The Last Ride – Suzanne’s Report

26 March 2014

Balcombe to East Grinstead, via Turners Hill – 23 March 2014

March 23, 2014: Balcombe to East Grinstead via Turners Hill

The 10.05 London bound train deposited Jim (ride leader), Sue/Sikka, Tessa, Nick, Suzanne and Roger at Balcombe. David arrived car-borne. Joyce and Leon very wisely (as will become apparent) chose to continue to Three Bridges and alight there.

A taste of what was to come appeared within the first 200 yards, in the form of a steep incline. The area from Balcombe to East Grinstead forms part of an area known as the High Weald, with the emphasis on “high”. However, once we had conquered the rise up through Balcombe, we benefitted from the glorious run down to Balcombe Lake. Alas, what goes down must go up, and down … and up …… and down …… and up. However, Paddockhurst Lane gave us tantalising distant glimpses of Worth Abbey and Church, and after that Paddockhurst Road allowed us to see – far, far away – that white concrete conglommeration that is Gatwick Airport with the North Downs rising boldly behind it. Turners Hill, we discovered, is on a hill. We stopped on the handkerchief sized village green and had time to admire the hard men (and possibly women – you can’t always see under those helmets) who had actually cycled up the north face of Turners Hill.

A blast from Jim’s whistle brought us to attention and we were off again, plunging down to Kingscote and beneath a beautiful eliptical brick railway bridge. Stopping to allow Jim to peer over the side of the road to see one (of the) source(s) of the River Medway

The Medway near Kingscote

– we heard a fearsome sound. No! Not fearsome. As we gazed up at the overhead bridge, a green steam engine puffed its way across, ready to pull into Station on the Bluebell Line. We all waved like demented yellow hobgobblins … and not a single wave did we get back from the passengers. Shame on them.

The author of this piece does not mind admitting that Turners Hill Road and Saints Hill Road were somewhat of a struggle. However, a brief rest at the main gate of the Scientologists (under the watchfull eye of their Security) bought welcome relief, but the West Hoathly Road did prove a bit of a challenge, being narrow and (at our stage of exhustion) virtually perpendicular, as imortalised by by fitter cyclists overtaking the Clarionettes at a rate of knots:

March 23, 2014: Balcombe to East Grinstead via Turners Hill

But it was a very beautiful part of the ride, made even more attractive by the knowledge that the Old Dunning’s Mill pub was only a km away. And what a good pub it was. Everyone was delighted to see that TJ, Joan and Nye (all of 10 months old now) were there to meet us, as were Leon and Joyce who had chosen the relative flat, if bumpy, Worth Way to get there. The pub made a crowd of 17½ people very welcome and the food was superb – indeed, desserts were ordered by some – no name, no pack drill, but you know who you are.

Nick had to leave as he had a date with the death throes of Borderline Records in Gardiner Street. In true Clarion style, he did photograph a number of the excellent lunches before he left.

The aim of the lunch stop was to meet up with a noble band from the London Clarion group who were riding from Waterloo. The rendez-vous had been fixed for 1.30, but a pub in Forest Row had lured the hardy band into dallying. Well, nearly all the hardy band. Andy had made it to East Grinsted courtesy of Southern Rail, Frank seemed to have been irretrievably lost somewhere between Waterloo and Edenbrdge, but Alan, Alex, Martin and George turned up just after 2pm, most of them spendidly attired thus:


Chat was had with the Londoners on various topics of common interest, but only too soon the Brighton and Hove brigade decided it was time to be brave and face the ride home. By common consent, the Worth Way was opted for. My! but East Grinstead is a hilly town. Finally we were all on the Worth Way – even David with his narrow tyres, which he had sensibly “down pressured” to 30psi –- and in no time at all we were back in sunny Three Bridges. A cup of tea and a twenty minute wait, a pleasant chat and then a vitrtually empty train to relax in all the way back to Brighton.

A fine day with far more sun than hail (they were only tiny stones, honest!), with more downs than ups (honest?) and more lovely countryside than you could shake a stick at. Everyone had their own fascinating memory or spotted a marvel. Nick could not resist celebrating the 210th anniversary of the writing of Wordsworth’ putting pen to paper with this magnificent floral portrait:

March 23, 2014: Balcombe to East Grinstead via Turners Hill

while alas, Jim and Suzanne could not resist nagging Nick once again about his nascent “derrière du constructeur”:

Derriere de Constructeur

There was the Red Kite whirrling above the lake or the magnificent ball of mistletow high in a tree above the Worth Way, some “two up, two down” bird accommodation

Bird House

the jolly Pig at Pound Hill:

Pig at Pound Hill

or the truly bonkers cycle lanes:

Interesting cycle lanes

Thanks Jim, exhausting, yes, but “real” cycling and a lovely route.

The last ride: Sunday 20 March 2011 – Three Bridges to Haywards Heath via Worth Way and Bluebell Line

22 March 2011

[Many more photos in our Flickr group]

This is how most of us felt at the end of the ride (apologies to the stronger riders in our midst).

Twenty, yes T-W-E-N-T-Y, happy Clarion riders met at Three Bridges station, gathering from north and south. This was, of course, a record. Once the puncture was mended and the photo taken, it was off in clear, sunny weather along the Worth Way, our long April shadows accompanying us as we rode: now high above the railway cutting, now riding along the embankment of the rail bed itself.

The start at Three Bridges

Rowfant station still stands but Crawley Down station is no longer with us – 1960s Grange Road has obliterated that particular alighting point. Being very glad of Jim’s guidance, we made our way through the modern housing estate, back onto the Worth Way and then off again on a delightful little detour past mediaeval Gullege and then back over the Worth Way and up and down Imberhorne Lane. Here we crossed another defunct rail bed, this time, the East Grinstead to Kingscote line (aka a future extension of the Bluebell Line – track already laid to the south-west, mountains of 1960s rubbish still to be removed from the cutting to the north-east).

Rubbish dump

After climbing up for what seemed forever, at last it was time to swoop down to Kingscote station. The bad news was that the wonderful 1960s uniforms being worn by the volunteer station staff also meant that they were perpetuating 1960s attitudes: no more than five bikes allowed in the guard’s van. Doh! Rapid calculations were made as to who was likely to be able to cycle the 12 miles to Sheffield Park station without dropping completely dead. And then there were 15 – well no, one more intrepid Clarionette used charm (brute force / tears / pleading / bribery?) and was also allowed to part with £8.00 (+ 50p bike charge) for the honour of being steam-drawn those 12 miles. So then there were 14 happy Clarionettes on their way.

Tessa detrains

Or do I mean there were 14 hills? Is it really possible for roads to continually rise? Up Vowels Lane we climbed, the vowels mainly being A(rgh), O(w) and OU(ch). But once up, we found the views were spectacular across the High Weald and Shagswell Wood down to our left; all along knowing that the railway line had commandeered the flat valley bottom in 1882 for its own use. Unfortunately each time there was an exhilarating sweep down, it seemed to be followed by an agonising climb up.

Not “Very Flat”, Sussex!

The early birds at lunch

By 2.30 the weary band of 14 reached Sheffield Park station and made a bee-line for the pub where curly sandwiches (circa “Brief Encounter”) and various delectable dishes were consumed. A later-than-usual start back at 3.30 with quite a few creaks and groans, but we were on the home straight. The joy of a bike is that you can get off and push up the hills. Just think how awful if would be if you had to push your Range Rover out of the “Bluebell Valley” to get up to Butterbox Lane. None of those difficulties for us. We just got off and pushed (well, some of us did, anyway).

Leaving Sheffield Park station

As we passed twice more under the Bluebell Railway our shadows were still with us, but lengthening in the other direction under a still brightly shining sun. We paused to admire the sparkling waters of ancient Ludwell Spring near Horsted Keynes and then through the various farmsteads of Walstead to Lindfield.

Ludwell spring

John, Mark and Sean had peeled off before Chailey, Mick had hared off to put on evening dress for dinner, and then Jenny was away in a cloud of dust*, whilst the remaining 16 managed to cause a mini traffic jam in that pretty little village, and so before you could say, “Pump me tyres up, Sport”, we were back to Haywards Heath and four tired Londoners were being whisked off northward whilst 13 Sussexers (there must be an adjective!) cluttered up a busy train to their respective stations south.

Finally, please remove your helmets to pay your last respects to “The Intrepid Fox” at West Hoathly (offers in the region of £650K), the “The Witch Inn” at Lindfield and any other “dead pubs” that we might have passed.

Thanks to Jim for a delightful ride through what must be some of the most beautiful countryside in Sussex.


* Hardly! Sorry to desert everyone so abruptly, but I was very tired after doing a 55-mile overnight ride (for fun!) on Friday, and stopping and getting cold was making matters worse. So I decided to take the direct route down the main road to Haywards Heath to get to my car before I expired at the roadside.



For the trainspotters reading, the ‘cushy six’ were hauled from Kingscote to Sheffield Park on the Bluebell Railway by South Eastern & Chatham Railway No. 178, P-class 0-6-0T built in 1910. The other loco on duty was Brighton-built London Brighton & South Coast Railway Class E4 0-6-2T No. 473, “Birch Grove”. There was in fact plenty of room for all our bikes in the guard’s van!

Our loco No. 178


TJ has also written up the ride, on this forum. Scroll down until you see Clarion. It’s reassuring too that other cyclists are also taking pictures of food!

The next ride: 20 March 2011 – Bluebell railway

8 March 2011

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

Sunday 20 March 2011
Three Bridges – Kingscote – Bluebell Railway – Sheffield Park – Haywards Heath

This is a repeat of a ride we did in September 2007, with a different ending. We once again encounter National Cycle Route 21, in the guise of the Worth Way, and follow it most of the way from Three Bridges to East Grinstead, then strike out southwards to Kingscote, where the Bluebell line starts.

Since the lunch at Horsted Keynes last time was … well, a bit basic, I have now developed an alternative route which involves staying on the train to Sheffield Park and using the proper restaurant there – prices are reasonable and there is a fairly good choice, with veggie options. We may well want to look round the engine shed and the shop at Sheffield Park too.

The single fare from Kingscote to Sheffield Park is £8.00 plus 50p bike fare (they have a proper guard’s van!). This is somewhat more than we paid three years ago, but then the Bluebell are currently trying to raise £2m to move a huge mass of household refuse that was dumped in the cutting in the 1970s, so that they can link up to the National Rail network at East Grinstead (where they have already built a Bluebell station next to the Network Rail one) so the money is going to a good cause!

The route out of Sheffield Park station involves about a mile of the A275, which is rather too busy for our liking, but we will have to put up with it. We then strike out north-westwards on quieter lanes, and reach Haywards Heath via Lindfield. We will make two crossings of the River Ouse (thankfully, by bridges!) and see it from the train – it is narrower here than where we crossed it at Isfield on the Lewes ride last year, of course.

Total ride length is about 19 miles. There are some hills but no serious ones.

Suggested trains:

From Brighton: 10.00 or 10.14

From Preston Park: 10.03

From Hove: 09.54 (change at Burgess Hill)

From London Bridge: 9.42

From London Victoria: 9.47

or meet at Three Bridges station at 10.45.

A return ticket from Brighton to Three Bridges will cover the return journey from Haywards Heath; if travelling from London you will need to get a return to Haywards Heath.

Return trains to Brighton at 8, 31, 38 and 41 minutes past each hour, to Hove at 11 minutes past, London at 1, 10, 31 and 39 minutes past.