The Last Ride: Sunday 19 November 2017 – Palace Pier to Newhaven

17 November 2017

Nine of us gathered at the Palace Pier under blue skies and sunshine, but layered up with additional headgear etc against the cold North-Easterly wind. We were Julian, our leader, Angela D, Wendy, Prudence, Sikka, Leon, Joyce, Tessa and Jenny. We set off along the cycle path towards the Marina to the tune of “Oh when the Saints came marching in” being played by a young, uniformed, marching band participating in a Remembrance Day event.
The undercliff path was pleasantly sheltered from the wind, then we made our way up to cycle alongside the A259 for a short distance, until we joined the cycle route running through Peacehaven parallel to the main road. Peacehaven was remarkably devoid of trees, as Angela D pointed out later in the day, but looking between the houses, we could see glimpses of the downs to the left and sea views to the right. The newly surfaced cycle path on the western side of the A259 took us to the pedestrian traffic lights where we crossed to join Upper Valley Road. It was quite blustery on the higher ground, but we were rewarded with a lovely view down towards Seaford Bay and the white cliffs beyond. After a gentle descent we made our way along West Quay to find The Ark, which was our lunch stop. 
The Ark was warm and welcoming, with a comprehensive menu that seemed to suit everyone, and apparently the locals were impressed that we had cycled all the way from Brighton. After lunch, we split into two groups, some taking route a) back along the outward route, and the others taking route b), the cross country route.
Prudence, Angela D and I followed our leader through the backstreets of Newhaven to find the Sussex Ouse Valley Way, which proved to be fantastically scenic but also incredibly windy. The path was grassy but firm in spite of the recent rain. We passed Piddinghoe Lake and walked along the stretch by Piddinghoe village, as required.

Back on the bikes and along a minor road, then rejoined a newly surfaced stretch of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way up to Southease Bridge, and a quick stop at Southease church to admire the round tower.
With the wind proving utterly relentless and the sun already rather low, we unanimously agreed to forego the longer off road option b) with “a steep undulation” in favour of Julian’s new offer of route c). This was a delightful cycle along a quiet road towards Telscombe, with amazing views of the South Downs, which made Prudence contemplate capturing it all through the medium of paint on canvas. I reached for my iphone, which had inconveniently died.

We managed the downhill off-road section across Telscombe Tye with ease, and returned through Saltdean to rejoin the undercliff path. The sun was setting, giving a beautiful sky, but causing us all to reach for our bike lights. A few hundred yards later we were plummeted into darkness and managed to dodge the pedestrians on the undercliff, who were thoughtlessly devoid of lighting. The bright lights of the pier heralded the end of this really enjoyable ride. Hopefully Sikka, Tessa, Jenny, Joyce and Leon also had a good return journey.

Many thanks to Julian for planning such a great day’s cycling, and for coming up with a very timely 3rd option, which proved so spectacular.
Leon adds:

Five of the nine riders chose to return to Brighton on the same route as outward. Jenny went off first and fast using the A259, a road not favoured by other riders, who were, Joyce and Leon, Tessa and Sikka.

We retraced our route in the face of a gale and bright low level dazzling sunlight. Needless to say it was quite difficult at times but we all got back into Brighton refreshed by the cold wind and fulfilled by the experiences of the day.

Boots,  Leon


The Last Ride: Sunday 29 October 2017 – Jim’s Berwick Circular

3 November 2017

Slight showers at the start of the day, heralded a wonderful Autumn/Winter day, a little chilly but not too much, with a bright blue sky and continuing sun all day. Six of us arrived at the station to meet up with Julian who had generously stood in for Jim who unfortunately had damaged his leg and could not lead the ride – (hope all is well now Jim …):- We were Chris, Leon, Joyce, Prudence, Sika, Wendy and Julian, to be met at Berwick station by Angela.

Hence 8 of us started out on what proved to be a wonderful ride in perfect conditions. We followed Jim’s ride but, but with some variation. Start by passing Arlington Reservoir, then NE along the full length of Langtye Lane, and north along lovely quiet lanes with serene views across the Weald until we reached Church Lane for a stop at Laughton Church which as Jim mentioned in his description was once the seat of the famous Sussex Pelhams family. We pondered at the “The Buckle of Laughton” which we learned represents the sword buckle of the King of France who was captured by Sir John Pelham at Poitiers in 1356. The family vault beneath the chancel of All Saints Church, Laughton, includes coffins of one bishop, two Prime Ministers, three earls and a duke, and was sealed up in 1886. The nave is the oldest part of the church, in early English 13th century style, and retains two original lancet windows. The roof is of single frame construction with tie beams, and some of the medieval timber used still remains. The chancel is eighteenth century. It was well worth the time to look and admire.

Wild flowers still in Bloom 29th October.

After the tranquil time in the church grounds the group decided to make a variation by visiting “The Tower”, which served as a moated outlook tower and which is all that is left of a much larger house built in 1534, now owned by the Landmark Trust for holiday lets. To get to the Tower we were warned that the route would not only be “off road” but bumpy. This did not discourage the hardy Clarionets – except yours truly, who started the attempt but soon took very much against the teeth shattering, the head battering and the forlorn attempt to avoid the chasms … (well that’s how it felt anyway … ). Leon, in solidarity kept in pace and when we did arrive after a mixture of walking and very little riding we were glad to meet up with the others who had had their time at the tower and face the return to the “comfort” of a road!

But pleasure was to follow for us all when we reached the Roebuck Inn where we admired the beautiful pigs, had excellent food (nothing to do with the pigs) and discussions ranging around healthy eating and a range of alternative curative practices.

Our long lunch over and with concerns about timing and darkness catching us we agreed to forego the section of Vert Wood, retracing our route past the church and taking the road east along lovely quiet lanes and wonderful views through the villages of Ripe and Chalvington, to rejoin the road south past Arlington Reservoir to Berwick Station for the 15.44 train to Brighton and some 18 miles of cycling.

Thanks to Jim for offering the ride and great thanks to Julian for coming forward and providing (with the weather) a really lovely Autumn/Winter ride.

Joyce E-S

The Last Ride: Sunday 15 October 2017 – Hassocks to Shoreham

20 October 2017

Eight riders assembled at Hassocks railway station: Tessa, Sikka, Sue Priest, Joyce, Prudence, David Jeseph, Chris Smith, and Leon.

Clarion ride, between Shoreham rd Henfield and the Downslink 15-10-2017

A group photo was organised and some minor adjustments were made to Chris’s new e-bike before setting off toward Hurstpierpoint and Albourne. Motor traffic was light and the skies were grey but the temperature perfect for cycling.

We stopped for a moment in Blackstone village just to listen to the silence before continuing toward Small-Dole via Woodsmill.   Arriving at our lunch venue in Small Dole; the Fox public house a delightful small village pub.

Clarion ride 15-10-2017 The Fox PH Small-Dole.

Our lunch was served quickly and our topics of conversation were light-hearted and very entertaining on a number of subjects other than politics and world problems.

Clarion ride 15-10-2017Free apples

After lunch we all cycled back to New Hall lane where we soon spotted a basket of fine Brambly apples going free at the side of the lane, we eagerly helped ourselves to some of them before moving on and riding/walking across a damp grassy meadow before reaching the Downslink.

This section of the Downslink possess a varing quality of surface that can be a pleasure or torture only metres apart. On arriving at the Bramber Castle roundabout we regrouped and decided on who wished to use the ‘new’ super surfaced section of the Downslink that is slightly longer than the one that crosses the dangerous Bramber Bypass.

Clarion ride New Hall Lane Small-Dole 15-10-2017

Only Joyce and Leon chose the safe longer route but found in terms of time it was equal to the short route as we arrived at the river bridge near the cement works, together. After a short stop there we headed off along the river to regroup at the ‘old tollbridge’ only to find some confusion had caused a delay back at the first bridge where Joyce and Leon were not noticed waiting when the group crossed the bridge. Never mind, we were all accounted for at the Tollbridge.

Clarion ride 15-10-2017Joyce walk her bike across a damp grassy meadow

At this point we said goodbye to Prudence, Sue and Chris, leaving the remaining five to proceed into Shoreham for a delightful tea stop at Teddy’s  near the footbridge. Then quickly to the station for a train to Brighton where we were halted by thousands of football supporters flooding through the station and filling the trains, that’s great to get cars off the roads but very difficult to navigate while wheeling a bicycle amongst them in a station.
Thanks to Tessa and Sikka for organising and leading this super ride.



The Last Ride: Sunday 1 October 2017 – The Level to Brighton Pier via Falmer, Woodingdean and Rottingdean

2 October 2017

Six of us, Angela (D), Prudence, Wendy, Chris (S), Julian and Sean decided the weather forecast was overly pessimistic and set off, under Julian’s leadership with Wendy acting as backstop, for Falmer.

Rather than follow the usual route via the University to Falmer we took the underpass towards The Keep and then cycled past the Amex Stadium. Interestingly as Prudence cycled towards the road barrier across the exit road from the Stadium it duly opened to let her through and promptly closed again. The rest of us lesser mortals were left to push our bikes around the barrier.

Sunday 1 October 2017: The Level to Brighton Pier via Falmer, Woodingdean and Rottingdean

After the initial steep climb out of Falmer we paused for breath and a group photograph with the Amex Stadium as the backdrop. By this time the weather had improved to the point that a number of us felt the need to remove jackets to avoid overheating! The steady climb to the Woodingdean traffic lights was soon completed and followed by the exhilarating ride down Bexhill Road and into Rottingdean where we were greeted by sunshine.

Disappointingly The Coach House could not accommodate us unless we were prepared to compete with a football match on Sky TV. After due debate we adjourned to The Queen Victoria where we were made most welcome. The beer drinkers amongst us were impressed with the range of beers on offer and those looking for a meal were impressed with the quality of the food. As befits “teenagers” of a “certain age” smart phones were used to take photographs of the meals. A pub to remember for the future!

Sunday 1 October 2017: The Level to Brighton Pier via Falmer, Woodingdean and Rottingdean

The lunch conversation embraced the benefits of dual nationality, cycling in France, Julian’s taste in puddings and the possibility of cycling the Downslink from Guildford to Shoreham.

As we left the pub sadly it started to rain but it stopped shortly after we commenced cycling the under-cliff towards Brighton. At the Palace Pier we went our separate ways and I suspect most of us made it home in the dry.

I am sure I speak for all those who took part when I say “Thank you Julian for arranging a very enjoyable ride”

Chris (S)

Clarion on (and off) the Avenue Verte: 31 August to 8 September – Brexit-Breaking Bravado from Brighton to Bray

20 September 2017

On 31st August, Brighton & Hove Clarion returned to Dieppe. Though individual members have cycled from Dieppe more recently in events organised by others, this was the first such visit organised by our section since 23-25 April 2010, when no fewer than 14 members participated in a long weekend ride (for report click here and scroll down). This time, sadly, we could not muster such numbers, possibly because this was a more ambitious ride covering much more ground and hence taking longer – six days, to be precise (nine for Ivor).

Original scan

Angela writes: We set off as four – myself (Angela D), Wendy Scott, Ivor Fried and Jim Grozier. We lost Wendy on the second day and Ivor two days later. Clarion members can be a little careless it seems. The day we arrived we tripped off to the Nordic baths – a 50 metre heated outdoor swimming pool where we splashed around happily until our return to the Egg hotel and dinner at le New Haven (sic).

Jim writes: We made good progress along the route of the old railway line; since our last visit, when the rails still ran alongside the path in some places, most of them have been completely removed, but occasionally one comes across one of the short lengths of track left as museum pieces to record the previous life of the route, along with a few old signals and the many charming little crossing-keepers’ houses, some derelict but some surviving as private houses. Angela assessed each one we came to as a possible future residence for when Brexit takes hold.

A railway relic on the Avenue Verte

As the only member of the 2010 party to be participating this time around, I tried to remember how far we’d got last time, but it all looked very similar, and there were no convenient landmarks after the café at the start, where, as I recalled when reading the 2010 report, Angela C and I had actually sat out most of the previous ride. From that report, it seems the furthest anyone got was somewhere near Freulleville, with a round total (Dieppe-Dieppe) of 31 miles.

Angela: There are some ghostly railway stations en route – such as St Vaast d’Equiqueville – and on our return, I did wonder if our missing companions were to be found in the waiting room, patiently hanging on for their return train to Dieppe. The second night we stayed in a chambre d’hôte near Bures-en-Bray where we were met by a less than enchanted couple who told us dourly we weren’t supposed to arrive until five. So we set off on our travels again to Mesnières-en-Bray where, this being half past three or so, it was impossible to get lunch at the épicerie/restaurant, but we were provided with sandwiches and coffee.

2017-09-01 Avenue Verte train station

Jim: The following day we stopped at the only eatery actually on the route – the old station at Neufchatel, now a lovely crêperie – for lunch. We also admired the old signal levers (or at least, I did). The off-road railway path ends at Forges-les-Eaux, our second overnight stop.

Angela: Forges-les-Eaux was a party town in its youth but now seems a little threadbare and bisected by an unpleasant car-filled high street. The hotel Continental where we stayed heavily promoted a nearby casino where apparently it was impossible to lose any money but there seemed few takers. A couple of doors down we found a nice little restaurant (la Source) with good French food. The two vegetarians were flexible with fish and omelettes.

The next day we left the trusted level going of the avenue verte and three of us set off towards the hills, but in separate directions – Ivor to somewhere he could camp and follow the call of the wild, and myself and Jim to do a circular around Forges-les-Eaux, to try out the more up and down bits and return to our rather anonymous chain hotel in the evening. We missed Ivor, and so did my bicycle as it was not used to having sweet little nothings directed at it, congratulating its sprockets or exclaiming over aluminium tubing, not issues that ever concerned its rider.

So we set off to the outer reaches of the map, IGN carte de randoneé 2110. Unfortunately this particular map caused me great existential anguish because the map area itself is very small and it has large white borders lacking in any information. I berated the map makers tirelessly for their insistence on trying to make a poor cyclist tip over into a white void. Great was my relief the next day when we passed over to IGN 2008 Forêt d’Eawy where the map extended right to the very edge.

On our circular trip we went south via la Ferté St Samson, which had a high defensive mound with a church and then an orientation table – a semi-circular guide, set into stone, of the surrounding countryside. There was also a very old half-timbered house in the village – ‘the house of Henri IV’ – but little else. Norman villages do not have shops or cafés or any provision for eating and drinking. Fortunately we had brought our own – a necessity at all times, we discovered, in Normandy.

Jim: We proceeded northwards on a series of tiny roads which eventually fizzled out into a farm track, before delivering us into a sort of living museum based around a collection of farm buildings constructed in the local style, which features timbered walls in geometrical patterns. This place was confusingly known as Bray (just about everything around there ends in Bray!) To add to the surreal atmosphere there was also a large fishing competition going on, but the cafe was – of course – fermé. We ended the day’s ride with a repetition of the final stretch of Avenue Verte at Serqueux, where the route crosses a still-operational railway line.

The chicken house at Bray

                                  The chicken house at Bray

Angela: This initial ride gave us confidence to continue on the return by a route that ignored the avenue verte and went by little roads. Jim was game for my enterprising use of these little white lanes; even to the point where we ended up in a swamp at St Aubin-le-Cauf – flat to be sure, but with water lapping at our ankles. I directed us onto a very pretty ancient stone bridge, too narrow to wheel the bikes across and with a very full river underneath where even my recklessness was deterred – very fortunately as it was entirely the wrong direction. Jim stoically navigated us out of the watery morass.

Jim: The previous day we had chosen a route which took us to the west of the Avenue, through the Bois de l’Epinay and then a third and final pass through Serqueux, savouring our last chance for a roadside coffee at a very characterful small French bar full of locals drinking goodness knows what. Then more quiet lanes, hedged with the local crop – corn – which looked ripe and tempting, but we refrained, as we were not sure if it was animal feed, or whether our bags might be searched at Dieppe (they weren’t – the whole sea crossing business remains remarkably civilised, with only a passport check, no X-ray machines or body searches). At Neuville-Ferrières we briefly rejoined the Avenue Verte to Neufchatel, only to find that even the wonderful crêperie (“open all year” according to the guide book) was nevertheless closed on Mondays.

Angela: Even here, in a small town of 8,436 people (thanks Wikipedia) there appeared to be only one bar open, with a lugubrious middle-aged male proprietor and an even older and sadder single customer sitting at the bar. Our last night was spent back in le Bas Bray, the same chambre d’hôte as we’d stayed at previously, but with an even less congenial welcome. The owners seemed inclined to view guests as something of a nuisance but unfortunately necessary as income generators to keep up their grand farm.

Our route was north west, traversing the river valleys. Most of the trip went well; no mention of the four letter “h” word even though Jim did enquire rather plaintively, when I suggested a possible route, that the brown lines did look rather close together? I replied that I thought he had his long distance glasses on, not his reading ones. He agreed it all looked rather blurry and kindly refrained from saying anything when a few hours later I caught up with him on the summit, where he was patiently studying the river below and I was heaving and puffing in a manner similar to Hannibal’s elephants crossing the alps, but with considerably less visual appeal.

A typical Normandy landscape

Jim: The pass took us up the west side of the Béthune valley and crossed over into the neighbouring valley. This valley eventually joins the Varenne valley at St Germain d’Étables, where the river broadens into a network of lakes. Finally to St Aubin-le-Cauf and the aforementioned swamp, and back onto the Avenue Verte for the ride back to Dieppe.

Angela: This being about four o’clock, all the restaurants in Dieppe had stopped serving lunch, but we persevered and eventually found somewhere we could collapse into until it was time for the boat to leave at six. On the quayside, fortunately not raining, and contrary to the normal custom, we were left stranded with our bikes, while motorbikes, lorries, motorhomes and cars rumbled past belting out lots of toxic pollution. No matter; we caught the 21.35 that was running late at Newhaven and congratulated ourselves on an excellent trip.

Total mileage for Angela and Jim: 114 in 5 days (Dieppe to Forges and back)

Ivor writes: I initially headed down to Gournay en Bray and then went slightly wrong at St Germer de Fly, where I ended up doing a few kilometres towards Beauvais.  This is the beginning of the alternative Avenue Verte route to Paris, as can be seen in the Sustrans route guide. Having realised my mistake, I navigated to the nearest campsite: Camping Belle Etoile at Le Coudray Saint Gemer (quite a long steep climb).

The next day I navigated to Amécourt, where I rejoined the route but ended up going a few k along it in the wrong direction (!) – After turning around, I retraced my route and headed to Gisors.  I then went about 6k further along the route to reach the campsite at Dangu. The section of the route after Gisors is old railway track.  I continued down this greenway to Bray-et-Lû.  This is the point where the Avenue Verte leaves the greenway, but I stayed on it and headed through Gasny and Giverny ending up in Vernon, where I spent the night.

The next section goes from there to Le Petit Andely and I spent the night a short distance further on at Le Val Saint Martin. The route climbs steeply from there to Le Thuit and then descends to run parallel to the Seine.   I crossed the Seine at the locks at Amfreville and headed to Pont de L’Arche.  Rather than stop there, I headed on to Rouen (the weather forecast for the next day was not good and I wanted to get to Rouen ASAP).  The route runs through suburban streets, some more major roads and forestry roads (no motor vehicles).  The initial forest section is a steep climb!   The route emerges from the last forest section in a suburb of Rouen.  A local advised me not to hang around in the forest area after dark (I got there at around dusk).

The forest route emerges in Rouen directly by a cluster of hotels: Campanile, Ibis and Novotel (a rather more upmarket one).  Anyone doing this route should consider booking one of these in advance.

Ivor’s total mileage: 243 in 9 days (including riding from Brighton to Newhaven and back!)

It would be nice if we could do another Avenue Verte ride some time, possibly varying the format to attract more people. For instance, it would be possible to do a series of one day rides based around Neufchatel, or travel to Serqueux by boat and train, so that the total duration could be flexible, to cater for participants’ prior commitments. As Ivor points out, “Vernon is only a short train ride from Rouen and Dieppe.  The trains carry bikes: very similar set-up to Southern: special section with space for two bikes stacked against each other. Vernon could be a good end point for anyone wanting to shorten the route.” He adds: “If you want to follow the Avenue Verte into Paris, you can take the train from Paris to Vernon and rejoin the route there, or simply take to train back up to Rouen and Dieppe.  There didn’t seem to be any issue with bikes on the Vernon to Rouen / Dieppe stretches, but it’d probably be a good idea to check which services from St. Lazare carry bikes.” Gournay and Gisors also have rail links to Rouen.

Angela trying to work out the difference between Ricarville du Val and Val de Ricarville

French signposts can be a little confusing …

A mini Clarion ride out of the blue: Sunday 10th September 2017

20 September 2017

Red Admiral

Entirely by chance Joyce, Leon, Sikka, Tessa and Marilyn joined in friendship. Unbeknown to each other two groups paths were about to cross. Joyce and Leon planned to have lunch in Bramber at the Bridge Inn, getting a train at Brighton and starting the short journey up the Downslink to Bramber. At the same time Sikka and Tessa had planned to do a recce for a future ride from Hassocks to Shoreham via Henfield and Bramber, meeting Marilyn at the lunch stop.

Now let’s go back to where it all came together. Leon and Joyce unexpectedly met Sikka and Tessa on the concourse of Brighton station; greetings and hurried explanations were voiced and our individual plans were discussed and as Bramber was to be our lunch stop we agreed to meet there to have lunch together. Two odd coincidences now manifested themselves. Leon imagined or dreamed that the Bramber Bridge Inn had reopened after being closed for refurbishment, it is still boarded up. Tessa made a phone call from Hassocks to make a booking, unfortunately she called The Bridge Inn Shoreham who took the booking.

Meanwhile Joyce and Leon were now cycling the Downslink northbound. Sikka and Tessa were cycling through Hurstpierpoint, Albourne and Henfield to join the Downslink southbound, meanwhile Marilyn had cycled from Shoreham to Bramber and was waiting for Sikka and Tessa in the Castle Inn Hotel in Bramber. When Joyce and Leon arrived at the ‘closed’ Bridge Inn, they decided to go back 100m to try the Castle Inn Hotel where we bumped into Marilyn who had been on the phone to Sikka to instruct the location of the lunch venue. About an hour passed before Sikka and Tessa arrived to tell of their adventures en-route. Now there were five Clarion riders all together in one place and enjoying a very nice meal in a rather pleasant location.

After lunch we all set off together for the ride back to Shoreham, but only 500m on the little group split with Sikka, Tessa and Marilyn choosing to cross the very busy A273 while Joyce and Leon preferred the new section of the Downslink that follows the river Adur on the west bank as it goes under the A273, a much safer option. We didn’t see the others again until the Old Toll Bridge but they seemed to want to finish the ride ASAP due to the weather closing in rapidly due to gale force crosswinds from the southwest. It was so nice to meet up unexpectedly and enjoy our day together. Thanks to coincidence/chance without leader or backstop or proper organisation.

Boots Leon.

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 September 2017 – CLARION TO CRABTREE; ‘There Will Be Hills!’

20 September 2017

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 September 2017 - CLARION TO CRABTREE; 'There Will Be Hills!'

Saturday evening we had enormous hailstorms thundering down on our house & turning our garden white, but Sunday dawned calmly, with a hint of sunshine. Once outside & having whizzed downhill on the bike, I realised it was almost winter, instead of mid-Sept. & nearly went back for warmer clothes. I warmed up on the hill to the station & bumped into 3 friends. 2 were Joyce & Leon who were at the ticket machines, but they weren’t coming with us as Leon said the A272 was too busy & they were circling the Cuckoo Trail- Berwick to Polegate. The other was a local Labour friend who was going on a walking trip from Haywards Heath. When we met him again at H.H. Station he took the group photo for us then rejoined his group of around 20 Sunday walkers. Before we boarded the train at Brighton. Angela D. & Prudence arrived & tried to buy their tickets but a long queue had formed as machine had broken down & it looked as if catching the train would be impossible. Mick & I got on as we were meeting Tessa at H.H. since she’d been child-minding in London. It was a new Thameslink open train & possible to walk the whole length, so I went looking for my local Labour Party friend & found Angela & Prudence were on board instead!

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 September 2017 - CLARION TO CRABTREE; 'There Will Be Hills!'

As there was only 5 of us we made rapid progress out of the town & into the woods & undulating lanes. I remember Bulls Lane, where we saw no bulls, & Picts Lane, where we saw no pigs! [or Picts]. Arrived at The Crabtree around 12.30 & sat in the bar as most tables were booked.

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 September 2017 - CLARION TO CRABTREE; 'There Will Be Hills!'

Prudence sat in the garden so I joined her for my cauliflower & Parmesan soup. Mick, Angela & Tessa had lamb roast, but he had ordered a child’s portion & ate Angela’s full portion, soon to be remedied by the pub topping up Angela’s to adult size. The food being so good – Michelin starred indeed – that puddings were ordered too – Mick shared his choc tart with passion fruit ice-cream & Tessa had crème brulee rocky road. Then we explored the garden, the views & had fun on the garden swings hanging from a huge ancient tree.

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 September 2017 - CLARION TO CRABTREE; 'There Will Be Hills!'

Back on the bikes we sailed down Mill Lane which turned into a bumpy bridleway overhung with trees but still with super views & somewhat undulating. Mick had promised us a big hill but we were not there yet. We had to manoeuvre the bikes over 2 locked gates, which was annoying on a bridleway – too high for horses to jump over! When we finally emerged from the woods to a narrow road & a couple of houses, there was a sign warning of shotguns being used on intruders which wasn’t very welcoming & Angela dared to ask a woman in the garden why the gates had been locked, but didn’t wait till “my brother” was summoned to explain! There were so many huge houses with loud aggressive, barking guard dogs & every time we passed them my heart lurched & blood pressure rose. Angela & I took the hills more gently – walking pace-due to our asthma – Angela’s exacerbated by an infection, though she always overtook me on the downhill & tried to teach me the proper way to use bike brakes, not cling on to them like grim death, but to gently squeeze. We heard a woodpecker among the many birds in the woods. We passed a typical Wield Hammer Pond – vestige of the iron industry of the past. We talked to passers-by, walkers, natives, runners & cyclists. We enjoyed the extensive views.

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 September 2017 - CLARION TO CRABTREE; 'There Will Be Hills!'

Finally we reached the promised hill, walked up it – not Mick of course – & arrived in Warninglid & then Cuckfield. Passing a sign to Borde Hill Gardens, Mick asked us if we’d like to take an extra mile or two to view the estate & maybe take tea & cake in the charming cafe there. Some hadn’t been before & the rest loved it so we agreed & enjoyed. We took tea[s] & teacakes in the pretty garden & again the staff were welcoming & food was excellent & extra teacakes were provided which we all shared.

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 September 2017 - CLARION TO CRABTREE; 'There Will Be Hills!'

We had 10 minutes before our trains arrived which was just right & arrived home by 5.30. We’d had a jolly good ride & exercise & plenty of time to chat in glorious surroundings. Although Mick hadn’t had time to re-recce the ride we’d done years ago, we easily sailed around the lanes & up & down the undulations. I scarcely remembered any of it from previous ride & previous recce, but did remember the pub, the views, gourmet grub, glorious woods & ancient trees & ways & my favourite route around Borde Hill. Everyone agreed we’d had a grand day & thanked Mick for leading us there & back again.