The Last Ride: Sunday 1 December – New lanes and links

4 December 2013

The start at the Loving Hut cafe

Nine riders met at The Level: Fiona, Fred, Jenny, John, Julian, Roger, Sikka Sue, Simon, and Suzanne. After negotiating the Vogue Gyratory we used the new improved cycle path along the A27 to get to our first detour, a quick buzz around always-beautiful Stanmer Park. Then through the underpass to the other side of the main road, and up the many twists and turns of the Meccano-like ramp over the railway at Falmer station. It’s amazing how much engineering and metalwork is required to provide access for wheel-users in a confined space – relative to building stairs that is.

Ramp over the railway line at Falmer

The next detour was a pootle round the perimeter of the Amex ‘Community’ Stadium. What a soul-less, horrible building it is, with its acres of tarmac and wire-netting fences, and so out of place (other opinions are also available). Out and across the traffic lights we found the as-yet unmarked entrance to the lovely new shared-use path that runs alongside the B2123 from Falmer to Woodingdean. At last walkers, cyclists, and horse-riders are spared having to risk their lives in the fast-moving traffic, as what was once a lumpy permissive bridleway along the field edge has been upgraded, widened, and surfaced with fine crushed and rolled limestone that is suitable for all bikes, not just knobbly-tyred ones. Sadly, in some places the surface has already been a bit eroded by rain water but it was chosen to be less intrusive in the landscape than tarmac.

John up the hill

The path is separated from the road by a generous embankment, and there’s a grass strip alongside that hopefully will be preferred by horse-riders. The route provided an unaccustomed experience for the Clarions as the hill rose up and up, but the views from the top are spectacular. Julian reported that he saw a very low-flying buzzard, and Fred saw a kestrel. We passed Bullock Hill, the best-kept secret mentioned earlier. The descent into Woodingdean was long and exhilarating – my computer reported a maximum speed of 37.6 mph, in what could well have been a 30 mph zone, oops.

Lunch at The White Horse, Rottingdean

Lunch at The White Horse in Rottingdean was a slightly disorganised affair, with the food taking its time arriving, but it was worth the wait. Then we said goodbye to John and headed back into town along the pancake-flat and more Clarion-friendly undercliff. Six of us detoured back to The Level again to try the new Velo Café – good coffee, excellent cake, a reasonably priced menu of bike repairs on offer, and a flashing, vibrating gadget to alert customers to collect their order. We liked it. My route home along the seafront was enhanced by a millpond sea and a truly spectacular sunset.

Afternoon coffee at Velo

Thanks Roger for organising this ride and introducing the new circuit – the link between Falmer, the South Downs Way, and the coast has been a long time coming and we enjoyed trying it out.


High tech coffee ready sensor


More photos on Flickr.

The next ride: Sunday 1 December – New Lanes and Links (plus Amex 360)

20 November 2013

We welcome people who want to try one or two of our rides before joining. If you would like to join the Clarion club, click here to download a membership form.

The first part of this ride is much the same as one I led last year to Stanmer and Falmer.  The main difference this time will be that I won’t fall off my bike.

The other main difference is that the cycle lane along the Lewes Road has been upgraded. It now keeps us well protected from the traffic, including buses once we’re past the Vogue Gyratory. The bus stops are now on islands cut off from the main footpath by the cycle lane:  is this good for pedestrians?  A suitable lunchtime discussion topic perhaps.

So we start at the south end of the Level and take the A27 to Stanmer Park. We’ll take a circular detour through the park, just because it’s nice. Then under the main road to the station and up a seemingly endless ramp across the railway line.  On the other side we’ll take a spin right round the Amex Stadium (close up), just because it’s possible.

Now we get to the gem at the heart of this ride, the new cycle link between Falmer and Woodingdean. At last it’s possible to ride between these two places without being turned into a quivering jelly by the traffic on the narrow B2123. Mind you, the hills are still there:  those who choose to walk up the steep bits will probably gain a fuller appreciation of the stunning views. It’s quite amazing how, in spite of all the new developments at Falmer, you can suddenly find yourself in beautiful, open, rolling country – pity about the traffic noise.

We’ll take a back road through Woodingdean, partly to avoid the traffic, but also to sneak a peek at one of our secretary’s best kept secrets.  Then a long and steep downhill run (test your brakes!) to the road into Rottingdean where we’ll have lunch at the White Horse  (tel. 01273 301945).

The final few miles of the ride could be along the Undercliff Path or, if that’s too crowded, along the cliff top cycle path. The ride will end back at the Level with tea at the Velo café.  Non-riders might like to join us:  approximate time of arrival 3 pm.


Meet: 11 am outside the Loving Hut cafe at the south end of the Level
Distance: Approx 18 miles
Hills: Quite steep between Falmer and Woodingdean, otherwise fairly flat.
Terrain: Road, cycle lane, track and shared space.
Catering: Lunch at the White Horse at Rottingdean (tel. 01273 301945), tea at the recently opened Velo Café at the Level.

My mobile 0789 985 1172.


The Last Ride: Sunday 13 January 2013 “Stanmer and Falmer” or “Skulking in the Academic Corridor”

16 January 2013

Roger’s excellent ride took us from Brighton along the Lewes Road cycle route to Stanmer Park and Falmer, for a tour of the latest developments on the University of Brighton and Sussex campuses and a view of the new stadium for Brighton and Hove Albion. The previous day’s heavy rain did not bode well for Sunday’s ride, but luckily the weather was dry for the entire day.

The (intermediate) start

Brighton’s Loving Hut Cafe on the Level was the start of the ride for myself and Fred, where we met the Clarion contingent who had just cycled from the Palace Pier. As we cycled past the Level, some of us recalled this had been the location for many Brighton political marches and demos over the years. The Radio 1 Roadshow also parked at the Level for one of its last forgettable radio broadcasts in the mid-1990s. Currently fenced-off and flooded, following heavy rain, the Level didn’t look particularly inviting as it awaited its 2013 restoration development.

Gate houses

The smooth, tarmac cycle path to Falmer is an ideal route for any cycling students attempting to reach early morning lectures at the universities of Sussex and Brighton. We made good progress and had reached Stanmer in less than 30 minutes. It’s a pity the smooth cycling surface we encountered on the gentle ascent from the Level didn’t continue on the road which lead into Stanmer Park. A dangerous ledge at the side of the road, requiring tarmac, caused Roger to fall off his bike and cut his lip. The bleeding stopped fairly quickly and Roger was ready to lead the ride again relatively quickly. However, we were all aware the accident could have been much worse if Roger had been cycling faster. Photos were taken of the offending ledge, with the intention of alerting cyclists of the possible danger associated with the entrance to Stanmer Park.

The dangerous ledge

We observed some of the damaged caused to Stanmer Park during the October 2012 Shakedown Festival. One of Roger’s potential lunchtime discussion topics concerned the council renting out Stanmer Park for large pop concerts, following the damage caused to the grass during the Shakedown Festival. I must confess I rather enjoyed the Essential day festivals held in Stanmer Park during the mid-1990s. October does seem to be far too late in the year for one of these events to take place, though. Perhaps the council needs to work on stricter guidelines for numbers in the park and the responsibilities of promoters to clear up any post-festival mess if similar events are to take place in the future.

Grass damage from Splashdown festival

We stopped to look at an over-priced Stanmer Park gated housing development and cycled past a group of dog walkers before reaching the University of Sussex campus. I wasn’t familiar with the new Northfield student residential accommodation, or the intriguing umbrella cycle storage units before Sunday’s ride. Roger wondered what Basil Spence would have made of the new buildings if he were still alive today. The new buildings seemed to make a large campus even larger and you could see why cycling appears to be a popular form of transport on the campus.

Suzanne tries out the umbrella cycle racks

Roger decided to leave out the ‘country track across the downs’ option and we headed straight to the Swan Inn instead (a very wise move!). I had my usual pint of lime and soda and bought a plate of chips with side salad. I looked rather enviously at those who had opted for the pea and mint soup option, as this looked rather more appetizing than the dish I had picked.

The Swan, Falmer.

The temperature seemed to have dropped significantly after lunch. In an attempt to keep warm, we cycled briskly round the Falmer Pond on our way to the Brighton University campus. We had to pass Brighton & Hove Albion’s impressive new stadium before reaching the University of Brighton campus and stopped for a couple of photos outside the new permanent home for Brighton’s football club. The Falmer Academy building was particularly striking sight when we reached the University of Brighton campus. It was then downhill all the way back to Brighton along the Lewes Road cycle path.

The AmEx stadium and Brighton Uni campus

Thanks to Roger for devising a route which re-acquainted me with an area I thought I knew quite well, but had changed significantly since my last visit more than 10 years ago. A perfect winter’s day cycle ride.


[More photos on Flickr]