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.

Mick


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.

Jim.


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!

Roger

{More photos on Flickr]


The Last Ride: Sunday 22 January 2012 – The valley of the Ouse (Part One)

23 January 2012

At the crack of dawn Anne, Joan, Mick, Roger, Sean, Suzanne, Tessa and TJ all clambered off a Southern Rail train at Seaford and were met by our leader for the day, Jim, as well as Rob who had valiantly brought his Moulton “pick-a-back” on his motor vehicle. To everyone’s disappointment Rob found that a tyre had split and so had to miss the morning part of the ride, suppliers of Moulton tyres being limited to two within the UK and therefore not easily accessible from Seaford on a Sunday morning.

1.At Seaford Station

The first part of our exhilarating ride took us all of 200 yards to Seaford’s magnificently restored … public conveniences with their bike-shaped bike stands outside. Then, our backs to the playful wind, we sailed through the town to the far east “cliff” end where we wheeled round, gritted our teeth and rode into the teeth of the wind (yes, a mouthful of gnashers!). Mercifully, after a whole 500 yards (Brighton and Hove Clarion does not deal in metres – let’s hope there is never an Easter Meet where it is decided that they are the legal measurements for the organisation) Jim suggested that we pay our £1.50 (£1.00 for senior citizens) to visit the Seaford Museum in the Martello Tower. UNMISSABLE. We were given a warm greeting by the lady on the cash desk and even a brief introductory talk and then down into the bowels of the tower to roam amongst the fascinating exhibits – all collected and curated by volunteers. The more adventurous braved the winds and explored the roof of the tower.

2.Sean gazes out to sea

There was just one minor problem with the visit. Jim had terrible trouble tearing us all away from the fascinating nooks and crannies, videos and paintings, artefacts and relics. But our visit to the museum solved at least one important mystery for us: there was a map which very clearly showed how, until about the sixteenth century, the River Ouse (feature of the day) flowed into Newhaven, veered east behind a shingle bank and debouched (word of the day) just under Seaford Head cliffs.

Emerging from the wonderful museum, teeth were once more gritted and we battled our way personfully along Seaford prom, having a quick look at the Buckle, a modern house with an old-looking tower but, the whole having been built in 1963, it is only the historical plaque on the gate that is really of any interest.

3.The Buckle

What did catch the imagination of all of us was our visit to the site of the Tide Mills half way between Seaford and Newhaven, built on the very shingle bank that had eventually blocked off the River Ouse. Now, on a bleak (this is January, after all), wind-swept stretch of shingle, we used the interesting notices dotted around to imagine the bustling life of the corn mills (1761 – c.1900), of Bishopstone Beach halt (1864–1942), of the station-master’s house, of Chailey Heritage Marine Hospital and nurses’ home (1924–1940) and, last but not least, the thousands of Canadian soldiers briefly billeted there before the disastrous failed raid on Dieppe on 19 August 1942.

5.Tide Mills

With all these ghosts around us, we set off back into the modern world of present-day Newhaven with its shed-like supermarkets, fast-food outlets and DIY emporia, but once over the swing bridge it was back into the quainter, if very modern, harbour development. By which time we were more than glad to see the Hope Inn at the end of the harbour road. Welcoming as ever, they had reserved the lovely upstairs conservatory (view of the Ouse “oblige”) for us and a tasty meal was soon on its way – even for Rob who had managed to get there by car.

8.He who would go to sea for amusement would go to hell for pleasure

A yatter-yatter-yatter hour later we said goodbye to Rob for the last time of the day and faced north, through the rather sad (but cycle-friendly) remains of the Newhaven town and out on the open road to follow the Ouse. First stop was Piddinghoe and – a first for many of us – a short detour behind the church to see the fast-runnning Ouse at close quarters.

11.By the river

Southease was the next village to benefit from a Clarion visit; those interested in engineering went off to admire the newly refurbished 1880 swing bridge; those too knackered to get that far visited the tiny but ancient church, most of which dates back to 966.

Iford brought us to another church, which looked a bit more modern. Wrong. Most of the present-day church had already been built by 1100. Inside there was a wealth of fascinating wall painting, stained glass and other church furniture that had us reaching for the guidebook.

And yet our history lessons were not quite over. A quiet little back road (past the Lewes Football Club and a Southern Water depot to be precise) brought us to Lewes Priory. OK, we had all seen it from the train. Did any of those of us who had not been there before have the slightest idea how extensive the remains are? They’re still huge – despite the “historically sensitive” Victorians having driven their railway right through the centre of the (admittedly already) ancient ruins of the massive Cluniac church.

18.Lewes Priory

Mick, Sean, Joan and TJ all made a dash for the 4.14. The remaining five had the pleasure of being “introduced” by Tessa to the Sussex Guild Shop and Gallery in Southover Grange gardens. It made me for one sorry that I was not ready to start my Christmas shopping.

A day of “must go back and look at that again”s. Many thanks to Jim for his guidance on a relatively short but extremely sweet day out.

Suzanne

Jim adds:
NB In answer to your question of about 10 hours ago, the website says the main river *and tributaries* are over 140 miles long in total, but it does not give a length for just the main river, not one I could see immediately anyway.

Incidentally in my extreme tiredness caused by lack of sleep (did it show?) I forgot my ”piece de resistance” – last weekend I discovered that the name Ouse is a “back formation” (I expect you know about those things) – in other words it has been given to the river from the name of a town it flows through, namely Lewes, as in “Aqua de Lewes” => “Aqua de l’Ouse” – and that before that it had a different name entirely. This sort of thing is apparently quite common, especially for river names – Arun is also a back formation (from Arundel, naturally), though Adur seems to be the “proper” name of that river. Source: Brewers’ Dictionary of Names.

[More photos on Flickr]