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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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