The Last Ride: Sunday 21 August 2016 – Pevensey Levels To Herstmonceux

24 August 2016

Julian, Angela and Sean took the train from Brighton with Sue and Chris boarding in Lewes. Chris (from Patcham) met us in Polegate and we waited for Mick and Ann who had driven to our lunch stop and then cycled to the start of the ride.

Julian led us onto the Cuckoo Trail for a few yards, turning right to cycle along a tree-lined path and over the bridge spanning the by-pass.

The weather was overcast but warm and pleasant. The West wind hit us sideways as we crossed the Pevensey Levels but did not deter our progress. In the afternoon the sun came out, and the wind veered to South-West, becoming strong enough to render our decision to return via the sheltered Cuckoo Trail a wise one.

A back-stop was appointed but unfortunately was not familiar with the route and we were half-way across our reed-lined route when we discovered three of our number were missing. Mick cycled back to search for them. They had missed a turning off the road to Hankham but fortunately realised their mistake and retraced their steps and were soon reunited with the help of Mick’s guidance.

We reached the nursery at Lyme Cross in good time for lunch which was homemade and delicious. The service was friendly and helpful but as we had a long wait for food to arrive a long conversation ensued. One table of 6 people covered the topics of ‘fathers for justice’, Charles Manson, The Archers, the KGB and mind-control techniques, abusive relationships generally, cannibalism, Neo-Liberalism vs Anarchy, books on economics were recommended e.g. Ha-Joon Chang’s book 20 Things They Didn’t Tell you About Capitalism. And both tables spoke of Brexit!

Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux

The Manageress came over and offered us free drinks for having the long wait for food, and we didn’t have to wait quite so long for these to arrive! We decided that this was a Cycle-Friendly eatery and would like to send them one of the Clarion stickers informing visitors of that fact. Anyone got a spare sticker?

Big Chris

Oh, and on the way, Big Chris, who had arrived on his retro 1980 Dawes Galaxy wearing a 1970s? outfit complete with flat cap and knitted tank top, shared his experience of informing the authorities (county council officials) about footpaths and bridleways that needed attention e.g. signs missing, inappropriately diverted by local inhabitants, impassable etc. We can all contribute to improving the situation in this way.

Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux

After lunch Mick and Ann drove off and we had an uneventful ride down the Cuckoo Trail to tea at the Loom Mill café. Some discussion of trying out the Cuckoo’s Nest café further on but we left that for another occasion.

Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux

Patcham Chris left us at Polegate to drive back and the rest of us boarded a crowded train to return home happy and tired after a lovely day out.

Thank you Julian.


The Next Ride: Sunday 16 November 2014 –  Polegate to Herstmonceux

5 November 2014

Special Note  from Sikka 

Tessa and myself cycled our Polegate route in reverse today and we may decide to do this on the day itself.  It will depend on weather conditions, especially the wind, but today we thought it worked better in reverse because it meant the worst hills were before, rather than after, lunch. The route was the same, we just cycled  up the Cuckoo trail first and back across the Pevensey Levels.

Terrain:   This ride is relatively flat on the whole, mainly when we are cycling across the Levels in the morning and down the Cuckoo Trail in the afternoon.    However, just before and after lunch there are hills. Nothing outrageous, but just to let you know! Length of ride – we guess it is about 16 miles or thereabouts.

Route:  We will start from Polegate station, cycle through the carpark, and out for a short ride along the cycle track on the pavement of the B2247 to the pedestrian crossing after Levetts Lane.  Up this lane to the bridge over the bypass and along quiet roads to Rickney.  Then  north across the Pevensey Levels to the village of Herstmonceux where we will join the footpath by the main road for a few yards to cross over to Lime Cross Nursery.   There we will have an early and, hopefully, leisurely lunch.

Back to the footpath followed by a brief journey along the main A271 through Herstmonceux village. There we take a right turn signposted  to Cowbeech. Now for the bad news.  This road takes us up Cowbeech Hill which is a long, slow, relatively gradual climb, through Stunts Green, and on to the top  at Beech Cross.   Nothing too challenging but it will be on full stomachs! We turn left at this junction onto a slightly busier but wide road, mostly downhill but including a couple of minor upward slopes. This takes us back to glimpse the main road before we slide past it to take a right turn into a wide, quiet road. Along this for a mile or two when we cross the verge into a disused and gated off  road on our left for a short stretch.   Then  straight over another busy road into Station Road. A good clue suggesting we may be approaching the Cuckoo Trail! A short way along just before a bridge we diverge off the tarmac and down an unmade track for a few yards,  joining the Trail and remembering to turn left which will take us South towards the delights of tea at the Loom tea rooms.

After tea,  about a mile left to the end of  the Cuckoo Trail and into Polegate to catch a train home.

Train from Brighton leaving at 10.22, arriving Polegate at 10.49.
Return trains from Polegate to Brighton 15.06 and 15.44,  16.06 and 16.44.

PS  The cafe has asked that we give them good warning we are booking a group for lunch as they expect to order in extra food.   So if you know you are joining the ride, do let us know. Perhaps email me, Sikka, at or phone:  07787402229.   Thanks.

Tessa and Sikka

The Last Ride: Sunday 9 March 2014 – Cuckoo Trail/Pevensey Levels

11 March 2014

The hottest day in England so far this year (temperatures reaching 20C in the South East) attracted 20 cyclists at the start of the 16-mile Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels ride at Polegate station. This must surely be one of the largest groups ever to take part in an early March Clarion cycle ride. The weather was certainly a dramatic contrast with the recent wet and stormy conditions, which resulted in a couple of rides being cancelled. The Clarion twenty for Sunday’s ride were: Helen, Roger, Suzanne, Jenny, Joyce, Leon, Ian, Elaine, Mick, Anne, Amanda, Tessa, Sikka, Sue, Rob, Richard, Angela, Wilma, Nick and Julian.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

Although Beeching’s ideologically controversial 1963 decision to close the Cuckoo Line was a blow for train travel and public transport, the Cuckoo Trail on the route of the old railway line has become a popular route for cyclists (National Cycle Network Route 21) and walkers today. The unseasonably warm weather attracted more walkers and cyclists than usual to the Cuckoo Trail for our ride on Sunday. Reduced speed and more attention than usual was required as we shared the route with numerous ramblers, dog walkers and other cyclists.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

The leisurely pace adopted during the Cuckoo Trail ride was maintained throughout the rest of the ride. Many of us who hadn’t bothered cycling during the recent stormy weather rather approved of the undemanding route (without hills!) as our first cycle ride of the year.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

Although the Coopers Croft Garden Centre seemed like a strange choice of lunch stop initially, the Catkins Tea Rooms inside the garden centre’s grounds served some excellent soup, sandwiches and bowls of chips. The warm weather enabled us to sit outside with cups of tea and ginger beer (a particularly popular option). We were also able to add another bowl of chips to the expanding Clarion Flickr portfolio of food photographs.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

The garden centre’s potted plant sale proved irresistible for some of Sunday’s cyclists with large panniers or saddle bags. The collection of stone sheep sculptures were also popular, but we all recognised that cycling with a stone carving in our saddle bags might impede our progress as we cycled back to Polgate station.

March 9, 2014: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

An impressive half moon in a clear blue sky accompanied our route back along the Cuckoo Trail, via the Pevensey Levels,  to the familiar tea stop of the Old Loom. It was possible to sit outside again for our second break of the day before cycling the final two miles to Polegate station.

Thanks to Ian for planning such an excellent ride on a day with perfect weather for cycling.


More photos on Flickr.

The Last Ride. 12 August 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

16 August 2012

August 12, 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

A large turnout (13 cyclists) for Sunday’s excellent ride along the Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels. Warm and sunny weather throughout the entire day helped make the outing particularly enjoyable, during a ride which coincided with the last day of the London 2012 Olympics. Railway staff at Clapham Junction seemed to have forgotten to enforce the ban on cycles on trains during the Olympics, thus enabling a trouble-
free journey to the start at Polegate station for the London cycling contingent.

The fine weather seemed to contribute to a faster pace than many previous Clarion rides. There were no punctures or mechanical problems and the cracking pace along the Cuckoo Trail’s smooth tarmac surface continued until the lunchtime stop at the Brewer’s Arms in Vines Cross. The warm weather meant sitting outside was the preferred option for the majority of the group during lunch.

August 12, 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

The final of the Olympic marathon taking place on the TV inside the pub did make a compelling alternative lunchtime for some, though. Rather like coverage of Tour de France cyclists, TV cameras managed to convey the incredible speed the runners tackled the gruelling 26-mile course through London’s streets.After watching Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich win the Olympic marathon in just over 2 hours, I joined the other Clarion cyclists outside for lunch. I opted for a bowl of chips with a pint of lime and soda. Looking around the table, I could see the pub had a variety of wholesome dishes available for those with larger appetites (the veggie pie dish looked particularly good). After watching the final few minutes of Cuba winning the Olympic Flyweight boxing final, we were ready to complete the next stage of our own Olympic style cycle ride along Pevensey Levels.

Hurst Haven

Although not entirely flat, one of the joys of Sunday’s ride was the lack of any significantly difficult hills for the post-lunch leg of the ride. As the name suggests, Pevensey Levels consisted of particularly flat terrain. We seemed to make good progress as we cycled along this part of the route, without encountering more than one or two cars. A particularly noteworthy moment was the sight of two swans and several cygnets seemingly lapping up floating lichen in a stream. We were all transfixed by this sight for several minutes and managed to take many photographs,
which will no doubt be appearing on the Clarion flickr site soon.

August 12, 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

It didn’t seem too long before we were back on the Cuckoo Trail for the return to Polegate station. We had made good progress, so had time for an afternoon tea stop at the Old Loom. After indulging in the Old Loom’s wide selection of drinks and cakes (nettle & fennel tea was my cycling drink of choice), we cycled back to Polegate station along the Cuckoo Trail. There were some train delay station announcements, but all of the Brighton contingent managed to load their bikes when the train finally arrived (a nearby air display meant the service was busier than usual). I was asked by a guard if I was aware that bike restrictions were in operation during the Olympics on the train journey back to Clapham Junction. Luckily, the guard didn’t seem to be in the mood to throw cyclists off the train for breaking less than clear Olympic travel
rules for cycles which hadn’t been enforced earlier in the morning on the outward journey.


The Next Ride: Sunday 12 August 2012: Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels

1 August 2012

[NOTE the “Future Rides” table is now accessible via a link in the right hand menu]

Another ‘traditional’ one.. We first did this in October 2004.

Up the Trail as far as Horam then off to Vines Cross to the Brewer’s Arms for lunch returning by quiet roads through Vines Cross, Cowbeach, Stunts Green (wheelies at your own risk), Ginger Green, across the Levels to Rickney, then back to Cuckoo Trail and eventually Polegate.


Distance: about 20 miles.
Hills:the ex-railway Trail climbs almost imperceptibly. Only little inclines where the bridge that used to cross the road is no longer there. There are a few minor ‘ups’ coming back until we get to the Pevensey Levels –whose name speaks for itself!
Off road: Well surfaced Cuckoo Trail
Traffic: Shouldn’t be a problem – quiet roads and the Trail.
Lunch and Tea: Brewers’ Arms for lunch. Possible tea stop (depending on train times and our own progress) at the Old Loom

Catch the 10.20 from Brighton station or meet at 10.49 at Polegate station. (Be at Brighton Station by 9.50 for Groupsave.) Trains back at 6 minutes past the hour with a change at Lewes and 42 minutes direct.

Ian’s mobile number is 07770743287.


The Last Ride: Sunday 26 June 2011 – Herstmonceux

28 June 2011

[More photos on Flickr]

When I saw the mist and felt the chilly wind as I freewheeled down Elm Grove I wondered, like some others, if we could really trust that weather forecast, which had predicted a very hot day. But we should have had faith because, in total opposition to the previous ride (ah the variety of Clarioning!), this turned out to be not only a dry but also a wonderfully balmy day. That it was going to be warm was already clear by the time Mick and Joyce got off the train at Polegate to join the others who had arrived in various ways. So we were: our leader Tessa, Angela, Helen, Ian, Joyce, Mick, Rob and Leon (a big surprise because we knew he could not ride yet after his thumb operation – but, determined not to miss the picnic, he had come by car and “shadowed” us). A lot of time spent disrobing and sun-creaming then we were off towards the familiar Cuckoo Trail and on to Rickney and the Pevensey Levels.

Start of Clarion ride at Polegate, East Sussex.

It was idyllic to be on the Pevensey Levels on such a day. At times when the wind blows hard and it is raining they can be bleak and almost desolate – on this day though, as we bowled along, we were surrounded everywhere by soft greenery, contented cows, low-lying canals and the enormous sky.

Picnic lunch in Herstmonceux Castle grounds.

We soon saw the gleaming dome of Herstmonceaux Observatory with the only incident being Ian’s chain coming off when he went into a rut. Arrived at Herstmonceaux Church where we met up with Leon and his pristine yellow car!!! Plenty of time to explore the All Saints Church (rather unexpectedly imposing); a mixture of 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th century with a very active “Friends of All Saints Church” looking after it.*

Herstmonceux Castle.

Further on we walked through fields to our picnic site – a valley with the castle** on one side and the Observatory dome ahead, a fantastic find Tessa. Ian and Joyce opted for the shade of an ancient knobbly sweet chestnut, while the others spread themselves in the – now very hot – sun. Time passed sharing food, talking on the phone to Anne and commiserating with her on her accident, signing a card for her for Mick to take, and discussing that endless topic: car drivers and cyclists.

The ride group arriving at All Saints' Church Herstmonceux.

Once on our way again we encountered the only busy stretch of road, which did not last long, and we were back on the Levels again ending up at the Loom for tea (by the back way because the Cuckoo Trail is closed for sewage works). Sitting in the sun with tea and cakes was a perfect ending to what had been a lovely gentle summer ride. Thank you Tessa (and also Sikka who helped Tessa plan the ride).


All Saint's Church Herstmonceux.

Ian’s additional notes:
*Herstmonceux Church. I now regret being mean and failing to spend a £ on a church guide – which might include information that has come to light since 1965 when Pevsner’s account was first published. What intrigued us, Angela especially, was the Dacre monument with its two male effigies – “the one really spectacular piece in the church” as Pevsner says. If I’ve understood him correctly the monument is to Thomas Lord Dacre, who died in 1533, and his son Sir Thomas Fiennes, but the effigies date from an earlier period and may be representations of Thomas Lord Hoo who died in 1455 and Sir Thomas Hoo, who died in 1486 “and have come to Herstmonceux from Battle Abbey after the Dissolution to be used for the two Fiennes”. Pevsner’s speculation seems plausible – the Reformation and dissolution of the monasteries were just about to get going when Lord Dacre died. But I wish I’d bought that guide!

**Herstmonceux Castle – “a splendid sight” Pevsner thought. But as is so often the case, not entirely what it seems. It was built for Sir Roger Fiennes around 1440 and “in spite of its moat, its battlements, and its turrets, a mansion rather than a castle”. It is also noteworthy as marking the beginning of the new fashion for brick (rather than stone) as a building material. But it was dismantled in 1777 “and remained a ruin until restoration was taken in hand by Col. Lowther in 1913 and more seriously, and indeed exemplarily by Sir Paul Latham in 1933”.