The Next Ride: Sunday 18 October 2015: Three Bridges Circular 

7 October 2015

via Worth Church and Weir Wood Reservoir

Worth – East Grinstead – Weir Wood Reservoir – Kingscote – Turners Hill

This is my first “made to order” ride. It arose out of a conversation with Julian after our visit to Catsfield Church on 23rd August. It turned out that he had not been to Worth Church, and very much wanted to see it; so I agreed to plan a ride with that in mind.

The church is a little way along the Worth Way. After visiting it we’ll continue along the Worth Way to East Grinstead, and have lunch at about 1pm at the Old Dunnings Mill, the lovely Harveys pub and former watermill where we met the London Clarion section in March last year.

Julian also suggested a visit to Weir Wood Reservoir, which has a nature reserve. So we’ll proceed southwards to the reservoir, and spend a little time in or around the bird hide there. The reservoir was created in 1952 by damming the river Medway, which flows through this valley. (NB veterans of the London Clarion meet-up may remember a long whizz downhill to the pub … and yes, unfortunately we have to go up that hill this time around, mostly walking. Also anyone with an O level in Geography will appreciate that rivers tend to be in valleys …)

After leaving the reservoir we take a bridleway past Stone Farm Rocks, a striking series of sandstone crags which belongs to the British Mountaineering Council. Later we cross the juvenile Medway, pass the Kingscote Estate Vineyard (which has a wine shop!) and go under the Bluebell Line. We’ll then use a Permissive Bridleway to avoid a hill, passing some wonderful views and emerging into Vowels Lane near the top. (I originally thought the vowels would be along the lines of “Agh! Ugh!” but with this new route it will hopefully be more like “Ooooh!” and “Aaaah!”)

After Turners Hill (which is not much of a hill) we will experience the downhill variety, passing (or more likely stopping at) Tulleys Farm Tea Rooms (which, unfortunately, doesn’t appear to have a swing or a model railway) before rejoining the Worth Way and returning to Three Bridges Station.

Anyone wanting to avoid the ups and downs can retrace the outward journey from the pub, and this also makes the ride about 3 miles shorter.

Terrain: Much of this ride is on quiet lanes through lovely woodlands, and the off-road sections are on good surfaces, though they may be bumpy in places. There is a short section of the B2028.

Length: 21 miles or less (see above)

Duration: about 6½ hours, depending on stops.

Undulations: see above!

Start at: Three Bridges Station at 10:45

Getting there: Trains from Brighton at 10:00 or 10:14; from London Bridge at 9:42

Getting home: Trains to Brighton at 19, 24, 48 mins past the hour; frequent trains to London


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 4 September – Three Bridges circular

13 September 2011

[More photos on Flickr]

Angelika, Jim, Rob, Roger, Sue, Suzanne and Tessa met at Three Bridges. We had a staggered arrival, on trains from Brighton, Clapham Junction, Haywards Heath and Hove. A newspaper stand outside the station announced ‘Ex-Mayor in TV Auction’. At lunch Roger confessed he was tempted to add ‘No Bids Received’.

2. At the Start

The Worth Way is my kind of off-road, a smooth disused railway track. Trees protected us from a misty drizzle. At Rowfant Station (boarded up) we admired the quality of bricklaying in the bricked up door of the ticket office – it was seamless with the rest of the building – a touch of Surrealism, Rene Magritte maybe? I thought. The suburbs of Crawley Down followed, we rejoined the Worth Way, passed a 16th Century manor house [Gullege – Jim] with an interesting star-shaped chimney, too far away to really admire. Suzanne wondered if the advent of the railway so close to them had caused the owners of the manor house to protest in a 19th century version of NIMBYism.

7. Red Riding Hood

At East Grinstead station, the track ended and we headed towards our lunch stop in Lingfield on some delicious long downhill swoops. It started to rain properly as we neared The Star and during lunch we looked out on pouring rain. At lunch Jim asked us if we had noticed a road sign in the village saying ‘Free Will Counselling’, prompting Roger to confess what he nearly did at Three Bridges station. Lunch took a while to arrive, but when it did, was served altogether and was appreciated. No politics today, ‘Slimmers World’ and ‘Freecyle’ were among the subjects discussed. Jim took a photo of my empty plate for the report, another touch of Surrealism?

5. Empty Plate

We decided against visiting the church in Lingfield and headed off into Surrey where after Crowhurst we voted to take the off-road path Jim had discovered on his practice ride. It was not my kind of off-road – bumpy and fringed with massive stinging nettles, but Sue handed out dock leaves at the end.

6. Lingfield

After the Bentley half mile we passed through Blindley Heath and Smallfield, mostly on country lanes but with a short section of A22 in between.

Our tea stop was a very jolly café in Horley where a cup of tea cost only £1. We sat outside as the sun and wind had swept away the rain.

13. Warning - Do Not Drive Horse Drawn Carriages on this Footpath

Soon we were at Gatwick, passing through the delightful Riverside Garden Park, landscaped with ponds and semi-tropical plants – another surreal experience – noise from planes, motorway and trains surrounded the tranquillity, as well as the smell of aviation fuel. The route back to 3 Bridges ran through Gatwick’s concrete jungle, deserted office blocks and boarded up industrial units. We passed Gatwick’s original 1930’s terminal, ‘the Beehive’ and small roads all named after famous scientists and engineers. We stopped for Jim to fix a couple of fake ‘Route 21’ signs to posts, not to mislead, but to clarify the route for those who will follow in our footsteps.

19. Fixing the Notice

At Three Bridges station, all except Angelika took the Brighton train, tired out by a wonderful well-planned day.

Thank you again Jim!


The Last Ride: Sunday 7 August – Three Bridges to Eridge

9 August 2011

The start at Three Bridges

Slabs of slate grey; powder puffs of fluffy white; sulphurous yellow; clear blue; lowering leaden … these were just some of the skies seen by Fred, new member Jane (see below), leader Jim, Joyce, Roger, Sean and Suzanne, who set off from Three Bridges station once Suzanne’s puncture (2nd one in as many trips up Queen’s Road, Brighton) had been ably mended by Roger and Jim.

Suzann'e puncture!

On to the familiar but ever attractive Worth Way in sun, only for the clouds to scud over and to pelt the happy band of cyclists with rain for a good half hour. Nothing daunted, the Magnificent Seven pressed on, reaching East Grinstead just as the sun began to shine again. A quick detour reassured Fred and Jim that the Bluebell Line had, indeed, reached East Grinstead. The “prefab” booking office was a bit of a disappointment and it certainly had nothing of the “brand-new Victorian station” about it, but at least the ancient (well, at least very old) connection of lines has at last been made.

The new Bluebell platform at East Grinstead

After briefly stopping to admire Sackville College (which, just to confuse us all, is not a college but an almshouse) we followed our leader on to the Forest Way, which took us down a gradient to Forest Row as gentle as the one along the Worth Way that had taken us up to East Grinstead.

Jim's ravioli finally arrives

Tummies were empty by now, and perhaps some of us were a little concerned that, as it was already past 1pm, the target hostelry, The Chequers Inn Hotel in Forest Row, might be a little busy. We need have had no such anxiety – the place was deserted and we readily found a large table to accommodate us all comfortably. Food was ordered. Food arrived. Or at least, six meals arrived. Jim had put a Jim Jinx on the automated system connecting till and kitchen. Fred and Joyce had enjoyed their soup. No ravioli for Jim. Suzanne and Roger had munched their BLTs. No ravioli for Jim. Jane and Sean had savoured their lasagne. Still no ravioli for Jim. It eventually came after various apologies and was reported to be as good as the other meals had been. However, not to be idle while waiting, Jim put on his Brighton Clarion treasurer’s hat and gave a fine display of extracting a subs payment from Jane. A more deft demonstration of parting a woman and her money has not been seen for many a year.

East Grinstead

At Forest Row Joyce decided that the 12-mile ride back to Three Bridges was her preferred way of returning to Brighton, so regretfully the remaining six waved good-bye to her and continued on the remarkably busy Forest Way. Once we had picked Jim out of the nettles into which he had fallen (when you wait a long time for your ravioli, does your beer goes straight to your head?) we made good time along the lovely shady former railway line, crossing the River Medway (yes, the Medway) a couple of times as it wound its youthful way across the Kent countryside towards Rochester. The threatened last hill into Eridge was perfectly walkable, as all self-respecting hills should be. Jim, Roger and Suzanne decided to catch a train back to Uckfield, and from there cycle to Lewes and then en-train again to Brighton; Fred, Jane and Sean decided on the all-train-borne option of Eridge – Hurst Green – East Croydon – Home Station.

Sean and Jane relax at Eridge

Whether we had done 24 miles or 33 miles, it was a well-planned and enjoyable ride. Thanks Jim.


Joyce adds: I was sorry to leave the band, it felt almost like deserting. But all Jim’s wonderfully thought out options didn’t quite meet my needs. I had planned to get back to Brighton in time for a sauna and to see “The Big Picture” at beloved DofY (a great film – see it if you can). I didn’t want to do 34 miles and definitely not 40 ! and the option of 22 + East Croydon would have taken too long. In the event I sped back through East Grindstead to the Worth Way, although, despite it being straight through, I nevertheless managed to find myself at a different exit – Still, finding Three Bridges was easy and I got there at 4pm, in time for my evening programme, having done 25 miles. Thanks Jim for the options, the ride, the pub and thanks to all for the company.

Fred adds: the journey back from Eridge on the train, with changes at Hurst Green and East Croydon, demonstrated how badly cycles are catered for. On every train, every doorway was full of bikes (not only Clarion bikes, which shows there is some demand for bike travel); on one train the stroppy guard reminded us over the tannoy that there was only provision for 2 bikes per train, but at least he didn’t throw us off! Ironically, if buses carried bikes, I could have got the 29 all the way to Brighton!

[More photos on Flickr]

The Next Ride: Sunday 7 August 2011 – Three Bridges to Eridge

27 July 2011

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

(Part II of the Route 21 Trilogy)

This ride has something in common with Ian McEwan’s Atonement. That does not mean that someone will be accused of a crime of which they are entirely innocent, nor that there will be guest appearances by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. No, the parallel with Atonement is in the fact that the ride, like the novel, has multiple endings. But more of that later (at the end, in fact).

We start out along the familiar Worth Way, and will get a glimpse of the frontage of Gullege, the old house which we saw the back of the last time we came this way (on the Bluebell Line ride, in March). Ian tells me that Pevsner had this to say about it:

A beautiful Jacobean house … (The) front is stone-faced, smooth, with three equal gables and mullioned windows. The other sides show their timber-framing. Good chimneystacks, one of star-shape, the others square, set diagonally.

However, when we reach East Grinstead, after a brief detour to look at the brand new Victorian railway station on the Bluebell Line, we just keep going – through East Grinstead’s High Street with its many old buildings, including the 400-year-old Sackville College, and onto the continuation of Route 21, known here as the Forest Way.

The Forest Way is a cycle route that is also, apparently, a Country Park – and very nice it is too, and dead flat of course as it is the continuation of the old railway line from East Grinstead to Groombridge (or Ashurst Junction to be precise). After a couple of miles we come to the ruins of Brambletye House. Pevsner again (via Ian):

The impressive ruin of the house which Sir Henry Compton built in 1631. Still entirely Elizabeto-Jacobean in style … The symmetrical front of the house is still easily recognised with its central porch, canted bays l. and r. and towers at the angles. These are of four storeys, and one has still got its ogee cap.

Then lunch at Forest Row; the Chequers Inn Hotel has a good range of reasonably priced dishes, and does not require pre-booking; so in fact we can, if we choose, decide to go somewhere else, such as the café next door which will also be open. And if anyone wants to bring a picnic lunch, they can probably eat outside the pub, or stop off at one of the Forest Way’s many picnic tables and arrange a rendezvous after lunch.

On the short trip between the cycle path and the lunch stop we will actually cross the River Medway. Luckily it is not as wide here as it is at Rochester, and doesn’t even get a mention on the plaque that records the history of Forest Row Bridge. But the Medway it is, and in fact we will cycle along its valley for some 6 miles before it turns abruptly north just before Groombridge.

The last 2 miles we will be on a country lane, and I am afraid there is some “undulation” here, but it will soon be over. At Eridge Station we wave goodbye to Route 21, which now points to Rotherfield and other places we will meet in the third part of the Trilogy. The Spa Valley Railway will be running trains into Eridge (but not steam trains I’m afraid as it is a Diesel Gala Weekend). We might get a cup of tea there.

We then come to the aforementioned choice of endings:

(Normal: 22 miles) Return by train from Eridge (via East Croydon).
(For Enthusiasts: 34 miles) Train to Uckfield, then cycle from Uckfield to Glynde (following the route of the second half of the Berwick-Glynde ride we did in April), then train to Brighton.
(Strictly for Addicts: 40 miles) Cycle back to Three Bridges the way you came.
(Strictly for Beginners: 8 miles) Return home by train from East Grinstead (via East Croydon).

Start at Three Bridges Station at 10:40 am (assemble by the cycle racks).
Suggested trains: 9:45 or 10:00 from Brighton; 9.54 from Hove (change at Gatwick); 9:27 from London Victoria; 9:42 from London Bridge.
Duration: The basic 22-mile version will take about 5 hours including lunch.
Return trains from Eridge (option 1) 15:49; (option 2) 16:00; from Glynde 17:53, 18:53.
This is a non-circular ride. Car people can park at Three Bridges but will need to take option 1, 3 or 4.
My mobile: 07742-963239.