The day started with lovely sunshine as Mick, Ann, Delia, Julian and I met at Shoreham station. It seemed that all of us were aware that the weather forecast for mid-afternoon was not good at all, with both rain and very high winds coming in. With that in mind, we set off very promptly and agreed not to stop too often in order, hopefully, to make it back before three-ish and avoid a soaking.
So, off we went through Shoreham, crossed the A27 and proceeded up Coombes Rd towards Annington. I think that some of us had a little bit of difficulty with the ‘not stopping’ agreement and in fact did not abide too strictly by it. How can you not want to stop and stare at a field blanketed with snow drops? And, looking across the fields and river to the right of Coombes Rd, looms the old cement works which I personally think should be blown up, but Ann pointed out that there are a number of houses nearby, so it’s probably not a good idea.
We were then cycling towards Botolphs and Steyning and despite some road noise from the by-pass, the bird song was delightful. Having Julian with us meant that some of the bird song was identified as rooks, a green woodpecker and a great tit, which Julian said sounded like a tyre being pumped up!
As usual on our rides you see some amazing cottages and houses. Just before Ashurst, Mick and Delia had stopped by a place called Wappingthorne Manor so that the rest of us could catch up. One expects a manor to be a fairly wapping great big house, so we thought it was very aptly named! We also passed Wappingthorne Farm and we noticed that there were not just large silos pointing towards the sky, but two castle-like towers which look very old, possibly from Norman times, and seem very out of place.
From here we were not too far from Partridge Green and our lunch time destination at Stan’s Bike Shed. The Shed is absolutely lovely. It isn’t very big, perhaps accommodating 20 people or so around tables with an outside seating area for when the weather is warmer. Between us, we had an assortment of soup and ciabattas and all agreed that the quality of the food was extremely good. The Shed also serves really lovely coffee and has a great choice of different teas. There were quite a number of cyclists having lunch alongside us and we got chatting to a couple from Horsham who had cycled along part of the Downslink. Their clothing looked a lot muddier than ours and they told us that the route was quite challenging, so we decided that we would not take the Downslink route back as planned, but just go back the way we had come.
So off we went, and by now the weather was changing and we were cycling into the wind. Mick and Delia cycled ahead and as we got closer to Shoreham, Julian suggested that he, Ann and I veer off to the Downslink and take pot luck that it would not be too muddy and be able to get off the road for a bit. It turned out that it was it was fine and more sheltered from the wind. The river, which runs alongside the trail, was incredibly choppy and it was now spitting with rain, so we ploughed on but did take time to stop to look at the wonderful wooden sculpture of the heron.
As we approached Shoreham the rain began to get heavier and we were all very relieved that we did not have much further to go. Ann and Julian said they would like to go for tea somewhere in the town and to meet up with Mick and Delia. Unfortunately, I needed to get back home so I said my goodbyes and left them to link up with the others.
Thank you so much to Ann and Mick for planning the ride as it was a very lovely day out, and good luck to Mick on his future night-ride from London to Brighton, or is it Brighton to London – sadly I don’t think I will ever have the stamina for a ride like that!
[More photos on Flickr]