The Last Ride: Sunday 9 July 2017 Woods Mill – Bramber – Shoreham

11 July 2017

Our group of six cyclists at Hassocks station. Start of ride 9th July 2017

Present on the ride were leader Leon, Joyce, Wendy David Sikka and Richard. A well prepared and clearly experienced Leon led us for about an hour and a half from Hassocks station over gently undulating roads in brilliant sunshine via pretty Sussex villages like Albourne and Hurstpierpoint to our lunch stop at Woods Mill Nature Reserve.

Paintings on building at Woodsmill.

A leisurely picnic in the shade of ancient oaks was followed by a short stroll to the nearby mill lake, sadly now lacking water movement and covered in algae but still a lovely tranquil spot with damsel flies in profusion. It was time to follow the butterflies, including slightly elusive but gorgeous Red Admirals, so some of lost ourselves in that blissful and innocent activity for a while.

Refreshed, we set off again towards Bramber. Sikka and David left us for a while to investigate a possible future ride (watch the Clarion site). Cars, and sweating young men hunched over the handlebars, shot past in both directions from time to time. The author wishes them no ill but fancies we enjoyed our ride somewhat more.

Woods Mill Clarion ride Sunday 9th July

Outside Bramber Castle entrance we regrouped and availed ourselves of David’s knowledge of a newer and alternative route to the Adur on a pristine cycleway, flanked by fields in which the grass grew tall. Soon the wide river came into view, which we crossed, and passing through the ancient Salts parishes of yesteryear found ourselves on the eastern bank on the old railway track. Back then through the northern suburbs of Shoreham, where David took his leave, and beneath the railway bridge at Southwick to Shoreham Lock.

Brighton &Hove Clarion at Woodsmill Henfield.

Glancing idly down at the collection of Sunday boaters waiting for the lock gates – all amateur maritime life is to be observed there – the party unanimously decided that a swim was irresistible. The water temperature was perfect for cooling off after twenty miles or so of midsummer cycling and a certain stoniness of beach did not discourage us. The author learned that Lycra cycling shorts and tiny pebbles are unfortunately inseparable, and that this does not increase saddle comfort. No matter. Suitably cooled we headed off to take tea in a suburban garden in Hove. Apple and blackberry cake, muesli bars and fresh strawberries were thoughtfully provided by Wendy and Sikka.

Paintings on building at Woodsmill.

The author hopes that our predecessors of 1893 are looking down on us benevolently and feeling that our summer idylls are not so impossibly different from theirs. Thanks again to Leon, without whom…


EXTRA! a video from Leon: coming soon!

The Last Ride: Sunday 25th June 2017 – A Crime Ride: Angmering to Littlehampton

3 July 2017

Met Sikka, our leader for today, at Brighton Station. Tessa jointly planned the ride with Sikka but unfortunately was unable to join us. No-one else appeared so we boarded the 10am train to Angmering, and were soon joined by Angela D and Prudence at Hove. We compared clothing choices ranging from shorts and sandals to ¾ length trousers and regular jeans, discussing the pros and cons should the weather be warm, windy, chilly or wet. The weather turned out to be all of those things, but fortunately no rain. Mick and Anne were also on the train and there was further discussion about the proposed lunch stop. Sikka called ahead to make a booking at The Harbour Lights at Littlehampton for the 6 of us. Always nice to know lunch is taken care of before striking out.

We set off along quiet roads through Angmering Village, but were soon met with the challenge of crossing the busy A27. Four of us bravely forged through the impatient traffic at the roundabout, but Ann and I cautiously opted for the safety of the footbridge.

The route took us through country lanes, with golden crops ripening either side, then on to a bridleway through Angmering Park Estate with its wonderful tall forests of conifers, including Sycamore and Beech trees (identified by Sikka and Mick). It was a gentle but persistent climb, with a mixture of loose, stony terrain and some firmer surface. We had a brief stop by a log pile where a dog walker kindly snapped a photo of us all. Sikka exhibited excellent leadership skills by offering each of us a perfectly ripe, juicy cherry, and made promises of tarmac ahead.

We joined the Monarchs Way and commenced a gentle downhill ride to a bridleway crossroads behind which is marked the site of the gallows where the last hanging in the area took place.

We continued on through more scenic country lanes, and Anne noticed Arundel Castle through the trees to our right, which proved difficult to photograph due to fewer gaps in the shrubbery.

A nice scenic ride through Arundel, going over the bridge and alongside the river, gave way to a straight but fairly busy stretch of road past Ford Open Prison and on to Littlehampton, crossing the river by the Old Swing/New Retracting bridge.

The Harbour Lights was just beyond the new Youth Hostel, right on the quayside, with views across the harbour and various sailing craft passing close by. Lunchtime conversations covered cladding on high rise buildings, Theresa May’s impact on immigration policy, and a joke from Prudence:

Q “What do you call a person cycling fast around London wearing Lycra”
A “A cyclepath” (pronounced to rhyme with psychopath)

The final stretch back to Angmering Station took us along the riverside to the promenade with clusters of coloured beach huts and views of kite-surfers jumping the waves. There was an unplanned parting of the ways where Anne, Angela and I took a slight detour, but Angela and her trusty map secured us an alternative route back to the station. The gates were down so we watched our intended train leave the station without us, but luckily another one rescued us a few minutes later.

Thanks to Sikka and Tessa for planning this lovely scenic ride, and to Sikka for ably leading us on the day.

Sikka mentioned that this ride is fabulous at Bluebell time.


The Last Ride. Anne’s Report

14 June 2017

Trains, planes, lakes & snakes.

Relieved to find Jim at Brighton station awaiting us, so I could check on our final destination & then no queue at booking office. Soon joined by Tessa, Sikka, Wendy & Prudence & off we go for a new-style new Thameslink train to 3 Bridges, where we change platforms via lifts, stairs & excellent toilet facilities for the 2 stops to Horley. 1st stop is Gatwick, so the already bit of a squash, became even more of a squash as tired international travellers [from Argentina in our carriage with us 2] attempt to enter between two bikes in a tight squeeze. Fortunately the 2 tourists assured us that Argentinian railways are no better, though improved over last couple of years & agree to move into the adjoining 1st class carriage so that we can alight at Horley.

Since Horley station has little to recommend itself for photographic purposes we agreed to postpone the customary group pic for a promised nature reserve.

We arrived at the first lakes at Earlswood Common & The Lakes Cafe & picnic stop, where we saw about a dozen swans, two baby coots & their mum on their nest about 8 feet away from us & were able to ask a dad to desert his toddler & take our photo; fortunately no toddlers were drowned & 2 pics taken. We set off again across the common & had another exciting moment when we had to pass between 2 holes of the golf course. Fortunately we were all wearing helmets & no angry shouts from distracted golfers caused tension. On through the trees & following the footpaths, we reached The Plough at the projected lunch stop time of 12.30.

Pub garden at The Plough, Earlswood CommonIt was/is a charming & quirky pub with the ceiling inside adorned with a dozen or more copper pots & pans & the garden decorated with unusual sculpture & knick-knacks. There was a little fireman, a giraffe, a bike, a witches broomstick, an ostrich, many mirrors, pigs, chickens along the top of the fencing & some flowers too!

This pub even had 3 bike stands which was just right for our 6 bikes! By now the sun was out & there was a struggle to set up the sunshades over the table. Fortunately there were few, if any, other diners as we were early & we were able to take out pick of seats, shade, & flowers. Food came fairly swiftly too & was scoffed before anyone remembered to snap it for Fred’s delectation. I made a wrong menu choice, as usual & ate far too much fish & veg, Tessa had duck confit, Wendy had tomato soup, Jim had veg curry & Sikka had lured me into the fish as she needed assurance it was free range & not farmed.

Think I dominated the conversation with praise for Yanis Varoufakis’ new book & its relationship to John Perkins fab “The Economic Hitman” & so I was the last to finish but we managed to keep to Jim’s meticulous schedule without any chivying from our leader. The church was huge with an impressively tall tower, but it was not ancient & we decided to give it a miss as we had been forewarned that a huge hill would be on the menu shortly after lunch!. Before “the hill” we had a detour for Redhill Common where trees & their roots overhung the path threateningly, seeming to cling precariously to the steep red slope.

Redhill Common

“The Hill” started gently & Prudence & Wendy managed to cycle all of it & reach its crown, but the rest of us had a breather 2/3 up & admired the views. Have to say the promised downhill afterwards seemed to go on for longer than the toils uphill. More lakes at The Moors Nature reserve, with much bird song, “haunts of coot & hern” [& crested grebe], wild flowers, peace, tranquillity, little bridges, pretty wooden gates & quiet, easy paths.

Resting planes at Redhill

After a few roads & side roads we arrived at the noisy aerodrome for our tea. Fortunately, the titchy, fragile plane making all the noise, finally took off, presumably to the skies, but I didn’t really care as long as it buzzed off! More excitement as the SKY News helicopter arrived causing some to think there May be a VIP inside, but ’twas not to be, as both London police & ambulance are based at Redhill Aerodrome. There were dozens of planes & again I wished Fred was there to enjoy them with us. Tea & staff [& toilets] were much appreciated there, but Tessa was let down by the ungingery ginger cake & since we were both hitting the indigestion pills hard I didn’t offer her any more of my medicinal crystallised ginger.

Back on the bikes & off to the NCN 21 on delightful wooded paths, twisting & turning a bit, led by Jim, so that we savoured all the best bits.

If you were hoping for snakes too, that is a Greek saying from Yanis’ book – ”snakes in the stomach” describing his anxiety before meeting Eurogroup ministers & the arch neo-liberal Chair, Schauble. Mick tells me my stomach ache was unfit stomach muscles from missing my bike rides & it disappeared soon after arriving home, so was no fault of The Plough, merely my greed.

Trains for return were fine & uncrowded, but it was a long day & we were all tired, arriving home at 6.30pm. Jim had really packed a delightful ride into our day & meticulously looked after us. Just a sad note in the evening as I looked at facebook, I saw that Linda Mabey had intended to join us but had ended up in Worthing A&E having twisted her ankle in Horley before the start. Hope she is feeling bit better now. We would have been a Magnificent Seven, but it’s a brilliant ride, well-worth repeating anytime Jim has time, though think I would certainly get lost without his leadership. Still if we keep the instructions us women should be able to take back control!

Sikka and Tessa at Three Bridges Station

Sikka & Tessa relax at Three Bridges station after a tough ride

Thanks again Jim – it was a great day.
Detail from Sikka's high-vis jacket

Sikka’s wonderfully decorated high-vis jacket

The Last Ride: Sunday 14 April 2017

22 May 2017

Nine of us met at the Adur Recreation Ground Car Park and the weather for the ride was looking good after weeks of very chilly winds.  
So Dave led the way onto the Downslink and Pru, Jenny, Sikka, Wendy and myself followed. Also with us were Dave’s son, Ian, and two friends of his, Olga and Jay.

The Downslink at this time of year looks very lush and the cow parsley was looking at its best in the sunshine. Part of the way up to Bramber is very open and there are lovely views across the fields. Other parts are closed in by over-arching trees, providing a good deal of shade in the sunshine. Most of us found that the layers of clothing we had on, were no longer needed as it was beginning to really warm up as we approached Stan’s Bike-shed Cafe for lunch. We were able to sit outside in the sun and it really felt as if ‘proper’ spring was on its way.

After some discussion at lunch, Wendy and Sikka took the decision to go back the way we had come, via the Downslink. The rest of us decided to take the road to Steyning and then back to Shoreham via the Downslink.

At Steyning we said goodbye to Olga and Jay who were going off to the Steyning Bostal to do some serious hill riding. The rest of us continued onto the Downslink and then back to Shoreham.

Thank you very much, Dave, for organising and leading a very lovely ride.


The Last Ride: Sunday 30 April 2017 – The Level to Brighton Pier via Falmer, Woodingdean and Rottingdean

3 May 2017

Ten of us set off from the Tomato Dolce & Salato family-run Italian Cafe / Restaurant (formerly The Velo Cafe) on The Level at 10.40 (Angela C, Angela D, Anne, Dave, David, Julian, Mick, Prudence, Tessa and Wendy) and rode on the cycle lane along the Lewes Road. We passed the gyratory and up to the turn off to Sussex Uni, with the head wind and slow accumulation of height making this slower than expected. Then Mick led the way up through Brighton Uni at Falmer until we reached the Falmer pond. Dave kindly sorted out Julian’s locked chain twice. A brief visit was made to the local artists’ exhibition in the St. Laurence church, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary. Then onto the cycle path that runs south – parallel to the winding Falmer Road – on which at some of the undulations most got off and walked. 
Before we turned left into Bexhill Road, Angela C booked a table for lunch at the Coach House Inn in Rottingdean in the upstairs room. We sped on down at the eastern side of Woodingdean through housing estates, so as to avoid the main road (ie Falmer Road, B2123), until we joined it just north of Rottingdean, then riding on the east-side pavement until we reached the church and village pond. Just before this Tessa peeled off to meet Helen, and Dave also headed off a little later. As is becoming usual, Prudence was often ahead enjoying to go at her fastest.
In the Coach House, after a longish wait, the food arrived for eight of us, ranging from chips with beans, jacket potatoes with tuna mayonnaise or beans, up to a large meat pie slice with vegetables. Discussion was long and intense on political and green issues, particularly involving government spending, and with the case made for proportional representation in elections, instead of first past the post.
After lunch, Angela C headed east to Saltdean accompanied by Anne (who caught us up later) while six of us cycled westwards along the undercliff path back to the Brighton Pier by 3.30 pm or so – a distance of about 13 miles.  On passing the Marina there was light rain for about ten minutes.
Thanks to Angela C and Julian for a pleasant ride.


The Last Ride: Sunday 16 April (Easter Sunday) 2017 – Polegate circular via Herstmonceux

26 April 2017

Four optimistic Clarionistas turned up at the station in defiance of weather warnings about rain (first due at 1pm and then 4 pm). We were :- Julian ( of course), Prudence, Julia, Joyce. Julian’s ride description is so detailed I don’t have the task of reporting the detail, so suffice it to say that this was a lovely ride – the more so because Julian had arranged so many peaceful lanes and quiet minor roads on an Easter Sunday … We had the pleasure of the Pevensey Levels on a clear sunny day and on to the area identified as Horse eye Level and to New Bridge, where we rode almost alone between two tranquil peaceful canals. Here it was so pleasant and calm with lovely views that we decided to have elevenses with part of our “picnic lunch”, (although I managed to eat all of mine).

Onwards then again along quiet roads with some manageable undulations to the A271 where for a short while we encountered speedy cars, but there was a cycle track alongside. Down then into Herstmonceux and to the Woolpack Inn in the hope that we might find some refreshments despite the Woolpack not serving food. But first we had to inspect what Julia found round the back, she was delighted to come across a telescope/binoculars which had been abandoned in the waste area. As a bird lover she was already planning the usages she could make of them. But alas when we enquired in the pub a kind man and his son assured us that it was damaged. But the good news was that we were able to get cups of tea and a coffee with a very nice comfortable table to eat our picnic lunches, just as well because Julian had done himself proud with a full scale lunch, ( I was very happy with just my cup of tea and declined the many offers of food). To add to the pleasure – no sign of that 1 pm rain, still a pleasant sunny day.

We spent a leisurely hour or so in conversation ranging from the low and humble (dog fouling, barbeques) to complex issues such as why we have the names we do, leading to identity and much else..

The next stage was back to the Cuckoo Trail via Hailsham and a downward route to The Loom cafe where we fell on the toasted tea cakes and for Julian ( of course) a “Rocky Road” of chocolate marshmallow and nuts. Such was our relaxed state of mind that we had to race back to the station for our train, arriving just in time to see Prudence in front sailing across just before the barrier came down. Well done Pru… Hey Ho once on the station we learned that the next Brighton train was cancelled … But still no rain and refusing to lose the pleasure of the day and thanks to Julian’s “App” we found a route via Lewes for Brighton and home which worked and got us to Brighton and STILL NO RAIN !

Thanks to Julian for a lovely ride.


The Last Ride. Angela’s Report

4 April 2017

Sunday 2 April 2017: Circular ride via Oldland Mill, led by Jim

Start of ride photo by Leon. (Hassocks Station).

L-R Jim, Wendy, Julian, Julia, Angela, Prudence, Corinne, Sarah, Joyce. Photo by Leon

Ten of us set off (Jim, Angela D, Corinne, Sarah, Joyce, Leon, Wendy, Prudence, Julia, Julian; we welcomed Sarah to her first ride) from Hassocks station on a gloriously uplifting spring day. Jim, with his usual attention to detail, kindly arranged for the sun to continue shining the whole time. This ride involved some traffic free off road peregrinations and did not have any h**ls. The latter word is banned on Jim’s rides, so we encountered the odd undulation, otherwise known as an inconsistency in an otherwise level terrain, which might require a dismounting and pushing of a bicycle.

Wild flowers ( Wood Anemones).

Along the way we passed masses of wild flowers; among the trees and in the hedgerows there were carpets of woodland anemones, also known as windflowers. These low flowering plants, with their white and pinkish tinged petals, seem to be especially profuse this year. They spread by rhizomes and the petals are, in fact, sepals.

Daffodils are now mostly fading. We also saw banks of lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) glowing in the sun. By roadside verges there were clumps of lady’s smock (Cardamine pretensis)– about 60 centimetres tall with pink flowers. The blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) was in flower everywhere; its berries are used to make sloe gin. An odd bluebell or two poked its head above ground, but May is the month for those. I saw a horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) in full leaf; they always seem the first to come out. In the suburban streets of Hassocks there were cherry trees in bloom and it was good to see lots of saplings being planted – I found this site .

As cyclists we depend on quiet residential roads so we have not only the issue of climate change but also the pleasure that trees give, to some of us anyway.

We stopped for an outdoor lunch in Wivelsfield at the Cock Inn.  A few of us had the nut roast – beautifully crunchy vegetables but the ‘Moroccan’ nut roast was coated in a readymade sugary sauce. On the way back we glimpsed a windmill – not our destination but Chailey windmill.

Streat Church window

Stained glass window at Streat Church

We stopped at  Streat church. As we thought, the church was thoroughly modernised by the Victorians. The churchyard has a stunning view over the Downs.

A Ford 3 litre vintage car at Streat Church.

In a farmyard near Ditchling village we stopped to admire an early 20th century vintage car; its knowledgeable owner explained that it was American and would have had its tyres removed on weekdays so it could be used as a plough, and at weekends the tyres were put back to take people to church. At Ditchling four people peeled off to go directly to the station while the rest of us went up to Oldland Mill. Those interested in investigating its gears and other innards climbed up to the top, while others of us sat in the garden with tea and simnel cake.

Thanks to Jim for a glorious day for Brighton and Hove Clarionistas and for giving us a route sans hills but with some gradients, rising ground and elevations down which the bravely crazy ones freewheeled.

Angela (D)

PS Not many photos yet! Will add some later when available – Jim.