The Last Ride: Sunday 6 October 2013: Hassocks to Brighton in the Late Summer (?) Sun

9 October 2013

Well, it certainly seemed like summer; for much of the ride my coat was securely stowed in the pannier …

There was drama and near-tragedy as Angela and I waited at Preston Park station: a woman appeared to be trying to jump in front of a train, and two men were trying to restrain her. All appeared to have been drinking. The railway authorities were alerted and the fast train came through very slowly, tooting its horn. Then the police took her away. We could not begin to imagine what was going through her mind or what dreadful circumstances had precipitated this crisis. A sobering experience to begin the day.

At Hassocks we were joined by Roger, Suzanne and Richard, and had plenty of time to admire the new station building which had replaced the modular concrete construction put up in the early 70s (and which in turn had apparently replaced a magnificent Victorian edifice) as we waited for the later train.

Hassocks Station

Hassocks Station

It arrived, delivering forth Linda; then Rob turned up in his car, having planned to board the later train at Preston Park only to find that it did not stop there. Sean telephoned to say he was on his way from Plumpton but not to wait; we did wait, but eventually set off, having given him the location of the pub. We met up with Sean and Jane in Underhill Lane, at the junction with Lodge Lane. Just before we reached that junction, we noticed that some very anti-social person had flytipped a whole load of old furniture in the lane.

Fly tipping

Why did they do that, when they clearly had a vehicle with which they could have taken it to the tip? Someone said it’s because they would have had to pay at the tip; but this is not the case at either of the Brighton & Hove tips, so maybe others ought to follow suit.

From this, the eastern extremity of the ride, the nine of us proceeded westwards through Clayton, pausing to admire the castellated northern portal of Clayton railway tunnel. I have often wondered why a later, brick-built addition had been allowed to spoil this façade; I am told it is a cottage which is sometimes open to the public. A cottage for whom though? The tunnel-keeper? Who would want to live there, with rumbling noises every 5 minutes?

Clayton Tunnel - North Portal

On up New Way Lane, carefully stewarded as ever by our leader, Roger, who gave a short presentation about Danny, the stately home now converted into luxury retirement flats. Apparently if you go to live there you are expected to take your own dining table! Sean, ever the source of fascinating nuggets of information, asked us what we thought Paul Dacre’s father had done during the war. The answer was that he was so patriotic and dedicated to the defence of his country (unlike the “Britain-hating” Ralph Miliband apparently) that he took a job as … a theatre critic!



Past Hurstpierpoint College, up Danworth Lane and Pomper Lane (which seemed new territory to me, though apparently not to the Clarion), over the A23 (suppressing the urge to yell obscentities at the cars) and so to the pub, the Duke of York at Sayers Common.

Shady Lane

Danworth Lane

The food was delicious, and the conversation as usual was rich and varied. Angela raised the topic of a Christmas social, with some sort of consensus emerging around a meal preceded by table tennis. But if you have any other ideas I’m sure she’d like to hear from you.

Lots of people had come out to enjoy the sun. We saw mud-splattered runners, and horses were much in evidence – some with carriages attached, including one small two-wheeled device apparently known as a jog-cart. At one point a long-necked sheep was also spotted.

Horse and Cart

The Jog-Cart

Rob photographed an ingenious tricycle with baby carriage attached, much discussed at lunchtime; Roger had also seen it but thought it was a rubbish bin, possibly the vehicle of choice for a professional but environmentally-conscientious flytipper?


After lunch we took the old A23 (now a B-road but you’d never believe it) to Newtimber, where the old London Road – here a quiet, grassy cul-de-sac – becomes the Equestrian Route to Newtimber Place, which we briefly visited before continuing to Pyecombe, the last bit of the journey being on the scary A281.

Group at Newtimbers

At Newtimber Place: L-R Richard, Suzanne, Rob, Linda, Sean, Roger, Jane, Angela

From here it was the safe, but noisy, NCN20 alongside the A23 all the way back to Preston Park. We passed the south portal of the tunnel, where they had forgotten to build castellations, and thanks to Roger’s impeccable timing, reached the park 10 minutes before the projected time of 3.30. At the Rotunda Café we found Fred waiting for us, and also Colin, who just happened to be taking his weekly spin round the park and joined us for a coffee. Linda by now had departed for home; poor Rob had to get the train back to Hassocks to retrieve his car, and Sean and Jane had somehow to get to Plumpton without the benefit of a train (since the line was closed for the day).


At the Rotunda: L-R Rob, Richard, Colin, Jim, Roger, Suzanne, Fred, Sean, Jane

After the ride, Rob sent me his GPS log:


Thanks to Roger for demonstrating that there is still unpedalled territory out there to explore, and thanks also for arranging such nice weather.


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