Sunny day & bumper tally of eighteen at Polegate station & I’ll now attempt the roll call. Sue of Lewes [rather than Sikka] was our leader & had planned a brilliant mid-May ride. Quite a late start as she had to deal with her horses first, so by noon, Chris, her partner & Chris from Patcham, David Jezeph, from Shoreham & Dave, who’s a CTC trained ride leader, Roger & Susanne, Sue [Sikka], Sean & Jane, Jane, who’s a friend of Sue & Chris from Lewes, Julian, Corinne, Julia, Leon & Joyce, Nick & me makes 18, so hope no-one is missed out.
No photos of the station start as we had hopes of pics at Arlington Tea Gardens coffee stop. We trouped onto the Cuckoo Trail & turned left after the bridge over the busy motorway. The trail turned into a bridleway complete with horses,
through the woods & path was, fortunately, not too muddy. In fact it was filled with millions of bluebells & undulated through delightful woods until we reached the tea gardens. Due to the late hour & some hungry tums Sue took a vote on whether or not to stop at the Tea Gardens & it was almost even, but glad the stoppers won!
Arlington Tea Gardens was a joy & a treat & real find for most of us. We had to split up though into 3 or 4 tables for our refreshments, so not sure if there will be a group photo. There were plants for sale at good value prices & would have liked to buy some; glad to see Corinne festooned with tomato plants decorating her paniers afterwards. There were quail eggs for sale too & charming fluffy chicks & their parents to admire, as well as an exotic golden pheasant & his less colourful mate in another enclosure. There was even a [wooden/spoiler] koala bear to see looking down at us from a eucalyptus tree. Food looked good too with vast array of cakes, veg soups , & fine fayre for all, but we [mostly] stuck to the liquid refreshments, although there may have been some scones, cream & jam consumed by those who knew the gardens & didn’t need to explore.
We left there around 1pm but still had many miles to go before the lunch stop at Arlington – all most pleasant. Most were able to sit on the very long picnic table at the reservoir & eat our picnics, while listening to the birdsong, chattering & quacking. Julian identified the species; reed warblers, while others explored the area. Some food was shared around & Sue [Sikka] had made some tasty flapjacks for us all. It is [was] her birthday today [18th] so we sang Happy Birthday, along with the bird chorus. By the way I would recommend a Radio 4 programme from last week on Birdsong & linguistics; “What the Songbird Said” to anyone interested in neuro-linguistics, Profs. Chomsky & Miyagawa and/or birds. Julian also told me that we heard “en route many chiffchaffs, robins, wrens and blackcaps”.
Discussion on the grassy knoll next to the picnic table was an inquest into why Labour lost the General Election 10 days ago & thus we are stuck with another 5 years of austerity, cuts, destruction & despair.
At 3pm it was time to move on & the job of shepherding 18 cyclists back onto the road, then along the woodland trails replete with bluebells & devoid of cars resumed. All went fine for 5 miles or so, then, as we were about to enter another lovely wood from a quiet road, David’s bike unfortunately fell into a large pothole tipping him off into the road. He said he was fine & remounted & rode again. But not for very long as the chain & derailleurs were damaged. Dave was backstop & I stayed with the two of them, as did Suzanne. It seemed as though David would be able to proceed & 1st Suzanne & then, eventually, I, resumed the ride, expecting David & Dave to follow. I couldn’t see Suzanne in front of me, but soon Chris headed towards me, having come back to look for stragglers. He told me to carry on the path & then turn left at the T-junction [at least that is what I thought he said], so I did. Back on a quiet road again with the usual charming cottages alongside was pleased to find Dave catching up with me & even more pleased that he said he thought he’d seen someone else ahead of me. He explained that Chris had decided that David’s bike was beyond repair & that he would cycle back & fetch his car to take David & his bike back to Polegate. Sue would phone Dave to report on progress of the both sections of riders. We emerged at a big roundabout at Upper Dicker & tried 2 A roads both up & down in search of the elusive Cuckoo Trail & direction home. The A22 section was particularly hairy as white van man raced past us giving us both close shaves, even though we were in the gutter already! After less than a mile we were able to turn off into Hailsham, but even here, we had a few ups & downs both before, & after, finding the Cuckoo. Passers-by frequently giving the wrong directions & cycle route signage not being helpful enough [or invisible].
As I approached the station, relief at hand, I told Dave I was going to race ahead to cross the level crossing before barriers prevented access to Brighton trains & expected him to follow me. I reached the right platform just as a train pulled in & met Roger & Suzanne who urged me to alight, as did the guard, but I thought I ought to wait for Dave whom I assumed was taking the Brighton train too. So the train pulled out & I went out to look for Dave. He had been to the car-park looking for David, Chris & Sue, but could see none of them, so, after conferring, & explaining that his car was parked down the road at Polegate, not down the road from Brighton station, I went back to the bench on the station platform & awaited the Brighton train, eating the remnants of my picnic lunch in the May sunshine. I phoned David when I arrived home & he was OK although his bike needs repair. Roger phoned me in the morning & explained what had happened at the front, with Sue trying to phone both ends of the ride, but not having connections. David had told me that Chris had raced back to his car & fallen off in the woods in the mud, so that was very unfortunate too. Sue said we would do 18 miles, Julian told me his Garmin said they did 22 miles & I reckon Dave and I must have done another 8, making a round 30, but all of them were enjoyable, some more adventurous/challenging than others & I thanks Sue & Chris for providing a wonderful Mid-May ride for 18 fortunate Clarion Riders.