The Last Ride : Sunday 7th September 2014 – Brighton to Seaford and a day full of Brownie Points  

10 September 2014

Go East”, decreed Anne, so East we went … and it was loverly.

September 7, 2014: Brighton to Seaford

Anne, Annie, Corinne, David, Jim, John, Julian, Nick, Roger and Suzanne met at the Palace Pier on a hazy early autumn morning, just right for Clarion.  Once the technology had been discussed (David’s new micro-video camera, Julian’s zoom capacities) and a bog-standard group photo taken, it was off along Madeira Drive (apologies to the cyclist on the “Doitforcharity” cycle ride who thought/hoped that our gaggle of momentarily stationary Clarion cyclists was the Finishing line) and thus onto the (… cliché alert …) sunny uplands of the cliff tops as far as Rottingdean where a vertiginous drop brought us down onto the Undercliff Path, Saltdean and Angela who was waiting to join us.


Then we were eleven.

Once we had conquered the daunting rise to Telscombe Cliff, Anne led us on a complicated but fascinating tour (aka “almost NCRN2”) of Peacehaven and finally onto what seemed like the top of the world above Piddinghoe. First set of Brownie Points to Anne for knowing the code to open the gate across the private road so we did not have to lift the bikes over.

Following a quick whizz down through Piddinghoe (Jim getting giddy by insisting on reading the inscription wound round their Millennium “pole”)


and round the back of Newhaven and once again we were in open cycling country, on our way to Seaford where all made a concerted attack on our sandwiches, scones etc sitting by (…cliché alert …) a sparkling sea. Our lunchtime was enlivened by the sight of (a) a lifeboat rescue practice and (b) Anne taking an energetic dip. Fortunately (a) did not attempt to rescue (b).

September 7, 2014: Brighton to Seaford

Jim opted to leave us at Seaford, thus missing the highlight of the ride – a first for many of us, and a loved, familiar spot for others – described rather boringly as “The South Hill Barn”. The area is, in fact, a charming nature reserve on the top of Seaford Head. Unfortunately Angela did not feel like making the last climb of the day up to the reserve, but Brownie Points to David for going down the mighty hill to check that she was OK, and then ( … mixed metaphor alert …), to burnish his halo even brighter, he looked after the bikes while the rest of the group went to see the (…cliché alert …) stunning view of the Cuckmere Valley and the Seven Sisters.


Sun drenched and tired we all met up with Angela again at the bottom of the steep hill, only to realise that Roger had left his helmet at the top. Not sensible! So it was then his turn to do an extra climb back up. Fortunately two kind people had put the helmet on top of a post where it was eventually found. Brownie points for them.

The ride back to Seaford Station was gloriously downhill. There was a very keen desire on the part of many to stop for tea. However, as a train was standing in the station ready to go,the unanimous decision was that an early cup of tea at home would do instead. In addition to our nine bikes (Brownie Points to Angela’s son, Jack, for going to Seaford to collect her in the car) there must have been another nine non-Clarion bikes spread over the four carriages. Brownie points to Southern for accommodating all of us with a smile.

Many thanks to Anne for an excellent, new, ride.


The Next Ride

31 July 2014

Sunday 10 August:   Brighton to Berwick (Sussex!)

Meet at Palace Pier at 10am & cycle East to Berwick along the NCN2 with some modifications & some chance to escape back by train, should weather, health or inclination incline.

We could modify the route depending on who turns up, but yesterday we took the more undulating top route rather than the Undercliff to Rottingdean & the Hoddern Farm road to Newhaven, rather than the exciting[!] clifftop footpath! If weather is still warm, we propose picnic & swim at Seaford, but, if slow or nasty weather can eat at The Ark at Newhaven.

We can stop for tea at the Litlington Tea Garden & proceed to Berwick Station for the train back to Brighton, or return by train from Seaford for a shorter ride.

Trains leave Berwick station hourly at 48 mins past 3,4,5, etc & Seaford station half-hourly at 27 & 57 past 2,3,4, etc.

Lunch Bring picnic or there are cafes at Seaford & if nasty weather can eat at The Ark,Newhaven.

Terrain Almost all on quiet roads with considerate drivers[yesterday anyway!] Somewhat undulating in parts, but only short parts. Good views.

Distance 23 miles.  .

Anne and Mick

The Next Ride: 21 July 2013: NCN2 – Palace Pier to Seaford

9 July 2013

Now that summer has finally arrived we propose a seaside route along the NCN2 to Seaford whence we hope the Westerly breeze wafts us for a picnic on the beach & a swim. On our previous foray on NCN2 we rushed off to Berwick station leaving or losing some at Seaford, so we shall reverse this by losing your leaders, as we have to catch a lunchtime train home from Seaford to attend a 70th birthday party.  You can take a train home from Seaford too, or return via Berwick, Newhaven  or cycle all the way home. If you forget the sarnies or prefer a pint there is the White Lion Pub & various cafes.

We’d like to start at 10.15 from the Palace Pier.  Having just checked to make sure there are no big events starting along the seafront then I see that Rottingdean has a Summer Smugglers Event on the stage on the seafront starting at 11am so we should arrive  amid the crowds, stalls & colourful display just about right to mingle. Enough time to recover before the short incline up to Telscombe Cliff & then onwards either via the Hoddern Farm Route or the exciting clifftop experience of the Newhaven entry. From Newhaven we have the very pleasant Ouse Valley Nature Reserve & Tidemills Trail:

In spring and summer the air is alive with the song of skylarks. More than a hundred types of bird have been recorded and the managers hope that the nationally threatened lapwing will return to breed on the specially managed areas.” 

Cycle Seahaven site promises that the final entry into Seaford has been improved too.


Start = Palace Pier at 10.15 a.m

Length = 15 miles approx.   30 if you cycle both ways.

Hills = Undulation  around  Saltdean but if the wind is prevailing Westerly you won’t even notice it, esp as the bus lane next to the NCN2 prevents car fumes reaching cyclists.

Terrain = Almost all good surface – unless we choose the clifftop experience which   is a footpath & may entail a bit of pushing, but worth it for the views.

Lunch = Picnic on beach or White Lion Hotel [pub] if unlucky with weather.

Trains = from Seaford at 27 & 57 mins past the hour to Brighton, taking 30-40mins.


The Next Ride: Sunday 18 November – Brighton to Berwick

5 November 2012

[Note: the previous posting has been amended as below]

We’ve pimped our ride east on the NCN2 to Berwick, which had to be cancelled earlier in the “summer” as headwinds of 20+mph & torrential rain rendered it impassable, unpleasant & virtually impossible, although we did turn up in case there were determined masochists among our readers.

We’ve found another modification which renders the stony, pot-holey, steep & almost unbikeable section from Peacehaven to Newhaven, delightful. Come and see.

We’ve booked The Ark at Newhaven again for around 12.15 as we have a tea garden tea stop for later. The Ark has a very good fishy menu, being next door to the fish market with harbour views.

Back on the track after lunch we revisit the Nature Reserve at Tidemills – traffic-free to Seaford sea-front. No hopes for a swim there this time, but chance to sample our lovely deviation at Seaford Head. A very short section on busy road then a left turn back to peace & outskirts of Friston Forest. Litlington Tea Gardens says it’s open in good weather up to Xmas so let’s hope we have some. If not, hot tea needed can be amply provided at Alfriston. From there the NCN2 is very signed, off-road in places & swift for access to the train station. Trains at 15.48 & 16.48, Londoners can change at Lewes.

Meet at 10.30 at Palace Pier. Hope to use Undercliff but will check out high tide & pebbly conditions, which, though dramatic, could damage tyres, not to mention give riders a good soaking.

Distance = 24miles. If too much can return via Seaford station.

Hills – undulations, but impressive views!

Trains – 15.48 & 16.48 from Berwick. Stations at Newhaven & Seaford for early returners. or drop-outs.

Let’s hope the prevailing west wind prevails on Nov 18th & wings us on our way.


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.


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]

Next ride: Sunday 22 January 2012 – Seaford to Lewes

10 January 2012

During 2012 I will be leading a series of rides collectively entitled “The Search for the Ouse” which will follow the course of the river (or try to!) all the way from its original mouth at Seaford to its source somewhere beyond Slaugham. This is the first leg – a short ride for a winter’s day. There will be at least two more rides – probably one from Lewes to Haywards Heath and a Haywards Heath circular. There is comprehensive information about the river at I will bring with me some historical notes, mainly drawn from River Valley Odyssey by V.M.Taylor.

The following notes have been updated following the second practice ride.

Starting from Splash Point, near Seaford Head, where the river allegedly reached the sea before it was diverted (though it will be necessary to make good use of our imagination here – much can change in 400 years!) we will work our way westwards along the seafront, possibly popping into Seaford Museum if there is a demand – it is housed in the old Martello Tower and contains all sorts of ancient domestic appliances – that’s my kind of museum! Entrance is only £1.50.

If there is anyone else who has not seen the Tide Mills village, they should come on this ride. I had not seen it before the practice ride, and what is left of it (it was demolished during WW2 after the inhabitants had been evicted) has recently been restored by volunteers, and there are some historical photos of how it used to look on the many noticeboards.

Then to Newhaven. I had hoped to make a detour to the old ferry terminal to look at the plaque about the diversion of the Ouse in the 16th century, but it is no longer used and the plaque seems to have gone. As we won’t be going there, I would like to share my photo of an amusing poster I found outside the terminal.

Strange Notice

We will have lunch at the Hope Inn, which featured on the last Newhaven ride, Then a succession of villages along the Ouse between Newhaven and Lewes: Piddinghoe, Southease, Rodmell and Iford (including options involving the swing bridge at Southease and the Monks House at Rodmell) before our triumphant entry into Lewes. We can also have a quick look round the ruins of Lewes Priory on the way if we want.

Ride length: about 14½ -17 miles. (Slightly longer than in the circular as I have added the route to the pub and back, and also some options)
Duration: about 5 – 5½ hours.
Terrain: mostly flat, some gentle inclines. Some concrete paths – at times we will have to walk where there is shingle on the path. The Newhaven-Lewes road is not an A or B but is a little busier than we would norrmally like – but quieter than the A26!

Getting there: Catch the 10.09 from Brighton to Seaford or meet at Seaford station at 10.45. Londoners can change onto this train at Lewes.

(if you need to contact me before the ride please email

The Last Ride: Sunday 15 October 2011 – Brighton to Seaford

20 October 2011

Belying the early morning frost, the sky was blue, the sun warm, and the sea smooth when nine eager Clarionistas met at the Palace Pier: Fred, Ian, Joyce, Leon, Rob, our leader Roger, Sikka, Steve and Suzanne. After wending our way through the Marina and along the Undercliff we were soon to be met by Angela and Helen at Saltdean, so now we were eleven.

Group photo

Once off the Undercliff, where the weather had already required a great deal of disrobing, there was what Roger had described as a ‘short sharp climb’ – sharp yes, but short? It certainly didn’t feel like it to me, nevertheless, we all heroically made it still on our bikes, if hot and panting (I was anyway). This meant more disrobing before crossing the road onto the Tye.

Glorious day on the Downs

The theme of this ride surely must be gratitude: grateful to have this perfect autumn day, the magnificent views as we crossed the Tye with more to come, and being with amiable companions. Once across the Tye there was the thrill of the long steep descent. I am afraid we all flew through at high speed and missed the former judges’ lodgings – still it was good to know it was there … Another hill to climb, so this was turning out to be a question of perception of the ‘mostly flat’ description. On the other hand the ‘ups’ were manageable and the downs were wonderfully long and steep, as was the descent into Southease – and the ‘downs’ did seem to outnumber the ‘ups’ (I don’t know if that can be the case).

Southease swing bridge

By now a bit of dawdling was called for, provided by a long stop on the bridge over the Ouse, contemplating the river and recalling the tragedy of Virginia Woolf. On then to Newhaven and, pedalling round the harbour, the perennial discussion about shags and cormorants. The final consensus seemed to be that there were five cormorants and one shag sunning themselves and spreading their wings. Checking, it is clear there were definitely five cormorants, but whether the other bird was a shag I leave open.

Group photo at lunch stop

At the Hope Inn it was nice to have Sue Bullock join us. Again we were fortunate, seated on the first-floor closed veranda with a great view across the harbour to Seaford and what was finally agreed to be Bishopstone. Discussions ranged around, at one end of the table, democracy, and at the other, the differences between pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans etc. This was in some way brought about by the fact that Rob had to wait a very long time for his fish pie, which never materialised, leaving him to settle for a vegetarian curry instead.

St Andrew's, Bishopstone

After lunch the merry band began to disperse on their separate ways: Ian to go back with Sue in the car; Angela, Helen, and Steve to make their way back to Saltdean, potentially joined by Sikka, except that she missed their turning off and failed in her attempt to catch up with them – so as she reported later she had a solitary journey home. The rest of us, Roger, Leon, Fred, Suzanne, Rob and Joyce, continued on to Seaford, with a diversion to Bishopstone and the delightful church of St. Andrews, where we spent time in the sun pottering around the amazingly well-kept churchyard in which even the carvings on the impressive gravestones had been redone. We pondered over the grave of Baron Asquith, whom I now know to be the fourth son of H.H. Asquith – later Prime Minister, eventually Lord Justice of Appeal, and made a life peer in 1951 as Baron Asquith of Bishopstone.

Bishopstone art deco station

On then to Seaford, noting as we went the intrusion of the incinerator, clearly visible from several points on the Downs. (Some like to call it ‘Energy from Waste’ but until I see evidence of the energy produced and who gets it I will continue to call it the incinerator – but then I hate it as much as I always did …) Another short diversion and excuse for dallying, at Fred’s request, was to the station of Bishopstone, which was very well worth it. A charming Art Deco design by Charles Holden, a Grade 2 listed building (now on the English Heritage at-risk register). It was opened in 1938 and was meant to serve a residential development that never happened because of the outbreak of the Second World War. The war explains the pair of pillboxes on the roof of the main building, which puzzled us, and it is said that considerable effort was made to blend them in to the original structures. The line was singled in 1975 and there are no staff, which explains English Heritage’s concern.

Tea and scones stop

Finally to Seaford for a well-needed cup of tea and scones, the mystery of the trembling pole, the truth about short cycle lanes, and the train home. Many thanks to Roger for a wonderful day.


[More photos on Flickr]

The Next Ride: Sunday 10 July 2011 – Palace Pier to Berwick c 21 miles

28 June 2011

Please be clear that while all are welcome to join us we each take part in rides at our own risk.

If we start at 10.30 at Palace Pier we should be able to get to Seaford for lunch. 

We had hoped to try the proper cliff-top, but hilly, section to Rottingdean, but a car ploughing into me on the NCN 81 in Hove last Monday put out our plans. [NO, I am not all right, yet!] Now that the Undercliff Walk is allowable for cyclists we’ll go that way carefully. Even the newish cycle track on Madiera Drive needs a lot of care, but, hopefully, we’ll all enjoy the ride to Saltdean. We do have a hill to ride or walk now, but a good track off the road. At the entrance to Peacehaven the NCN2 crosses the coast road & there’s an incline up to the summit of the Downs! Or there is a path along the cliff edge over grass & stony track. This can be pushed if necessary & like the upper route affords views. At the east end of Peacehaven the NCN 2 goes up a stony track on the sea side of the coast road. I’ve cycled it, if that’s any guide to its incline. Nearly at the top lives an alpaca with his friend, a goat, & if you call them, they will come and say hello [sometimes!]. Last time we did the ride, a couple of weeks ago, we followed a young couple with panniered bikes, all along the cliff edge path to Newhaven & this was wild, peaceful, exciting & bushy. Some bits, we all pushed. This path comes out into Newhaven Country Park & a good road down to the harbour where we rejoin the NCN 2. Actual NCN 2, with goats & alpaca if you’re lucky, after stony lane goes through caravan park then down a long hill through a council estate.

It’s a very pleasant Riverside cycle path by Newhaven Harbour & there are food stops here, but we don’t want to go there, as soon we are on the Tidemills Nature Reserve which has picnic tables & pleasant paths & is a haven for birds. After that it’s quick hop to Seaford seafront with the track along the beach. We can picnic here & swim. There is small beach café, but the pubs in town are not much good. Leaving Seaford via quiet roads along by the golf course, we deviate from the NCN 2 as that leads us onto a busy, narrow road. We go past a farm, down a grassy hill overlooking Cuckmere Haven & onto a footpath that leads along ditches, benches, bushes among the lovely Seven Sisters Country Park. There’s a tiny bit of busy road, then we turn left at Friston Forest along a little road which may be busier on Sundays than when we’ve been in the week.

Soon we are at Litlington Tea Gardens, which date from 150 years ago, among mature trees. Clarion’s been there before but I missed that & consider the place a real treat & well worth a stop, with healthy food: Les Routiers recommended, possibly because the route is part of La Route de la Manche, linking France through Newhaven & Dover, Dieppe & Calais.

We head towards Alfriston, but don’t enter, turning right for Berwick instead & a good track, especially the latter part, which is off road & leads almost to the railway to Brighton etc. Trains at 15.48, 16.48, 17.48 etc. Seaford to Brighton trains 15.57, 16.27, 16.57, which are also listed as going to London Victoria. Newhaven to London 16.02, 16.32, 17.02, 17.32, which also go to Brighton. All trains to Brighton take about half an hour.

Mick’s mobile – 07803 730401.