Haywards Heath to Burgess Hill (amended from HH to Wivelsfield) via Chailey
There were 8 of us: Doris, Sika, Tessa, Angela D., Sally, Nick, Dave Churchill, led by Jim. We left by the west
side of Haywards Heath station, and took a loop south-west through Bolnore and Ashenground Woods, to cross back to the east side of the railway. The woods were showing primroses and wood anemones, and later, on our return to Burgess Hill, lots of wild garlic leaves. Clumps of daffodils, snowdrops, and
“snowflake” were planted here and there beside the paths.
This was sold to us as a ride of moderate length (15 miles, though it turned out to be more like 16½);
however what it lacked in horizontal mileage it certainly made up for in ups and downs. That’s the price for enjoying the woodlands, running water, birdsong, and all the varied landscape of the so-called “Low”
Weald. I also enjoy place-names, and the hints they offer of earlier rural life—Butterbox Lane and
Beggarwood Lane, for example.
Near East Maskells, Jim pointed out the Cockhaise Brook, and at Freshfield Bridges the Ouse, oozing swiftly beneath our feet. He had tried out The Sloop inn at Freshfield, on his reconnaissance ride, as a possible lunch stop, but rejected it as “too posh.” So on we struggled (me and Angela) or glided (Tessa Sika, Doris, with battery assistance) or pedalled manfully (Nick, Dave and Jim). I’m sorry to admit it but there was a gender divide in this respect.
Our return route took us alongside Red House Common, Chailey Common and Pound Common, where we looked out for wild ponies but didn’t see any. In summer, these would be lovely places to stop and even have a picnic. The Cock at Wivelsfield Green was a welcome sight, and they fed us well. Nick left us before lunch for another engagement. Dave stayed briefly to have a coffee, and read us a piece of Haywards Heath history: a small-holding community called “America” was founded there in 1823 by a Quaker philanthropist called William Allen. The remaining six of us stayed at the table eating and talking till our strength was restored. Then we had only 3 or 4 miles to the station; Burgess Hill as it turned out, when Angela suggested a diversion from Jane’s Lane, to avoid so much riding on the road. We were home by 4.30-ish pm.
This was a lovely occasion to see some Clarion faces again and to notice the first signs of spring.