The Last Ride. Nick’s Report

2 October 2018

30 September 2018

Bosham – Bosham/Itchenor Ferry – Witterings – Chichester

Clarion cyclists: Wendy, Wendy, Angela, Angela, Sally, Jim, Graham, Nick, Prudence, Tessa & Wilma

Angela and Wendy’s promise of ‘country lanes interspersed with watery views and cycle paths’ in a route from Bosham to Chichester attracted eleven cyclists on the last day of September. The weather was dry with occasional sunny spells, but there was a slight autumnal chill in the air too.

Bosham church was our first destination when leaving Bosham station. Although the church has been around since Anglo-Saxon times and features in the Domesday Book and Bayeux Tapestry, I had been there recently and didn’t stay inside the church for too long. A service had just finished when we arrived and the pleasant smell of incense lingered in the air, as we investigated what is Clarion member Julian’s favourite Sussex church.

September 30, 2018: Bosham – Bosham/Itchenor Ferry – Witterings – Chichester

While the others continued to spend time taking in the historic significance of Bosham church, I waited outside and was advised by a stranger on the best bike shops in the area and the correct way to fix the loose bearings in my back wheel.

When the rest of the group emerged from their Sunday morning church experience, we all headed off to the highly anticipated ferry journey we had all been looking forward to. As we approached the Itchenor/Bosham ferry, Wendy’s back tyre developed a sudden puncture, which she decided to fix during the scheduled coffee break planed after we had completed the ferry crossing.

September 30, 2018: Bosham – Bosham/Itchenor Ferry – Witterings – Chichester

L-R Prudence, Sally, Jim, Wendy T, Wilma, Tessa, Graham, Wendy S, Angela C, Angela D

The narrow plank used to carry bikes onto a tiny ferry a few years ago, has been replaced with a more user-friendly system. Cyclists are now able to wheel their bikes onto the ferry with ease and I was surprised that the ferry was able to accommodate all eleven cyclists and their bikes. I don’t recall the tiny ferry from my last visit in 2010 being quite so spacious.

The ferry crossing to Itchenor was very brief (most of us would have liked the ferry ride in sunshine to have lasted a little longer). For the leisurely cyclists in the group, it was good to follow the crossing with a coffee break in the excellent Quarterdeck cafe. We managed to complete an entire loyalty card and must return for our free cup of coffee soon.

We all gathered outside the Quarterdeck cafe, with the shipyard backdrop, to watch Wendy and Graham’s masterclass in how to fix a bicycle puncture. The puncture was fixed very quickly and Wendy was pumping up her revitalised tyre just as we finished drinking our cups of coffee.

September 30, 2018: Bosham – Bosham/Itchenor Ferry – Witterings – Chichester

We then headed to the sandy beaches of West Wittering, which entailed  the longest period of cycling of the day so far. On a warmer day, a pre-lunch dip in the sea would have been a great idea. Although I hadn’t packed my trunks, I was impressed that some members of the group were considering a late September swim in the sea.

September 30, 2018: Bosham – Bosham/Itchenor Ferry – Witterings – Chichester

It was a short ride from West Wittering to the lunch stop at The Old House, where their chips are still served in buckets. I thought chips in buckets were an unnecessary fad until relatively recently, when I realised that the metal of the bucket helps to keep the chips warm.

Wendy and Angela had no time to discuss the presentation of chips (or buckets) because they were busy fine-tuning the final leg of their cycle ride. There was a brief discussion about whether we should turn left or right as we left the pub. The decision was taken to turn right, which led us to the final part of the day’s ride.

The final part of the day’s ride took us along the Chichester canal, with plenty of moorhens and swans to keep us company. This was a great way to reach Chichester station and avoid the roads.

Black swan

I was surprised how close to the station the canal route took us. The only negative aspect of the afternoon’s ride was that Wendy’s puncture problem reappeared and her back tyre had to be pumped up again.

Thanks to Angela and Wendy for expertly crafting a fascinating ride on completely flat terrain. We should certainly consider doing this one again in the future.

Nick

Wendy adds:

When Julian heard about our proposed visit to Bosham he was keen that we shouldn’t miss out on visiting the church, which is one of his favourite Sussex churches.  Glad we did.  Hopefully everyone got to see his notes from a talk he’d attended – I passed them round in the church.  Julian had looked out all his Sussex church books to show me, as this is another of his many ’special interests’, so maybe the photo can go in the ride report. I think we have several people who like a good church stop on a Clarion ride, so if anyone wants any further info on a particular church, Julian’s the man!

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The Last Ride: Sunday 16 September 2018 – Redhill – Horley via Tandridge

19 September 2018

Jim, Wendy, Sikka, Graham and Sean (with his wonderful folding Brompton bike) met at the duly appointed time at Brighton Station, eagerly anticipating the delights ahead. Nick should have joined us but came up with the old slow puncture excuse! We would just have to manage without the Clarion official chip photographer.

Meticulous planning had been undertaken noting changes to train times, and Jim had spent hours at Brighton station checking that the London to Brighton bike ride on that day posed no problems. It was all OK: Southern had not even heard of it. (Well until Jim told them).

We approached the barrier but alas the Fat controller had woken up and slapped a bike ban on the line. Would the Clarionettes take this lying down? No! Flashing his Dr Who style travel pass (Which no doubt displayed the words “They shall pass you know it makes sense”). Jim remonstrated with the station manager for several minutes explaining that the Clarionettes were a special case and unlike any cycle club he had ever seen before or would again. In any event there were also only five of us and we were the only cyclists on the station, the hordes that were banned were nowhere to be seen. It worked – we were through and on our way to Three Bridges.

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L-R Sean, Wendy, Sikka, Jim

Wot No Trains
Arriving at Three Bridges we expected to catch a train to Redhill in 15 minutes, having played how may bikes can you get in a lift and got to the correct platform there were no trains. Jim blamed it on a senior moment during planning and we had an enforced cafe stop. On the move again 45 mins later the driver promptly announced that his train would be terminated at Redhill due to signal problems further up the line “lucky there.”

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At Holmethorpe Lagoons

Lakes Birds and Bike Chains
Finally half an hour late we started our journey via the delightful “Holmethorpe Lagoons Nature Reserve” where on a bridge between lakes we were able to observe Swans, Ducks, Cormorants, Geese and Grebes at least. Further on Sean caught a twig in his gears and his chain came off. For several minutes all of us including Sean were at a loss as to how to fix this on a Brompton until he remembered the trick to fold up the rear derailleur.

Honey for Tea
On again and further across Nutfield Marsh we discovered a lovely cottage selling local honey that Wendy, Sikka and Graham purchased.

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We then passed Spynes Mere Nature reserve where according to Jim Shags were to be seen, except not today.

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Then at Pendell we found an old tram fitted with an oriental tiled roof and a strange miniature smoke house.

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Next on to Bletchingley where on a wooded off-road and uphill track Sean discovered the true off-road limits of the Brompton, taking a tumble. Sadly as he failed to take a selfie mid tumble and Sikka had no camera available the scene has passed into history unrecorded. Then we hit our major uphill of “Rabies Heath Road” to the usual complaints and past Raby’s Heath House. Well someone got their spelling wrong! Followed by a lovely descent via Tilburstow Hill Road where I at least hit 32mph and Hart Lane to the A22 crossing.

The parting of the A22
There was now only a mile or so to get to our lunch stop but we had to cross the A22. Overpass, underpass, no! We had to cross it. The road was only single carriageway but with a massive roar and cars speeding in both directions without any breaks. We thought this was the end, but Jim demonstrated his next super power by casually walking into the road with his arm up and lo the traffic stopped allowing the clarionettes to pass, then the roar continued.

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Cash only
The sun was out now and finally we arrived at the delightful Griffin pub where our table was arranged in the Chapel resplendent with Middle Eastern carpets, paintings and cushions. It was at this point that Sikka and Wendy discovered that not only were credit cards not taken but that they had forgotten to bring any cash or rather had spent it all on coffee and Honey. Luckily Jim and Graham were able to help out and an excellent meal was had by all. Both full and empty plates can be viewed on Flickr. Plus for addicts pictures of chips!

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The Road to Horley
Following lunch we made our way the final and uneventful nine miles to Horley on largely flat roads. At one point we turned into Hare Lane where Jim announced that he had grown up on Hare Lane, just not that one. Arriving in Horley we were skilfully led by Jim to the nearest cash machine so that the lunch debts could be repaid and Sikka and Wendy were once again honest women. It was then agreed that we should go on to Gatwick to have more choice of trains. Jim led us via many twists and turns and via Riverside Park to Gatwick Station.

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Arrivals and departures
It was now time to play how many bikes can you get in a lift again. Wendy, Sikka and Sean went first and then Jim and I in the next door lift, but which floor to choose Arrivals or Departures, no mention of trains for either! We chose Arrivals knowing from experience that the station was on that floor. We got out and the others were nowhere to be seen. Their lift came down again and was empty. Jim then bravely re entered the lift system to find them and several minutes later they all emerged. Please note Departures is for planes not trains!

Then in the station more lifts to the extreme annoyance of a waiting horde with cases wanting to go the other way. Sean caught a Hove train and the rest of us a train to Brighton.

Thanks to Jim for another wonderful and as it turned out eventful ride.

Graham

PS: I see from the blurb for my original 2008 Three Bridges circular ride (repeated in 2011 without the dodgy bits) that Ardenrun, which we passed the entrance to on this ride, was

the country estate of ‘Babe’ Wolf Barnato, a famous and extremely rich 1920s socialite who was also a works Bentley driver and winner of many sportscar and Le Mans races. Ardenrun was razed to the ground overnight by fire, following a “magnificent party”

Jim.


Bath/Bristol Weekend: 1st-2nd September 2018

9 September 2018

Friday 31st August 2018

At Yak Yeti Yak

At Yak Yeti Yak: L-R David, Prudence, Graham, Wendy, Sikka, Tessa, Jim, Laura, Angela, Terri

Angela D, Wendy, Prudence, Graham, Tessa, Sikka, David and Terri met at Bath Youth Hostel and walked the truly scenic route down to town, across a field with lovely views of the undulating countryside, crossing the canal on the way to Yak Yeti Yak. Here we were joined by Jim (our leader) and his friend Laura, who lives in Bristol, and would be joining us for our rides over the next 2 days. Thanks to Graham’s impeccable organizational skills, collecting our orders in advance and drawing up a comprehensive spreadsheet, we were able to deduce which dishes belonged to which Clarionisters. Having enjoyed some amazing Nepalese dining, it was time to pay the bill and find a bus to take us back up Bathwick Hill to our digs. There was a measure of irony in a bunch of folk touting senior bus passes asking the driver to drop us at the Youth Hostel.

Bath and Bristol Weekend

Bath Youth Hostel

Saturday 1st September 2018: Bath to Bristol

We managed to be up, breakfasted and mounted on our bikes by 9am and headed in a downward direction (bearing in mind the author has no sense of compass points, but knows a hill when she encounters one). We cycled along the Kennet and Avon canal tow path and into Bath to meet up with Laura, ready to start our journey to Bristol. Terri was to spend the next couple of days exploring Bath on foot, and was planning a visit to the Jane Austen house.

SUstrans sign on Bath-Bristol pathOur group of 9 cyclists followed the River Avon, joining the Railway Path at Kelston. Photographic evidence was obtained by Jim, that the path was ‘level’ as inscribed on a metal information sculpture. As the day progressed, no counterclaims were noted. Is this a Clarion first? We halted every now and then to read the useful information boards, giving us some of the history of the Railway Path, which was constructed on the track bed of the former Midland Railway, which closed in the late 1960’s.

Just off the railway path, we were able to get a glimpse of Greenpark Station’s former glory, now hosting a streetmarket and Sainsbury’s car park.

Bitton railway station provided a welcome coffee stop, where some of us opted for seats in a railway carriage by the name of Margaret (named after the woman who first provided a voluntary catering service). At this point David, struggling to find the word ‘shorts’, came out with ‘short sleeved trousers’!

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At Bitton station

We posed for a group photo to send to Julian using a postcard app, which simply said what we were thinking – ‘wish you were here’. Jim commenced the ‘cat herding’ exercise of trying to get us all biked up and heading off in the same direction as him, and finally resorted to blowing his famous whistle. This coincided with a steam engine chugging backwards from the station into our line of sight. Or did the whistle blowing inadvertently signal the engine to move……?

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Graham and David

Off we cycled, along the nicely tarmacked, tree-lined track, pleasantly lacking in undulations, stopping for a closer look at Old Mangotsfield station with its amazing sculptures in the arched windows. It was sitting here waiting for a train that inspired Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey from Dad’s Army) to write the famous play ‘Ghost Train’. There were numerous references to the nearby Keynsham …. K E Y N …….

We encountered our first tunnel of the weekend shortly after, and Laura introduced us to the local custom of calling out ‘choo choo’ as we cycled through. It was dank, dark and chilly, with random drips of cold water, but we soon emerged into the welcoming sunshine and resumed our journey.

A brief tour of suburban Bristol led us to our lunch stop where several pints of Doom Bar were imbibed, along with a range of dishes suiting all dietary requirements. Unfortunately David’s sweet potato fries arrived simultaneously with his knickerbocker glory, but he stoically alternated between the one that was too hot and the one that was melting.

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We returned to the River Avon via Hanham estate and continued along more picturesque paths until we reached our tea stop, The Old Lock and Weir pub, where unsurprisingly several of us opted for more beer. With a table right next to the river, we were lucky enough to get a good view of a heron walking across the weir, and Tessa sent a photo to Julian. It was here that David dramatically revealed that he colour co-ordinates his outfits to his bicycles and had mistakenly brought red gloves, instead of blue.

We meandered off towards Bristol Temple Meads, where Laura left us to go home, and Tessa and Sikka went to meet friends.   The remaining 6 of us took 3 trains back to Bath, due to bike restrictions. The first to arrive relaxed in the deck chairs near Bath Spa station, enjoying the sunshine, until we were finally reunited after a police incident delayed the other 2 trains.

Finally came the lowlight of the day – the climb back up to the dizzy heights of the YHA (at around 460 ft above sea level). On the way, all were happy to rest a while looking back at the lovely views along the way.

What a great day’s cycling, covering about 24 miles.

Sunday 1st September 2018: Bath Circular via Two Tunnels Greenway

A later start, leaving the hostel at 10am, after a hearty hostel breakfast. We said goodbye to Angela D at Bath Station, as she had commitments to get back for, and welcomed Laura, plus Phil, a friend of Sikka’s who lives in Bath.

Still 9 cyclists, albeit slightly different ones, we followed Jim along his chosen route to the Two Tunnels, again appreciating the picturesque, flat and tarmacked cycle paths next to the canals and rivers. Part of today’s route was formerly the Somerset and Dorset railway, which ran south-eastwards from Bath towards Bournemouth. The engineers among us were impressed by the range of bridges we encountered across the waterways. The rest of us were impressed that David was sporting his red Clarion shirt which matched his gloves, but as noted yesterday, there was a failure of colour coordination with his blue bike.

We were soon entering the first of the famous two tunnels, the Devonshire, which was an amazing experience – darker, colder and longer than some of us had imagined, and sparsely lit. We realised why we were advised to use our bike lights. This prepared us for the second and seriously long tunnel we next encountered, the Coombe Down tunnel. Although it was a warm day, most of us decided to put on a jumper, and switch on our bike lights to find our way through the darkness to follow.

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It was a strange and unforgettable experience, taking around 10 minutes to cycle the mile long tunnel, passing a few cyclists coming from the other direction, as well as several pedestrians and dogs. After a few minutes of pretty much silent cycling, we could just detect a sound, which gradually got clearer and louder until we could identify it as string music. It seemed to be playing from alternate sides, and the volume increased and decreased as we passed each speaker, which was accompanied by some coloured ambient lighting as we progressed through the tunnel. The music and lighting subsided as gradually as it had emerged, and once again we experienced quietness and darkness, until daylight could be detected at the end of the tunnel. We tarried a while to read an information board about William Smith whose ‘ground breaking’ work listing the local rock layers in his Order of Strata earned him his reputation as the Father of English Geology. Some also enjoyed investigating the wind up and listen audio post.

Midford Castle

Midford Castle

More tranquil tree-lined track took us past Midford Castle, a folly nestled among some trees on the hillside, and on towards our lunch stop. With a significant number of noticeboards to stop at along this route, some folk were having difficulty dismounting and remounting their wheels, prompting David to mutter that he can only get his leg over twice an hour and he’d already had to do it 12 times before lunch! Someone suggested a bike with a gender fluid step through arrangement might help him get his leg over more easily and more often. Oh dear. The tone of conversation had plummeted. Fortunately, the Hope and Anchor pub was in sight. Popular with cyclists, but only those who also like to weight lift, as the bike racks were at the bottom of the stairs into the pub garden. We soon forgave this cruel back-twinging arrangement, because the food was delicious. After lunch, we said goodbye to Tessa, who was meeting friends at Wellow (see her addition to the report below) and Phil.

On leaving the pub we cycled through a short tunnel, or long bridge, before leaving the Two Tunnels route and joining a lane which took us to Tucking Mill Cottage, displaying a plaque telling us that William Smith had lived here. Close by, we noted Tucking Mill Reservoir, which has been designated for the use of disabled anglers only since 1981.

More idyllic cycle paths alongside the Kennet and Avon canal took us to the next spectacular viewpoint, which was the Dundas Aqueduct, carrying the Kennet and Avon canal over the River Avon.

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Near Dundas Aqueduct

Soon after this, we could not resist the call of a tea stop at a canal boat, where we managed to find cakes, tea cakes and a range of teas to satisfy everyone. Graham was first to experience the misery of having filled up on tea, only to discover that there was no toilet, but he resourcefully secured instructions on how to access the nearby pub facilities. One by one, we experienced the same quandary and Graham patiently described the route to the required destination. Eventually a plan emerged to all cycle over to the loos before resuming our bike ride. However, when we gathered back on the tow path, Jim noted that we were one cyclist short, and none of us remembered David joining the toilet posse. We realized we had been somewhat pre-occupied with the toilet shenanigans and had not ensured that everyone had been made aware of the detour. Fortunately we were able to make contact with David, and arrange to meet further along the way.

Another great day’s cycling, covering around 15 miles.

Our dwindling number gathered at the bottom of Bathwick Hill, only to divide further. David, Prudence and Graham would be meeting up with Terri and staying a further night at the YHA, Sikka was to stay a further night in Bath with her friends Phil and partner, and Jim, Wendy and Laura were to return to Bath Spa station to negotiate a route home that avoided the bus replacement services.

There was a note of sadness as we went our separate ways, having spent a wonderful weekend together, enjoying the friendship of our fellow cyclists, as aspired to in our Clarion motto ‘Fellowship is Life’.

Thanks to Jim for sharing your discovery of these cycling experiences, especially the vast, haunting tunnel with its light and sound installation. It was an informative, fun and fabulously flat foray. Thanks also to Graham for arranging our Friday night feast and to David for providing some classic comedy moments.

From Tessa:

Since I left the group …

The tarmac track leading to Wellow changed into an acceptable gravel path leading to a cafe with coffee, delicious cake and ponies. My friends collected me and took me back to Frome where I perfected my front wheel removal and assembly technique as they were going to drive me back to Bath the following day in their small car.

We spent this morning relaxing at Bath Thermal spa, (rooftop warm thermal pool with jacuzzi in the sunshine plus steam rooms and sauna) the perfect end to our lovely cycling trip.

I caught the 13.35 GWR train and shared the 3 bike spaces with 5 other bikes! Guard and food trolley driver very relaxed about excess bikes. Just arrived home after changing to Southern at Fratton.’   Tessa x

Report contributed to by all and co-ordinated by Wendy, with special assistance from Graham and Prudence.

Bath

View from the top of the hill


The Last Ride: Sunday 19 August 2018 – Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

22 August 2018

Hove Park Cafe was the location for a leisurely start to Graham’s ride. Sitting outside the cafe with cups of coffee in warmish and overcast weather was good preparation for the planned 20 miles of cycling.

The six participants for Sunday’s ride were: Graham, Angela, David, Sikka, Jim & Nick (no group photo available, sadly).  Very soon after leaving Hove Park, it became apparent that the blackberry season had begun. As well as sampling the blackberries, this was the first photo opportunity of the day.

August 19, 2018: Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

The gentle ride upwards on the Dyke railway trail was a great way to approach the South Downs, without exerting too much energy.

August 19, 2018: Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

It didn’t take too long to arrive at the first stop of the day, the WildFlour Cafe. My previous visits to this cafe have been when rambling over the South Downs. Sunday’s visit was probably the busiest I have ever seen the cafe, mainly due to the arrival of a large cycling group from Horsham, who were easily identifiable in their matching cycling tops.

August 19, 2018: Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

After leaving the WildFlour Cafe, it was a downhill ride through Poynings and Fulking. The assent along Clappers Lane was where the first major incident of the day took place.

David was aware that something was seriously wrong with his bike and had to stop for an emergency pit stop outside Clappers House. Closer inspection of David’s bike revealed that his derailleur gears had sheared from the bike frame and it wouldn’t be possible for him to continue with the ride.

August 19, 2018: Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

David phoned his wife, Terri, who agreed to set out in her car and rescue him. Jim pointed out that the OS map showed we were near to a place called Terry’s Cross and it was highly likely Terri might be cross too.

August 19, 2018: Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

Whilst attending to David’s bike, the automatic gates outside Clappers House opened, causing Angela and Sikka’s bikes to fall over. We suspect this was a malevolent anti-cyclist act from the residents of Clappers House, although we have no hard evidence to back up this theory. We had to reach our lunch stop at 1.45pm, so were forced to abandon David by the roadside (first time anyone has been abandoned on a Clarion ride?) and continue with the ride. And then there were five…

August 19, 2018: Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

I chose the gourmet chips for cyclists option (with parsley garnish)  in The Fox pub for lunch, but the nut roast and stuffed marrow options looked good too.

Veganism, the controversial Arundel bypass and body image objectification had already been discussed by the time Sikka’s prune (or was it plum?) and rice pudding dessert arrived, which she very kindly offered to share with some of us.

It was good to see the recently rescued David join us for lunch with Terri, but his bike was still not roadworthy and it was just the five of us who completed Graham’s route after lunch.

August 19, 2018: Hove Park to Shoreham via Small Dole

It was a brisk and exhilarating cycle ride down Smugglers Lane, across the river Adur and our final stop at Shoreham station. The day’s ride was a route I had never cycled along before, so thanks to Graham for organising such an excellent day out.

NIck


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!

Jim

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.

Jim.

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!

Nick

July 8, 2018: Barnham to Southbourne

Sikka, Wendy and Jim admiring tandems at the Woodmancote pub