The weather forecasts were dire – “heavy rain” and the Brighton Marathon was to complicate travel to the station, but we’d already cancelled this ride once, so we proceeded early for the allotted 10.00am train. We managed the first crossing of London Rd section of marathon route successfully but then were held up for 20 minutes as thousands of runners, hemmed in by metal fencing, trooped along Jubilee St to New Road. The two stewards by the crossing point were sympathetic, but pointed out that the runners had been training for months for this & we were unlikely to be able to catch that train! Fortunately one mentioned a gap & Mick & I shot across, raced to ticket office, where Mick again told of our plight to the lady in front of us & was allowed passage. We both ran to platform 4 & joined the right train with only seconds to spare. Sue had also had problems. She had to race along with the runners & her bike in order to cross the lines! 5 Clarionettes alighted ahead of us on the train & were surprised to see us! A young man with wife & baby volunteered to take the group photo at the station as we debated how much wet gear to put on before the start.
We trailed through suburban Burgess Hill until we hit Gatehouse Lane & relaxed at the lack of traffic, the joy of birdsong & spring blossom. As we headed north the lanes began to undulate. There was some dismounting, brief explorations of the surrounding woods with a chance to pick some wild garlic for tea & opportunities for David to practice falling off his bike onto soft grass, as he was trying out new pedals, shoes & cleats. We passed a pony & rider & then, on an uphill section, pony & rider passed us at barely a trot. A few more roads & few more undulations [or, it has to be admitted, climbs] & we were north of Cuckfield without rain & warm from the exercise.
Once in the grounds of Borde Hill Gardens we had superb views of surrounding countryside, even a few early, pink rhodedendrons & I spotted a dodo inside the grounds near the ruined house.
Food at the Elvira Cafe was enjoyed by all. There were cakes [pear & almond & lemon polenta] & ale [Harvey’s Prince of Denmark], I had spinach soup, Mick had rabbit, Leon & Joyce had quiches, David & Julian had fishcake [1 each] & Sue had a super kids roast.
Although most of us had thought we would make an early exit at Haywards Heath station due to being soaking wet, it turned out dull but dryish, so 5 of us decided to return to Burgess Hill, having been warned off Wivelsfield by Jim & Sue, who remembered it had a difficult flight of steps to platform. Joyce & Leon kept to the plan of returning from Haywards Heath & we bade them goodbye near Lindfield, continued through that pretty village & enjoyed Slugwash Lane. Even before reaching Slugwash Lane, Sue & I were lucky enough to see a weasel run in front of Sue & dart across the road with a vole in its mouth. No pics unfortunately, but shared joy.
Due to a misunderstanding between Mick (who had planned to turn right at the bottom of Slugwash Lane) & Leon (who suggested a left turn) we took a wrong turn & ended up with Sue standing underneath a sign that said “Burgess Hill”, me saying we should turn right & Mick [our leader], maintaining that we turn left. Julian & I were disappointed that we couldn’t just catch a train now, partly as he feared that he had lost his i-phone whilst cycling in the morning & had a dinner engagement in the evening back up near where we were But we all followed our leader who didn’t stop until it was quite obvious that we were almost into Ditchling!
Sue gallantly pointed out that it was now only a short ride to Hassocks station but us moaners suspected that there would be a long wait at Hassocks.
In the centre of Ditchling, Mick left us as he wanted to cycle home as more miles needed for training for a Friday Night Ride to the Coast Ride in 2 weeks time.The remaining 4 of us arrived at the station only to see an 8 carriage train pulling out on its way to Brighton! Assembled on the platform we puzzled over the digital display which said that next Brighton train would be in 1 minutes time! Had it left early? If so we were in for a half an hour’s wait. No, another train pulled up, so previous mirage must have been late, unless trains were now running every few minutes to Brighton to cater for Marathon traffic. We gratefully piled on the train. All agreed that All’s Well that Ends Well &, fortunately, Julian even found that his phone, was, in fact, safely waiting for him at home. Mick still managed to arrive home before me, after cycling up Ditchling Beacon. All agreed we’d had another grand day cycling with the Clarion.
More pics on Flickr.