The Last Ride. Jim ‘s Report

6 August 2018

Oldland Mill: 5 August 2018

Brighton station was in chaos; there were barriers everywhere, and Nick, Sikka and I only just made it onto the train ahead of a crowd of homegoing Pride revellers. At Hassocks we met our ride leader, Helen, who had travelled by road along with Angela C. Then Martin arrived, having cycled from Brighton.

August 5, 2018: Hassocks circular

L-R: Sikka, Helen, Jim, Angela, Martin, Nick

Helen’s ride leadership strategy oscillated between “leading from the front” and “leading from the back”. The latter was a bold innovation, but didn’t work too well when she wanted to vary the route, as everyone had shot past the turning by the time she caught up. Undaunted, she tried another variation in Streat Lane, searching for a bridleway that promised to take us past Elmgrove Farm, under the railway, and deliver us straight to the coffee stop at the Plough. However it was not to be found, and eventually Helen enlisted the help of the farmer, who told us that the bridleway was on the other side of a fence, which made things a bit tricky, so we went back to the road. Earlier, at Streat Church, we had discovered an extremely rare thing … a phone box with a phone in it, and no sign of any books!

August 5, 2018: Hassocks circular

At the Plough, Helen held a vote on whether we should ditch the Plumpton leg of the ride and go straight to the lunch stop. In a report of an earlier incarnation of this ride, in May 2015, I had described the route as “a bit like three triangles joined together, or a figure of 8 with an extra loop”, and even uploaded a sketch of such a figure, which has sadly now disappeared due to some unknown glitch in Flickr, so you will just have to imagine it. The vote was about whether to leave out the easternmost triangle, formed by the Plough, Plumpton Lane, Novington Lane and a concrete farm track through North Barnes Farm; in view of the heat, the time spent searching for the bridleway, and the approaching lunch booking, it was not surprising that the vote was a unanimous “yes”; this shortened the ride to 17 miles. As a reward for voting the right way, Helen allowed us to get a drink from the bar. Then off we sped to the Cock at Wivelsfield Green, where we found a “secret garden” that allowed us to sit outside without getting roasted.

After lunch we made for Ditchling via Hundred Acre Lane, at the south end of which we saw a man riding a penny farthing bicycle! When asked “is that hard?” he replied “No, easy!” He was followed by a man on an old black conventional bicycle which, he shouted as he sped past, had been made in 1902. Nick tried to get a photograph but they didn’t stop. He had had better luck with his camera earlier, when a Speckled Wood butterfly obligingly settled on his bike at Streat Place.

August 5, 2018: Hassocks circular

And so to Oldland Mill. We normally expect mud on the path going up to it, but today the mud was baked hard and the ride was a bit like a switchback. Nick and I went in to see the works, and I bought a bag of flour, made in a recent milling run which was stopped in order to carry out regular maintenance of the sweeps.

August 5, 2018: Hassocks circular

We spoke to the volunteer at the gate, who told us that the Trust can arrange private tours for groups on days when the mill is not normally open. This might be a solution to the problem of having to arrange a ride for the first Sunday of the month – when the mill is open to the public – despite it also being Pride weekend, when we really shouldn’t be venturing out on trains.

Thanks to Helen for another lovely Oldland ride. If I get round to it, I’ll convert some of the flour into scones for the next ride!


August 5, 2018: Hassocks circular


The Last Ride: 22 July 2018

25 July 2018

Berwick to Polegate: Levels, Langos and Levitation

Woodland path

Angela and Wendy’s ride attracted 8 riders determined to brave the heat wave: a reunited “Dieppe Four” (Angela D, Ivor, Wendy and I) were joined by Ann, Graham, Mick and Prudence. We quickly left the road and, skirting the southern shore of Arlington Reservoir, joined a lovely wooded byway which eventually led us to a lane. Then the lane forked.

Conferring at the fork

Conferring at the fork

Left or right? There was much consultation, and it was eventually agreed that the right fork was the correct one. However, two of our number, Prudence and Ann, had by this time decided to try the left option, with Mick chasing after them like a sheepdog to return them to the fold. The remaining five of us took the byway through the middle of Abbot’s Wood.

“There are many ways through a wood”. I made that up, but it’s profound and inscrutable enough to have been said by some long-dead Oriental philosopher. The trouble is, those ways don’t necessarily meet up again on the other side, especially if one of them doesn’t actually go through the wood at all. We were not to see the others for many a mile, though we did see lots of other cyclists, some clearly making for France.

According to the Arlington Village website, Abbot’s Wood “was once part of the great Saxon forest of Andredesweald, which stretched across the whole of the south-east of England as far west as Hampshire”; it was overseen by the abbot at Battle Abbey, which gave it its name – although the OS map shows the remains of an abbey much nearer than Battle, just north of Polegate; this abbey was apparently part of the order of Premonstratensians, a word that’s worth remembering as it will probably get you quite a high score in Scrabble.

This lovely track went on for about two miles, but eventually we had to emerge into the housing estates of Hailsham. However a treat awaited us – in the middle of Hailsham, surely one of the most boring places in England, Bebble’s Langos, a Hungarian café serving the traditional deep-fried dough with various fillings – anything from banoffee or rocky road to mushroom, pepper and onion.

Rocky Road Langos (minus a bite or two)

Rocky Road Langos (minus a bite or two)

While enjoying this “second breakfast”, we heard news of our lost comrades, two of whom arrived just as we were finishing.

Cycling could be viewed as an activity to be pursued between meals. And indeed, after a bit of Cuckoo Trail, some quiet lanes and a farm track with lovely views, we reached the lunch stop, the Merrie Harriers at Cowbeech, where Mick had already polished off his roast. One of these lanes was called Grove Hill, and, while that word is banned in Clarion circles, Angela did explain that there might be the odd “levitation”, which she put down to an unfortunate tendency of her map to tilt forward.

There were posters all over Cowbeech imploring us to “Dig for Victory”, but it was not clear what was going to be dug, nor what sort of victory the diggers hoped to achieve. Google can only offer the obvious WW2 reference, a Brighton clothing label, or a North Somerset festival. Is Cowbeech somehow stuck in the 1940s?

After Stunt’s Green, Ginger’s Green and a crossing of the A271, we reached the wonderful Pevensey Levels, and followed a winding lane and a bit more Cuckoo trail all the way to Polegate. A swan and three adolescent cygnets on the adjacent waterway nearly caused a multi-bike pile-up at one point, as this constituted a mandatory photo-stop.

The ride length was reckoned to be about 22 miles. Then the train back to Brighton. The by-now-traditional after-ride swim was forgone due to various personal commitments.

Thanks to Angela and Wendy for a very enjoyable ride through some (to me at least) interesting new territory.


Southern's new low-cost carriage

Southern’s new cut-price rolling stock

The Last Ride. Nick’s Report

16 July 2018

Sunday 8 July 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

July 8, 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

Clarion cyclists: L-R Tessa, Wendy, Sikka, David, Jim, Graham, Nick

As the 2018 July heatwave continued, seven Clarion cyclists gathered in Barnham station for the start of a promising new ride devised by Jim. (Not that new! See here – Jim)

Sunday newspaper headlines were all enthusing about the progress England had been making in the World Cup, so the Clarion cyclists decided to take the advice of England’s manager and ‘create their own history’ as they headed out on the highway for a 20 mile cycle ride.

Our first break, a couple of miles after leaving Barnham, was an unscheduled one. Jim had to perform an emergency pit stop operation on his bike chain in order to continue with the ride. Although Jim’s DIY skills left him with impressively greasy hands, we were all relieved that his bike was roadworthy again.

July 8, 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

Aldingboune Country Centre was the first official cycle stop for the group and was a good place for some of us to drink coffee, annotate maps and sample iced lollies away from the heat outside.

The ruined 12th century Boxgrove Priory was our next stop and was well worth the slight detour required to visit it.

One of the attractions of Jim’s route was that it was, as he promised, ‘very flat’. The Centurion Way was a great way to cycle to our lunch destination and included very welcome tree shade from the day’s 30 degree heat.

Sitting in a comfy chair with the iced water served at Wellies Restaurant could have been sufficient for me to recover from the morning’s exertions, but I decided to also ask for the serious cyclist’s meal of choice: a bowl of chips.

July 8, 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

Salads, baguettes & quiche were also popular with my Clarion comrades. Possibly the biggest attraction in Wellies was Hardy, the extremely friendly restaurant dog, who befriended us all.

July 8, 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

After lunch, the route took us to Southbourne railway via the local villages of West Stoke, West Ashling (the weather really was too hot for the ducks & swans trying to shelter in shade under the trees around the duck pond) and Funtington.

The final planned stop for the group was for tea and cake in the Woodmancote pub. I don’t usually combine alcohol and cycling, but felt a pint of cider was a good way to cope with the hot weather.

July 8, 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

It was only a 10 minute cycle ride from the Woodmancote pub to Southbourne railway station and the train journey home. We all agreed that Jim’s planning, combined with exceptionally fine weather, had contributed to a great day out. I’m not quite sure why this was my first Clarion ride in nearly two years, but I really must try and return again very soon!


July 8, 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

Sikka, Wendy and Jim admiring tandems at the Woodmancote pub

The Last Ride: Sunday 24 June 2018 – Downslink Revisited

29 June 2018

The weather promised to be pleasant for Graham’s ride, and it kept that promise of sun and a little light breeze.

The Downslink as impressionist painting

This picture of the Downslink, taken on the move, resembles a French Impressionist paiting. In fact, it turns out that Camille Pissarro, after painting Lordship Lane station in London, got really into railways and decided to visit the Horsham-Shoreham line. Unfortunately he got hit by a train and fell into a deep coma by the side of the track, waking only in 2018 to paint this picture …..

Despite Southern Railways’ best efforts to thwart us Graham, Wendy, Sikka, Jim and Richard all made it to Christ’s Hospital Horsham on time. Graham had warned of iguanodons en route. He was correct. One such posed with us for a photo, but we could not tarry longer.

Wendy and Sikka riding the iguanodon

Wendy and Sikka riding the Southwater iguanodon

The Downslink beckoned and splendid it was. Downhill most of the way and many a leafy corridor with views across the fields. Our morning coffee stop was at the almost legendary Stan’s Bike Shed, a sort of bike-friendly scout hut cum Costa Coffee on the edge of a field.

Coffee stop at Stan's

L-R Wendy, Graham, Sikka, Richard

After same and a good scenic spin we arrived at The Plough. All I think agreed on the quality and quantity of the Sunday roasts provided. Following lunch, a futher ride down to Shoreham along the Adur. The formal ride concluded there but some headed for the sea for a dip or a paddle and then tea in West Hove.

First crossing of the Adur, at Betley Bridge

First crossing of the Adur

An excellent day out and much thanks to Graham for his patient leadership and navigation.

Richard (S)

The Last Ride. Tessa’s Report

14 June 2018

Sunday 10 June 2018: ‘Five go down (and a little bit up) the Downslink’

Five of us gathered at Christ’s Hospital station. Angela D, Graham, Tessa and new to Clarion, Wendy T on her electric bike had caught the 9.27 train from Brighton.

Prudence caught the later train and was relieved to find us in the car park, thinking she may have missed us.

A delightfully rural station only a stone’s throw from the Downslink, we set off on a narrow grass-fringed track that soon widened . The route alternated between being tree-lined in dappled sunlight and rolling meadows and fields.

We had a loo stop at Southwater Country Park but were not tempted by the café, preferring to wait for Stan’s Bike Shack further along the route.. Families were out in force, many canoeing on the small lake.

Cycling past a sign saying Copsale, probably once a station but now there was no sign of it, Wendy T and I had a telepathic thought: ‘ We were the Famous Five on an adventure’ Only Timmy the dog was missing but there were plenty of those around, mainly of the Cockapoodle, Labradoodle varieties.

We hit West Grinsted Station which had a train carriage and a platform so it became our first photo-opportunity.


Arriving past a badly parked train carriage


Graham and Tessa



We joined a road through the village of Partridge Green and suddenly there was Stan’s Bike Shed!

A delightful coffee stop not only for its food offerings but also for its bike friendly ambience. Free locks available to borrow, bike literature and a video screen to watch, and loads of lycra clad cyclists. Angela D said that every Clarion ride should have a coffee stop like Stan’s!


Wendy T, Angela D, Tessa and Prudence enjoying drinks and Cake !

We arrived at Henfield which was having a garden Open Day. On the way to the Plough, our lunch stop, we heard music coming from a garden close to a church. Prudence and Wendy stopped to explore and on joining us at the Plough reported that it was a lovely garden with craft stalls as well.

Everyone’s lunch was delicious and beautifully presented. Angela D told the waitress on the way out that is was the best Clarion lunch of all time!

We retraced our steps to the Downslink pausing to check out the garden. The music was over, the crafts mediocre but the garden was beautiful.


On to Shoreham, stopping to look at St Botolph’s Church. Arriving in Shoreham Wendy stopped for tea and cake, the rest of us dashed for a train which we missed. Rather than wait 30 minutes, we decided to cycle home, it was a lovely evening with no strong headwind.

We dispersed at Hove Lagoon after thanking Graham for planning a delightful day in the saddle.



The Last Ride: Sunday 27 May 2018 – Christ’s Hospital to Pulborough

30 May 2018

Downs Link

After a hot train journey we set off on the Downs Link, which was pleasantly cool under the foliage. We were 4: Jim, Graham, Wendy and I. We passed an ancient aeroplane, wrapped in plastic and shortly afterwards a sign “low flying aeroplanes” and a field which was used as a runway. We could only surmise that the aforementioned plane had missed it!

Aeroplane wrapped in plastic

Later we passed another sign: “low flying owls” ! How bizarre.

A brief detour from the Downs Link provided a delicious ice cream and we were invited into Slinfold Church only to behold the sight of a family eating loads of doughnuts. Odd.

Double bridge

The waterways were of particular interest on this ride: we marvelled at the famous “double bridge” over the river Arun, which features in the Downs Link logo. After a pleasant lunchtime at the Mucky Duck (with a clock that goes backwards) we came across another waterway wonder: Drungewick Aquaduct, where the canal actually goes over the. River Lox. Pretty spectacular.

Double Bridge info board

Things got more normal after that, apart from seeing a sign “Holiday Home for Hens” outside a farm ????

We heard a cuckoo and spotted two buzzards too.

It was mighty hot on the ride but intrepid souls that we are we managed and had a really lovely ride.

Many thanks Jim for leading this very enjoyable ride.


Low Flying Aeroplanes notice

The Last Ride: 13 May 2018: Ford to Littlehampton (with added Yapton)

15 May 2018

This was a ride with a difference. The difference was that the lovely Binsted Wood, which we rode through on a nice quiet lane, is under threat from a road-building scheme which is poised to cut a huge, noisy, polluting swathe through the wood and cut it off from the nearby village. This despite an alternative, much simpler, and no doubt cheaper, option which merely bypasses the famous A27 bottleneck at Arundel station and avoids the wood altogether. Our leader, Angela D, handed out leaflets from the Save Binsted Wood campaign to every cyclist we met, and implored them to sign the petition and write to their MP. Please take the time to look at the website and support this campaign. There is a map showing the various options here.

Binsted Lane

Binsted Lane – by Jim

Angela led Angela C, Graham, Marilyn, Sikka, Wendy and me around a 15-mile route, painstakingly devised by her and Wendy, which featured two churches, a prison, and an aeroplane on a stick. We welcomed Graham on his first Clarion ride; he had found us via our excellent website, hand-crafted by our own Fred Pipes.


The Madonna Pond – by Wendy

We visited the Madonna Pond, and heard the fascinating story of local artist Lorna Wishart. We reached Climping via a delightful byway across a cornfield, but the proposed sea-bathing option was shelved due to the failure of the Met Office to deliver warm weather. The lunch menu, at the Black Horse in Climping, was uncharacteristically restricted, with almost nothing for veggies or vegans; I opted for cheesy chips, while Wendy’s chips were cheese-free, but only after rejecting a duplicate portion of the cheesy variety that had been produced by the chaotic food ordering system. However, any shortcomings in the lunch department were more than made up for by a truly excellent coffee stop at Edgcumbes in Ford Lane, with exotic drinks and delicious snacks all round.


Crossing the field – by Wendy

Reaching the River Arun at Littlehampton, Sikka and Graham decided to ride further east, while the remaining five of us rode down to the West Beach Café for ice cream, and a quick look at the old fort, whose defences have been rendered somewhat useless by the towering sand dunes that have built up in front of it. On the train back, we were entertained by a busker, and thanked Angela and Wendy for a memorable ride.



Wendy scampering up the dunes

Wendy scampering up the dunes – by Jim