The Last Ride: Westbourne and the Ems Valley – 24 November 2019

30 November 2019

This was another ride from the archive. Moving the start to Emsworth from Warblington was definitely a good idea: we very soon got off main roads and into quiet lanes with lovely autumn colours, and marvelled at the number of old flint houses in the valley. We also saw two 12th century flint churches, but did not go inside, preferring to save our churchgoing for the 11th century St Hubert’s at Idsworth, with its wall paintings.

Ride 19.11.24: St Peters Church at Lordington

Wells are not as frequent a feature of our rides as churches, but there were two on this ride – as well as the promised thatched one at East Marden, Angela C pointed out a smaller well near our lunch stop at Compton. I wondered whether a preponderance of wells could be connected to the dryness of the river bed in some way – it’s a pity neither of our retired water engineers could make it for this ride, as they’d no doubt have had a ready answer to that question.

Ride 19.11.24: the river Ems at Westbourne

Angela D pointed out that the geography of the area would have made settlements such as Stoughton and East Marden easily defensible. It also helps, along with the narrowness of the lanes (some of which have grass growing in the middle) to make it a natural “backwater” for motor traffic, and hence very popular with bikes and other less common forms of transport. On the recce ride I had overtaken a little pony trap at Westbourne, but there were few horses in evidence on the ride itself, and thankfully, no tractors. Also no motorbikes, which had plagued an earlier recce.

The sky was overcast, and quite gloomy by the time we reached Idsworth, so St Hubert’s was put on hold for another occasion, and we pressed on. Wilma and Angela C opted to return home from Rowlands Castle station, while Angela D and I took Woodberry Lane where, half way to Westbourne, Angela noticed a newish-looking cycle path leading off through the woods, and signposted to Emsworth, so we decided to try it out. Despite a paucity of signposts further on, by astute use of the compass we eventually found ourselves back at Emsworth station with just under 20 miles on the clock.

The unexpected cycle path

Angela and I agreed that further adaptation of this ride would be possible, perhaps linking it up with one of our favourite cycle paths, the Centurion Way, which now seems to be called the New Lipchis Way. Perhaps whoever takes it on next could have a think about that.

Jim.


The Last Ride: Sunday 10 November 2019: Gatwick Circular via Leigh

15 November 2019

Nick’s Report

Just beyond WH Smith and the International Arrivals area, there are lifts enabling passengers and cyclists to leave Gatwick Airport. It was a team of four Clarionistas (Tessa, Doris, Jim & Nick) who pushed their bikes past armed police, uniformed plane crews and confused plane passengers to find the lifts to leave the airport.

November 10, 2019: Gatwick Circular via Leigh

Before locating the exit lifts, we gathered on the Gatwick Airport concourse for a brief photo opp in front of WH Smith and took the opportunity to visit the airport’s luxurious loos. Sunday’s bike ride was particularly memorable for the backdrop of trees and autumn sunshine which accompanied visits to Riverside Garden Park, Hammonds Copse Nature Reserve, an intriguing bus stop and some eco protest solidarity.

November 10, 2019: Gatwick Circular via Leigh

Riverside Garden Park is a very short bike ride from Gatwick Airport. The Garden Park lake, surrounded by vivid autumn tree colours, was worthy of a brief stop to take a few photos. We then followed Cycle Route 21, Surrey Cycleway Link and assorted twists and turns in a nine mile journey to the Plough pub lunch stop in Leigh

While waiting for our lunch in the Plough we all agreed that cycling in the morning, with low sunlight and autumn leaves, had been picturesque and enjoyable. My lunch consisted of a plate of chips and pint of lime & soda. Other food options were available though.

Tessa handed out flyers over lunch to remind us that she would be busy with her artists’ Open House from late November to early December. I must try and go along.

As we left the Plough after lunch, we noticed an ornate and distinguished looking wooden bus stop on the village green. We didn’t see anyone waiting for a bus, so perhaps this was another rural location without a Sunday bus service.

November 10, 2019: Gatwick Circular via Leigh

It was Remembrance Sunday and we saw quite a few outsized poppies attached to traffic signs, as we started the post-lunch leg of the day’s cycle ride.

November 10, 2019: Gatwick Circular via Leigh

Dramatic autumnal colours were on display as we cycled through Hammonds Copse Nature Reserve. The muddy conditions caused by the recent heavy rain weren’t particularly welcome, but the waterlogged path we found ourselves on didn’t last for very long.

It was a delight to meet two activists from the Horse Hill anti-fracking camp on our way back to Gatwick Airport. Jim was given a big hug when he explained that we were part of a socialist cycling group which had been founded more than a hundred years ago.

We were given leaflets on drilling, acidisation & fracking in the South East, which Surrey County Council has encouraged. I tended to agree with the Horse Hill campaigner who said the recent moratorium on fracking from the current Tory government was nothing more than an election ploy.

After our brief spell of Horse Hill eco-warrior activism, it was time to cycle back to Gatwick Airport train station. Thanks to Jim for a perfectly planned and rather glorious autumn cycle ride.

Nick


The Last Ride :Sunday 27 October Three Bridges to Wivelsfield

15 November 2019

Sunday 27 October Three Bridges to Wivelsfield

Sally’s Report

Six of us: Sikka, Doris, Angela D, Nick, Jim and Sally.

Fine autumnal day, blue skies, trees turning gold and red in patches.

Leaving Three Bridges station, we stopped to look at the blue plaque to
Caroline Haslett (1895-1957), electrical engineer. Then through Tilgate
Forest, where we had enjoyed vistas of bluebells in early May. Today, there
were oak trees, buzzards and lots of jays.

Parish Lane and Grouse Road took us west and then south to Hammerpond Road,
past two of them, turning east to Slaugham and Staplefield, where we lunched
at the Jolly Tanners – very nice, apart from Sikka’s rice pudding.

There were a few downs and ups on this ride, but they were worth it for the
varied views across fields and woodlands. We reached Wivelsfield Station
with 4 minutes to spare!

Sally


Last Ride 13th October 2019

24 October 2019

Last Ride – Jim’s Report

Shoreham to Lancing; or Shoreham Circular with a bit missing

The weather forecast had not been promising: 90% probability of heavy rain, after a day or two of continuous rain – maybe not ideal conditions for an off-road ride on the South Downs. I had persuaded my friend Susanne to try out a Clarion ride, so we met at Brighton station, where there was a marked absence of other Clarionistas. At Shoreham there was only Dave, our leader. He had had no other indications from Clarionistas, and two of his non-Clarion friends who had planned to come had cried off. So that left just the three of us.

On the path

We popped into Shoreham Co-Op because I had forgotten my scran, despite Dave reminding us that we’d need to bring this mysterious item. In this respect I was indebted to Susanne, who, being rather more computer-literate than me, had discovered that scran is “a term used for food generally in the north of England, originally used by the British Royal Navy” – a relic of Dave’s coastguard days. Suitably scranned-up, and ready for a 13-14 mile circular ride, we were led across the Toll Bridge, over the A27 and up past Lancing College Chapel, on a road I hadn’t been on before, which became a stony path, and later a muddy path. This led through Lancing Ring nature reserve. We were now 110 metres above sea level, with glorious views of the downs, the chapel, and, beyond it, Shoreham and the sea itself.

View from the top

Here, Susanne experienced the “Rampion effect”, whereby wherever you are on the coast, the wind farm appears to be just opposite where you are. (This illusion is caused by the fact that we forget that it’s eleven miles out to sea, so its bearing hardly seems to change as you move east-west). We could see, across the Adur, the hillside where the power cables had been buried, and Dave explained that the engineers had taken great trouble to re-plant the same native species they had dug up, thus preserving the ecosystem.

Lancing college chapel

In fact we all then experienced another form of “Rampion effect”, related to the reason why the turbines were put there in the first place – a strong south-westerly wind, which was just beginning to bring a fair amount of icy water with it when we reached the bench designated for scran. It was here that Dave sadly discovered that his coffee flask had jumped ship somewhere along the path. After a hasty bite and guzzle, interspersed with attempts to stop more bits of us from blowing away, we pressed on, but we were fighting a losing battle. Dave and Susanne made more-or-less simultaneous decisions to turn back, while I was scurrying between the two. I could not disagree with their good judgement.

This ride was destined to make a hardened off-roader long for tarmac, and so Susanne and I did not need to work too hard to persuade Dave to lead us to the nearest bit – a car park just south of the nature reserve. Here he left us, returning along the path to search for his lost flask, while we whizzed down Mill Road, across the A27 and so to Lancing Station for the train home, with the mileometer on 5.7 miles – but what a 5.7 miles!

I am indebted to Dave for introducing me to the “Rough Stuff” style of cycling, and hope to ride with him again in better weather – and with Susanne too, if she was not too deterred by the wind, rain and mud.

Jim.

Teddy bears' retirement home

Now you know where to take your old teddy bears!

Clarion Ride Report Chichester Circular via Pagham Harbour – 8 September 2019

16 September 2019

Group_HD

Ten Clarionistas caught the Chichester train – it was good to see Jenny and Joyce after too long an absence, along with Angela C, Corinne, Sean, Sikka, Tessa and Wendy T. Unfortunately it was also the day Southern chose to unveil its new bike policy of a maximum of half a bike per carriage, evenly distributed along the train, with all the skilfully bisected half-bikes leaning against the doors so that they had to be shifted across on the command “We are now approaching Hove”. The guard was very nice and polite, but her strict rules turned out to be somewhat at variance with the official policy laid down at https://www.southernrailway.com/travel-information/on-board/bringing-a-bike. No doubt Southern are attempting to undercut the Great Western, whose policy of 1⅔ bikes per carriage on the Great Malvern service seems absurdly generous ….

Passing through the network of lakes on the site of an old quarry (Ivy Lake, Copse Lake, East and West Trout Lakes) we headed out through North Mundham and beyond on a quiet lane, with plentiful birds, butterflies and blackberries and fields stretching out to infinity. We saw a lovely Comma butterfly with its scalloped wings, but it was unfortunately rather camera-shy.

Field

We continued onto a bridleway, following the NCN88 signs (if you “get your kicks on Route 66”, what do you do on Route 88? Seal your fate …?) and so to Sidlesham Quay where we had our picnic, sang “Happy Birthday” to Sally, and marvelled at the achievement of 18th century water engineers who had built a huge tide mill here, the only remnant being the brick platform on which we sat, and the pool beyond. (Sometimes one wonders whether “technological progress” is not perhaps an oxymoron ….)

History of the tide mill at Sidlesham Quay

After Angela D’s warnings about the political affiliations of the inhabitants of Hayling Island, we were heartened by a prominent “Stop Brexit” sign here.

Picnic at Sidlesham Quay

While we tried to identify a mysterious wader, Tessa passed around some photos taken by Leon, and one of his drawings, and Joyce announced that a special memorial ride for Leon is to take place on 20 October.

RSPB Medmerry was just a loo stop, where we had to weave around a large crowd of bird-walkers doing a roll-call before setting off. More bridleways and narrow paths took us to Itchenor where the little ferry boat, now apparently officially named the Itchy Bosom, loaded up with bikes, but unfortunately not ours, as we were at the back of the queue. While waiting on the jetty we watched the large electric solar-powered catamaran, the Solar Heritage, complete with electric wheelchair lift, docking – but had to turn away when it appeared that the wheelchair would be propelled straight into the water on the other side of the narrow jetty … but no, they just managed to turn it around and save its occupant from an unscheduled dip.

The solar-powered "Solar Heritage" at Itchenor

Jenny took a shortcut to Chichester while the remaining 9 had a welcome tea stop at Bosham, with teas, coffees, milkshakes, crumble and toasted teacakes. We then set off for the final crawl to Chichester via Fishbourne, bisecting our bikes once more in order to comply with Southern regulations. Thanks to Sikka and Tessa for a wonderful day out, and for shepherding us so well with their well-known leader-and-backstop routine. All Clarion rides should be like this!

Sally and Jim.

Chichester Harbour


Clarion Ride Report Sunday 01 September 2019

16 September 2019

Jim (leader) Corinne, Sally Angela D

Report by Angela Devas 03 September 2019

Ever so slightly bleary eyed we assembled at the station in the very early hours of the morning, barely able to make one another out in the almost pre-dawn gloom, but my vision was not so badly obscured as to not observe rather enviously the coffee clutched in our leader’s hands.

We decanted at Haywards Heath the back way to make as precipitate a departure as possible from that dormitorial suburb – apologies to those mistaken apologists for that god-awful town. The plaintive cry of ‘When is the coffee stop?’ soon emerged from Jim’s followers. ‘At the elephant!’ he cried – I believe Jim recently attended a rewilding talk by the excellent Dr Chris Sandom, University of Sussex, where Dr Sandom discussed elephants twice as big as African ones roaming the Sussex landscape in the Palaeolithic era. Jim, mindful of every eventuality, had provided all his followers with whistles to prepare themselves in case of their sudden reintroduction, although I can assure all concerned Clarionistas that the whistles were not needed for that purpose on this occasion. We arrived at a café cum shopping centre at a crossroads – and found to our delight a pleasant café, apparently, according to Jim, called The Elephant, though no such sign was visible, where we sat on a terrace overlooking a charming garden. Delight soon turned to distress as we discovered a party of 50 had arrived just before us and we might have to wait a while. Clarionistas can be stoic so we discussed not only the extinction of the Sussex elephant but of the country as a whole; we were, of course, feeling a touch guilty about enjoying the view and not joining in one of the demonstrations happening in Brighton.

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - Ketche's Lane

Very soon after our coffee stop we were at our lunch stop The Peacock  but undeterred we ordered; as our plates arrived we looked at one another helplessly as there seemed no one present who was able or willing to say grace, I mean of course the Instagram ceremony, the modern version of grace, where all food is photographed before consumption, so rather sheepishly we tucked in without a smart phone blessing. I can only offer my deepest regrets that no Clarionista will be able to partake virtually of our excellent meal. I do remember fish pie, vegetarian risotto and wild boar sausages. Our whistles, apparently, are also a good deterrent to the latter, the boar that is, before their sausage state.

Continuing our excellent adventure we were rather detained by what Sally claimed was essential practice in sharp shooting from the hip with a gun in each hand. Now I know some of you will be a little astonished that not all Clarionistas are signed up members of the Anti Blood Sports League, but it appears that Sally is the founding member of the Pot Shot Action Against Undesirable Tories, and knowing that next week I am going right into the heavily militarised Thorney Island she was determined I should learn to protect myself. Accordingly, some time was spent riding my bicycle as fast as possible with my hands initially in my pockets and then releasing them suddenly and twirling imaginary pistols. Perhaps fortunately no live ammunition was present as I am notoriously astigmatic and might well have incapacitated our leader or another hapless Clarionista.

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - Slow Cats Corner

After lunch we wobbled on – this is an exact word as for various reasons we were all a little unsteady on our wheels. Corinne because she kept peering at her heart rate on the mini surveillance gizmo she attaches to herself and every time it hit 308 she leapt anxiously out of her saddle because she thought she was having a heart attack; Sally because she insisted on leaning backwards going uphill because she heard the cawing of a raven – in fact it was probably me shrieking ‘Horsham slab’ at passing rooftops or East Mascalls manor house https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1025621 and Jim because he attempted to ride his bike into any passing shed thinking it might be his longed for pumphouse http://www.villagepumps.org.uk/pumpsSussex.htm – but somehow or another we pottered along the lovely Norlington Lane, having ridden up the avenue of lime trees to Bentley wild fowl museum to discover that the whole reserve was closed and now given over to industry https://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/news/shock-closure-of-leading-family-attraction-in-sussex-1-8691586 – perhaps a nice little metaphor for the way this country is going?

At the Depot café by the cinema in Lewes we collapsed, looking like wasted extras from a late-night horror movie, onto outdoor sofas and we would probably still be there had Corinne not sensibly rounded us up to catch a train back to Brighton.

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - Relaxing at the Depot

Many thanks to Jim for organising and leading this ride.


Clarion Ride Report: Sunday 01 September 2019

3 September 2019

Haywards Heath to Lewes

Jim (leader), Corinne, Sally, Angela D

Report by Angela Devas 03 September 2019

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - Jim, Angela and Corinne at Haywards Heath station

Ever so slightly bleary eyed we assembled at the station in the very early hours of the morning, barely able to make one another out in the almost pre-dawn gloom, but my vision was not so badly obscured as to not observe rather enviously the coffee clutched in our leader’s hands.

We decanted at Haywards Heath the back way to make as precipitate a departure as possible from that dormitorial suburb – apologies to those mistaken apologists for that god-awful town. The plaintive cry of ‘When is the coffee stop?’ soon emerged from Jim’s followers. ‘At the elephant!’ he cried – I believe Jim recently attended a rewilding talk by the excellent Dr Chris Sandom, University of Sussex, where Dr Sandom discussed elephants twice as big as African ones roaming the Sussex landscape in the Palaeolithic era. Jim, mindful of every eventuality, had provided all his followers with whistles to prepare themselves in case of their sudden reintroduction, although I can assure all concerned Clarionistas that the whistles were not needed for that purpose on this occasion. We arrived at a café cum shopping centre at a crossroads – and found to our delight a pleasant café, apparently, according to Jim, called The Elephant, though no such sign was visible, where we sat on a terrace overlooking a charming garden. Delight soon turned to distress as we discovered a party of 50 had arrived just before us and we might have to wait a while. Clarionistas can be stoic so we discussed not only the extinction of the Sussex elephant but of the country as a whole; we were, of course, feeling a touch guilty about enjoying the view and not joining in one of the demonstrations happening in Brighton.

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - Fashions at the coffee stop

Not only elephants and coffee but fabulous fashions too!

Very soon after our coffee stop we were at our lunch stop The Peacock but undeterred we ordered; as our plates arrived we looked at one another helplessly as there seemed no one present who was able or willing to say grace, I mean of course the Instagram ceremony, the modern version of grace, where all food is photographed before consumption, so rather sheepishly we tucked in without a smart phone blessing. I can only offer my deepest regrets that no Clarionista will be able to partake virtually of our excellent meal. I do remember fish pie, vegetarian risotto and wild boar sausages. Our whistles, apparently, are also a good deterrent to the latter, the boar that is, before their sausage state.

Continuing our excellent adventure we were rather detained by what Sally claimed was essential practice in sharp shooting from the hip with a gun in each hand. Now I know some of you will be a little astonished that not all Clarionistas are signed up members of the Anti Blood Sports League, but it appears that Sally is the founding member of the Pot Shot Action Against Undesirable Tories, and knowing that next week I am going right into the heavily militarised Thorney Island she was determined I should learn to protect myself. Accordingly, some time was spent riding my bicycle as fast as possible with my hands initially in my pockets and then releasing them suddenly and twirling imaginary pistols.* Perhaps fortunately no live ammunition was present as I am notoriously astigmatic and might well have incapacitated our leader or another hapless Clarionista.

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - Ketche's Lane

Sally ascending a slight undulation on Ketche’s Lane

After lunch we wobbled on – this is an exact word as for various reasons we were all a little unsteady on our wheels. Corinne because she kept peering at her heart rate on the mini surveillance gizmo she attaches to herself and every time it hit 308 she leapt anxiously out of her saddle because she thought she was having a heart attack; Sally because she insisted on leaning backwards going uphill because she heard the cawing of a raven – in fact it was probably me shrieking ‘Horsham slab’ at passing rooftops or East Mascalls manor house and Jim because he attempted to ride his bike into any passing shed thinking it might be his longed for pumphouse

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - old pump house at Fletching

… but somehow or another we pottered along the lovely Norlington Lane**, having ridden up the avenue of lime trees to Bentley wild fowl museum to discover that the whole reserve was closed and now given over to industry – perhaps a nice little metaphor for the way this country is going?

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - The Avenue (returning without tea)

The avenue

At the Depot café by the cinema in Lewes we collapsed, looking like wasted extras from a late-night horror movie, onto outdoor sofas and we would probably still be there had Corinne not sensibly rounded us up to catch a train back to Brighton.

Many thanks to Jim for organising and leading this ride.

Clarion ride 1.9.19 - Relaxing at the Depot

* I witnessed this daredevil spectacle – but was unable to record it for posterity, as this would have involved taking my camera out, switching it on and taking a picture, all the while whizzing downhill “no-hands” at great speed, which would almost certainly have resulted in me falling off and not being able to shepherd my little flock to the safety of the Depot – Jim.

** Seasoned Clarionettes may recall that on 5 September 2010, Norlington Lane was the venue for the Norlington Speed Trials, in which Jenny Millington and Jim Grozier competed for the Golden Helmet award. As Roger reported at the time, “The aim was to register the highest maximum speed over a measured distance in Norlington Lane; the distance specified was ‘hardly any’ and the winner was our undisputed leader with a miraculous maximum of 23.3 mph. Jenny came a disappointing second with a miserable 23.2.”