The Last Ride: Sunday 10 March 2013 Hassocks – Woods Mill – Fulking – Newtimber

14 March 2013

Despite the grey and dank weather, with rain and snow forecast for later in the day, ten hardy souls met at Hassocks station on Sunday morning for a second attempt at Mick and Anne’s ride that had been scheduled earlier for 10 February, which had been postponed due to heavy rain and strong winds. Mick, Anne, Jenny, Joyce, Amanda, David, Linda, Julian, Michael and Peter set off at 10.30am for refreshments at Woods Mill Nature Reserve about six miles away, just south of Henfield. After only a few minutes, unfortunately Joyce didn’t feel too well and decided to return to Brighton for an invigorating sauna; we hope she gets her full strength back for the next ride.

Starting out at Hassocks

The route through Hurstpierpoint, Albourne and High Cross was straightforward, following good roads with only gentle hills, and after a debate between the ride leaders about where to go at the next junction, we headed south down Blackstone Lane and on to the picnic area at the nature reserve, where Anne provided welcome hot drinks and high energy snacks. As we had plenty of time to get to our lunch booking for 2pm at The Royal Oak in Poynings, we set off along the paved walk to explore part of the reserve, which we were told, offered all manner of Springtime nature: water shrews, snipe, green sandpipers, little egrets, barn owls, toads, wrens, bistorts, carp, great-crested newts and water rails. Some of us did spot a treecreeper (or it could have been a nuthatch?) running up the trunk of a distant silver birch; Julian pointed out a robin, and Mick found a white, lesser, pond spoon. Otherwise we had to content ourselves with a exhibition of habitats for beetles, slugs, frogs, hedgehogs and other endemic fauna.

Tea break at Wood Mills


Watching a treecreeper creep up a tree

Back-tracking along Horn Lane, we headed through Woodmancote and then turned south towards Fulking. Along the way we passed four llamas in a field, two Sheltand ponies and Anne said she saw a small ostrich, or it could have been an emu. As the Shepherd and Dog had been fully booked for Mothers Day, Mick and Anne had reserved a table at The Royal Oak at Poynings, where we arrived more than one hour early. Fortunately they could still takes us, but Anne and Peter had things other than food on their minds. Locking up her bike, Anne noticed something different about her equipment – her back pannier had disappeared! It had either fallen off at one of the various stops, or had been left behind at the picnic area at Woods Mill. What to do? Eventually Mick and Anne decided that after lunch they would cycle on to Hassocks station and lock their bikes up there, and Julian kindly offered to drive them back over the route to Woods Mill to see if it was still there. Meanwhile, Peter arrived ten minutes later with a big, beaming smile, pushing his bike back with a flat, rear tyre. This was a brand new bicycle he had just bought on the Internet and assembled that week for today’s ride. Unfortunately the inner tube could not be repaired and no-one had an similar spare, so he had to make a call to his back-up, support team who arrived from home within half an hour. The food at The Royal Oak proved to be excellent and reasonably-priced, with the lemon sole and fish pie specially recommended, and Harvey’s beer is always tasty and refreshing.

miniature pony

Amazing what you can see from a bike

Peter arrives with a flat tyre

Anne, Peter and Julian

After lunch, we made a brief visit to look at Newtimber Place, a Sussex moated house, built of flint and brick with a roof of Horsham stone. The original house was probably built by Richard Bellingham’s son, who was Sheriff of Sussex in 1567. The fields and woods around the house were full of flowering snowdrops and other spring flowers. In the mean time, Jenny decided to cycle directly back through Upper Beeding to her home in Portslade. By now, the temperature was falling rapidly, and we decided to forego any refreshments at Washbrook Farm and head straight back to Hassocks station via the B2117 and Hurstpierpoint. Before taking Julian’s lift back to Woods Mill, Mick advised me to follow the road under the railway tunnel and approach the platform on the other Brighton-bound side. This proved to be excellent advice, as it enabled me to catch up with Linda and Michael and be on the platform five minutes before they arrived panting from their exertions of carrying their bikes through two flights of stairs under the railway line. We waved goodbye to Amanda who was waiting for her train back to London.

Newtimber Place

The Moat

snowdrop wood nr Newtimber

Many thanks to Anne and Mick for organizing this very pleasant ride.


[More photos on Flickr]

The Next Ride: Sunday 10 March. Only 18 miles with hardly any hills. Hassocks – Woods Mill – Fulking –Newtimber

27 February 2013

Having been cursed with atrocious weather every time we’ve attempted a Clarion trip recently, we are trying again on March 10th, by when we hope conditions will be Spring like. Catching the 10.15am FCC from Btn  & reaching Hassocks at 10.24, we hope to make a prompt start for Woods Mill Nature Reserve, where we stop for refreshment in their picnic area. Woods Mill does not provide any refreshment itself, so we shall have to bring our own, but they do offer all manner of Springtime nature; – water shrew, snipe, green sandpipers, little egrets, barn owls, toads, wrens bistorts, carp, great crested newts water rails [?] Last Monday we saw butterflies & heard glorious bird-song. There is a short little paved walk we can do or merely rest in the relative tranquillity & green shade.

We have to backtrack a mile or so after this to reach Blackstone Lane but Woods Mill is worth the trip [I think], being the HQ of Sussex Wildlife Trusts. Saw lovely little miniature pony in Blackstone Lane & even Mick let me stop & photograph it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any food for it, in spite of it begging fetchingly, so will try to remember an apple this time. After the long lane we come to Fulking & are near the Shepherd & Dog but, since it is Mothers Day they won’t have room for us till 2.30pm so we will progress a little further to The Royal Oak which will take us at 2pm in their new upstairs dining room. They are recommended in the Les Routiers Guide & do super food. Soup is a bit dear at £6 but it is worth it, as a real treat & there are sharing plates & loads of interesting & delicious food on offer. Please let us know if you want to come on the ride as Mothers Day is one of the busiest of the year & the pub needs to know ASAP.  694484.

Next highlight is Newtimber Place where we can have a peep at the house & grounds. It has an Open Garden on April 10th, but there is a Clarion Ride to Chichester then, so you won’t be able to go then. After the house we cross into a wood which was filled with snowdrops when we went & hope it still is. If we need any more refreshment after that we can stop at Washbrook Farm for tea & cake, chickens, geese & golden grouse.

Trains back at 16.06, 16.15, 16.34 & 16.45, which seems very good for Hassocks on a Sunday. I’ll put my photos of the snowdrop wood & Woods Mill on Flickr site. Click here for the Royal Oak site.

Meet at 10 00 for 10 15 at Brighton station or at 10 24 at Hassocks station.  Trains for return at 16 06,  16 15, 16 34, 16 45.


The Next Ride: Sunday 10 February 2013: Hassocks – Fulking – Newtimber (only 15/16 miles)

29 January 2013

From Hassocks, we head through Hurstpierpoint and across the A23 to Albourne with the old 1930s former Kings Head pub in front of us. We make our way to down to High Cross, down Blackstone Lane and the lanes south of the A281 past Bramlands. Then south again down the appropriately named Clappers Lane, arriving in Fulking.

The Shepherd and Dog – the popular pub at the bottom of Devils Dyke – or the Royal Oak at Poynings – for lunch.

Heading towards Brighton for a while and then down the lane to Newtimber. We can have a look at the Newtimber Place, a moated 16th/17th century house. Then along ‘Equestrian Route’ for a couple of hundred yards until it joins the cycle route beside the A23 and links up (near the ‘Llama Trekking’!) with the road back to Hurstpierpoint with the possibility of a tea stop.

Catch 10 15 from Brighton station or meet at 10 24 at Hassocks station. Trains for return at 1505, 1536, 1554.

Anne and Mick

The Last Ride: Sunday 7 October 2012 – Hove to Shoreham

8 October 2012

Tessa kindly welcomed us all to morning coffee at her studio, so by the time we got to the photoshoot in Lorna Road we had all had time to begin to get to know our welcome newcomers Chris, Suki, Pauline and Nina and Carole. Sue/Sikka, Joyce, Jim, Angela, Marylyn, Roger, Sean and Suzanne were out in force, and it was good to see Elaine with the group for a second outing with Clarion.

Start - 15 Clarionettes blocking Lorna Road

Tessa, still suffering from laryngitis, led us on the first part of the ride to bowl along the new cycle lane on the Old Shoreham Road. She then sensibly left us to nurse her poorly throat. Sue/Sikka then took over the task of (quote Jim) “herding cats” (unquote Jim) to wend our way around Hove Recreation Ground. Yes, it’s quite a hill up past the Engineerium, along Nevill Road, up Downland Drive (no pun intended) and then that annoying “down” towards the bridge over the bypass before “up” (Regional Cycle Route 82)

On the Downs

to join the old Aldrington-to-Devil’s Dyke railway track (line closed 1938). Once on our way the fatigue of the climb was far outweighed by the spectacular views across toward the sea … and even more so by the long sweep down towards Saddlescombe Farm and coffee, cakes and glorious sunshine. Nice to see the café so busy with at least two cycling groups and many weary walkers.

The Hikers' Rest

We then continued down to the “under down” villages, Poynings, Fulking, Edburton – a halt being called when some horses were spotted in a field – not just any old horses but a magnificent Shire horse who must have stood 18 hands and several smaller versions of the species. Suki sacrificed half of her lunch in the form of an apple (by the way, Angela, I have never seen anyone split an apple in two with her – or even his – bare hands). The two halves of the apple were promptly snaffled by said 18-hander who then proceeded to investigate Suki’s pannier in the hopes of more goodies.


It was decided it was time to move on – our own lunch was calling – although Jim could not resist a little caméra vérité on the way.

Arty shot - Angela and my right elbow

A nice little side road brought us safely to Upper Beeding, over the bridge and to an excellent lunch at the Castle Hotel at Bramber. Despite aching legs and full stomachs we wended our way along the Downslink Cycle Route (rail line closed 1966), with Jim doing some bird-spotting as we rode.

Downs Link

Crossing the river Adur we continued on our way to Shoreham where the party went its separate ways: Suki to pick hedge berries, Chris to the comfort of home in Shoreham itself, Sean, Angela, Nina, Pauline, Jim and Carole to en-train for Hove and points east, whilst Sue, Joyce, Roger and Suzanne pedalled off Brightonwards, Joyce and Sue being detained by a cup of tea at Carats’ Café.

A beautifully crafted ride of all the 7s – no, not 777 miles, but 7 miles to refreshment, 7 miles to refreshment and 7 miles to possible refreshment. Three refreshment stops in one ride – this is a record that we must certainly attempt to equal on a regular basis.

Many thanks to both Tessa and Sue for planning such a good ride (and good weather, of course) and to Sue to her skill in making it all happen so enjoyably.

PS: The Hikers’ Rest Café at Saddlescombe Farm is offering music, food (carnivores and veggievores catered for), and soft or hot drinks (take your own glass and wine if you want something stronger) 6pm until 10pm Thursday 11 October – in the pergola if wet. Tickets on the night £12.00.


More photos on Flickr.