The Last Ride: Sunday 16 April (Easter Sunday) 2017 – Polegate circular via Herstmonceux

26 April 2017

Four optimistic Clarionistas turned up at the station in defiance of weather warnings about rain (first due at 1pm and then 4 pm). We were :- Julian ( of course), Prudence, Julia, Joyce. Julian’s ride description is so detailed I don’t have the task of reporting the detail, so suffice it to say that this was a lovely ride – the more so because Julian had arranged so many peaceful lanes and quiet minor roads on an Easter Sunday … We had the pleasure of the Pevensey Levels on a clear sunny day and on to the area identified as Horse eye Level and to New Bridge, where we rode almost alone between two tranquil peaceful canals. Here it was so pleasant and calm with lovely views that we decided to have elevenses with part of our “picnic lunch”, (although I managed to eat all of mine).

Onwards then again along quiet roads with some manageable undulations to the A271 where for a short while we encountered speedy cars, but there was a cycle track alongside. Down then into Herstmonceux and to the Woolpack Inn in the hope that we might find some refreshments despite the Woolpack not serving food. But first we had to inspect what Julia found round the back, she was delighted to come across a telescope/binoculars which had been abandoned in the waste area. As a bird lover she was already planning the usages she could make of them. But alas when we enquired in the pub a kind man and his son assured us that it was damaged. But the good news was that we were able to get cups of tea and a coffee with a very nice comfortable table to eat our picnic lunches, just as well because Julian had done himself proud with a full scale lunch, ( I was very happy with just my cup of tea and declined the many offers of food). To add to the pleasure – no sign of that 1 pm rain, still a pleasant sunny day.

We spent a leisurely hour or so in conversation ranging from the low and humble (dog fouling, barbeques) to complex issues such as why we have the names we do, leading to identity and much else..

The next stage was back to the Cuckoo Trail via Hailsham and a downward route to The Loom cafe where we fell on the toasted tea cakes and for Julian ( of course) a “Rocky Road” of chocolate marshmallow and nuts. Such was our relaxed state of mind that we had to race back to the station for our train, arriving just in time to see Prudence in front sailing across just before the barrier came down. Well done Pru… Hey Ho once on the station we learned that the next Brighton train was cancelled … But still no rain and refusing to lose the pleasure of the day and thanks to Julian’s “App” we found a route via Lewes for Brighton and home which worked and got us to Brighton and STILL NO RAIN !

Thanks to Julian for a lovely ride.


The Last Ride: Sunday 21 August 2016 – Pevensey Levels To Herstmonceux

24 August 2016

Julian, Angela and Sean took the train from Brighton with Sue and Chris boarding in Lewes. Chris (from Patcham) met us in Polegate and we waited for Mick and Ann who had driven to our lunch stop and then cycled to the start of the ride.

Julian led us onto the Cuckoo Trail for a few yards, turning right to cycle along a tree-lined path and over the bridge spanning the by-pass.

The weather was overcast but warm and pleasant. The West wind hit us sideways as we crossed the Pevensey Levels but did not deter our progress. In the afternoon the sun came out, and the wind veered to South-West, becoming strong enough to render our decision to return via the sheltered Cuckoo Trail a wise one.

A back-stop was appointed but unfortunately was not familiar with the route and we were half-way across our reed-lined route when we discovered three of our number were missing. Mick cycled back to search for them. They had missed a turning off the road to Hankham but fortunately realised their mistake and retraced their steps and were soon reunited with the help of Mick’s guidance.

We reached the nursery at Lyme Cross in good time for lunch which was homemade and delicious. The service was friendly and helpful but as we had a long wait for food to arrive a long conversation ensued. One table of 6 people covered the topics of ‘fathers for justice’, Charles Manson, The Archers, the KGB and mind-control techniques, abusive relationships generally, cannibalism, Neo-Liberalism vs Anarchy, books on economics were recommended e.g. Ha-Joon Chang’s book 20 Things They Didn’t Tell you About Capitalism. And both tables spoke of Brexit!

Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux

The Manageress came over and offered us free drinks for having the long wait for food, and we didn’t have to wait quite so long for these to arrive! We decided that this was a Cycle-Friendly eatery and would like to send them one of the Clarion stickers informing visitors of that fact. Anyone got a spare sticker?

Big Chris

Oh, and on the way, Big Chris, who had arrived on his retro 1980 Dawes Galaxy wearing a 1970s? outfit complete with flat cap and knitted tank top, shared his experience of informing the authorities (county council officials) about footpaths and bridleways that needed attention e.g. signs missing, inappropriately diverted by local inhabitants, impassable etc. We can all contribute to improving the situation in this way.

Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux

After lunch Mick and Ann drove off and we had an uneventful ride down the Cuckoo Trail to tea at the Loom Mill café. Some discussion of trying out the Cuckoo’s Nest café further on but we left that for another occasion.

Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux

Patcham Chris left us at Polegate to drive back and the rest of us boarded a crowded train to return home happy and tired after a lovely day out.

Thank you Julian.


The Last Ride: Sunday 29 June 2014 – Polegate circular

3 July 2014

We gathered at Polegate: Amanda (our leader), Corinne and Roger by train, Rob by bike and Elaine & Graham (on his first Clarion ride) by car.

We headed off up the Cuckoo Trail as far as Hailsham and then onto pleasant country roads. Amanda had promised “no hills to speak of”: so we spoke of the occasional slope instead, but basically the ride was pretty easy going. She also promised a “meander” and meander we did, along leafy lanes with no wind and hardly any traffic.

Wisely no one had made any promises about the weather: in fact it was warm and quite sunny. The occasional dark cloud appeared but failed to produce anything wet.

Lunch was at the Yew Tree Inn at Chalvington – prompt service, good food and a garden to sit in. Conversation at lunch ranged over topics such as Schopenhauer’s attitude to women, how Coca Cola protects its brand and why accountants always get the top jobs.

We also stopped at Arlington Tea Gardens for tea and (in some cases) cake – possibly a first ever visit by Clarion – certainly one to remember for future rides. The aviary prompted much talk of matters related to birds.

Corinne and Rob both recorded the ride on their GPS-enabled smart-phones [see below]. According to Corinne’s results we covered 23 miles at an average cycling speed of 7mph.

Many thanks to Amanda for a very pleasing ride.


PS. Corinne Attwood uses MotionX-GPS on the iPhone and is sharing with you the following track:

Name:Track 023 polegate
Date:29 Jun 2014 11:14 am

Map: (valid until Dec 26, 2014) View on Map

Distance: 22.9 miles
Elapsed Time: 3:12:06
Avg Speed: 7.1 mph
Max Speed: 20.5 mph
Avg Pace: 8′ 23″ per mile
Min Altitude: 0 ft
Max Altitude: 399 ft

Start Time: 2014-06-29T10:14:15Z

Start Location:
Latitude: 50º 49′ 18″ N
Longitude:0º 14′ 40″ E

End Location:
Latitude: 50º 49′ 16″ N
Longitude: 0º 14′ 41″ E

What is MotionX-GPS?
MotionX-GPS is the essential GPS application for outdoor enthusiasts. It puts an easy-to-use, state-of-the-art handheld GPS on your iPhone.

Can I use MotionX-GPS?
Sure! MotionX-GPS can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store.

How can I display tracks in Google Earth?
Follow the directions on the Google Earth web site to download and install the Google Earth program. Save the attached “Track 023 polegate.kmz” file to your computer [ask Corinne or Roger for the file]. Launch Google Earth, select File, Open, and open the saved “Track 023 polegate.kmz” file.

The Last Ride: Sunday 9 March 2014 – Cuckoo Trail/Pevensey Levels

11 March 2014

The hottest day in England so far this year (temperatures reaching 20C in the South East) attracted 20 cyclists at the start of the 16-mile Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels ride at Polegate station. This must surely be one of the largest groups ever to take part in an early March Clarion cycle ride. The weather was certainly a dramatic contrast with the recent wet and stormy conditions, which resulted in a couple of rides being cancelled. The Clarion twenty for Sunday’s ride were: Helen, Roger, Suzanne, Jenny, Joyce, Leon, Ian, Elaine, Mick, Anne, Amanda, Tessa, Sikka, Sue, Rob, Richard, Angela, Wilma, Nick and Julian.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

Although Beeching’s ideologically controversial 1963 decision to close the Cuckoo Line was a blow for train travel and public transport, the Cuckoo Trail on the route of the old railway line has become a popular route for cyclists (National Cycle Network Route 21) and walkers today. The unseasonably warm weather attracted more walkers and cyclists than usual to the Cuckoo Trail for our ride on Sunday. Reduced speed and more attention than usual was required as we shared the route with numerous ramblers, dog walkers and other cyclists.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

The leisurely pace adopted during the Cuckoo Trail ride was maintained throughout the rest of the ride. Many of us who hadn’t bothered cycling during the recent stormy weather rather approved of the undemanding route (without hills!) as our first cycle ride of the year.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

Although the Coopers Croft Garden Centre seemed like a strange choice of lunch stop initially, the Catkins Tea Rooms inside the garden centre’s grounds served some excellent soup, sandwiches and bowls of chips. The warm weather enabled us to sit outside with cups of tea and ginger beer (a particularly popular option). We were also able to add another bowl of chips to the expanding Clarion Flickr portfolio of food photographs.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

The garden centre’s potted plant sale proved irresistible for some of Sunday’s cyclists with large panniers or saddle bags. The collection of stone sheep sculptures were also popular, but we all recognised that cycling with a stone carving in our saddle bags might impede our progress as we cycled back to Polgate station.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

An impressive half moon in a clear blue sky accompanied our route back along the Cuckoo Trail, via the Pevensey Levels,  to the familiar tea stop of the Old Loom. It was possible to sit outside again for our second break of the day before cycling the final two miles to Polegate station.

Thanks to Ian for planning such an excellent ride on a day with perfect weather for cycling.


More photos on Flickr.

The Last Ride. 12 August 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

16 August 2012

August 12, 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

A large turnout (13 cyclists) for Sunday’s excellent ride along the Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels. Warm and sunny weather throughout the entire day helped make the outing particularly enjoyable, during a ride which coincided with the last day of the London 2012 Olympics. Railway staff at Clapham Junction seemed to have forgotten to enforce the ban on cycles on trains during the Olympics, thus enabling a trouble-
free journey to the start at Polegate station for the London cycling contingent.

The fine weather seemed to contribute to a faster pace than many previous Clarion rides. There were no punctures or mechanical problems and the cracking pace along the Cuckoo Trail’s smooth tarmac surface continued until the lunchtime stop at the Brewer’s Arms in Vines Cross. The warm weather meant sitting outside was the preferred option for the majority of the group during lunch.

August 12, 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

The final of the Olympic marathon taking place on the TV inside the pub did make a compelling alternative lunchtime for some, though. Rather like coverage of Tour de France cyclists, TV cameras managed to convey the incredible speed the runners tackled the gruelling 26-mile course through London’s streets.After watching Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich win the Olympic marathon in just over 2 hours, I joined the other Clarion cyclists outside for lunch. I opted for a bowl of chips with a pint of lime and soda. Looking around the table, I could see the pub had a variety of wholesome dishes available for those with larger appetites (the veggie pie dish looked particularly good). After watching the final few minutes of Cuba winning the Olympic Flyweight boxing final, we were ready to complete the next stage of our own Olympic style cycle ride along Pevensey Levels.

Hurst Haven

Although not entirely flat, one of the joys of Sunday’s ride was the lack of any significantly difficult hills for the post-lunch leg of the ride. As the name suggests, Pevensey Levels consisted of particularly flat terrain. We seemed to make good progress as we cycled along this part of the route, without encountering more than one or two cars. A particularly noteworthy moment was the sight of two swans and several cygnets seemingly lapping up floating lichen in a stream. We were all transfixed by this sight for several minutes and managed to take many photographs,
which will no doubt be appearing on the Clarion flickr site soon.

August 12, 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

It didn’t seem too long before we were back on the Cuckoo Trail for the return to Polegate station. We had made good progress, so had time for an afternoon tea stop at the Old Loom. After indulging in the Old Loom’s wide selection of drinks and cakes (nettle & fennel tea was my cycling drink of choice), we cycled back to Polegate station along the Cuckoo Trail. There were some train delay station announcements, but all of the Brighton contingent managed to load their bikes when the train finally arrived (a nearby air display meant the service was busier than usual). I was asked by a guard if I was aware that bike restrictions were in operation during the Olympics on the train journey back to Clapham Junction. Luckily, the guard didn’t seem to be in the mood to throw cyclists off the train for breaking less than clear Olympic travel
rules for cycles which hadn’t been enforced earlier in the morning on the outward journey.


The Next Ride: Sunday 12 August 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

1 August 2012

[NOTE the “Future Rides” table is now accessible via a link in the right hand menu]

Another ‘traditional’ one.. We first did this in October 2004.

Up the Trail as far as Horam then off to Vines Cross to the Brewer’s Arms for lunch returning by quiet roads through Vines Cross, Cowbeach, Stunts Green (wheelies at your own risk), Ginger Green, across the Levels to Rickney, then back to Cuckoo Trail and eventually Polegate.


Distance: about 20 miles.
Hills:the ex-railway Trail climbs almost imperceptibly. Only little inclines where the bridge that used to cross the road is no longer there. There are a few minor ‘ups’ coming back until we get to the Pevensey Levels –whose name speaks for itself!
Off road: Well surfaced Cuckoo Trail
Traffic: Shouldn’t be a problem – quiet roads and the Trail.
Lunch and Tea: Brewers’ Arms for lunch. Possible tea stop (depending on train times and our own progress) at the Old Loom

Catch the 10.20 from Brighton station or meet at 10.49 at Polegate station. (Be at Brighton Station by 9.50 for Groupsave.) Trains back at 6 minutes past the hour with a change at Lewes and 42 minutes direct.

Ian’s mobile number is 07770743287.


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 Last Ride: Sunday 15 April 2012 – Polegate to Eridge

17 April 2012

Clarion polegate to Erith,top of the Cuckoo 002

This was one of Jim’s “Mix and Match” rides which meant that there could potentially be at least two ride reports – we shall see. In any event Roger, Suzanne, Nick (good to see him again), Leon, Sue, and Joyce met at Brighton station, to be joined by Ann and Mick at Lewes and Sean, Rob and Jim at Polegate – so we were now a happy band of 11, heading for the Cuckoo Trail.


I have a special fondness for the Cuckoo Trail as being the first ever B&H Clarion ride; it is also, despite being linear and well known, always different. On this day, although the wind was chilly, the sun was faithful to the end and there was a medley of offerings to prove that spring really is here. From its early days the Cuckoo Trail has matured into a veritable haven for wild life. The Trail was an avenue of foamy white flowers with the blackthorn in full bloom. On the ground a tapestry of violets, primroses, lady’s smock (otherwise known as cuckoo flower); the wood covered with wood anemones (awaiting the bluebells, a few of which were just poking through).

Lesser celandine

There was Leon’s sighting of his first orange tip butterfly and, of course, the birds – a varied chorus of which I could identify very few but others were better at it – but not unfortunately the cuckoo (see below). And of course there were the ones we glimpsed as we sailed by: robins, blue-tits , dunnocks … Added to all that of course were the six sculptures – one particularly admired was the “Harvest” by Jenifer Ulrich.

The Cuckoo Trail. 15-04-2012

By the time we got to Horam interest turned to eating. We decided on Wesson’s cafe – a vast place frequented by bikers of whom many were in attendance. It had a great timeless atmosphere and the food was cheap and excellent. To be recommended. After a good lunch on we went to Heathfield and then came the decision – who was going to go the whole hog to Eridge and who only to the tunnel? Jim, Nick, Sean, Rob, Mick and Ann decided for Eridge; Suzanne, Roger and Sue to the tunnel; and Joyce and Leon back on to the Cuckoo Trail, aiming for the Loom where those not going to Eridge could catch up.

The Cuckmere at Hellingly

Leon and Joyce were soon joined by Sue and the discussion turned to why it was called the Cuckoo Trail – was it because of the Cuckmere river, or because the railway line was called the Cuckoo Line (and why was that)? I find it did indeed get its name from the Cuckoo Line, which in turn was named because of the tradition that the first cuckoo of spring was heard at the Heathfield Fair, so there are a lot of links with the Cuckoo – and even if we did not hear it the cuckoo does belong to the Cuckoo Trail.

Once ensconced with the comfort of tea and toasted tea cake at the Loom, Leon, Sue and Joyce were joined by Suzanne and Roger – and with some surprise by Ann and Mick. It turned out that by the time the tunnel had had its due attention Ann and Mick felt it too late to go on to Eridge – Suzanne kindly offered the following contribution on the tunnel:

“After ¾ mile (x 2!) we went through a fine Victorian tunnel and continued along the Cuckoo Trail until a sudden assembly of scaffolding poles and barbed wire – the legacy of a grumpy land-owner who decided that he was not going to allow the hoi-polloi to cross his precious land …”

April 15, 2012: Polegate to Eridge

On that, Wikipedia says that until 1986 East Sussex County Council had 11 miles to the south of Mayfield within its ownership – but parcels of land were sold off to raise funds (an example of short-sightedness if ever there was one …). This means that the Trail north cannot reach Groombridge and link with the Forest Way. Despite numerous reports seeking to find a way to connect with the Forest Way, the last one in 2006 concluded that reusing the old railway line would be best. So we can only hope.

After a very pleasant sojourn at the Loom we ambled off to get the train to Brighton. As to what happened to those going to Eridge – will anyone tell us?

The Barrier


Fred writes: Well, I wimped out completely and took the 29 bus to Tunbridge Wells and spent the day going up and down the Spa Valley railway. Apparently Jim, Nick and Sean arrived at Eridge station just as my train was pulling out!

April 15, 2012: Polegate to Eridge

[Many more photos on Flickr]