The Last Ride

15 May 2013

Sunday 12 May 2013 – Barnham to Southbourne

Julian’s Report

Perhaps it was the prospect of a long train journey from Brighton, with a change at Three Bridges, due to the engineering works at Shoreham, combined with rain and icy wind weather forecast, that reduced the group to just four – Jim (leader), Joyce, David and Julian.

We set off north from Barnham station at 10.50 through the village of Walburton and were soon going along the shortest London Road in the UK and then under the A27. At mid-day there was a brief coffee stop at Aldingbourne Country Centre, but with no time to view the Alpacas. Then after seeing the distant hill-top Halnaker Wind Mill (pronounced Hannaker by the locals) we risked a soft track through a wood where the bluebells were a great feature and across the path of snarling 4x4s sliding through squelching mud for a rally.

Bluebells  in Tinwood Lane

The Boxgrove Priory had to be by-passed for lack of time and a long straight ride took us to the Lavants past the Goodwood airfield, with a vast metal-clad old hangar, and the Goodwood House estate hidden by a long high flint wall. After Waterbeach we reached East Lavant at exactly 12.53 as Jim’s timesheet predicted. Soon we biked south down Centurion Way for a short while and onto the Funtington road for a stop before at Wellies Restaurant and Tea Room on West Stoke Road at 13.20 for lunch.

The Centurions on the Centurion Way

The excellent and ample main course helpings stimulated discussions on climate change, over-fishing in the Pacific and the constraints of Health and Safety regulations for employees. The Italian canned fizzy lemonade was memorable, but we had no room left for the tempting desserts which would anyhow have sent us to sleep.

Wellies Restaurant

Once on our way again in the cold air we passed a stretch of stenching road-side mowed garlic and reached Funtington. Going down Watery Lane we passed a female Mallard duck mothering over 15 small ducklings along the narrow clear stream by the road, and it flowed down to a group of white farm geese being fed bread. Then we went by a village pond featuring Tufted and Mallard ducks and a black swan with a red bill.

IMG_2983Black Swan at West Ashling pond

By now it was raining and the icy wind was roaring noisily through our safety helmets. So it was quickly on to the crowded Woodmancote Inn for tea, hot chocolate and cream-laden cake.


Julian raced ahead while Joyce and Jim admired these young pigs near Hambrook

A final rush south was made to Southbourne in the lighter rain to complete the 20 miles. Joyce and Julian unwittingly held up the south-side level crossing gate from being lowered by standing too close, and only just caught the 16.41 train as its doors were shutting. We arrived back to Barnham station at 17.05.


The Last Ride – Sunday 4 November: Barnham, Boxgrove & back; over & under the A27.

5 November 2012

Jim’s plan for today was thwarted by the lunch venue being pre-booked by hordes & when the day dawned for revised ride the heavens opened – not just rain, but hail & deluge, unpropitious for cycling. However, forecasts foretold of brighter times to follow – after the 24mph headwinds had subsided, & Clarion is not for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, Mick & I voted for the softer option of taking the car to Barnham, rather than the train, arriving at the appointed time.

My phone rang & it was Jim saying Joyce, Sue, Terry & himself were assembled in the cold & awaiting our arrival. All were eager to start & attempt to warm up, so no photo but as swift a wend westward as headwind allowed, to Oving for the early lunch, passing some flooded lanes on the way. Last bit of the trip was along a peaceful lane, with swollen ditches on both sides reminiscent of the Pevensey Levels, but with more trees & sodden autumn leaves.

The Gribble Inn is an attractive, thatched pub with pretty garden & Egon Ronay accolades on the windows. The menu on blackboards & paper looked inviting & we all chose different dishes. The waitress took the first group photo of the day.

Lunch at Gribble Inn-exotic menu;roulade,pheasant, clams & game pud.

My butternut squash soup was too salty, but fishcakes with clam sauce were tasty. Jim’s spinach roulade looked good, as did Terry’s game pud. Mick said his pheasant pasta could just as easily have been a less exotic chicken pasta but, at least, it was interesting. Plenty of interesting dogs in the pub too, including this charming lamb look-a-like shivering outside in the weak November sunshine.

Joyce & Sue admire the lamb-like dog in snshine outside Gribble Inn

As we headed North after lunch it was necessary to cross the busy A27 where the traffic was all exceeding the speed limit as if 80 was the new 70mph.

Dicing with Death on the A27

More leafy lanes & lovely lakes followed as we cycled along by the Goodwood Estate with its lengthy stone walls, lush hotel, golf-course & sculpture park, amid woods with Downs on the horizon & the Halnaker windmill.

Halnaker Mill in the morning

As we climbed a small hill to reach the turn to Mount Noddy Animal Centre I was sad to hear that I had missed the donkeys in the roadside field. There would certainly have been some donkey photos if I’d realised. We visited the Lutyens house & garden & gawped until the gate opened eerily & automatically for us to enter – an offer we refused. In the barn cottage conversion nearby I stopped to photo some deer which Terry & Sue were watching, but they had realised that the deer were suspiciously still & unlikely to be living. [Photo on flickr if interested.]

Boxgrove Priory was a peaceful spot where we spent some time assessing how the ruin could be revived by a Channel 4 type makeover, such as some of us had seen the previous evening with an old water tower & Kevin McCloud in the middle of London. Sheep were safely grazing in the meadows around the ancient stone work & the sun shone for some photos.

A few more lanes led us to the splendid Aldingbourne Country Centre where a fine teatime treat awaited us. Nutty, fruity chocolate cakes, toasted teacakes, & hot drinks were quaffed & I explored the farm animals in search of the pigs I’d remembered from a previous visit. Didn’t find the pigs but saw some white peacocks & a sign advertising their alpaca poo as described on GQT as very suitable for adding to the garden neat. We decided not to take any for our bike baskets, Jim telling Joyce she’d have to return by a different train from him if she succumbed.

Last delights were the discovery of a subway under the lethal A27 as we headed south & the sun setting over the numerous puddles lending a pink sheen to the roads as they reflected the setting sun, the autumnal trees & cyclists’ shadows.

Pink road on the way home

Thanks to Jim we’d enjoyed a November ride in cold, damp conditions but among beautiful trees, traffic-free lanes & explored West Sussex’s heritage of ancient & illustrious buildings, inn, priory, manor house, Country Centre & windmill with ample time for tasty refreshments, heart-warming conversations on Clarion matters & healthy exercise on quiet country roads, immaculately planned by Jim & safely executed [thankfully no-one was executed on the roaring A27].


The Last Ride: Sunday 12 June 2011 – Barnham Circular via Littlehampton and Arundel

15 June 2011

[More photos on Flickr]

When I read the words “Climping beach” in Roger’s very comprehensive ride description, I immediately packed my swimming trunks and towel. Although there was no scheduled stop here – and Roger later pointed out that we could not make any unscheduled ones because of the need to get to the pub on time – I thought that, the Clarion being the Clarion, well, there might be a spontaneous democratic uprising in favour of going in for a dip. There wasn’t, but the towel later proved extremely useful, as you will find out.

1. Crossing the A27

A light rain was falling when we (Anne, Joyce, Mick, Richard, Roger, Suzanne and myself) assembled at Barnham station – and, having checked the weather forecast, we were all dressed appropriately, Joyce resplendent in her dazzling “yellows”, and Anne equally resplendent in her “purples”. One disadvantage of this was the fact that the only working camera – Mick’s phone – was underneath three layers of clothing. My own camera having flat batteries, the first half of the ride was something of a photographic desert – though this was the only sense in which it resembled a desert at all.

3. A misty view of Arundel Castle

Roger had done some extensive and very impressive research (including liberal use of Google Earth) for this ride, which was full of contrasts and surprises – and water, unfortunately. Thankfully, some of the water had bridges over it – including Lidsey Rife, which is apparently an area of floodplain that has been designated a “Biodiversity Opportunity Area”, although the map shows it as a waterway. The track which took us across the Rife was a particularly pleasant one, which had apparently been recently upgraded from a footpath. It eventually transformed itself into Hoe Lane, and propelled us onward through Flansham and Middleton (or Myddleton) to the coast and the promised walk on the beach. Sally had told me we would probably see terns here, and indeed, we did see birds that fitted her description; they seemed to hang motionless in the air, but I did not see them dive as I gather they are supposed to. Perhaps they were young ones that had not learnt that part yet.


We took a brief detour to look at the Baliffscourt Hotel. This is a collection of interesting mediaeval-looking buildings just off Climping Street, but Roger had not been able to find any historical background on the internet. And no pictures either – sorry!* Then it was on across the fields to Brookpits Lane and Littlehampton, and, more to the point, the welcoming dryness of the Arun View Hotel where we had superb food and service. After the usual lunchtime conversations ranging from the recent cycling tour of the Loire Valley by Joyce, Anne, Mick, John and Jo  to next year’s Clarion weekend ride (Bath & Bristol, anyone?) Suzanne proposed a motion that we stay in the pub until it stopped raining – but clearly it wasn’t going to, and in fact when we came out of the pub it was a lot heavier than when we went in. This was serious stuff now – wind and rain conspiring together to lash and sting your face, and “waterproof” garments showing their limitations to the full. After Lyminster, a very nice lane took us to Poling, and next came a traditional Extreme Sport beloved of Clarionettes, known as “crossing the A27”. We all made it – this time – and proceeded to Warningcamp and Arundel. I had by now bought new batteries for my camera, and so was able to catch a misty view of Arundel Castle.

Once in Arundel, it turned out that Roger had, very impressively, lined up not only a “first choice tea stop” but also a “second choice tea stop” – both, alas, closed. So we had tea, coffee and cakes at Partners Café. By now we were seriously wet, and this was where the aforementioned towel finally came into its own. Always know where your towel is, said Douglas Adams – preferably, in our case, in your pannier, and inside something waterproof!

4. The Tea Stop

After the “one serious hill” that Roger had warned us about, we had a sort of Man From Uncle moment. In that 60s TV series, the characters would go into what appeared to be an innocuous shop and out the back door into a modern spy centre. (Or something like that – it was a long time ago!) Here, we slipped through a hedge in a modern housing estate and emerged, straight into the 1950s – a funny little lane with an old-fashioned signpost. This was Tortington Lane, which led us into Ford Road, over the railway, and eventually into Maypole Lane, at the end of which a second Extreme Sport was awaiting us – a popular pastime known as “Crossing the Railway”. (Without the benefit of bridges, subways, level crossings and all that paraphernalia, that is). When Joyce, the last over, emerged into Lake Lane she assured us there had been no trains in sight, whereupon a green blur rushed past at about 120mph. Phew! A narrow escape, that one.

Shortly after this, Mick discovered he had a puncture. As he and Anne had come by car, the rest of us pressed on for the final mile, Anne to fetch their car and rescue Mick, the other five for Barnham station and a final round with the towel. 23 miles, 100 gallons of rain, 7 happy wet cyclists and only one puncture. Thanks Roger! Let’s do this one again soon and hope fine weather will make a wonderful ride into a superb one.


* There is a photo of ” Bailiffscourt, by Amyas Phillips, 1935″ on p 62 of the Sussex volume of The Buildings of England. Ian Nairn gives it an unusually long write-up which begins “What on earth can a topographer committed to a C20 style of architecture, yet committed also to recording the memorable without fear or favour say about Bailiffscourt? It was originally the house of the bailiff of the abbey of Séez in Normandy and from this the CHAPEL remains; a late 13 century building… All the rest dates from 1935, built by Lord Moyne and his architect Amyas Phillips, and it poses a moral problem which is not at all simple”. But he goes on to say that it’s ” a lovely house”. In the general intro to West Sussex he calls it “the astonishing mirage of Bailiffscourt, immaculately C15 in its honey-coloured stoned , surrounded by genuinely transplanted buildings. Dornford Yates, if you like; but done with panache and sensitivity”.


The Next Ride: Sunday 12 June 2011 – Barnham Circular

31 May 2011

Please be clear that while all are welcome to join us we each take part in rides at our own risk.

Sunday 12 June 2011
Barnham Circular via Littlehampton and Arundel

This ride will provide the answer to one of cycling’s great mysteries: how do you get from Myddleton-on-sea to Littlehampton without using the main road? The answer is, walk along the beach. Read on…

We meet at Barnham station and ride to the coast on an excellent cycle track, which takes us over Lydsey Rife and into Flansham. We’ve used this track before, but the good quality surface has been extended over the whole route since our last visit, making it an even nicer ride.

Lovers of lanes can drool over Stanover, Hoe, Flansham, Worms and Ancton, which will get us through Myddleton and onto the beach. Once we hit the serious pebbles, walking for half a mile or so is the only option.

We can re-mount once we reach Climping beach, where we will take a short detour to view the strange collection of ancient (or pastiche?) buildings which make up the Bailiff’s Court Hotel. Then via Bread, Brookpits and Crookthorn Lanes to the bridge over the Arun at Littlehampton.

Here we find a welcome sight, the Arun View Hotel for lunch. There’s a wide menu but don’t indulge too much, there are a couple of hills to come and a possible cake stop by the river at Arundel.

We head north from Littlehampton, using some handy back alleys to avoid the traffic. As we cross the A259 on the Wick roundabout, look out for the Body Shop depot on the left. Then through Lyminster where we make a slightly awkward right turn off the main road onto a track; watch out for traffic!

The track provides a traffic-free route to Poling, a fairly isolated village where smart 20th century houses rub shoulders with an older agricultural heritage. Next we cross the A27 again, watch out for traffic. Blakehurst Lane takes us through some beautiful woodland and then we start a fairly gentle climb. Just when you’re beginning to wish it would end, it does: the road turns sharp left and we roll down through Warningcamp towards the river. Look out for a fine view of Arundel Castle.

A half mile amidst the traffic on the A27 gets us into Arundel itself. Note the catholic Cathedral as we meander through the back streets towards the western exit from the town.

Now for the one serious hill on this ride: it takes us through a housing estate. I recommend walking. Then we are into woodland and open country again as we roll down through Ford to Barnham, adding Ford, Maypole and Lake to the lanes collection as we go.

Numbers: Please let me know by 12 noon on Saturday 11 June if you want lunch at the pub (see below)!
Start: Barnham station at 11:35
Getting there: 10:12 or 10:48 trains from Brighton (leaving Hove at 10:22 or 10:52). There’s also a faster 10:19 from Hove. Barnham has a station car park.
Distance: 22 miles (approx.)
Off road: Some traffic free tracks, most with pretty good surfaces; a walk along the pebbly beach
Hills: Two shortish hills, one gentle, one walkable.
Getting back: Trains to Brighton at :02, :22 (change at Hove) and :32 all calling at Hove.
Catering: Lunch at the Arun View Hotel, Littlehampton ( and possibly tea in Arundel.
My mobile: 0789 985 1172.