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 19th October – 8 [mostly] Brighton Bikers Breeze into Bexhill- 6 Battle Boldly Back!

23 October 2014

BBC weather had forecast heavy rain & 20mph [W] winds for the ride on Saturday night, hence, slept badly & awoke to rain & pass from Mick to be released from the ride, even though I’d already bought the rail tickets. However, rain stopped, we changed out of wet gear & set out, armed still with paniers full of dry clothes [just in case]. Glad to see Joyce & Leon were buying tickets at the station, David was already on the platform & Nick joined us on the train with a coffee & a couple of minutes to spare. Interesting train talk of gut flora & tropical worm diseases. Soon arrived at Eastbourne station to be joined by Chris & Sue from Lewes Against the Cuts, whom we hadn’t seen since our Xmas Party 2 years ago. Nick takes the group photo & we set out for the sea-front.

October 19, 2014: Eastbourne to Bexhill

Our leader claimed the prom which looks like it should be a bike track, but pedestrians soon “explained” that it was not, so some of us went back to the traffic on the road & some of us blithely continued, until we all met up again at the official start to the NCN21 along the prom beside the seaside, beside by the sea… & very pleasant it was too.

Had to then head North through newish housing estates with Caribbean connections {names] to roadside route to Pevensey. NCN21 signage petered out but we continued through caravan parks & private road, crossing unmanned level crossing carefully & sailed successfully into Bexhill, with the benefit of the 20mph West wind.
David & I sat in the sunshine on the balcony at the de la Warr Pavilion, while 6 took a table in the restaurant. As I repositioned myself & my spiced chai out of the strong wind, a pigeon took advantage of my turned back & swiped my bread off the soup plate & onto the floor – perils of outside eating

October 19, 2014: Eastbourne to Bexhill

Mushroom & watercress soup was excellent though & waiter soon brought me replacement bread. Everyone was well pleased with their fare & we now had half an hour to view the exhibitions. Upstairs is/was sonic installation on Blackbird Song – called Blackbird Quadralogue & downstairs was Magnum Selections from their vast archives, by various curators – called One Archive, 3 Views. A splendid collection of books was available to browse too & videos of both the Magnum Curation & of the Blackbird Quadraphonic sound installation by Ron Geesin [orchestrator of Pink Floyd’s 1970 album-among many other things].

October 19, 2014: Eastbourne to Bexhill

I’m now looking anxious at the prospect of the 20mph headwind we have to tackle for the return 13 miles. Joyce & Leon had decided to take the train back as Joyce has been ill & Leon only had his little wheels [folding bike]. The 20mph wind seemed to make a 10mph difference in our cycling speed, but conditions not too testing & managed to keep together fairly well & support each other in Clarion style. We spread out a bit once reaching the long Rickney Lane especially as Nick & I were lured into photography by the cuddly bullocks, horizontal swaying grasses & vast views on the flatlands of the Pevensey Levels.


As the train from Bexhill passed us I waved a purple arm to Joyce & Leon & was reminded of the Harold Mockford painting in Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery.

We now stuck to the NCN 2 which was pretty well signed to the Cuckoo Trail, which we eventually reached, for a much needed refreshment stop at The Loom.  From their huge array of teas I chose liquorice-good choice-Mick & David went for the special offer of free tea with the toffee cake, no-one took the super coffee cake, Sue had a tasty flapjack & I had a prized chocolate-coated pecan concoction. Discussing the capitalist economic crisis made us almost late for the train, necessitating a dash for the station before the level crossing gates closed, though just enough time to snap autumn berries & Sustrans signs.


There was a bit of a crush at Polegate station, with at least 9 bikes to load onto the train, but, fortunately, due to works on the line, Ashford line’s 2 coaches had been replaced by a 4 carriage service from Eastbourne & we were all accommodated with plenty of room remaining & plenty more conversations enjoyed with fellow passengers on cycling & CCC & with Lewes comrades on Green vs Labour for General Election 2015.

Thanks to Mick for leading us through the lovely routes, first planned by Roger, who was unable to do the job on that day. The homeward leg was somewhat challenging for some of us but the faster three did allow the following three some refreshing photography pauses & we did manage to do the miles & the tea stop & still catch the 4.42 train – 25 miles, no rain & no punctures, but plenty of fellowship & fun. [food & culture too!]


The Last Ride: Sunday 15 July – Bexhill to Polegate

17 July 2012

Pevensey Levels again

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?
Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?
Give them me.
Give them me. Give them me.


This is the beginning of Harold Monro’s poem Overheard on a Saltmarsh.1 This poem, which I remember from primary school, came to mind as we emerged into Saltmarsh Lane on Pevensey Levels, and I was amazed to find that no one else had heard of it. Later at the tea stop (the Old Loom Mill on the Cuckoo Trail) when, during a typical Clarion discussion, Angela said she thought the best moral code was “do as you would be done by”, I recalled Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby from Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, and I was gobsmacked to be greeted with blank stares once more. In fact I began to suspect that I was actually from a parallel world where these works existed, and had somehow stumbled into one in which they didn’t.


But to begin at the beginning. This ride drew the best turnout since mid-April, with 10 riders in all – Angela, Anne, Joyce, Leon, Mick, Rob, Suzanne, Tessa, our leader Roger and myself setting out from Bexhill station. We did a detour to look at the bus perched on top of the De La Warr Pavilion, apparently in the style of the film The Italian Job which I must admit is one piece of popular culture with which I was unfamiliar – or perhaps it didn’t happen in my world …

de la Warr-bus

Roger’s warning about hills was, I think, exaggerated; yes, we did have to walk up a few but they were generally manageable. And the rain held off – although it threatened, and after lunch (at the Red Lion at Hooe Common) we were so sure it was coming that we all donned our waterproofs, only to find at the next stopping place that we were too warm and they would have to come off. In fact I was rather taken aback when Tessa said to me, “Trousers off?!” (I am told that is the appropriate punctuation to convey the tone in which it was said) but recovered when I realised she was only talking about our plastic trousers. (I had to explain that no woman had ever said such a thing to me before …)

Roger’s stewardship was exemplary, with frequent announcements, delivered in a suitably authoritative tone, about the next stage of the ride, and where appropriate, warnings about riding carefully on the A259 or down rutted muddy tracks. Hooe Level – across which we had wonderful views of the sea – is separated from the rest of the Levels by Waller’s Haven, which Roger described as a river in the ride description, and Wikipedia calls a stream. It is effectively the lower section of the river Ashbourne, at least part of which (from the A259 to the sea at Norman’s Bay) is a man-made “cut”, made in 1402 by the wonderfully named Commissioners of the Sewers. Very probably the northern section, to Boreham Bridge, was also widened at some stage to enable iron products to be shipped from the ironworks at Ashburnham.

Pevensey Levels and Observatory

We crossed Waller’s Haven at Horse Bridge, and we were then on the Pevensey Levels, once a regular backdrop to our rides but it seemed ages since we’d been there and it was nice to be back. After the slightly scary Wartling–Pevensey road we were on quiet, flat lanes and could enjoy the view. I think it was at around this point that Joyce began to sing.

Pevensey Levels

I noticed that the Hailsham end of the Cuckoo Trail’s sewer replacement was now over three months behind schedule, having originally been due for completion at the end of March. (Perhaps we should tell the Commissioners? Ah, but Rob informed me that this sewer was, bizarrely, Australian-owned …) Then it was the Loom, lovely tea and cakes, and dispersal for various trains, Rob returning up the Cuckoo Trail to Heathfield. Thanks to Roger for a lovely ride. If you missed it there is more to come, as Tessa is planning a return to the Levels in the autumn.


1For the complete poem see, e.g.

The Next Ride: 15 July 2012: Bexhill to Polegate

7 July 2012

This ride was inspired by an earlier attempt to plan one from Bexhill to Battle and back: I got to Battle (just about) but decided it was too hilly to inflict on others. This ride goes west out of Bexhill and is not “too hilly”, just hilly.

We head north out of Bexhill and join the wonderfully named Turkey Road which takes us through some very pleasant countryside. Our first target is Who (what?), sorry Hooe. It’s not a very big place: most of its Wikipedia article is about the things that used to be there (school, shop etc). But there is still a pleasant-looking pub, the Red Lion, where we will have lunch. The name Hooe comes from a Saxon word meaning ridge – yes, it is up a hill.

After lunch we head down to the Hooe Levels (which are flat) and Horse Bridge which will get us across the Waller’s Haven; this is the river which eventually reaches the sea at Norman’s Bay. Onward to the hill-top village of Wartling– yes it’s up another hill but, since it’s the last one, walking will be permitted, or possibly compulsory!

We come down from Wartling onto the Pevensey Levels and follow quiet, flat lanes to the Cuckoo Trail where we can stop for tea at the Loom before jumping on a train at Polegate.


Meet: Bexhill station forecourt at11:20.

Getting there: Buy a return to Bexhill. Catch the 10:20 from Brighton. (The 10:29 gets to Bexhill at 11:35 with a change at Lewes, so if you have to use that one give me a call.)

This is a linear ride: If you’re coming by car you could park at Polegate and catch a train to Bexhill or vice versa.

Distance About 21 miles.

Hills There’s a mile or so climb to get out of Bexhill. After that we’re in rolling country so there are a few more climbs, but the prevailing direction will be down. After lunch, just one more serious climb and then it’s down and flat.

Off road A short section of the Cuckoo Trail.

Catering Lunch at the Red Lion in Hooe (01424 892371). Tea at the Loom on the Cuckoo Trail.

Getting home Train from Polegate to Brighton at XX:13 (direct) or XX:28 (change at Lewes).

My mobile 0789 985 1172.


The Last Ride: Sunday 19 February 2012 – Hastings to Eastbourne

21 February 2012

Joyce was first to arrive at Brighton station for the earlier of Jim’s suggested trains to Hastings, quickly followed by Sue, Tessa, Roger and Suzanne who shared a Groupsave.

There was some confusion as to which part of the train went all the way, and Roger and Suzanne had to dismount at Eastbourne as their carriage was not continuing to Hastings.
We all, including Sean, who had joined at Lewes met up at Hastings station to wait for Jim who was the only one to take the later train.

At Hastings Station

A beautiful crisp day with a manageable north-westerly wind greeted us as we reached Hastings seafront. We stopped at Glyne Gap, a river, that by the time it reached the sea, had become a canal, an area host to many seabirds.

Sculptural metal cutouts stood at the edge of the cycletrack, one we recognised as Spike Milligan, maybe he had a link with the area?

Spike Milligan and Friends

Still on a cycle path, we continued past Galley Hill, the site of a Martello tower, on to Bexhill past some lovely seafront houses that had the feel of large comfortable beachhuts with panoramic windows. Sue was impressed enough to note down an estate agent’s number.

How Far To Los Angeles

The 1930’s De La Warr building prompted some idle puns:
‘De La Warr, what is it good for?’ and ‘De La Warr – hol’.

De La Warr - What Is It Good For

We were on the look out for John, who was cycling from Brighton to meet us en route. Vigilant Joyce spotted someone sitting on a bench with a bike and a black skullcap (like John’s) ‘How long have you been here?’ she asked the bemused stranger.

Coming out of Bexhill we lost Roger and Suzanne who had taken the high road while we continued on the cycle track, busy with pedestrians and dogs. We met up again at Cooden Beach where we headed inland and rode a parallel road to Norman’s Bay to our lunch stop, The Star. Two Johns joined us, one to eat and continue the ride with us, the other, a friend of Jim’s just for a drink.


Lunch was a staggered affair, dishes arriving in stages, but much appreciated when they did appear. Conversation was lively as usual, kicked off by the current debate about prayers before council meetings.

Pevensey Castle and Train

The road to Pevensey ran alongside the coast, but below sea level. Then it was Sovereign Harbour, finally Eastbourne where we had time for a cup of tea/ coffee/ hot chocolate and in some cases, cake in a delightful, friendly café.

We all boarded the train, John deciding to join us rather than cycle back to Brighton in a headwind. We separated into different carriages, our group enjoyed the journey home, appreciating the lengthening evenings.

Thank you Jim for a great day out.


[More photos on Flickr]

The next ride: 19 February – Hastings to Eastbourne

7 February 2012

St Leonards – Bexhill – Cooden Beach – Normans Bay – Pevensey Bay

Ian tells me there is a half-marathon on in Brighton on this day and some roads will be closed, so do check whether you will be able to get to the station. It finishes at 10 am, but there may be some ongoing congestion.

Much of this ride will be familiar to some of us, although I am not sure that we have done it all in one go. It will mean that, together with previous rides from Rye to Lydd and Hastings, and our frequent forays to Normans Bay, we will have explored the Sussex coast all the way from Brighton to the Kent border. One bit we won’t have done before is the section of NCN2 between St Leonards and Bexhill, which is so new that the information display boards at Galley Hill don’t have any information in them yet!

It’s a simple linear ride along the coast – let’s hope the wind is behind us. We’ll have lunch at a familiar haunt, the Star at Normans Bay. If it’s cold we may also need a morning coffee stop, and we can have that in Bexhill. Afternoon tea may be taken in Eastbourne if desired. The approach to Eastbourne will take us along part of NCN21, so this could be thought of as part 2¾ of the Route 21 Trilogy, although some of us did the Eastbourne–Polegate section during the 2010 Easter Meet.

Length: About 18 miles.

Duration: About 4–5 hours.

Terrain: Mostly cycle paths; some quiet lanes, and a short section of A259 at Pevensey Bay. Mostly flat. At one point we briefly run out of prom and will have to push bikes along the shingle beach.

Getting there: Meet at Hastings Station at 11.30; take the 10.04 or 10.20 train from Brighton. (The 10.04 is an extra train which originates at London Victoria at 8.47, and has been diverted via Brighton. Londoners should bring War and Peace to read on the train. Note that the Charing Cross to Hastings line is also disrupted so There Is No Alternative.)

Getting home: Trains leave Eastbourne for Brighton at 5 and 40 minutes past each hour. The 40 minutes past continues to London Victoria.

Lunch: I have booked a table at the pub for 1.30. They ask for a deposit if there are more than 10 people, so do tell me whether you are coming: