The Next Ride: Sunday 3rd April 2016 – Haywards Heath Circular

22 March 2016

Haywards Heath – Cuckfield – Slough Green –  Goddards Green – Burgess Hill – World’s End – Haywards Heath

This is a repeat of a ride we last did in July 2010. On the way to Cuckfield we will go through Blunts Wood & Paiges Meadow nature reserve, which has a good cycle path. We encounter three very nice Clarionesque lanes: Buncton Lane, Stairbridge Lane and Jobs Lane.

Our lunch stop last time, the Bolney Stage pub, is now out of bounds to us because they require pre-orders for large parties. Instead we will try the other pub on the route – the Sportsman at Goddards Green, where we should arrive at about 12.30.

After lunch we continue eastwards towards Burgess Hill, and so come to Bedelands Farm Nature Reserve, which is a nice nature reserve although not ideal cycling country – we can choose whether or not to visit it. We are then at World’s End, known to the builders of the railway as “Wivelsfield”, when, to be fair to them, it was probably just a load of grass and trees. The option to return home from Wivelsfield Station, mentioned last time we did this ride, is now a real possibility thanks to the new ramp to the southbound platform. This will take about 4 miles off the ride. Those opting for the full whack, however, will be able to see what has become of the “High Bridge” since our last visit.

A Tea Stop will be possible as we ride back through the main streets of Haywards Heath, South Road and The Broadway.


Start at Haywards Heath Station at 10:45. Meet at the station entrance.

Length: 17 miles (13 if returning from Wivelsfield)

Duration: About 5½ hours, including lunch and tea stops.

Terrain: Mainly quiet tarmacked lanes, some B roads. The nature reserves have some good cyclable surfaces. Mainly flat with a few “undulations”.

How to Get There: Catch the 10:14 Bedford train from Brighton, or any earlier train.

Return Trains: From Haywards Heath: every 10-15 minutes. From Wivelsfield: 32 minutes past the hour, or change at Haywards Heath.


The Next Ride: Sunday 15 November 2015 – Haywards Heath to Crabtree circular

3 November 2015

It has to be admitted that this ride has a few “undulations” and a couple of stretches of busy road, but this is more than compensated for by cycling some of the finest sunken lanes in Sussex, more or less traffic-free and some magnificent views. We leave from Haywards Heath Station (where there is a lift to and from the platform if required).

We make our way via Harlands Road and a path through some woods to Cuckfield High Street from there via the A272 to the wonderful Pickwell Lane, from there we go along Broxmead Lane and London Road to Jeremy’s Lane with its vista to the South Downs, then down Colwood Lane and Cross Colwood Lane until we join Spronkett’s Lane, take a left along Bull Lane and carry on along Picts Lane.

All of these lanes with their expressive names are a delight to cycle on. Then we hit the A281 and ride less than a mile to The Crabtree for lunch. After lunch we ride down Mill Lane, after the first half mile this becomes an unpaved private road, not ideal for a road bike with 23mm tyres but a decent surface. From there we go up Longhouse Lane to Warninglid and a straightforward route back to Haywards Heath.

About 20 miles

There are frequent trains to Haywards Heath and for the return.

We propose to catch the 10.07 which takes just 12 minutes.  Meet at Haywards Heath station at 10.19.

Some idea of numbers for lunch would be useful. My mobile is 07803730401.

As always on winter rides there is the possibility of bad weather so if the forecast is really bad check your email.


The last ride: 2 December 2012 – Haywards Heath Circular (Ouse Trilogy Part III)

6 December 2012

Report on Jim’s Ride to the Source of the Ouse

The 2nd day of December 2012 seemed fated. Anne and my trip to London to celebrate our daughter’s 40th birthday was cancelled at the last minute due to the dreaded lurgy now known as the norovirus. We made haste, phoned Jim, struggled to load the bikes into the car and began to reverse out of the driveway. An awful grinding noise ensued. On investigation we discovered Anne’s helmet trapped underneath the car. Fortunately she was not wearing it at the time.

A delay followed while the helmet was removed, utterly crushed. One of the tyres appeared to be low. Could a puncture have been caused I fretted. A fresh call to Jim and we made our excuses. Jim mentioned, however, that if we were able to come, then Angela was due to join the clarionettes at the Half Moon at Balcombe at 12 and we could meet up there.

A trip to the garage re-assured me that there was no puncture so we set off again and arrived at the Half Moon by 11.50. Half an hour later another call to Jim elicited the information that lunch had been transported to the Victory Inn at Staplefield. From a gastronomic point of view this turned out to be a definite plus.

Jim had suggested we drove to Staplefield but lacking exercise and fresh air we decided to ride. Making our way in the direction of Handcross we turned off down the long and exhilarating descent of Brantridge Lane. As usual the exhilaration got the better of me and I arrived at the Victory Inn just as the party were ordering their drinks. A quarter of an hour later with the fourth phone call of the morning I learned that Anne was at the other pub in Staplefield but was now on her way to join us. Wherever it is one goes after the doghouse I was already in, I was ordered to it.

Jim, Linda and David, we learned over lunch, had had a hilly morning and fine views.

Ouse Valley Viaduct

Angela had indeed joined them at Balcombe and they had all left the Half Moon 5 minutes before our arrival. We all enjoyed the meal, most had soup or a substantial sandwich and I had tapas for one (is that an oxymoron?). David produced a print out of the Ouse, the Adur and all their tributaries. He had also discovered a cycle tour company that will do a 7 day tour of the Ouse for £750 or so. After our pints several of us made a brief exit to explore the source of the ooze. A group photo was taken outside the Victory Inn.

Haywards Heath Circular Group

It was a bright clear day but the warmest part of it was definitely over by the time we set off and with nightfall approaching we made swift progress, the warmth of cycling uphill was almost welcome. We stopped outside the church at Slaugham.

Haywards Heath Circular

but declined Jim’s invitation to explore the off-road fields behind it where we might glimpse this mysterious source. We continued, stopping again opposite a lovely hammer pond where on other side of the road there was a pretty water staircase which some had falsely claimed to be the true source of the Ouse. Our scientist leader assured us that it was not.

We went on to Plummers Plain, stopping only to disconnect Angela’s front brake which was impeding her progress. We turned back towards Cuckfield. For a few seconds some of us stared reverentially down at a rather dirty ditch which Jim assured us was the real source of the Ouse.

Our goal having been achieved and dusk approaching fast we made our way swiftly through the charming, albeit undulating, High Weald until, arriving in Cuckfield, there was a pause and I heard the words llamas and photos. With a groan I made my excuses and pedalled back to Balcombe for the car while everyone else went on to Haywards Heath Station.

It should be noted that David and Linda both cycled from Lancing before the ride and back again afterwards, thereby adding an extra 20 miles to their day not bad on their second Clarion ride.

As always with Jim’s rides this one had been meticulously researched. Thank you, Jim.


The Next Ride: Sunday 2 December 2012 – Haywards Heath Circular (Ouse Trilogy Part III)

20 November 2012

Lindfield – Ardingly – Balcombe – Staplefield – Slaugham – Plummers Plain – Warninglid – Cuckfield

You want to come on this ride? Well, it’s LONG; it’s HILLY; and some of it is on BUSY ROADS. Still want to come? OK, but don’t say you haven’t been warned!

This is the third and last Ouse ride, continuing on from my Lewes-Haywards Heath ride of 20 May, which itself followed on from Seaford-Lewes on 22 January. As it is a themed ride, we can’t be too choosy about the terrain or the length of it. Our patience and/or stamina will be rewarded as we will eventually find the infant Ouse in a channel only a foot wide (though we probably can’t get to the actual source).

We’ll start off with a crossing of the river one bridge upstream from where we left it last time – at Lindfield Bridge. Then to Ardingly for a possible coffee stop, after which a big zig-zag and another bridge (Lower Ryelands Bridge) bring us to the most famous of all the bridges over the Ouse – the Ouse Valley Viaduct with its 11 million bricks. This is a railway bridge of course – the road crosses the river here at the somewhat humbler Upper Ryelands Bridge. 

We’ll then continue to Balcombe in order to access Rocks Lane and Rowhill Lane, which is a Big Hill, and I’m afraid it’s the “up” variety. We have whizzed down this hill twice on previous rides, and now it’s payback time. We will walk. At the top we get an impressive view of the viaduct, but a more impressive view awaits us later on.

Then off-road to Staplefield, where we will have lunch at the Victory Inn. At nearby Slaugham we’ll revisit the Ouse, which is now just a few feet across, behind the ruins of Slaugham Place and St Mary’s Church.

Now we have to get into detective mode, as there are conflicting accounts of where the river actually begins. V.M.Taylor’s River Valley Odyssey, which has provided some useful nuggets of information for the previous rides in this series, claims that it originates in “three small waterfalls” on the south side of an old hammer pond north-west of Slaugham. We will find these (one of which I think is what is known as a “fish ladder”) but we will then go on to look at the other candidate, which joins this branch further south. My money’s on this one; just about all the other authorities I have researched say that the Ouse rises “near Lower Beeding” – and they wouldn’t say that if they meant Slaugham, which is just as big; one actually mentions Plummers Plain, a sort of blip on the map which is near to Lower Beeding. It is here that we’ll find the second branch, disappearing across a field in a narrow trench.

Then we’ll speed back to Haywards Heath via Warninglid and Cuckfield, partly reversing the outward route taken on my last Haywards Heath ride, on 11th July 2010, and revisiting the delightful Blunts Wood & Paiges Meadow nature reserve. Before Cuckfield we get a splendid view of the viaduct in the distance, pretty well broadside-on. Tea at Haywards Heath if wanted.

In order to provide a little diversion from the hard graft, I will be distributing copies of my OUSE QUIZ at the start of the ride; judging and prizegiving will be done at lunchtime. To prepare for this, you may wish to consult the descriptions and reports for all three Ouse rides, and any others which seem relevant. (And yes, I realise the report for this one will not exist at the time; but you wouldn’t want it to be TOO easy, would you?)

Vital Statistics:

Start from Haywards Heath station at 10:00.
Length: 26 miles (a shorter version, 11 miles, is available for anyone who wants to get the train home from Balcombe and get their own lunch; alternatively you can join us at Balcombe for a 15 mile ride; let me know if you are planning to do this).
Duration: about 6 hours including coffee and lunch. (Longer with a tea stop)
Terrain: Mainly on hard surfaces. Some off-road. Some hills. Some busy roads: the B2028 (Lindfield-Ardingly) may exercise us a little, but the B2115 (Plummers Plain to Cuckfield) is quieter.
Lunch: Victory Inn at Staplefield
Getting there: Get the 9:14 or 9:34 train from Brighton. Londoners should get the 8:41 from London Bridge or the 9:02 from London Victoria. If joining at Balcombe, catch the 11:00 from Brighton.
Getting home: trains from Haywards Heath to Brighton at 08, 31, 36, 54 minutes past the hour and to London every 10-15 minutes.

N.B. Sun sets at 4. Bring lights.


The Last Ride: 20 May 2012, Lewes to Haywards Heath

21 May 2012

1. At the Start

Five riders assembled at Lewes, Jim, Joyce, Roger and, on their first Clarion ride, Fiona and Simon. This was the second ride in Jim’s Ouse trilogy. We followed the course of the river from Lewes to Lindfield, stopping to commune with the fast-flowing waters at each of several bridges along the way.

9a. The Ouse at Freshfield Bridge

In his write-up for the ride Jim promised undulations, and undulations there were. Ideally to get from one bridge to another one would follow a nicely surfaced track along the river bank. But this stretch of the Ouse doesn’t have facilities of that sort. So you have to climb a hill and roll down again to the next bridge, which we did, climbing a little more slowly each time.

2. Uphill

4. View from Chalk Pits

The countryside was beautiful. We passed through a variety of villages, such as the original village of Barcombe, which was apparently ravaged by plague and then replaced by the nearby Barcombe Cross.

The village of Fletching was particularly popular, partly because the locals had decked the main street with red Union flags to welcome us (presumably), and because there was a pub there, The Rose and Crown, which Jim had booked for lunch. The food was served promptly and eaten eagerly. The conversation focused on the Green Party and its performance running Brighton and Hove. In the interest of fair play both pluses and minuses were awarded, but the minuses seemed to end up in the majority.

5a. Horse gin and barn at Barcombe

Refreshed we set off in search of more bridges. We arrived at Haywards Heath with just enough time for a quick peep at the Cycle Hub, a secure bike storage facility in the station car park, before we jumped onto a Brighton train.

12. Haywards Heath Cycle Hub

Many thanks to Jim for an interesting and enjoyable day’s cycling. Roll on the concluding ride of the trilogy!


{More photos on Flickr]

The next ride: Sunday 20 May 2012 – Ouse Trilogy – Part II

8 May 2012

Lewes to Haywards Heath via Hamsey, Barcombe, Piltdown, Fletching and Lindfield

The last time we saw the Ouse was on 22 January, between Seaford and Lewes where it would have been a wide, shallow estuary before human intervention deepened and narrowed the channel for navigation purposes. On this ride we will continue upstream and see it gradually getting smaller, although even when we leave it at the end of the ride – at East Mascalls Bridge near Lindfield – it is still a substantial river. We will cross the Ouse a total of six times (the first two in Lewes); on the way there will once more be some little nuggets of local history culled from V.M. Taylor’s River Valley Odyssey. Lunch is booked at the Rose and Crown in Fletching, which I am sure we have been to before, but I’m not sure when.

Start time: 10.30 am, Lewes Station, car park on platform 1 side.
Length: about 24 miles.
Duration: about 5 hours.
Terrain: The path to Offham can be muddy; if it is we can use the road. Otherwise we will be on hard surfaces.
Hills: Now let’s see … rivers run in valleys, don’t they? And you tend to cross them at right angles, right? So … yes, there will be undulations; but we never go above 70 metres above sea level so there are no big climbs, and there were none that forced me to get off and push on the practice.
Getting there: 10.09 from Brighton, 8.47 from London Victoria (NB: I believe the excellent Lewes station café is now open on Sundays!)
Getting back: There are plenty of trains in both directions from Haywards Heath.


The last ride: Sunday 20 March 2011 – Three Bridges to Haywards Heath via Worth Way and Bluebell Line

22 March 2011

[Many more photos in our Flickr group]

This is how most of us felt at the end of the ride (apologies to the stronger riders in our midst).

Twenty, yes T-W-E-N-T-Y, happy Clarion riders met at Three Bridges station, gathering from north and south. This was, of course, a record. Once the puncture was mended and the photo taken, it was off in clear, sunny weather along the Worth Way, our long April shadows accompanying us as we rode: now high above the railway cutting, now riding along the embankment of the rail bed itself.

The start at Three Bridges

Rowfant station still stands but Crawley Down station is no longer with us – 1960s Grange Road has obliterated that particular alighting point. Being very glad of Jim’s guidance, we made our way through the modern housing estate, back onto the Worth Way and then off again on a delightful little detour past mediaeval Gullege and then back over the Worth Way and up and down Imberhorne Lane. Here we crossed another defunct rail bed, this time, the East Grinstead to Kingscote line (aka a future extension of the Bluebell Line – track already laid to the south-west, mountains of 1960s rubbish still to be removed from the cutting to the north-east).

Rubbish dump

After climbing up for what seemed forever, at last it was time to swoop down to Kingscote station. The bad news was that the wonderful 1960s uniforms being worn by the volunteer station staff also meant that they were perpetuating 1960s attitudes: no more than five bikes allowed in the guard’s van. Doh! Rapid calculations were made as to who was likely to be able to cycle the 12 miles to Sheffield Park station without dropping completely dead. And then there were 15 – well no, one more intrepid Clarionette used charm (brute force / tears / pleading / bribery?) and was also allowed to part with £8.00 (+ 50p bike charge) for the honour of being steam-drawn those 12 miles. So then there were 14 happy Clarionettes on their way.

Tessa detrains

Or do I mean there were 14 hills? Is it really possible for roads to continually rise? Up Vowels Lane we climbed, the vowels mainly being A(rgh), O(w) and OU(ch). But once up, we found the views were spectacular across the High Weald and Shagswell Wood down to our left; all along knowing that the railway line had commandeered the flat valley bottom in 1882 for its own use. Unfortunately each time there was an exhilarating sweep down, it seemed to be followed by an agonising climb up.

Not “Very Flat”, Sussex!

The early birds at lunch

By 2.30 the weary band of 14 reached Sheffield Park station and made a bee-line for the pub where curly sandwiches (circa “Brief Encounter”) and various delectable dishes were consumed. A later-than-usual start back at 3.30 with quite a few creaks and groans, but we were on the home straight. The joy of a bike is that you can get off and push up the hills. Just think how awful if would be if you had to push your Range Rover out of the “Bluebell Valley” to get up to Butterbox Lane. None of those difficulties for us. We just got off and pushed (well, some of us did, anyway).

Leaving Sheffield Park station

As we passed twice more under the Bluebell Railway our shadows were still with us, but lengthening in the other direction under a still brightly shining sun. We paused to admire the sparkling waters of ancient Ludwell Spring near Horsted Keynes and then through the various farmsteads of Walstead to Lindfield.

Ludwell spring

John, Mark and Sean had peeled off before Chailey, Mick had hared off to put on evening dress for dinner, and then Jenny was away in a cloud of dust*, whilst the remaining 16 managed to cause a mini traffic jam in that pretty little village, and so before you could say, “Pump me tyres up, Sport”, we were back to Haywards Heath and four tired Londoners were being whisked off northward whilst 13 Sussexers (there must be an adjective!) cluttered up a busy train to their respective stations south.

Finally, please remove your helmets to pay your last respects to “The Intrepid Fox” at West Hoathly (offers in the region of £650K), the “The Witch Inn” at Lindfield and any other “dead pubs” that we might have passed.

Thanks to Jim for a delightful ride through what must be some of the most beautiful countryside in Sussex.


* Hardly! Sorry to desert everyone so abruptly, but I was very tired after doing a 55-mile overnight ride (for fun!) on Friday, and stopping and getting cold was making matters worse. So I decided to take the direct route down the main road to Haywards Heath to get to my car before I expired at the roadside.



For the trainspotters reading, the ‘cushy six’ were hauled from Kingscote to Sheffield Park on the Bluebell Railway by South Eastern & Chatham Railway No. 178, P-class 0-6-0T built in 1910. The other loco on duty was Brighton-built London Brighton & South Coast Railway Class E4 0-6-2T No. 473, “Birch Grove”. There was in fact plenty of room for all our bikes in the guard’s van!

Our loco No. 178


TJ has also written up the ride, on this forum. Scroll down until you see Clarion. It’s reassuring too that other cyclists are also taking pictures of food!

The next ride: 20 March 2011 – Bluebell railway

8 March 2011

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

Sunday 20 March 2011
Three Bridges – Kingscote – Bluebell Railway – Sheffield Park – Haywards Heath

This is a repeat of a ride we did in September 2007, with a different ending. We once again encounter National Cycle Route 21, in the guise of the Worth Way, and follow it most of the way from Three Bridges to East Grinstead, then strike out southwards to Kingscote, where the Bluebell line starts.

Since the lunch at Horsted Keynes last time was … well, a bit basic, I have now developed an alternative route which involves staying on the train to Sheffield Park and using the proper restaurant there – prices are reasonable and there is a fairly good choice, with veggie options. We may well want to look round the engine shed and the shop at Sheffield Park too.

The single fare from Kingscote to Sheffield Park is £8.00 plus 50p bike fare (they have a proper guard’s van!). This is somewhat more than we paid three years ago, but then the Bluebell are currently trying to raise £2m to move a huge mass of household refuse that was dumped in the cutting in the 1970s, so that they can link up to the National Rail network at East Grinstead (where they have already built a Bluebell station next to the Network Rail one) so the money is going to a good cause!

The route out of Sheffield Park station involves about a mile of the A275, which is rather too busy for our liking, but we will have to put up with it. We then strike out north-westwards on quieter lanes, and reach Haywards Heath via Lindfield. We will make two crossings of the River Ouse (thankfully, by bridges!) and see it from the train – it is narrower here than where we crossed it at Isfield on the Lewes ride last year, of course.

Total ride length is about 19 miles. There are some hills but no serious ones.

Suggested trains:

From Brighton: 10.00 or 10.14

From Preston Park: 10.03

From Hove: 09.54 (change at Burgess Hill)

From London Bridge: 9.42

From London Victoria: 9.47

or meet at Three Bridges station at 10.45.

A return ticket from Brighton to Three Bridges will cover the return journey from Haywards Heath; if travelling from London you will need to get a return to Haywards Heath.

Return trains to Brighton at 8, 31, 38 and 41 minutes past each hour, to Hove at 11 minutes past, London at 1, 10, 31 and 39 minutes past.