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).
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.
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.
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 …”
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?
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!
[Many more photos on Flickr]