The Next Ride: Sunday 18th August. A seaside, sandwiches and swimming ride around Hayling Island and to Portsmouth Harbour.

9 August 2019

Buy return tickets to Portsmouth Harbour. Train leaves from

Brighton station 09.30

Hove 09.34

Portslade 09.39

Shoreham 09.46

Hayling Island is very pretty and has lots of suitable places to swim, so bring your cossies and a towel and we will have a picnic on the beach. There are cafes dotted around where we can recover with a nice cup of tea. We will be mostly following Billy’s route, named after the old steam engine line. There are many little nature reserves along this route.

We then get the ferry to near Portsmouth and cycle along the promenade, most of which has an excellent segregated cycle path, (see photo on Clarion twitter account) to Portsmouth old town and depart from Portsmouth Harbour back to Brighton

Portsmouth Harbour 16.14, direct train Btn 17.52. This is the train we will be aiming for as the next direct train is not until 18.14

17.10 arr 18.24 change at Fratton or Havant, lifts available

arr 19.24 change at Fratton or Havant

My mobile on the day or in case of emergencies is 07814 457 680



The Two Last Rides: 21st and 28th July

9 August 2019

21 July 2019

Polegate to Pevensey via Herstmonceux and the Astronomical Observatory

Angela (D) Wendy (S) and Anne report

The Clarion crowd met at the station, David, Sean, Angela C, Wendy S and Angela D, awaiting their leader, but ever optimistic that something would turn up, assembled in the train. Just as it was departing, Graham dived into the train, followed by the Pru. Were they dallying in the waiting room? Dawdling in the coffee shop? No matter, we were off.

We scooped up Mick and Ann at Polegate Station, and cycled a few hundred metres to our first stop – Polegate’s conveniently placed public conveniences.

The first part of the ride was Arcadian bliss with bits of sunshine, lovely rambling through the Pevensey levels and an all-round state of expectancy and fun. This is never a good moment for Clarionistas, for it generally presages a doom-laden scenario of future disaster, and so it was this time.

As you all know, we are near the anniversary of the moon landing and we were threading our way through the back routes leading to the Observatory. The combination of possible space travel and a star-gazing mission, alas went to our leader’s head, and round about a disused sky tower he propelled us into a cosmic orbit which led us into one of those black holes we hear so much about. Stoically the Clarionistas followed while our leader must have faintly heard the strains of ‘Ground control to Major Graham’


Pevensey Picnic

And, as you know, it does not end well. Meanwhile, amongst the crew, there were stirrings of dissent and mutterings of ‘My cosmonaut outfit is at the cleaner’s!’ and ‘I am not convinced these protein balls are 100% vegan’ ‘I am not going without my little Laika’

So our space-addled leader took his head away from the clouds and returned us to the ground and we were all instructed to back-pedal madly – we are good at this Clarionistas – especially if we think there might be a picnic at the end of it.

So the last part of the ride was a straight, no-nonsense road, entirely divorced from a fantasy life of orbiting astronauts and cosmic rings; we were all glad to assemble safely, with our more sedentary companions who knew nothing of our space travelling adventures, in the grounds of Pevensey Castle.

Mostly Angela (D)

Pevensey Picnic

On arrival at Pevensey Castle folk dispersed briefly – Pru and Graham hit the café, in need of coffee, David and Sean disappeared into the pub in need of beer, and the rest of us joined the advance party, comprising Joan, TJ and Nye – all the way from their new home in Wakefield, and Clarion National Chair, our own dear Secretary Ian, with Sue and Joyce. Some of us were surprised to learn of Joyce’s near election as our MEP for SE Region around 1992 and to hear more about her campaign, with help from Sheila Shaffer. The castle ruins made a picturesque backdrop for our picnic, and folk shared some delightful delicacies such as strawberries, beetroot cake, pork pies, home-made bread and choc and banana loaf.

Pevensey Picnic

Pevensey Picnic

Suitably refreshed, and the ride having officially finished at Pevensey Castle, ideas began to emerge as to how to spend the rest of the afternoon. Ian, Sue and Joyce returned to Brighton by car, Joan and family called in to the café for afternoon tea before continuing their ride, Angela D went off to contemplate a swim at Cooden Beach, Graham and Pru decided to return via Eastbourne and the remaining Clarionistas cycled off towards Polegate, with Mick taking over the yellow jersey. Our arrival at Polegate Station was perfectly timed, thanks to Mick who thoughtfully added in a short detour ensuring that no time was wasted hanging about on the platform! As our train pulled away from the Station, it was lovely to catch sight of Anne waving us off at the barrier, reminiscent of Jenny Agutter in the Railway Children.

Thank you Graham for thoughtfully planning this summer picnic, to include an enjoyable cycle across the levels plus options for arriving by car and train. It was lovely to see some of our Clarion friends who have been unable to join us on rides for a while. Folk seemed to appreciate the pub and café options, and there was no shortage of ideas for routes home from Pevensey.

Wendy ( S) and Anne

28 July 2019 Nick and (mainly) Angela report

Portslade to Withdean Woods via the Chattri

It was Portslade station where Tessa, Sikka, Angela, Marilyn, Wendy & Nick gathered for Dave’s mostly off-road cycle route, which took us along the Dyke Railway Trail to Devil’s Dyke, Rushfield’s Garden Centre Cafe, Pyecombe and along the South Downs Way to the Chattri Memorial. The route ended in Patcham & Withdean Woods.

July 28, 2019: Portslade to Devil’s Dyke & Chattri Memorial

Highlights included Wendy’s tomato soup in Rushfield Garden Centre’s cafe, the narrow path descent from Devil’s Dyke (which most of us considered far too treacherous to cycle down) and the always magnificent Chattri Memorial.

Sikka, Marilyn & Tessa had to leave the ride before the end, so we were reduced to a quartet for the Pycombe Church afternoon picnic. This was an excellent day of summer cycling, which avoided most cars and busy roads.


At Portslade our leader Dave, had a health and safety announcement regarding the importance of ICE or what to do In case of Emergency so we could all have our friends and relations know what had befallen a Clarionista en route. Now Dave is mister inventor and scorns conventional and ungainly methods in favour of his own, homemade devices.

It appeared that Dave had all our next of kin addresses and details invisibly tattooed on his forehead; to make these details appear all he needed to do was gently rub the site with a handful of Sussex grassland or a few leaves from the wild. All this information would be available to whoever needed it…except of course to Dave himself. Unfortunately the days when genteel Clarionistas would never go out for a ride without an elegant little device known as a powder compact which allowed lipstick and other fripperies to be discreetly applied en route with the aid of the mirror in the box (also helpful for signalling and making fires in the wild and many other uses which need not concern us here), as I say these days modern manners prevail and now everybody holds in their hands a mobile phone or suchlike. What to do in the event of a mass Clarion combustible incident, leaving Dave alone with the names and numbers of our loved ones and him unable to read them?

A resourceful, television addicted member of the Clarion team came up with the solution; there would be a Designated Survivor, similar to the television series (she recommends it highly). The difference would be the designated person would not be assigned the role but it would be left to chance; we, as Clarionistas, would make sure one member of the group (as well as Dave of course) would stay alive and well enough to read off the numbers inscribed on Dave’s forehead.

We all agreed this was an excellent idea and were able to set off. Dave is a hero straight put of The Perils of Pauline (1914)

A series from the silent era which I’m sure many Clarionistas will remember. Dave led some of us (others were too sensible, or too cowardly, or pleaded the sensitivity of their electrical bicycles) along a winding and perilous route down Devil’s Dyke, towards an abyss with a sheer wall to one side of the path and a drop of several thousand feet on the other. I am sorry to report that your narrator had an attack of altitude sickness; the world spun round; I dared not look down; going forward on the narrow path was impossible and reversing unachievable.

July 28, 2019: Portslade to Devil’s Dyke & Chattri Memorial

My companion on the path, far from wishing to help in any way, was poised ready with his camera to capture the exact moment when the photogenic fall took place. I believe he has form on this issue – but I am pleased to report I arrived at the bottom of this crevasse as he was suffering from a disruptive form of the bicycle bends. Dave, among his many gadgets, had a portable decompression chamber but pointed out Rushfields café was not that far Many other adventures befell us (as with The Perils each instalment will form part of a serial to be shown in cinemas weekly – enough of Netflix!) but we were all agreed that Dave was an excellent leader, very patient and calm and carefully keeping his scattered Clarionistas wonderfully together. Many thanks to him for leading this ride.

July 28, 2019: Portslade to Devil’s Dyke & Chattri Memorial


Angela (D)


9 August 2019

The Clarion and the outbreak of war in 1914 Hilda Thompson’s ‘Spoilt Holiday’

I’m devoting this episode almost entirely to an account which appeared on the front page of the first wartime Clarion on 7 August 1914. It’s by Hilda Thompson, daughter of A.M.or Alex Thompson – aka ‘Dangle’ – who by that time was virtually editing the paper.

The outbreak of the First World War was traumatic for so many involved directly or indirectly. There had been wars – notably the Crimean War in the 1850s and the South African, or Boer War, in 1899-1902 as well as various ‘colonial’ conflicts. But there had not been a general European war which one way or another dragged everyone into it and was impossible to ignore for 99 years. Since the final defeat of Napoleon I at Waterloo.

I suspect pretty well everyone, at least in those countries most directly involved,suffered from some variety of trauma, if only intermittently, for the

rest of their lives. My mother was eight, going on nine, at beginning of August 1914. I’ve long believed that her worrying conviction that my brother and me would end up having to fight in a third world war reflected not only the fact that my Dad had been away in North Africa and Italy with the Eighth Army for much of the second conflict – and most of my early childhood – but also the unexpected shock of what happened at the beginning of the earlier war.

After 1914, and then reinforced in 1939 who could anticipate anything less awful? Fortunately, her fears never came to fruition – which is one of the many reasons I’ve always been a supporter of what is now the EU – in spite of its many shortcomings.

But first we need to remind ourselves of the chronology in order to understand Hilda’s piece better. The war had longer term origins – which are still very controversial – but what immediately triggered what has become known as the ‘July crisis’ was the murder of the archduke, Franz-Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, and his wife in Sarajevo on 28 June by a Serbian nationalist teenager, Gavrilo Princip. Sarejevo was the capital of Bosnia, once part of the Turkish empire but since the late 1870s

under Austrian-Hungarian occupation and since 1908 formally annexed by the Dual Monarchy. There’d recently been two Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913. There had been a degree of ‘proxy warfare’ by the Great Powers, especially from those Balkan rivals Austria-Hungary and Russia. But while many anticipated a third Balkan conflict few believed it might escalate into a much wider European war.

For example in his book Inside the Left, published during the Second World War Fenner Brockway wrote

The war of 1914 came suddenly. Ten days before it started I spoke at Oldham and my audience thought I was an hysterical scaremonger when I said that we were near war.

Things seemed to quieten down a little in July following the assassination but the Austrian-Hungarian rulers were convinced that Serbia was responsible for the awful act and determined that the Serbs should be ‘taught a lesson’ They began shelling Belgrade, the Serbian capital, on 29 July. Russia mobilised in Serbia’s support and on 1 August Germany, Austria-Hungary’s ally, declared war on Russia on 1 August, invaded Belgium in order to attack Russia’s ally France, against which it declared war. on 3rd and Britain declared war against Germany on 4 August.

For me more than any other later or contemporary account it’s Hilda Thompson’s story that is the most unexpected, even rather shocking, evidence of how unprepared for the outbreak of war almost everyone in Britain was. The title of her piece was ‘A Spoilt Holiday.’ It began ‘We had intended making a tour of the Harz Mountains, partly on foot, partly by train; and our intention had been to stay at least a month.’ It is not quite clear who exactly the ‘we’ were, apart from Hilda herself, but they had left Liverpool Street station late on Thursday 30 July and arrived in Hannover at about 1.30 the following day. While having a meal in a café they became aware of people excitedly reading ‘printed bills’ that were being given out in the street.

These, it quickly became apparent, announced ‘the Kaiser’s decree for the immediate mobilisation of the army.’ Still undeterred, they bought train tickets for Hildesheim and continued their journey, though at the station ‘the disorganisation caused by war was already felt.’ Sometime after midday the next day, Saturday, 1 August, they were advised by the landlord of the place where they were staying to return home immediately. He was himself ‘under marching orders’

Reluctantly agreeing, they took a train back to the Hook of Holland hearing en route that Germany had declared war on Russia. They worried that they might be marooned in Germany with trains unable to cross the border into the Netherlands. But in spite of such fears they reached home safely. Of their attitude at the start of their aborted journey Hilda Thompson wrote, ‘There were rumours of war, as everyone knew but no one in England had taken the matter seriously, and we felt that the excitement would add to the pleasure of our trip.’


Next time. More from the Clarion on the outbreak of war in 1914.