The Last Ride: 8th May

17 May 2022

Shoreham circular (via Knepp Wildland)

Although Dave had suggested the cycle ride to the Knepp rewilding project, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to attend. I wasn’t entirely sure of the route, so it was a relief that Dave was waiting for us as we emerged from Shoreham station. Sikka, Tessa, Doris, Jim and Nick joined Dave for this cycling expedition.

We were all hopeful we would be able to see some of Knepp’s nesting storks we had read about. The ‘No Mow May’ campaign had highlighted the benefits of rewilding, so it was particularly appropriate that we were heading out on a cycle ride to what is possibly the UK’s most impressive rewilding project.

After following the Downs Link from Shoreham, the route to Knepp was reasonably straightforward (see Strava link below). As the grim Ukraine conflict continues to grind on, it was good to see a display of Ukraine solidarity on our route.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7109329382

We made good progress and arrived in Knepp just after noon. A chalk board inside a gift shop listed the interesting wildlife sightings of the day. Although I was fixated on stork spotting in the limited time we had there, it was good to know that there were also opportunities to see white tailed eagles, nightingales, reed warblers and cuckoos. A longer bird spotting trip might be required next time.

A helpful member of the Knepp team directed us to the spot where one of the storks was nesting. We were lucky enough to meet a birdwatcher who encouraged us to watch the nesting stork with the telescope he had set up. We were a few days too early to see any hatched storklets, but it was fascinating to watch the stork perched high up on the tree in front of us. Dave’s stork photos on Facebook are very impressive, but I also tried to capture the moment with a few photos (see Flickr photo pool link below).

May 8, 2022: Shoreham Circular (via Knepp Wildland)

After our Knepp stork spotting episode, we cycled to the nearby Tates Old Barn Garden Centre. I couldn’t be bothered to join the queue for food, so ate a roll I had brought with me instead. We were all amazed that the largest stag garden ornament retailed for more than £3,000. Although it was an undeniably impressive looking stag, I think I would stick with garden gnomes if I had a garden.

After lunch, a return route was devised which didn’t repeat the cycle ride from Shoreham (see Strava link). Although the Knepp ride idea was Dave’s, it was good to have input from everyone on the preferred route home. Thanks to all cyclists (and storks) who made this such an enjoyable day.

Nick


The Last Ride 24th April 2022

2 May 2022

Three Bridges to Haywards Heath

Led by Jim Grozier accompanied by Doris, Angela D and Sikka

View from Cuckfield Golf Centre

This was a perfect day for a cycle ride, sunny with a light breeze. From Three Bridges Station we paused at the plaque in Haslett Road acknowledging Caroline Haslett, the first Director of the Electrical Association for Women in 1924.

We then took the NCN20 Tilgate Drive cycle track through Tilgate Forest, cycling along woodland tracks with blue sky and puffy white clouds showing above the light Spring canopy over a surface that alternated between gravel and, mostly hard, sand.

It was only when we emerged onto tarmac that we came across the sought after sea of bluebells and yet later on, carpets of late wood anenomes.

We crossed over the motorway (M23) onto quiet, undulating roads with colourful views across valley and hill as the trees thinned. Green velvet-hatted oaks lined roads and from every ridge appeared open landscapes of verdant green and gold.

From Peas Pottage we were rewarded with a long freewheel ride down Grouse

Road then past Hammer Pond where the dam was created in service of the local iron works, thus its name!

We paused to photograph bluebells and were treated to the sight of bright green leafy chandeliers seemingly hanging in the air among the pillared trunks of beech.

Stopping at Staplefield for lunch at the Jolly Tanners we passed a cricket match on the village green. After a substantial repast we cycled a few miles to Cuckfield Golf Centre for coffee and a seat on the terrace with a splendid view and a sight of the Balcombe viaduct.

Time to return home through Blunts Wood and Paige’s Meadow nature reserve to Haywards Heath station and thence by train to Brighton.

Thank you Jim for a delightful ride.

Sikka


The Last Ride 10th April 2022

18 April 2022

Berwick to Bexhill

Preface: I bought a book on Surrealism the day before this ride. Some might think it has influenced the following account; on the other hand it might all be true. I couldn’t possibly comment. Nick had been looking forward to riding to Bexhill for ages. It was Bexhill this, Bexhill that, Bexhill everything. In fact, Bexhill was, for him, the equivalent of Moscow to the Three Sisters.* There were seven riders: Doris, Jim, Sally, Sikka, Tessa, Wendy, and Nick (who wasn’t there). Sikka was barred from entering the platform at Falmer because there was a marathon on in Brighton, even though she was travelling away from Brighton. Luckily, a kindly guard rescued her. It couldn’t get any sillier than that … oh yes it could!

We travelled the lanes of East Sussex in a long line, all of us following Nick, even though none of us could see him. Time got a bit stretched. We went through the lovely Abbot’s Wood, but the Abbot was out; luckily he had left us some bluebells. There were no cuckoos on the Cuckoo Trail, but plenty of horses and dogs. Time got stretched a bit more. Chilley Farm was a possible place to warm up, but instead we went to the Star. We all had wonderful lunches, except for Nick, because he wasn’t there.

On to … Bexhill! There were turnstones on the beach, turning stones, then a tea and marzipan stop at the far end of the beach. Wendy left early, sensibly, before things could start getting seriously weird – which they did, on the way home. The train was going to London Bridge, except that it wasn’t. We got off at Eastbourne and wandered around for a bit and looked at some sewing machines. Then back to the station, the train on platform 1 was going to Brighton, but it wasn’t, that was platform 2 we needed, but that one was going to Bexhill. No, it was OK, it really was going to Brighton but so were six other bikes, all crammed into the same carriage, then a man in an electric wheelchair got on, accompanied by his dog Bentley. Luckily the guard was in good humour, but she did order two of the serious bikers (that’s not us btw) to move down the train, which they did, one carrying his bike. Tessa and Doris got off at Brighton and Sikka at Falmer; Jim and Sally didn’t get off at London Road because it didn’t stop there, but that was OK because we weren’t on the train anyway. And nor was Nick – but where was he?

Thanks to Doris and Sikka for a lovely, invigorating ride. And, of course, to Nick.

Jim.

*The three sisters never made it to Moscow.

May 8, 2022: Shoreham Circular (via Knepp Wildland)

The Last Ride 13th March 2022

26 March 2022

Haywards Heath to Burgess Hill (amended from HH to Wivelsfield) via Chailey

May 8, 2022: Shoreham Circular (via Knepp Wildland)

There were 8 of us: Doris, Sika, Tessa, Angela D., Sally, Nick, Dave Churchill, led by Jim. We left by the west
side of Haywards Heath station, and took a loop south-west through Bolnore and Ashenground Woods, to cross back to the east side of the railway. The woods were showing primroses and wood anemones, and later, on our return to Burgess Hill, lots of wild garlic leaves. Clumps of daffodils, snowdrops, and
“snowflake” were planted here and there beside the paths.

This was sold to us as a ride of moderate length (15 miles, though it turned out to be more like 16½);
however what it lacked in horizontal mileage it certainly made up for in ups and downs. That’s the price for enjoying the woodlands, running water, birdsong, and all the varied landscape of the so-called “Low”
Weald. I also enjoy place-names, and the hints they offer of earlier rural life—Butterbox Lane and
Beggarwood Lane, for example.

Near East Maskells, Jim pointed out the Cockhaise Brook, and at Freshfield Bridges the Ouse, oozing swiftly beneath our feet. He had tried out The Sloop inn at Freshfield, on his reconnaissance ride, as a possible lunch stop, but rejected it as “too posh.” So on we struggled (me and Angela) or glided (Tessa Sika, Doris, with battery assistance) or pedalled manfully (Nick, Dave and Jim). I’m sorry to admit it but there was a gender divide in this respect.

Our return route took us alongside Red House Common, Chailey Common and Pound Common, where we looked out for wild ponies but didn’t see any. In summer, these would be lovely places to stop and even have a picnic. The Cock at Wivelsfield Green was a welcome sight, and they fed us well. Nick left us before lunch for another engagement. Dave stayed briefly to have a coffee, and read us a piece of Haywards Heath history: a small-holding community called “America” was founded there in 1823 by a Quaker philanthropist called William Allen. The remaining six of us stayed at the table eating and talking till our strength was restored. Then we had only 3 or 4 miles to the station; Burgess Hill as it turned out, when Angela suggested a diversion from Jane’s Lane, to avoid so much riding on the road. We were home by 4.30-ish pm.

This was a lovely occasion to see some Clarion faces again and to notice the first signs of spring.

Sally


The Last Ride: Sunday 6th February 2022

21 February 2022

Burgess Hill to Hassocks via Plumpton and Ditchling

Angela Devas

Five jolly mudlarkers Jim, Nick, Tessa, Colin and Angela D., assembled at Burgess Hill for a supposedly short round trip via pub and tea shop. Jim was our soi-disant leader but in fact it was his trailing waterproof trousers which led the way. Most of the time they were down by his ankles, held ‘up’ as it were by his bicycle clips and at one point he even produced a little tail – a mysterious pouch on a string which was hastily hidden away before a photograph could be taken. Speculation as to what this little bag contained – a list of all the missing Clarion members since 1905? A mini electric bike charger for his whistle? – was curtailed by the arrival of more rain.

February 6, 2022: Burgess Hill to Hassocks

I’m not sure who decided it would be a good idea to ‘cycle’ through Ditchling Common. Tessa, on her electric bicycle, gave one look and opted for a nice, asphalted road. The rest of us slid, slided and shambled our away through treacherous, sucking mud, our bicycles protesting loudly while we tried to maintain a vaguely upright position. As ever, the Clarion spirit prevailed and we were not beguiled into falling into the deep clay ruts.

February 6, 2022: Burgess Hill to Hassocks

The Plough  at Plumpton put us in a back room but gave us all a slap-up lunch including plenty of chips, lovingly photographed by Nick. Our route home took in culture as we paused to admire some arty sculptures made from scrap metal but we did not linger too long as were all a little fearful that our own weather-beaten and somewhat decrepit bicycles might be co-opted for the display. 

February 6, 2022: Burgess Hill to Hassocks

Our intrepid Clarionistas then battled a driving westerly wind, more rain, and further off-road shenanigans to arrive at a tea shop in Ditchling, leaving our bikes in a dedicated parking space which consisted of a narrow door, navigation around enormous bins and ascension of several steps to a tiny space with old fashioned, back-breaking, wheel-gripping bike racks. However the intention was there. By this time Nick had left and Colin chose a different route so three of us made it back to the station.

Many thanks to Jim for organising this and for phoning pub and pre-ordering meals. It was a grand ride.


The Last Ride: January 23, 2022

3 February 2022

Preston Park Circular (via Hurstpierpoint

It was a chilly and overcast January Sunday morning when we gathered for Jim’s ride in Preston Park.  Although Jim turned up, he didn’t feel well enough to participate in any cycling activity. He assured us that his flu-like symptoms weren’t Covid-related and briefed me with details of the proposed route. We were left with directions in writing and a photocopied map, which proved to be very helpful as we attempted to navigate our way to the lunchtime pub stop in Hurstpierpoint.

January 22, 2022: Preston Park circular (via Hurstpierpoint)


Angela D, Nick, Doris, Sarah, Dave, Tessa, Wendy T & Brigiite were the eight cyclists who took part in the ride. A particular welcome to Sarah & Brigitte, who were cycling with us for the first time.
Angela and myself were the only ones in the group with conventional pedal bikes. I think this was the most e-bikes I’ve seen on a Clarion outing. I did rather envy those who didn’t have to peddle up the steep hill leaving Preston Park. Tessa identified one of the drawbacks of e-bikes just before we were about to enter Stanmer Woods, when she realised that her bike didn’t have enough battery charge to complete the ride and decided it was best if she headed home. After saying farewell to Tessa, we headed
In Stanmer Woods we came across a large group of off-road cyclists, who all had e-bikes. I hadn’t realised that e-bikes could be used in that way. Perhaps Clarionistas with e-bikes could fit wider tyres and give the off-road cycling experience a go in Stanmer Woods next time? Off-roading on an e-bike certainly looked like fun.
The cold weather meant there was no interest from anyone in buying an ice cream from the van in Ditchling Beacon car park. The lunch stop in Hurstpierpoint wasn’t far away, where it was assumed there might be some warm food available. After descending Ditchling Beacon, we passed Clayton train tunnel and the Children of the Fair statues in Hurstpierpoint before reaching the Horse Inn lunch stop.

January 22, 2022: Preston Park circular (via Hurstpierpoint)


There was a mixup with a food order and a delay in preparing my bowl of Horse Inn chips, which meant our lunch break was longer than expected.  We had time to discuss selfish motorists parking on pavements, and a few other important topics, during this longer than usual lunch break. Jim’s ride route after lunch was supposed to go via Devil’s Dyke and end up in Hove Park, but it was decided that we all wanted to take a faster route back to Brighton. The cycle track alongside the Brighton Road dual carriageway is noisy and not particularly pleasant, but it did mean we were back in Brighton by just after 3pm.
As we left the Horse Inn, we finally caught up with Dave, who had spent a shortened lunch break in a bus shelter. He had missed us at the start of the ride and was the only one of the group who decided to take the Devil’s Dyke route back to Brighton. I would also have taken the Devil’s Dyke route if the day had been longer and slightly less chilly.Thanks to Jim for a great winter ride. Thanks also to his excellent directions, which enabled us to complete the ride without him being there.
Ride report by Nick


The Last Ride 12th December 2021

27 December 2021

Haywards Heath Circular

It was Sikka, Doris, Sally, Jim and Nick who gathered outside Haywards Heath station for Jim’s Haywards Heath circular ride on a pleasantly mild December morning.

December 12, 2021: Haywards Heath circular

It didn’t take long for the cyclists to swap the suburbs of Haywards Heath for the scenic beauty of Blunts Wood & Paiges Meadow Nature Reserve. We followed a surprisingly good cycle path to Cuckfield, where we decided to have a coffee break at the golf club. I was more interested in the Cuckfield Pet & Country Store, situated in front of the golf club, but sadly it was shut. I had already gulped down a cup of coffee on the train from Brighton to Haywards Heath, so opted for a lime and soda while glancing at The Observer’s ‘Scientists fear falling trust in Johnson could harm bid to curb Omicron surge’ headline.

After finishing our coffees and lime & soda, it was a short cycle ride to the lunch stop at the Bolney Stage pub. Our chosen pub stop seemed to have attracted a block booking of posho types, who appeared to have gathered for Sunday lunch. One of the fragments of conversation I overheard was: ‘Of course, we have the Carribean holiday carried over from last year to look forward to.’ Although there was enough space in the pub to avoid the bragging holidaymakers, I decided to sit outside with my festive meal of chips and mulled wine.

December 12, 2021: Haywards Heath circular

The post-lunch route included some very confusing cycling signage, which signaled the road works and ride diversion required to take us back to Haywards Heath. If it hadn’t been for the diversion, we would probably not have seen an impressive triceratops dinosaur sculpture, constructed from old machine components, which was on the other side of the fence next to the bridleway. The sculpture reminded me of the creations Joe Rush and the Mutoid Waste Company have prepared for the Glastonbury Festival over many years.

December 12, 2021: Haywards Heath circular

After leaving the dinosaur sculpture, there was an enjoyable off-road cycle ride through an autumnal landscape. The recent heavy rain had transformed the field near Ansty into a mud bath, which proved particularly difficult to navigate for the two heavier e-bikes belonging to Doris & Sikka. This was the least appealing part of our off-road ride, but it didn’t last very long. The ‘guard dogs’ who greeted us as we left the waterlogged path made a lot of noise for tiny dogs, but didn’t seem particularly threatening.

It was getting dark as we approached Haywards Heath station, after what had been an enjoyable winter solstice ride (despite the mud!). Thanks to Jim for organising.

Ride report by Nick


The Last Ride 28th November 2021

6 December 2021

Clarion Ride Preston Park to Wivelsfield 28/11/2021 Tessa’s report.

Jim was waiting for us at the north end of Preston Park. Tessa arrived first, quickly followed by Doris and Nick.

We set off south along the park before heading uphill on Surrenden Road to the track running alongside Ditchling Road. Before reaching Ditchling Road we had a little detour up Beechwood Road to avoid having to ride on the main road.

The sun was out but a cold blast coming from the north-west hit us as we rode along the Ditchling Road track.

Only on reaching Stanmer Woods did the cold air abate but the winds must have been strong in the last few days because the first thing we saw was a newly uprooted tree.

The woods were dappled and golden. Part of the off road route to the Beacon crosses fields where puddles were still iced over.

November 28, 2021: Preston Park to Wivelsfield

A downhill sweep from the summit then right into Underhill Lane which is just the width of a ‘Chelsea Tractor’, the first vehicle we met.

The road gently undulates coming to a crossroads of the B2116 where we followed the Plumpton signpost.

We turned left at the corner of a vineyard onto Streat Lane, again an undulating road, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow. The sun was behind us and we could see the drivers coming towards us being blinded by it.

There was a nasty moment where one large vehicle travelling too fast came very close to hitting us.

At a T junction we turned left then right onto 100 Acre Lane and soon arrived at Wivelsfield Green and the Cock Inn, our lunch stop.

No room for us in the pub so we had booked an outdoor table in a covered area which had overhead heaters which we could turn on with a remote control.

Everyone enjoyed their food and drinks , which included warm mulled wine. Conversation was around jazz clubs and other gigs, opinions on anti-vax protestors, and future rides- we have one in the bag for 2 weeks time.

It always feels colder getting on our bikes after a winter pub lunch though Nick said the mulled wine helped!

It was only a few miles to reach Wivelsfield station , along a busy sun-blinding road and then a turning into quieter World’s End Lane.

A short wait at the station before we piled into the train home.

A lovely day out in beautiful autumn weather with excellent company.

Thank you Jim.


The Last Ride 26th September 2021

4 October 2021

Peace Statue to East Worthing via Shoreham Fort Pollinator Café

September 26, 2021: Pollinator Cafe ride

We met at the Peace Statue in Hove, Jim and Nick, Sikka, Angela C and Angela D, Doris, Wendy, Prudence and Graham.

A good turnout for our first ride in a while, so some time was spent catching up with each other and enjoying being in each other’s company.

A quiet ride along the seafront to the Locks at Southwick in light drizzle and under dark clouds – not in the forecast! We waited at the lock gates while a whole flotilla of yachts moved into the large lock that is used by the biggest vessels coming into Shoreham Harbour. Across the locks we made our way to Shoreham Beach and to our first refreshment stop – at the Pollinator Cafe, led by Nick.

September 26, 2021: Pollinator Cafe ride

This was the first time ever I was offered a discount for choosing plant based milk – sustainability of course! We were met there by David and his wife Terri with their dog, as David was not cycling today. Quite a reunion after such a long time in lockdown etc.

Jim then took over leadership of the ride with Angela D, Doris and Sikka. Angela C, Wendy, Prudence, Graham and Nick had other priorities and we left them at the cafe. By this time we were ready for lunch and were fortunate to find a table at the Hummingbird Cafe, Shoreham Airport. We had a table overlooking the airfield just as the sun came out offering delightful views of the local countryside and the Downs.

We then cycled to the Old Toll Bridge where Doris left us. Down to four and riding a few miles up Coombe Road to work up an appetite for our next refreshment stop at St Botolph’s Church.

Botolphs Church

Churchside cafe - second horsebox cafe of the day

Here we had an enjoyable conversation with a couple who were visiting one of the graves and going on to visit a relative who lived close by. They went off in their car but soon after we encountered them again as we entered Sopers Lane. This was the most challenging part of the ride – up this quiet country lane, through a farmyard and up the concrete track through Steyning Bowl. Very steep and long.

Steyning BowlMy e-bike came into her own at this point and took me up with ease – so I was able to enjoy a seat at the top – soon to be joined by Jim – and to enjoy the fabulous view over to Truleigh Hill and beyond. Until we were asked to move out of the way so a woman on a horse, leading another horse, asked us to move out of the way. The three of us were then rewarded with a long downhill ride into Sompting, with just one long hill before crossing the A27 and heading for East Worthing. Here Jim left us to visit his daughter and Angela D and I headed for the station where Angela D hoped to catch a train back to Hove.

I continued to the seafront and rode home to Moulsecomb – the last woman standing so to speak.

A lovely and particularly sociable ride – thank you Nick and Jim for planning and leading.

Sikka


The Last Ride Portslade – August 8, 2021

14 August 2021

Those smart enough to look at the weather forecast for Sunday had already made their apologies and didn’t turn up for Dave’s Portslade ride. When I arrived at Portslade station, Dave said he had considered cancelling when he saw the predicted wind and rain weather conditions for the day.

It had indeed started to rain, but we both agreed that it would be good to attempt some sort of cycle ride. We took a route towards Devil’s Dyke, which was familiar to me from the recent BHT bike ride.

When the torrential rain persisted, and the puddles at the side of the road we were cycling on turned into mini floods, we decided to abandon the ride. It was outside Dyke Road’s Hilltop Cafe where we headed back to Brighton, after a 10-mile ride in distinctly unappealing weather.

August 8, 2021: Portslade ride



Although it’s likely climate change will produce similar extreme weather in the future, it would be good to have another attempt at Dave’s Portslade ride in drier conditions.

Nick