned out eventful ride.
PS: I see from the blurb for my original 2008 Three Bridges circular ride (repeated in 2011 without the dodgy bits) that Ardenrun, which we passed the entrance to on this ride, was
the country estate of ‘Babe’ Wolf Barnato, a famous and extremely rich 1920s socialite who was also a works Bentley driver and winner of many sportscar and Le Mans races. Ardenrun was razed to the ground overnight by fire, following a “magnificent party”