The Last Ride: Sunday 18th February 2018 – Hassocks to Lewes

20 February 2018

Group photo

L-R Tessa, Sikka, Wilma, David, Richard, Peter, Wendy, Angela

On a crisp February morning, at the somewhat luxuriously late hour of 11am, eight cyclists stepped off the Bedford train at Hassocks and met with a ninth who had arrived by other, undisclosed, means. And so the Nine Riders set off on their grim pursuit of the One Ring, the Ring that … oh, hang on, that’s the wrong story! Angela D, David, Jim, Peter, Richard, Sikka, Tessa, Wendy and Wilma came just to enjoy a nice ride, beautiful scenery, stimulating conversation, and some well-earned refreshments at the end of the ride.

After dodging cars between Hassocks and Ditchling, Spatham Lane brought a welcome quiet and the chance to ride two abreast and natter. Then off-road on the farm track to Hayleigh Farm and beyond. The view across to the South Downs from this track is utterly breathtaking. We looked in vain for landmarks, but saw none except a curiously shaped wood on the scarp slope that takes the form of a giant letter V. Sikka explained that it is thought to stand either for Queen Victoria, or possibly for Victory. Unfortunately a photo was difficult to obtain because of the sun behind it, so I contented myself with a south-westerly view of a bare tree against the backdrop of the Downs.

The Downs from Streat

Later we encountered a certain amount of mud. A certain amount is OK, but more than that can be unpleasant. It was for this reason that we eschewed the northbound track from Hayleigh Farm in favour of the easterly route to Streat Church; the former track was pronounced too “mushy” by our valiant leader – and thus another word enters the Clarion lexicon.


                                                 Mushy mud

At the end of Streat Lane we turned east and made for the Plough at Plumpton, which we were supposed to speed past, but, Clarionettes being Clarionettes, we ended up having an impromptu coffee stop here. The Plough has featured on many rides, standing as it does at the confluence of five roads. (Interestingly, we learn from the internet that the present pub was built by the RAF in 1942, the original having been demolished to make way for Chailey airfield, half a mile away.)

We saw many other cyclists during the ride – some of the speedy Lycra set, and others going at a more leisurely pace. Most seemed in quite good humour, but one of the former group definitely wasn’t. As he approached us at speed in Chiltington Lane, he snarled “Get off the f___ing road!” OK, we were, perhaps, rather spread out laterally across the lane, but we would have let him pass anyway without such rudeness. His remark was for me a chilling echo of that uttered by a cyclist in London who, seconds later, hit and killed a pedestrian two years ago. I wondered how many cyclists there are out there who, untrained in road use, believe that they have some kind of monopoly of the road.

Warning us or warning others?

On to Cooksbridge, then a little detour along Hamsey Lane to avoid a section of the A275, crossing briefly into the Eastern Hemisphere at the Greenwich Meridian on the way.

Meridian sign

Rejoining said road at Offham, we were able to ride along the pavement until we got to the turn-off into Offham Road, where it was safe to re-enter the carriageway. On the way, Peter, Wendy and I stopped to look at the old Offham Chalk Pit which used to send lime down tunnels under the road to barges waiting on the river Ouse.

And so at last to lunch, at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes. The food was excellent, and we agreed that there was something to be said for having the lunch at the end of the ride rather than in the middle, when the thought of getting up and cycling another 10 miles can be rather daunting on a full stomach.

Conversations over lunch and on the ride covered such topics as future rides, the Easter Meet (Wendy and I may go for the “social rides” … anyone else up for that?) and possible future weekend rides. We have not done one of these since 2014; there was a suggestion of a return to Kent, or another re-run of the New Forest, or even another trip to France. But my favourite option would be a repeat of 2012’s Bath-Bristol weekend, augmented this time by the Two Tunnels Route, which opened a year after that last trip. What does everyone else think?

We raced to the station, with Tessa, Peter and me just catching the 16.22 train, and the others no doubt not far behind. Thanks to our joint leaders, Tessa and Sikka, for another most enjoyable Clarion ride.


The Next Ride: Sunday 19 February 2017 – Lewes to Newick and back C 20 miles

6 February 2017

Meet at Lewes railway station car park at 10.30 am outside the very posh bicycle storage facility.

Catch the 10.12 from Brighton, arriving 10.28 or the 10.17 arriving 10.32 or why not ride from home? Riding from Brighton will add about 8 miles to your journey one way. Why not ride out and take the train back?

Return trains to Brighton at 16.22 and 16.44. Home before dark I should think.

Lunch at The Royal Oak, Newick.

1 Church Rd, Newick, Lewes BN8 4JU. Jimmy and Beryl, would like to offer everyone, and dogs! (no cats) a very warm welcome to our friendly and traditional country pub! Offering a good range of quality beers, wines, ciders, spirits and home cooked food! (Food served 7 days a week from 12-3pm and 6-9pm!) Phone: 01825 722506

I’ll book for about 10 people. Attendees please confirm to

My landline is 01273 776361 and mobile 07814 257495

According to Google Maps we travel through Hamsey, Barcombe, Spithurst Road and on to Newick. They are some hills but pretty ones. Apart from getting out of Lewes the roads are minor with little traffic. We should be able to chat a bit on the way.  It’s a nice route and one I use to Fletching, a bit further on. Jenny knows the area well, so if we get lost (if she comes) we’ll follow her.

For those who like a bit of interest to their itinerary St. Mary’s Church on the way to Barcombe is worth stopping at. Flint elevations and a prominent steeple single it out. I stopped here some years ago attracted not only to the church but also to the sound of the music wafting from the building. Inside I met with the music maker, a woman. We spoke for some time and she told me of the old saying, “going to the wall”. It seems in days gone by before pews were used the elderly tired of standing were allowed to sit on benches lining the walls of the church. Hence the saying. Interesting, if you stop awhile its surprising what you can find? Only by bike!

May the road rise up to meet you
may the wind be always at your back
may the sun shine
warm upon your face
the rain fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again
may God hold you
in the palm of his hand

An old Irish saying.


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 16 October 2016 – Lewes Circular via Ringmer

21 October 2016

photo by Julian Arkell

Awoke at 7.30 to hear the rain teaming down the window “Oh no did I really have to get up and prepare for a bike ride”… But duty and optimism won the day and by 10.15 the rain had stopped, we had bought tickets at the station and were greeting our faithful Clarionistas :- Julian, Richard S, and Richard C. There was the further pleasure of seeing Sue Priest and Chris Smith from Lewes spin into sight at Lewes car park.

Onward then through the cobbles of Cliff Walk and on to cycle route 90 alongside the A27 (but with reassuring spacing from the road and a good smooth surface). Up Ranscombe Lane to Glynde via what some would call undulations (and other hills…) , but everyone managed very well. At St. Mary’s church Chris gave a very erudite run though the history of the church and the Glynde area – too much to put here but Chris will surely oblige with information if contacted. By this time the wind had turned to something more like a gentle following breeze and we descended from Lacys’ to Moor lane, a lovely quiet lane and on to Potato Lane, a lined avenue of trees with a wonderful view of a large wind turbine on the hill. Through the village of Ringer to lunch at the Anchor where we found excellent food and good service.

photo by Leon Moore

True, the food took some time to arrive, but that allowed for much discussion. By this time I (Joyce) had been persuaded into doing the report. The first stage of the discussion I threatened to call “oldies reminiscing”, as the tone was set by Leon declaring how “they don’t make ale like they used to” – although he did say the one he was drinking was an exception. From then the conversation ranged through childhood experiences: – memorable teachers, fishing with hemp seeds, various travel experiences, the Miners’ strike and historical political tales (we enjoyed Chris’s one about the Islington goats …). Things were seriously brought up to date though in the later and longest discussion which involved (as it had to) Brexit, The future of the Labour Party, The Progressive Alliance, Proportional Representation and of course Marmalade face was mentioned.

photo by Julian Arkell

With all that we were finally served with delicious food, so satiated by our first course that only Julian had room for a chocolate brownie with ice cream. The rest of us contented ourselves with coffee and a small piece of chocolate.

Our return was in keeping with our now very relaxed bodies – a run down the straight smooth cycle way through to Mill Lane into Lewes. Who should we run into but our good friend and Clarion member John Clinton who had the week before completed the Coast to Coast cycle run. Our final stop was on the river bridge for the group photo and then farewell to Chris and Sue and to our trains.

Thank you Leon for your first ride back with the Clarion, it was a lovely relaxing easy ride and we are grateful for luck that the weather turned out to be so good (and yes it was his ride, I was just the proposer.)


The Next Ride: Sunday 5 April 2015 – Easter Bonnet Ride from Lewes to Newick and Back

25 March 2015

Quiet lanes, rural pubs, neo-nazis and an old workhouse.

Celebrate Easter by dressing up (optional) – an Easter bonnet, fancy 
dress, and Easter egg, your plus-fours and tweed, or whatever.

Getting there:

Step boldly onto the 11.09 from Brighton to Lewes. The train 
continues to Seaford, so there should be lots of room for bikes. (If
 you miss this/can’t get on it, the 2 coach Ashford train leaves at 11.20 arriving shortly after the Seaford train. But ring or text me on 
07901533876 if you are doing this).

Leave the station by the side entrance on platform 1 to avoid the road
works. Meet your intrepid leader in the car park at 11.30, by the
 platform exit.

The ride
About 19 miles of gently undulating countryside. A longish, gentle
 uphill through Spithurst after lunch but nothing too serious. The 
general trend is up towards Newick and Down after.

We start by navigating craftily through the back alleys and secret
 cycle ways of Lewes to emerge at the base of the new cycle route to 
Ringmer (not yet open) 100 metres of A26 follows and then a left turn 
onto bucolic Wellingham Lane. We then visit Barcombe mills, passing 
over the toll bridge (no charge for cyclists).

We then keep straight 
ahead past the old Barcombe Mills station to reach the Royal Oak at 
Barcombe where we will take lunch in this unspoilt local pub. 

We then cruise up the incline through Spithurst and visit Newick, with
its attractive village green.

Behind this rural charm is something 
else. Green Party tellers say that in the last election only 
Peacehaven had more votes for the BNP than Newick (in Lewes 
district). Quickly we descend to Chailey where there will be the
opportunity to sample the delights of the Horns Lodge pub if you wish.
 The pub wins all kinds of awards but the landlord wants out, saying 
that it is too much work. We then visit the site of the Chailey 
Workhouse, now bijou dwellings, before returning towards Lewes using
 tiny lanes through the East Chiltington area.

Finally there will be the opportunity to sample the fleshpots of Lewes 
including the hole in the wall tea facility in delightful Grange
Gardens, before returning to Brighton by trains which run 3 times an hour.

I have booked a table for 8 at the Royal Oak in Barcombe, so I need to 
know numbers. Please email me on or 

Chris Smith

The Last Ride: Sunday 17 November – Autumn Undulations

20 November 2013

Ten cyclists assembled at Lewes Station: Mick, Jenny, Ann, Rob, Suzanne, Sue, Linda, Angela, David, and Roger. After the usual greetings and the usual group photo, kindly taken by a passing train passenger, we set off in an orderly fashion behind our leader (Mick).

Lewes Station at 10.10. Must have sadly only just missed Nick H.who only just missed the 9.47 train from Brigghton.

Lewes station at 10:10

We were soon out of Lewes and into the Sussex country lanes, surely the spiritual home of B&H Clarion. They were particularly attractive in their autumn colours. The sky was grey and there was a little wetness in the air (no, not rain, not yet); it was neither windy nor chilly, perfect cycling weather.

Sue gliding into Piltdown having dallied picking up 2lbs of apples from roadside.

Sue gliding into Piltdown after collecting 2ibs of apples from the roadside

Discussions during the day covered a whole range of topics, which cannot possibly all be listed here, since your reporter was not able to be in all of them all the time.

So I will mention only one, “undulations”. Just what does this delightful word mean? The question is important since the word was used in the advance announcement of today’s ride. For some it suggests gentle ups and downs. For others it warns of nothing less than hills. For all however, it meant a very thoughtfully planned ride, with hillier undulations before lunch and gentler ones after.

November 17, 2013: Lewes Circular

Angela gets the usual treatment for uttering the word “hill”

Nick, meanwhile neatly sidestepped the issue. He missed the designated train from Brighton thanks to confusing advice from a station official. Hence he also missed the departure of the ride from Lewes. Undeterred he took a direct, and less undulating route to meet up with the rest of us for lunch at the Laughing Fish in Isfield.

Lunch was varied, ranging from chips and ketchup to pigeon, black pudding and bacon pie, all well cooked and efficiently served.

Exotic food at Laughing Fish;-I had goat koftas, Mick had home-made pigeon, blood sausage & bacon pie, Rob had quiche, Linda & Angela sweet potato soup, Nick had chips.

Lunch at the Laughing Fish

November 17, 2013: Lewes Circular

Nick’s Chips

And then we were on our way home, which is when, it has to be admitted, the grey sky got greyer and the wetness in the air definitely became rain. Cycle lights were turned on, waterproofs were pulled out of bags and we headed back to Lewes Station as quickly as full stomachs and tired legs allowed.

A wonderful way to spend a November Sunday – many thanks to Mick and Ann for planning it.


The Last Ride – Angela’s Report: Sunday 24 February: Hassocks to Lewes

27 February 2013

On a very cold day, Clarion riders bravely set off from Hassocks.

Tessa and Jim ‘demonstrating’ the meaning of the road sign!

At the Plough Inn near Plumpton we stopped to look at the memorial to the Polish airmen who were killed in WW2.

A coffee stop at the Fountain Inn, Plumpton Green, to warm up.

Between Plumpton and Cooksbridge, this track was rather crackly!

Two girls with their horses all dressed up for the cold weather.

Ann and Mick enjoying lunch at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes where our ride ended.

Thanks to Sue and Tessa for organising a lovely ride. The winter landscape was beautiful and we had a fun time.

The Next Ride: Sunday 24 February – Hassocks to Lewes

11 February 2013

This is a longer morning ride stopping for a coffee break before continuing to a late lunch in Lewes, after which we will catch a train home (those who wish to do more cycling may wish to ride back to Brighton of course). Distance is approximately 16 miles. Gently undulating with long flat sections. (A repeat of the ride on 8th January 2012).

From Hassocks station we cycle East through Ditchling, turning left down Spatham Lane. Right at the junction a mile or so along then keep to this road following the signposts to Plumpton. Turn into the village as we turn right past The Plough Inn where there is a monument to airmen from one of the wars. Turning down through Plumpton Green to stop at The Fountain Inn for coffee (assuming we are not too early, as they open at 12 noon). The purpose of this stop is to break up the morning with a little rest and refreshment rather than doing the whole ride in one go.

Then, hopefully feeling well rested and raring to go, we turn left onto a concrete pathway. Although only a short stretch the surface is badly cracked so it could almost count as off road. When Tessa and I cycled through here on our practice ride, the weather had been very wet and there was quite a bit of water, but this is unusual. We then turn right and next left and follow quiet roads as far as Cooksbridge. There, to minimize our experience of the main road we turn left onto the A275 for 100 yards and after the railway crossing turn right, cycling along small roads in the direction of Barcombe. Bypassing Barcombe village and Hamsey we rejoin the A275. Here we have the option of cycling on the pavement for safety as far as the next junction. There, left and downhill with views across the valley. Turning down a twitten to join the footpath across the railway and around Pells Pool. Past Harvey’s brewery and up Cliffe High Street to eat at the John Harvey Tavern behind Bill’s.

(This pub serves food until 4.30 pm, giving us plenty of time for a longer morning ride. Please let Sue know on 07787402229 or 01273 697412 if you are coming and want to be included in numbers for lunch as she will book a table in advance.)

Trains: Brighton station 11.03 to Hassocks (arriving 11.13). This is a Southern train. There is an earlier First Capital Connect train at 10.45 if anyone wants to spread the numbers over 2 trains. (The trains do not stop at Preston Park station.) Buy a return ticket to Hassocks as this is honoured returning from Lewes as the fare is no greater from there.

From London Victoria there is a direct train to Hassocks at 9.32 arriving 10.44 available as a single at £5 if bought in advance (i.e. at least the day before). This is a Southern service train.

Returning from Lewes, trains on the hour and 22 and 44 minutes past from 15.00 until the 16.44 train.

SueP and Tessa

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.