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.