The Last Ride: Sunday 7 April 2019 – Berwick to Hastings – Sally and Nick Report

15 April 2019

Berwick to Hastings by way of Arlington, Abbots Wood, Glynleigh Levels. Pevensey Levels, Normans Bay and Bexhill.

Part 1 (Sally)

Graham led his flock of 12 assorted cyclists from Berwick station (most of us having arrived from Brighton on the 10.05 train) on a varied and beautiful excursion through farmland and woodland, over marshes and along the shoreline, to the De La Warr Pavilion, where four of us peeled away after a late lunch to take the 16.30 train home from Bexhill station: Angela C., Bill, Wendy Taylor, and Sally. This was Bill’s first ride with the Clarion and it was his birthday. Welcome, Bill, please come on lots more rides. The other nine carried on for après ride activities in Hastings, and I cannot say what they got up to there: Graham, Wendy Scott, Angela D., Prudence, Tessa, Sikka, Nick, David, Chris.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

The day was mild and hazy, with a thin mist that never quite cleared, and at one stage turned into a gentle sprinkle of rain. Most of the rain fell while we were in the Pavilion, eating expensive but very nice food, and looking at an exhibition on Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, called “And Still I Rise” (after a poem by Maya Angelou), and paintings by Hayv Kahramans, Iraqi Kurd artist who had left as a refugee during the first Gulf War, when she was still a little girl.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

Our ride was remarkable for the virtual absence of undulations, just the occasional hump-backed bridge over the many watercourses on the Levels. The woodland edges were embroidered with birdsong and emergent wild-flowers. I look forward to seeing Nick’s (and perhaps also Tessa’s) pictures of ladies’ smocks along the ditches, primroses, ferns, wood anemones, bluebells just beginning to unfurl, dog violets, lesser celandines…Not many insects about, and though we took in a snatch of the Cuckoo Trail, no hint of a cuckoo.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

Along the Levels, the lanes followed the drainage ditches for much of the way, where last year’s dried reeds and reed-mace were still standing high, pale gold and ghostly, and I couldn’t help thinking how they will be full of birds in a month, when the new stalks have grown. I hope so, anyway. At the side of one lane we were saddened to find a dead badger. Tessa and Sikka caught a glimpse of a stoat (alive), and Wendy T. and Sally saw a red partridge near to Normans Bay; this was alive too but didn’t deserve to be, as it was trying to hurl itself under a car.

It was too early in the season to be tempted into the sea, but on a future occasion we might have to take swimming gear. It’s a relaxed sort of beach, and might be an irresistible destination at the end of a ride on a hot day.

Twenty-two miles for the revellers who went on to Hastings, twenty for the other four of us, and a very pleasant journey it was.

Part 2 (Nick)

After two hours of art, feminism and food in the De La Warr Pavilion, the remaining nine of us were keen to cycle the six miles along the coastal path to Hastings and complete the route devised by Graham. The rain we had observed during lunch had stopped, which made the final leg of the ride a pleasant experience.

April 7, 2919: Berwick to Hastings

When we reached Hastings, three of the group (Sikka, Tessa and Angela D) decided to head straight to Hastings station and return home. The remaining six of us were keen to investigate one of the pubs Graham had researched for the end of the ride.

Before we all headed to a pub in Hastings Old Town, Wendy was keen to follow the main road to see where it led to. We ended up in a car park with a good view of the coastline and marvelled at the effects of dramatic coastal erosion on a path, which had been completely destroyed.

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

Graham’s suggestion of Hastings pub was a good one. The Crown is an independent pub, with local suppliers for its food and drink. I decided I didn’t need any food, so concentrated on sampling an excellent oatmeal stout instead. All the food looked good and Wendy’s vegan rhubarb pudding tasted particularly delicious.

April 7, 2019: Bexhill to Hastings

April 7, 2019: Berwick to Hastings

We spent quite a while in The Crown discussing train times and made the travel options back to Brighton appear more complicated than they really were. Sunday trains can often be uncomfortably packed in the evening, but we found seating together to talk about the great day out out we had all had.

Sally and Nick

The Next Ride: Sunday 26th July 2015 Catsfield – East of Normans Bay

14 July 2015

My rides tend to be motivated by the desire to Boldly Go Where No Clarionette Has Gone Before (or at least, where I haven’t gone before). It has bugged me for some time that Normans Bay is a regular haunt of ours but we never seem to go beyond it – until now …

We’ll set off from Cooden Beach station, and after skirting the Bexhill suburbs of Cooden and Little Common, we reach the delightful Peartree Lane, which very soon delivers us to High Woods. This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest; it has some nice hard paths, which unfortunately don’t get us anywhere, but hopefully we will agree to spend a little time here.

We cross the A269 at Lunsford’s Cross, and then Potman’s Lane brings the only seriously steep hill, which is about 1 in 15 but is soon over.

Lunch will be at the White Hart at Catsfield, a pleasant little pub which seems to have a pretty extensive menu and does not appear to be too pricey. They also have Harvey’s.

Catsfield has two churches; one is architecturally pretty stunning, and the other is very old. The latter, St Laurence’s, may tempt us in. It goes back to the 12th century.

On the way back we go through Henley’s Down, and then there is a possible off-road detour which is a little bumpy but at least gets us away from traffic. We can discuss whether to take it or not on the day; if this proves to be a “cat-herding” exercise, we can split up and then reconvene in Sidley.

Sidley is on the outskirts of Bexhill, so at this point we turn west and regain Peartree Lane and our outward route.

We return to Cooden Beach station after a total of only 14 miles; if any of us want to go further, it will be possible to cycle back to Pevensey and Westham station, 6 miles further on (but not to Norman’s Bay, as trains don’t stop there on Sundays).


Start at Cooden Beach station at 11:30. There are bike-friendly ramps to road level.
Distance: 14 or 20 miles

Terrain: Mostly quiet roads, some off-road possible. Some undulations.

Getting there: There are no direct trains from Brighton today – it is necessary to change en route – and the best place to do this is Eastbourne, where there is no change of platform. Take the 10:23 Hastings train; the connection arrives at Cooden Beach at 11:29 (having left London Victoria at 9:47)

Getting back: Trains leave Cooden Beach at 37 minutes past the hour, and Pevensey & Westham at 43 minutes past. Journey time to Brighton is about an hour; to London, an hour and 50 minutes.


The Last Ride: 27 January 2013: Polegate to Normans Bay and Back. A Ride in Pictures

29 January 2013
. . .

L-R Linda, Angela, Suzanne, Richard, Joyce, John. Not pictured: Roger and myself.


John had inherited the ride from Ian, and at times had trouble interpreting the instructions. Here we see him asking for directions to Hankham, supported by Roger. At this point the man appears to be offering them a lift. In the interests of balance, his wife gave completely contradictory directions – but we found it anyway.


The Levels were at their best – flat (as ever), wet (but not too wet) and not too windy (yet).

This is one of the (very swollen at the moment) watercourses that do their best to drain the Levels. As the acclaimed Clarion River Expert, I was chastised for not knowing its name. Further research suggested that this was Pevensey Haven.


My friend John Mewett is a “Clarion fellow-traveller” who occasionally joins us for lunch when we are hear his home in St Leonards. One day we hope to get him out on his bike. He told me that Normans Bay was so named in order to attract tourists, and that the Normans actually landed at Bulverhythe, near St Leonards.


I love the tall grass that lines the lanes. It also keeps the wind down (a bit)


After lunch, Joyce was astonished by the bill and is seen here trying to remove a gold tooth in order to make up the shortfall in the kitty.


The real kitty, however, was under the table, hoping for a piece of John’s fish to find its way onto the floor.


A warning to Pevensey drivers: Don’t mess with the Clarion! (This is addressed in particular to the young woman in the sports car who nearly drove Angela off the road in Rickney Lane)


However, one sees few cars on these lanes, and in fact probably more horses than cars. They and their riders are more polite than most drivers. Here is one of them.


St Marys at Westham was the first church the Normans built, in 1080. It is right next to …


… Pevensey Castle. Thanks John (and Ian) for a lovely ride!


The Next Ride: 15 July 2012: Bexhill to Polegate

7 July 2012

This ride was inspired by an earlier attempt to plan one from Bexhill to Battle and back: I got to Battle (just about) but decided it was too hilly to inflict on others. This ride goes west out of Bexhill and is not “too hilly”, just hilly.

We head north out of Bexhill and join the wonderfully named Turkey Road which takes us through some very pleasant countryside. Our first target is Who (what?), sorry Hooe. It’s not a very big place: most of its Wikipedia article is about the things that used to be there (school, shop etc). But there is still a pleasant-looking pub, the Red Lion, where we will have lunch. The name Hooe comes from a Saxon word meaning ridge – yes, it is up a hill.

After lunch we head down to the Hooe Levels (which are flat) and Horse Bridge which will get us across the Waller’s Haven; this is the river which eventually reaches the sea at Norman’s Bay. Onward to the hill-top village of Wartling– yes it’s up another hill but, since it’s the last one, walking will be permitted, or possibly compulsory!

We come down from Wartling onto the Pevensey Levels and follow quiet, flat lanes to the Cuckoo Trail where we can stop for tea at the Loom before jumping on a train at Polegate.


Meet: Bexhill station forecourt at11:20.

Getting there: Buy a return to Bexhill. Catch the 10:20 from Brighton. (The 10:29 gets to Bexhill at 11:35 with a change at Lewes, so if you have to use that one give me a call.)

This is a linear ride: If you’re coming by car you could park at Polegate and catch a train to Bexhill or vice versa.

Distance About 21 miles.

Hills There’s a mile or so climb to get out of Bexhill. After that we’re in rolling country so there are a few more climbs, but the prevailing direction will be down. After lunch, just one more serious climb and then it’s down and flat.

Off road A short section of the Cuckoo Trail.

Catering Lunch at the Red Lion in Hooe (01424 892371). Tea at the Loom on the Cuckoo Trail.

Getting home Train from Polegate to Brighton at XX:13 (direct) or XX:28 (change at Lewes).

My mobile 0789 985 1172.


The next ride: 19 February – Hastings to Eastbourne

7 February 2012

St Leonards – Bexhill – Cooden Beach – Normans Bay – Pevensey Bay

Ian tells me there is a half-marathon on in Brighton on this day and some roads will be closed, so do check whether you will be able to get to the station. It finishes at 10 am, but there may be some ongoing congestion.

Much of this ride will be familiar to some of us, although I am not sure that we have done it all in one go. It will mean that, together with previous rides from Rye to Lydd and Hastings, and our frequent forays to Normans Bay, we will have explored the Sussex coast all the way from Brighton to the Kent border. One bit we won’t have done before is the section of NCN2 between St Leonards and Bexhill, which is so new that the information display boards at Galley Hill don’t have any information in them yet!

It’s a simple linear ride along the coast – let’s hope the wind is behind us. We’ll have lunch at a familiar haunt, the Star at Normans Bay. If it’s cold we may also need a morning coffee stop, and we can have that in Bexhill. Afternoon tea may be taken in Eastbourne if desired. The approach to Eastbourne will take us along part of NCN21, so this could be thought of as part 2¾ of the Route 21 Trilogy, although some of us did the Eastbourne–Polegate section during the 2010 Easter Meet.

Length: About 18 miles.

Duration: About 4–5 hours.

Terrain: Mostly cycle paths; some quiet lanes, and a short section of A259 at Pevensey Bay. Mostly flat. At one point we briefly run out of prom and will have to push bikes along the shingle beach.

Getting there: Meet at Hastings Station at 11.30; take the 10.04 or 10.20 train from Brighton. (The 10.04 is an extra train which originates at London Victoria at 8.47, and has been diverted via Brighton. Londoners should bring War and Peace to read on the train. Note that the Charing Cross to Hastings line is also disrupted so There Is No Alternative.)

Getting home: Trains leave Eastbourne for Brighton at 5 and 40 minutes past each hour. The 40 minutes past continues to London Victoria.

Lunch: I have booked a table at the pub for 1.30. They ask for a deposit if there are more than 10 people, so do tell me whether you are coming: