The Last Ride: Sunday 7 April 2019 – Berwick to Hastings – Sally and Nick Report

15 April 2019

Berwick to Hastings by way of Arlington, Abbots Wood, Glynleigh Levels. Pevensey Levels, Normans Bay and Bexhill.

Part 1 (Sally)

Graham led his flock of 12 assorted cyclists from Berwick station (most of us having arrived from Brighton on the 10.05 train) on a varied and beautiful excursion through farmland and woodland, over marshes and along the shoreline, to the De La Warr Pavilion, where four of us peeled away after a late lunch to take the 16.30 train home from Bexhill station: Angela C., Bill, Wendy Taylor, and Sally. This was Bill’s first ride with the Clarion and it was his birthday. Welcome, Bill, please come on lots more rides. The other nine carried on for après ride activities in Hastings, and I cannot say what they got up to there: Graham, Wendy Scott, Angela D., Prudence, Tessa, Sikka, Nick, David, Chris.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

The day was mild and hazy, with a thin mist that never quite cleared, and at one stage turned into a gentle sprinkle of rain. Most of the rain fell while we were in the Pavilion, eating expensive but very nice food, and looking at an exhibition on Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, called “And Still I Rise” (after a poem by Maya Angelou), and paintings by Hayv Kahramans, Iraqi Kurd artist who had left as a refugee during the first Gulf War, when she was still a little girl.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

Our ride was remarkable for the virtual absence of undulations, just the occasional hump-backed bridge over the many watercourses on the Levels. The woodland edges were embroidered with birdsong and emergent wild-flowers. I look forward to seeing Nick’s (and perhaps also Tessa’s) pictures of ladies’ smocks along the ditches, primroses, ferns, wood anemones, bluebells just beginning to unfurl, dog violets, lesser celandines…Not many insects about, and though we took in a snatch of the Cuckoo Trail, no hint of a cuckoo.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

Along the Levels, the lanes followed the drainage ditches for much of the way, where last year’s dried reeds and reed-mace were still standing high, pale gold and ghostly, and I couldn’t help thinking how they will be full of birds in a month, when the new stalks have grown. I hope so, anyway. At the side of one lane we were saddened to find a dead badger. Tessa and Sikka caught a glimpse of a stoat (alive), and Wendy T. and Sally saw a red partridge near to Normans Bay; this was alive too but didn’t deserve to be, as it was trying to hurl itself under a car.

It was too early in the season to be tempted into the sea, but on a future occasion we might have to take swimming gear. It’s a relaxed sort of beach, and might be an irresistible destination at the end of a ride on a hot day.

Twenty-two miles for the revellers who went on to Hastings, twenty for the other four of us, and a very pleasant journey it was.

Part 2 (Nick)

After two hours of art, feminism and food in the De La Warr Pavilion, the remaining nine of us were keen to cycle the six miles along the coastal path to Hastings and complete the route devised by Graham. The rain we had observed during lunch had stopped, which made the final leg of the ride a pleasant experience.

April 7, 2919: Berwick to Hastings

When we reached Hastings, three of the group (Sikka, Tessa and Angela D) decided to head straight to Hastings station and return home. The remaining six of us were keen to investigate one of the pubs Graham had researched for the end of the ride.

Before we all headed to a pub in Hastings Old Town, Wendy was keen to follow the main road to see where it led to. We ended up in a car park with a good view of the coastline and marvelled at the effects of dramatic coastal erosion on a path, which had been completely destroyed.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

Graham’s suggestion of Hastings pub was a good one. The Crown is an independent pub, with local suppliers for its food and drink. I decided I didn’t need any food, so concentrated on sampling an excellent oatmeal stout instead. All the food looked good and Wendy’s vegan rhubarb pudding tasted particularly delicious.

April 7, 2019: Bexhill to Hastings

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

We spent quite a while in The Crown discussing train times and made the travel options back to Brighton appear more complicated than they really were. Sunday trains can often be uncomfortably packed in the evening, but we found seating together to talk about the great day out out we had all had.

Sally and Nick

The Last Ride: Sunday 27 November 2016 – Berwick Circular

29 November 2016

Six of Seven, Leon's photo on 27th Nov._1480285470706

Ever since we got started back in 2004, I have tried to make a slightly longer version of this circuit the final ride of the year – nice and easy and not too long in the cold! It hasn’t always worked. In fact the very first year it was just two of us – me and John Hopper – who did the ride. In those days our stopping point for lunch was The Lamb at Ripe. But that went downhill foodwise after the pub changed hands a few years later and we switched to the Yew Tree which among other advantages means that we don’t have so very far to ride with that full–up feeling after lunch.

Another time I recall – much more recently – was when there were dodgy patches of ice about. Jenny had just finished telling us about how she’d been brought down by one on the way to Berwick from Cooksbridge when an (unknown-to-us) cyclist came round the corner in the opposite direction, skidded on another patch of ice and crashed down – fortunately without doing too much damage. Then there was the time even more recently when, lost in a reverie brought on by a lovely day of hazy winter sunshine, I led everyone a good half mile past the pub before realising my mistake!

In 2014 I spotted in time that the trains were not right and we did the ride on the penultimate rather than the last date of the year. I failed to be as attentive last year and had to substitute a Twineham and Wineham ride with a stop at the Royal Oak as the final ride of 2015. But this report is supposed to be about yesterday – not the snows of yesteryear!

I’m not able to take on leading any rides for the moment, so I was delighted when I heard from Leon that he and Joyce had the Berwick ride in mind. Luckily, I was able to take part in spite of the machinations of Southern, our farce of a railway company, which, as you will have seen from Joyce and Leon’s post-ride note yesterday (below), did its best to sabotage our ride schedule.

But I made it by car and found Joyce and Leon having a cuppa in the Berwick Inn just across the road from the station. Soon Helen’s splendid people carrier – (Note to self – I must never call it a van!) – arrived with Angela also on board. So the five of us set out and soon were overtaken by a car containing Anne and Mick who parked at the side of the road, extracted their bikes, and joined us to make seven of us altogether. It was surprisingly sunny for a while at least and somewhere just before Golden Cross a bird of prey was spotted in the trees that no-one could identify for sure. A peregrine falcon? A very young buzzard? An unusual variety of owl? Julian was sorely missed at this point.

After lunch at the Yew Tree 27th Nov._1480285470157

Onwards we sped (perhaps not quite the right word – but you get what I mean) to the Yew Tree for lunch. Portions of everything seemed to be massive but I thought the food was not as good as I remembered from our previous visits. Perhaps I made the wrong choice. Over lunch our main topic was – almost inevitably – ‘Brexit’. I maintained, as I have done consistently since 24 June that ‘It’s not going to happen.’ Everyone else was less sure. I have to say in my defence that I was one of the few people who correctly predicted the outcome of the 1974 general elections. But that was a long time ago and my stock as a prophet (except possibly of doom) has declined since then. So don’t place any bets on the basis of my hunch, particularly since Mick drew on his legal experience to tell us that gambling addiction was a very strong contender for the most common cause of divorce.

We did also ‘talk of many things’ apart from Brexit. Shoes, ships and sealing-wax did not figure. Nor did we speculate on a boiling hot sea nor winged pigs. But we did touch on ‘cabbages’ (the food) and ‘kings’ (Michael Gove’s attempts to reduce the school history syllabus to a chain of stories about them). Also the possibility of having a handicap system for ‘power-assisted’ riders.

Photo by Leon

It seemed to have become a lot colder by the time we left the pub, though this may be simply the effect of leaving a warm environment. Mick and Anne reclaimed their car en route. Fortunately, for the remaining five of us it didn’t take long to get back the Berwick station. No trains in either direction were indicated on the electronic signs. Southern strikes again! We conferred on how we might get Joyce and Leon back to Brighton – probably with one of them having to run along behind, or both taking it in turns- but fortunately a train did arrive a few minutes later. And it was actually going in the right direction! Is this a record for Southern?


Photo by Leon

Leon and Joyce add:

We are sorry for those who were intending to come on the ride on Sunday for the disappointment. The cancelling of the 11.12 train was unfortunate, also unfortunate was that we could not warn people, although Leon had checked trains a week or so before, we only knew Sunday morning, first through Ian calling and our checking at the station. Another contre temps was that the membership email list Ian had passed to Leon could not be sent from his smartphone.

As it happens we were at the station very early and, knowing that Ian was intending to go by car to Berwick, we made the decision to catch an earlier train that happened to be running, thinking that others might be driving to Berwick, as indeed, as the report will show, some did.

We feel really bad about those who were disappointed and to avoid similar occurrences it would be useful if those who even think they might ride would text the organiser so that in an emergency they can be phoned/texted so they can be informed of any problems. Of course the organiser will continue to let people know the evening before that a ride is cancelled whenever possible.

Leon & Joyce

Clarion ride Berwick circular 27th Nov. 2016_1480285469672

Anne adds:

It was a lovely ride & really enjoyable. Ian phoned to tell us that the 11am train was cancelled, when I was dithering about whether we should go by car anyway, as neither feeling too good with colds & coughs. Lured by the thought of last leaves of autumn & prospect of meeting up with Clarion chums, we decided to risk it & hot foot it to Berwick. Delighted to see 5 Clarionistas about 5 miles from the pub. They waited while we took our bikes out of the car & we set off altogether.

One of my highlights was seeing a big bird fly across the very quiet road in front of me. I thought it must be an owl. I waited till the 3 following caught up with me, & he flew across in front of us again, then into a nearby field, spotted by Angela. She thought it was more likely to be a peregrine falcon. Must have a look online to check it out.

Thanks again Joyce & Leon, Ian & Angela & Helen.

The Last Ride: Sunday 24 January 2016 – Berwick to Eastbourne

25 January 2016

Clarion Towner Gallery 24 January

Mick and Sikka took the train from Brighton to Berwick and arrived to find Jenny already there as she had cycled from Lewes to get in a few extra miles.  The morning air was damp and mild with no expectation of rain.   As there were just the three of us and only 17 miles to Eastbourne, we decided to cancel the lunch booking and go straight there, the route being almost entirely flat.

We circled round Arlington Reservoir on wet roads, occasionally encountering large puddles and one minor flood where Mick, our leader, ventured across first, finding a shallow route for us through the middle.  Bravo Mick!

The Downs were shrouded in mist, lending a mysterious, almost secretive atmosphere to our journey. We cycled round Abbott’s Wood on quiet roads and joined the Cuckoo Trail at Hailsham. We could have stopped at the tea rooms for coffee but decided to push on, keeping to the Sustrans route from Polegate to Eastbourne Seafront. We had to join the seafront road soon after that as the promenade is limited to pedestrians.

Arriving at the Towner Gallery, we made a beeline for the café and enjoyed a snack lunch before visiting the two free exhibitions. These included some modern art and sub-titled films as well as pictures on loan from a gallery in Aberdeen. Many paintings were by Sussex artists, among them Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell of Charleston fame.

To complete the delights of the day we repaired once more to the café for tea and cake, leaving just in time for the 3.26 train back to Brighton.

This was a perfect day for cycling and we had a thoroughly enjoyable and varied outing. Thank you Mick (and Anne for participating in the recce).


The Last Ride: Sunday 4 October 2015 – Chiddingly Festival

7 October 2015

Word was it would be the last day of summer, so a lucky thirteen riders gathered at Berwick station on a pleasantly sunny, Sunday morning:  Angela, Chris, Corinne, Fred, Ian (our leader), Jenny, Julian, Kate, Richard, Rob, Roger, Sikka and Terry.  The weather remained kind all day, with just the occasional grey cloud to remind us how good the sun felt the rest of the time.

The start at Berwick station

Our first target was the Chiddingly festival. We reached Chiddingly in well under an hour, only to find the main festival site in the last stages of being dismantled. A few tents and trestles were dotted around but not a single belly dancer was to be seen, and certainly no wild boar hot dogs.

Lunch at the Six Bells, Chiddingly

So we resigned ourselves to an early lunch at the nearby Six Bells pub, wrongly named as it turned out since it did not open until the clock had struck noon. That said, the welcome was friendly, the beer was Harveys and the reasonably priced food was good. So we sat in the garden to be summoned individually by name over a tannoy when our meal was ready. [1]

Six Bells ephemera

The Six Bells – famous for its collection of vintage adverts

Lunch at the Six Bells, Chiddingly

No sooner were we back on the bikes than it was time for the next stop. This was at the the Quadrangle in Allies Lane where Tessa was exhibiting her work in another bit of the festival that was still going strong. Annabel Cottage and neighbouring buildings were packed with a wide range of art work, including Tessa’s elegantly distinctive ceramics. We relaxed in the delightful garden with tea and cakes to prepare for the final stage of the ride.

Teatime with Tessa

This took us through some beautiful woodland and country lanes, back to Berwick station just in time to miss the 15:41 train. This turned out to be good news because otherwise we would never have found out that the nearby Berwick Inn was open. From the front it looked decidedly closed, but Kate ventured round the back and found it was buzzing with activity. The explanation for this strange state of affairs then became clear: the car park is at the back so that is where the customers arrive, unless they are train hopping cyclists of course.

Through the woods

So further refreshments were ordered and the hour long wait for the next train was happily filled with conversation on topics rather more intellectual than usual, such as whether dogs can think and whether it is possible to calculate the probability of winning a game of patience, assuming you play using real cards (rather than on-screen) and don’t cheat. For those who are interested, our conclusions were yes and no, in that order.

Time was when pretty well every Clarion ride was led by Ian. More recently other members have come forward to share the load, which is great news.  But it was good to see Ian back in the saddle and leading a ride.

Thanks, Ian, for a delightful day out!


[1] “Tannoy” is an obscure brand name. In 26 years as a public address engineer, I never once came across a Tannoy product. It’s a bit like calling a modern computer “an Amstrad”! – Jim.

[More photos on Flickr]

The Last Ride: Sunday 30 November 2014 Eleven Cyclists on the last day in November Berwick Circular

2 December 2014

Previous reports of Jenny’s crash on ice & memory of attempting to wring & then dry out soaked clothes by the log fire in the pub for this ride, didn’t deter us as forecast temperatures were 10C & no rain. In spite of misty moments on the train there was a fair amount of sunshine & still loads of autumn colour in the trees & hedgerows & even hollyhocks blooming in the station & nearby.

Group shot

Four of us, Anne, Sue, Marilyn & Roger, caught the 10.20 train & waved  to Chris at Lewes station as he jumped in to join us. Mick had  started out an hour earlier from home in sunshine to Berwick by the NCN 2. He wasn’t at Berwick Station when we arrived, but Julian, Ian & Angela were, having driven & Jenny had cycled from Lewes. Rob soon arrived after cycling from his home in Heathfield but we had to wait a few minutes for Mick, who had been scoffing cake & coffee in Alfriston, which he described to make us jealous, having misremembered the train’s arrival time. Ian phoned the pub & told them we were 11 & would arrive at 12pm.

Mick's new hat

The group then split in half as 5 or 6 cycled off to the public toilets at the Arlington Reservoir Nature Reserve. Mick led off the rest of us & cycled right past the toilets etc & on to the first turning. I rounded up the advanced party & admired the trees in the picnic area. With Ian leading & Rob as backstop,we kept a good pace up to the pub to keep ourselves warm & to reach the pub in good time for quicker service, partly as Mick & I had a 90th b’day party of a neighbour to return to at 3pm.

There was a good choice of grub at the pub & a large table  set for us in the conservatory, where we watched the sky turn blue, enough to make a sailor’s shirt & discussed the derivation of “hoist by your own petard”; Jenny pointed out that a petard is not a flag.

Angela told us all about her recent trip to Copenhagen which could be a recce for our next year’s Clarion Summer or Spring Outing. She didn’t do much cycling but had the use of 2 bikes at the Air B&B pad they rented & admired the bike tracks & heirarchy of pedestrians, cyclists then lastly motorists, who knew their place. Soon the roast porks, moussakas, broccoli soups & fishcakes arrived & all proved delicious, copious & good value. Sue & I had to help Mick & Marilyn to clear their plates as the roasts were such big platefulls.

Again we split into 2 parts; a fast four for the early [1.48pm] train, Chris & Jenny soon cycled off to Lewes & Rob to Heathfield, the remaining 3 followed with Ian, apart from Marilyn who tried to catch up with Sue & Roger, Mick & Anne, who were in a hurry to catch the train. Unfortunately, although our train was 3 or 4 minutes late, the automatic barrier came down 4 minutes early & she was stuck on the wrong side of it. Julian informed me that the Berwick Inn proved to be closed so there was no coffee & cake or warm shelter to sit out the hour till the next train. Our kind leader, Ian, stayed with her until the train finally arrived.  The automatic barriers are really frustrating & Sue was truly sorry that Marilyn hadn’t managed to make it in time.

It did happen to some of us on the last ride at Polegate too, but we only had to wait half an hour & that left time to explore the side of Polegate which we rarely see: ie South of the Cuckoo Trail. Perhaps they should have cycled the 2 miles into Alfriston & sampled the teashop Mick had praised for his morning coffee stop.

Thanks to Ian for organising & leading a super ride we all enjoyed & were grateful for the clement weather, lack of hills, but still great views of Downs, parklands, woods & passing horse riders & ponies & fields [2] of PV arrays on the Solar Farm in Langtrye Lane. Roads were peaceful enough for us to chat as we cycled & discussed local left politics & perspectives, with other cyclists outnumbering cars, apart from 1 or 2 mad motorists racing past at 70+mph.

Marilyn's saddle

Jenny seemed to be the only person with a camera & she’s not keen on group shots, so not sure that there will be many Flickr pics but hope so.  Eleven jolly cyclists did at least 12 miles, at average speed of almost 8mph & made the most of the sparse sunshine around in November, thanks to the Clarion Cycling Club.


The Next Ride: Sunday 30 November – Berwick Circular c 14 Miles only

18 November 2014

Our now traditional  last ride of the year –which might even turn out to be that this year if no one volunteers for 14 December –  is a really short and flat-ish one that maybe will tempt everyone out unless the weather is atrocious – like it was in 2010 when I had to cancel it. [Finally did it in February!] Before that we had mixed experiences – only two of us on the first, 2004 ride and things have not been without variety since.

It was icy in 2011  Poor Jenny came to grief even before the ride started though fortunately we had no further problems of that kind.   As she reported:

“The sky was clear and blue, the sun was beautiful and bright, but the temperature was still deceptively low even at 10.30 in the morning, and ice was lurking on the country lanes. As I discovered when I turned right at the Langtye Lane crossroads on the way to Berwick – the bike slid from under me and I hit the deck. Luckily I was going pretty slowly but it was a shock to the system nonetheless – no lasting harm done though, and most importantly the bike was undamaged apart from a dislodged chain!”

In 2012 it was lovely and sunny and, carried away by the winterwonderland of it all I led the ride straight past the pub for about half a mile!  As Leon’s report put it:

“Ian’s story was that they were possibly in a state of enlightenment as they passed the pub, or was it true that they were just daydreaming, or blinded by sun reflection off the road. Who knows.”

Who does, indeed!

Will we have decent weather this year?  Fingers crossed!   But wrap up warm in any case.

We’ll do the usual loop round the Berwick, Ripe, Chalvington area  and stop for lunch at the Yew Tree pub. There’s no point trying to “book” at such a popular pub at this time of year, but we should be there by 12 (or soon after) and if it was too full we could always try the Lamb at Ripe, which would add just a couple of miles to the ride or just wait until we got back to the Berwick Inn.

Distance: c 14  miles.

Hills:    If I say there aren’t any  hills, someone is bound to point out that the road went ‘up’ for 10 or 20 metres at some

point – but it really is pretty flat with just one mod

Off road: None

Traffic: Quiet roads 

Catering: Yew Tree  for lunch.*
Possible tea stop (depending on train times and our own progress) at the Berwick Inn  for tea

*see ride outline

Catch the 10.20 from Brighton station or meet at Berwick station at  10.43 .

[There’s only one train an hour –so I can’t suggest an alternative.] Train  back at  14.48   reaching  Brighton at   15.12  or 15.48  (16.12)

(Be at Brighton Station by 9.50 for Groupsave – I assume that’s still going.)

My mobile number is 07770743287

The Next Ride

31 July 2014

Sunday 10 August:   Brighton to Berwick (Sussex!)

Meet at Palace Pier at 10am & cycle East to Berwick along the NCN2 with some modifications & some chance to escape back by train, should weather, health or inclination incline.

We could modify the route depending on who turns up, but yesterday we took the more undulating top route rather than the Undercliff to Rottingdean & the Hoddern Farm road to Newhaven, rather than the exciting[!] clifftop footpath! If weather is still warm, we propose picnic & swim at Seaford, but, if slow or nasty weather can eat at The Ark at Newhaven.

We can stop for tea at the Litlington Tea Garden & proceed to Berwick Station for the train back to Brighton, or return by train from Seaford for a shorter ride.

Trains leave Berwick station hourly at 48 mins past 3,4,5, etc & Seaford station half-hourly at 27 & 57 past 2,3,4, etc.

Lunch Bring picnic or there are cafes at Seaford & if nasty weather can eat at The Ark,Newhaven.

Terrain Almost all on quiet roads with considerate drivers[yesterday anyway!] Somewhat undulating in parts, but only short parts. Good views.

Distance 23 miles.  .

Anne and Mick