Whenever I am invited or persuaded to write a ride report I hear the words of a good friend who once offered me this advice “Keep it simple, stupid”. (Thank you Rupert.)
On this occasion I’m finding it difficult to heed his good advice.
As a prelude to this Sunday, the weather had been, to put it bluntly, bloody awful and I began to think that I had made a bloomer in inviting any Clarion member to join me at Hassocks station to ride the five miles to Plumpton station. As Sunday crept near I had received no takers and was wondering if I would be cycling to Plumpton alone.
I am very pleased to report that Joyce decided to take my offer. I waited at Hassocks station for only a few minutes for the 9.53 to arrive with Joyce on board.
Leaving Hassocks and heading to Plumpton in glorious sunshine, we sped along through Ditchling and onto the stony track through Streat and on to Plumpton, arriving at the station by 10.30. We were soon joined by Rob who sat himself down on the downside platform, Joyce and I were waiting on the up-side to meet the Lewes train hopefully full of eager riders. The London train crawled into Plumpton depositing Jim, TJ, Joan and Richard. Angela arrived by car and Jenny, our leader cycled from Cooksbridge near Lewes.
The group of nine were busy with greetings and happy talk for several minutes before I took the start of ride group photo. Moments later we were on our way but only a few yards up the road we all stopped at a village shop for the odd items that we needed to continue our journey. Off again to Plumpton Green and the Plough PH to view the War Memorial and admire a splendid campsite with some lightweight campers, that started another topic about cycle-camping and some very good memories of friends that TJ, Joan and I share. (The Association of Lightweight Campers.)
Back in the saddle and up to the windmill and St. George’s at Chailey Common where we spent some time looking at the wonderful buildings and the windmill that was not open today.
A very pleasant ride through the common and out onto the A275 for a short distance to Warrs Hill Lane where shortly after I received a gift from the road in my rear tyre.
The call went out loud and clear “Puncture” and all came to a standstill while I popped the wheel out and removed the tyre and tube. A flint was removed and a new inner tube inserted and back on the road. Speeding along Butterbox Lane and Sloop Lane, no the tide never came up this far, it’s named after The Sloop Inn.
Passing under the Bluebell Railway with a beautiful steam loco pulling many old coaches, no time for a photo, it happened too quick. [Note from Jim: Not too quick for me … but my stupid auto-focus camera focussed on the hedge, with the train a blur in the background!]
Next down Ketch’s Lane and crossing the A275 at Sheffield Green and onto Fletching High Street where we stopped for lunch at the Rose and Crown PH. Nine happy cyclists enjoyed good food and warm sunshine in the garden at the back of the pub. After eating, drinking and chatting I repaired my punctured inner tube.
When it was time to depart, Joan and TJ left the main group to head up to Sheffied Park to catch a train to Kingscott station and a short ride to East Grinstead to join the main line home. We were ready to ride on, through one of the most wonderful villages I have seen, not just in Sussex but in the whole of the UK. I speak of Fletching, worthy of a second visit when more time is available.
On to Jackies Lane and Oxbottom and Cinder Hill and again the A275 where seven of us spent a pleasant hour having tea at The Horns Lodge PH.
Now as if one puncture was not enough, fate struck a blow at Richard who was quietly riding along enjoying the tranquillity of time, space and everything, when suddenly a very strange noise accompanied a flat tyre. The noise woke me from my blissful thoughts and all came to another halt. Richard quickly up-ended his bike to remove the rear wheel and tyre, only to find a gathering of anxious faces closely watching.
Everyone wanted to help, I took the tyre to look for the offending object, only to discover a tear in the sidewall of the tyre. A brake block had been poorly set and had been leaving its fatal cut into the side of the tyre. There was nothing we were equipped with to make a repair*, so in went a new tube and fingers crossed we headed on the final run back to Plumpton.
While heading down Honeypot Lane I decided that my best route back to Hassocks was to leave the group at the junction with Novington Lane and head back up to Plumpton Green and Hassocks via Ditchling Common.
Farewell my friends, it’s great to see smiling faces and hands waving in friendship when we part. My journey back found me riding with a young father with two young children cycling home after their cycle outing. I hope the Clarion group had a safe final section to Plumpton. I am sure that despite two little problems on the road we all enjoyed a great day. Thank you Jenny, your ride was wonderful.
* In retrospect, I did have some Gaffa tape in my repair bag. This could be used over the bead and the inside of the tyre to make a simple ‘get you home’ repair.
[Many more photos on Flickr]