Well, we were just a little band of four today as Ian, Julian, Delia and I left Hassocks station on a warmer than usual December morning. We followed a familiar route out towards Hurstpierpoint where hymns could be heard as we cycled past the church at the crossroads in the village. The congregation was certainly ‘giving it their all’ for us to be able to hear them from the roadway. Then, on through Albourne towards Twineham through some very pretty lanes where Julian identified the birdsong of a green woodpecker, robins and possibly a song thrush, who were also ‘in good voice’.
At this time of year the winter landscape allows views through the trees that, of course, with trees covered in their summer leaves, you do not see in other seasons. Between Twineham and Wineham, (what a lovely rhyming couple), we had a view of something unexpected, a massive electricity sub-station which crackled its energy supply along the wires between the concrete supports. Not the prettiest of sights, but at least it is out of view for that part of the year when the trees are in leaf. Other views through the trees were more pleasing to the eye – the wintry, grey outlines of the Downs and a patchwork of pasture and arable fields.
Always along these routes are some very pretty houses and cottages and also some very large properties which I often find make me wonder what people do for a living to own such large places. Well, Ian came out with a theory that made us all laugh. He reckoned that many were owned by retired drug dealers who, having evaded the law, wanted a quiet life in the country in their old age!
At Twineham we stopped for lunch at the Royal Oak which, according to the landlord, dates back to the 16th Century and has been a pub for over 200 years. The historic building prompted a conversation about the dangers of travelling by horse drawn coaches back in the day of highwaymen. Ian, Delia and I have been watching the recent programmes on the tele about smugglers, pirates and highwaymen and the dastardly deeds they got up to. Worth a look on the iplayer if you haven’t managed to see them.
After lunch, (three delicious plates of ploughman’s and one bowl of spiced carrot soup), we began the journey back through Woodmancote towards Albourne and Hurstpierpoint, and we decided not to stop for tea as the light was beginning to fade and Delia was concerned that I do not have any lights on my bike. So, we got back to Hassocks mid-afternoon in order to make our way home after a very pleasant winter ride and even more pleasant conversation. Thanks to Ian for organising and leading the ride and may he and all other ‘Clarionistas’ have a very lovely Xmas and I look forward to a New Year of many more rides.