The Last Ride: Sunday 22 January 2017 – Ice Nine [apology to Kurt Vonnegut]

6 February 2017

Nine riders assembled at Hassocks station, 8 came by train & Angela C. was kindly delivered by her son & picked up at the end in Lewes. All delighted to have new member, Wendy, join us at Brighton station for the day’s adventure. While awaiting a tenth, a walking group member from across the road was recruited as photographer for the group photo. As the missing 10th rider was a new Clarionista, Tessa tried to contact him, but no joy [till lunch time], so ten minutes later we set out as it was chilly & the ice was started to penetrate our extremities!

Clarion ride 22 January 2017. Hassocks to Lewes. Photo by Anne Barry

Sun was shining brightly on us as we strung out along the Keymer Road to Spatham Lane. The other Angela was feeling the cold penetrating her asthmatic lungs & with Sean Burke volunteering as backstop, & me with the wrong cold weather gear on-three asthmatics made up the rear, while the sprightly avant guard led the single file. Some of us were glad of the uphill to warm the joints, but all of us glad to reach the lanes & leave the traffic polluted roads. Now a new hazard emerged … ice!

Clarion ride 22 January 2017. Hassocks to Lewes. Photo by Anne Barry

Up till now [then] winter had been mild & sunny for us, apart from 1 day’s snow, which quickly disappeared, but, like Trump’s election & dreaded Brexit, looks like Winter’s Bane [excellent film!] was coming to engulf us now. There were huge marches of protest against Trump & Tory follies the previous day, but a winter of discontent looms over us now. Some bravely rode the ice filled lane but walking was allowed too, & my preferred option, though I’d walked a good few miles yesterday with John McDonnell [Shadow Chancellor] holding the banner high & leading the way from local hospital to Brighton Station opposing the so-called Sustainability & Transformation Plan which seeks to privatise our NHS.

Our leaders Sue & Tessa, had recce’d their ride as recently as previous Wednesday & it hadn’t rained since but had become colder, so they frequently consulted us to modify the routes, in order to keep us as warm as possible. So, our coffee stop at The Jolly Sportsman was cancelled due to high price of coffee there too [£4 ] & prospect of warming stop at The Plough was also cancelled due to majority vote for keeping up the pace in order to keep warm!

Clarion ride 22 January 2017. Hassocks to Lewes. Photo by Anne Barry

After the non-stop at The Plough, next stop was at Plumpton Green, but this was both unplanned & delightful surprise. Just as both Mick & I were talking in separate conversations about Sean T. & Jane T, who live in Plumpton Green, Jane hailed us from the pavement & invited us back to theirs for hot coffee, even though Sean was confined [& cribbed] hard at work doing his marking. They were both very busy & some of us still cold, so pressing onwards won the day again. As soon as we reached the smaller lanes again we hit the ice.

This time, more literally, as our gallant backstop, Sean B. on his Brompton, took a slow paced tumble, just as we could see a descending cyclist taking the narrow path at centre of ice strewn hill & rushing towards us. The young man was kind & solicitous to Sean & was assured that he was OK before we all scrambled up between the icy path to the summit where warmer lane & extensive views met us. When we reach Offham -having stopped to take a photo of the beautiful, blossoming Old Man’s Beard in the hedgerow.

Clarion ride 22 January 2017. Hassocks to Lewes. Photo by Anne Barry

Sean & I were last again & forgot the instruction to cycle on the pavement along the busy A275 & took the road, but survived & soon all reached the outskirts of Lewes & the riverside walks & pleasant parks where families were enjoying the winter sun. Now we can lock up the bikes & enjoy the warmth of the pub by the river & have some fine food & ale & even cakes! [torte actually].

Clarion ride 22 January 2017

A long table had been reserved for us & drinks soon served. Food was more complicated as both Sean & Mick & Tessa had food delivered to them & then removed! Sean was just about to tuck into mussels cooked in ale, though he thought he’d ordered sea bass & trout & Mick was admiring a veg roast, when the young waitress realised that she had been too hasty & mixed up the tables. When ours did all arrive shortly afterwards everyone was pleased & Mick & Sue couldn’t resist the chocolate torte & mandarin sorbet pud to share, which all-comers were invited to stick a teaspoon in & savour. That was the final ice of the day.

Clarion ride 22 January 2017. Hassocks to Lewes. Photo by Anne Barry

Thanks to Tessa & Sue for organising a super winter excursion for us all & to Sean for ensuring we all survived the icy conditions & enjoyed the winter sunshine, which never seemed to rise to the 6C. promised in the forecasts. I shall rethink my winter gear next time we set out on bikes, though really only toes that succumbed to ice. Now we have freezing fog surrounding us & so glad & grateful for Clarion’s fun & joy yesterday.


More photos on Flickr


The Last Ride: Sunday 13 December 2015 Hassocks Circular – Twineham and Wineham

17 December 2015

Well, we were just a little band of four today as Ian, Julian, Delia and I left Hassocks station on a warmer than usual December morning.  We followed a familiar route out towards Hurstpierpoint where hymns could be heard as we cycled past the church at the crossroads in the village. The congregation was certainly ‘giving it their all’ for us to be able to hear them from the roadway.  Then, on through Albourne towards Twineham through some very pretty lanes where Julian identified the birdsong of a green woodpecker, robins and possibly a song thrush, who were also ‘in good voice’.

At this time of year the winter landscape allows views through the trees that, of course, with trees covered in their summer leaves, you do not see in other seasons.  Between Twineham and Wineham, (what a lovely rhyming couple), we had a view of something unexpected, a massive electricity sub-station which crackled its energy supply along the wires between the concrete supports. Not the prettiest of sights, but at least it is out of view for that part of the year when the trees are in leaf.  Other views through the trees were more pleasing to the eye – the wintry, grey outlines of the Downs and a patchwork of pasture and arable fields.

Always along these routes are some very pretty houses and cottages and also some very large properties which I often find make me wonder what people do for a living to own such large places.  Well, Ian came out with a theory that made us all laugh. He reckoned that many were owned by retired drug dealers who, having evaded the law, wanted a quiet life in the country in their old age!

At Twineham we stopped for lunch at the Royal Oak which, according to the landlord, dates back to the 16th Century and has been a pub for over 200 years. The historic building prompted a conversation about the dangers of travelling by horse drawn coaches back in the day of highwaymen.  Ian, Delia and I have been watching the recent programmes on the tele about smugglers, pirates and highwaymen and the dastardly deeds they got up to. Worth a look on the iplayer if you haven’t managed to see them.

After lunch, (three delicious plates of ploughman’s and one bowl of spiced carrot soup), we began the journey back through Woodmancote towards Albourne and Hurstpierpoint, and we decided not to stop for tea as the light was beginning to fade and Delia was concerned that I do not have any lights on my bike.  So, we got back to Hassocks mid-afternoon in order to make our way home after a very pleasant winter ride and even more pleasant conversation.  Thanks to Ian for organising and leading the ride and may he and all other ‘Clarionistas’  have a very lovely Xmas and I look forward to a New Year of many more rides.


The Next Ride: Sunday 13 December –  Twineham and Wineham

2 December 2015

Since our usual end-of-the-year ride – the short circular based on Berwick – is not possible because of lack of train availability, I’ve been thinking about an alternative – short and easy – substitute and this is what I’ve come up with.

We meet at Hassocks station and make for Hurstpierpoint, Albourne and High Cross, taking the Twineham road as far as Twineham Green, then along Bob Lane to Wineham and (an early) lunch at the Royal Oak – always a favourite stop. Back at High Cross on our return leg, we’ll take the road down to Shaves Wood then the B road back to Hurstpierpoint with a possible tea stop at Washbrooks Farm before returning to Hassocks.

Quietish roads, no-off road, no big hills, a few minor “undulations,” only  about 16/17 miles

 Catch the 10.14 from Brighton station or meet at Hassocks station at 10.23.

Best trains from London would be the 9.36 from Victoria – arrives at 10.37 – or the 8.56 – arrives 10.41 from London Bridge.  It always takes a while for us to get going but if you’re planning to take either of these routes please let me know so we can be sure not to start without you. 

My mobile number is 07770743287 and it will be switched on (!) as soon as I get to the station.

Do check your emails at 5 pm the day before – if the weather looks like being grim I will cancel/postpone.


The Last Ride: Sunday 8 March 2015 – Hassocks to Poynings

11 March 2015

Sunday’s Clarion ride, organised by Mick and Anne, took us from Hassocks railway station via Woods Mill Nature Reserve and Poynings in pleasant morning spring sunshine, followed by cooler and more overcast weather after lunch for the return ride to Hassocks.

March 8, 2015: Hassocks circular via Poynings & Woods Mill Nature Reserve

The Hassocks Clarion fifteen gathered outside Hassocks railway station were: Anne, Mick, Helen, Dave, Joyce, Leon, Chris, David, Sikka, Angela, Rob, Julia, Corinne, Nick and Sean.

Snwdrops at woods by Newtimber

Mick suggested a brisk pace for the cyclists in order for us to arrive at the lunch stop in Poynings as close to noon as possible.The Royal Oak were trying to accommodate our group ahead of the busy Sunday lunch trade.
Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Woods Mill Nature Reserve was a popular first stop of the day. There were plenty of snowdrops on display close to the nature reserve pond. Although we could hear plenty of birdsong, we had limited time to explore the variety of wildlife in the nature reserve. It would be good to return again in the future to see the nightingales, woodpeckers, warblers, turtle doves and dragonflies listed in the Woods Mill Nature Reserve information sheet. The Sussex Wildlife Trust had a number of free pamphlets for visitors to take away. I picked up information leaflets on urban foxes, squirrels and Ditchling Beacon Nature Reserve (also run by Sussex Wildlife Trust).

March 8, 2015: Hassocks circular via Poynings & Woods Mill Nature Reserve

The next planned stop after Woods Mill Nature was the lunch stop at the Royal Oak in Poynings. There was a slight delay reaching the lunch stop due to problems with Sean’s bike chain. Dave was able to fix the twisted chain during an emergency roadside repair, while I took a few photos.

March 8, 2015: Hassocks circular via Poynings & Woods Mill Nature Reserve

Sean’s pitstop bike repair resulted in some of us arriving later at the Royal Oak than was planned. We spent lunch in an upstairs function room, away from the very busy bar downstairs. I dined on chips and ketchup, but there were more exotic dishes available (the soup option favoured by some looked particularly appetising). Joyce did a fine job working through the till receipt at the end of the meal to decide how much we each needed to contribute to the bill.

March 8, 2015: Hassocks circular via Poynings & Woods Mill Nature Reserve

Despite lunch taking longer than some previous Clarion meal breaks, we still had time for a tea-stop later in the afternoon. With photographs of animals on the walls to remind us we were in a farm, we spent thirty minutes in Washbrook Farm drinking tea before heading back to Hassocks railway station.

Woods Mill

Sean spotted a reasonably well-known BBC TV football pundit as we cycled through the mean streets of Hurstpierpoint. We were still trying to remember the name of this mystery football presenter (Jonathan somebody?) as we waited for the train at the end of Anne and Mick’s excellent bike ride.


More photos on Flickr

The Last Ride: Sunday 14 December 2014 – Hassocks to Bolney

17 December 2014

Six members (John Clinton ride leader, Joyce, Julian, Rob, David and Leon) grouped at Hassocks railway station. After taking the usual group photos we set off at 10.30am in high spirits toward Hurstpierpoint turning north into College Lane and then onto Danworth lane where we encountered some broken ice covering parts of the lane in low areas, unfortunately Julian slipped and fell, injuring his left knee. After a short rest he mounted up and continued riding. The night before temperatures dropped to about -6C in mid-Sussex so we should have expected some slippery lanes.

No further instances occurred and we rode on to cross the A272 at Bolney. The gentle slopes of mid-Sussex blended with the mid-Sussex ridge where Joyce started to dismount and walk some short sections. Just a short run up to the Bolney Stage PH for lunch was a few minutes away for our six cool riders. While parking our bikes Rob produced some white plastic saddle covers for each of us but, here we come into our own with special tomfoolery and the covers were swiftly adorning our heads (see photo).

Lunch at the Bolney Stage

We were greeted, seated and presented with the menu even though the dining areas were quite well occupied.  Our meals  soon arrived and enjoyed with plenty of pleasant conversation and laughs. We all enjoyed our meals and about an hour and a half later we returned to our bikes for the return journey. Lights went on, and off we went, mostly downhill returning on the same route as far as Goddards Green where Leon  offered an alternative via the Burgess Hill Green Crescent that brought us out onto the London road cycle route between Burgess Hill and Hassocks where it started raining.

We split-up at this point because John was to ride back to Brighton, Rob went east to Ditchling where he left his car and four headed back to Hassocks station to complete the circle.

Our thanks to John for planning and leading this ride.


The Next Ride: Sunday 14th December – Hassocks to Bolney and back

2 December 2014

c 17 Miles only

From Hassocks Station we will loop around Hurspierpoint College turning north into Danworth Lane crossing the Cuckfield Road and the A2300. We follow Job’s Lane over the A23 along Hickstead Lane until it joins Twineham Lane. Right into Bolney Chapel Road takes us towards the junction with the A272.

The direct route to Bolney crosses the A272 into Foxhole Lane on rising ground. This is the shorter route. The more interesting way is left into Bob Lane before the A272 junction, right into Wineham Lane and then over the A272 into Sponketts Lane looping around to the east before travelling south to Bolney. There are some steepish hill along this route but it is an interesting way to go.

Distance: c 17 miles Hassocks and return. Add c 9 miles to Brighton.

Hills: Mainly flat along country lanes. Some hills on loop to Bolney using Bob Lane and Spongetts Lane arriving Bolney from the north. If you don’t like the sound of the hills a shorter direct route avoiding Bob Lane and using Foxhole Lane to destination is available. Some of the lanes are pretty mucky, so good tyres and mudguards should be used.

Off road: None

Traffic: Quiet roads. Not much traffic at all apart from some junctions with main roads.

Lunch: The cafe in the Bolney Vineyard estate or the Bolney Stage pub. The cafe does light lunches including sandwiches with ham, cheese, salad, soups and bowls of olives. Served with thick chunky bread. Wines of course. More substantial food at the Bolney Stage pub. Take your pick. Possible tea stop at Washbrooks Farm in Hurstpierpoint.

Trains: Catch the 10.14 from Brighton Station or meet at Hassocks Station at 10.23.
From London catch the 09:06 from Victoria arriving at 10:23.

Alternatives are: 10:44 from Brighton arriving 10:53 and 09:32 London Victoria arriving at 10:36.

Return to Brighton 16:41, 17:07 and 17:36 from Hassocks. To Victoria 16:53, 17:14, 17:23 and 17:53.

No engineering work expected. My mobile number is 07814 257495.

Happy cycling!

John Clinton

The Last Ride: Sunday 1st June 2014 Hassocks – Plumpton – Wivelsfield

3 June 2014

The first day of June brought blue skies, sunshine and a near record number of Clarion cyclists to Hassocks station: Angela, Angelica, Ann, Chris (on his first Clarion ride), Corinne, Fred, Helen (our leader), Ian, Jenny, Martin (also a first timer), Mick, Nick, Rob, Roger, Sean, Sue and Tessa.

Hassocks start

Fred was riding his most recently acquired bike – an electrically assisted machine on its first Clarion outing. Just as we were setting off he discovered a fault, not anything that a simple twist of a spanner could solve, but a split in a place where splits definitely shouldn’t be. So he had to abandon us and jump on the train back to Brighton – tough luck Fred! [A mechanical problem – The bottom bracket had worked loose! – Fred]

June 1, 2014: Hassocks - Wivelsfield – Plumpton

So sixteen of us sped up and down the country lanes to Plumpton. Here we discovered that Nick had left us for another engagement. Meanwhile Jane joined us for the last few miles to the Cock Inn at Wivelsfield Green, where the prompt service, well prepared food and re-arrangeable garden seating were all much appreciated.


On to Ditchling where our leader presented us with a choice:

  1. a visit to the museum
  2. or a visit to Oldland Mill where, it was rumoured, tea and cakes could be had for a reasonable price
  3. or both!

After due deliberation the vote was in favour of number 2, even though Helen had warned us that getting to the mill would involve a hill.


I don’t think she mentioned the muddy track which came after the hill. So I won’t mention it either, except to say that most people wisely walked, slipped and scrambled along it, rather than trying to ride.

Once we emerged from the mud, we found that the rumours about tea and cakes were true, and it was possible for those with any strength left in their legs to climb up into the mill and learn about its inner workings.

Many thanks to Helen for a great day out!


[More photos at Flickr]