The Last Ride: Sunday 18 August – Balcombe to Hassocks

23 August 2013

One life, don't frack it.

Anne and I took the early train with Linda who had already cycled from Lancing to Brighton, on arrival we found that Marilyn was also on the train. We had hoped to make a quick visit to the anti-fracking camp before the ride. An acquaintance, who we met at the station by chance had a map. Unfortunately I was looking at it upside down. With Linda in tow I cycled 2 miles north up a rather steep hill. Meanwhile Anne had followed Marilyn to the tea shop and was directed to the camp, so we at least have some photos and a brief token presence. We all arrived back at the station in time to meet the 11.17 train, along with Corinne and her sister Lyn, Sikka/Sue and Julia. Our leader John meanwhile had cycled up from Brighton. The police kindly obliged for the group photo.

balcombe to Hassocks,Clarion 004

We set off with John in the lead. On the principle of devil take the hindmost, Anne consigned me, on pain of unspecified matrimonial sanctions, to be the sweeper up and thereafter chivvied me whenever my front wheel crept past anyone else’s back wheel.

The ride had a certain improvisational feel to it but as John remarked one lane looked much like another. They were, however, very pretty lanes with fine views, albeit bought at the expense of a few substantial undulations. We passed via Staplefield and part of the NCN 20 and hence past Warninglid.

We arrived at the Bolney Stage, originally a famous stop on the Brighton/London road, for a long lunch break. The food was of a high quality and enjoyed by all. The conversation ranged widely and naturally included the fracking issue and energy policy in general.

balcombe to Hassocks,Clarion 006

After lunch we made our way to Hurstpierpoint, although the route taken did not completely coincide with the maps available. Faced with the choice of an early train home from Hassocks or Washbrook Farm for tea and cake, everyone but John, Anne and myself opted to go straight back. We three enjoyed tea, a slice of tiffin for me. and more leisurely and highly enjoyable conversation at the end of which we decided to forsake the train and rode back to Brighton together down the NCN 20.

balcombe to Hassocks,Clarion 005

Thank you John for a very enjoyable ride and congenial company.

Mick

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The last ride: 2 December 2012 – Haywards Heath Circular (Ouse Trilogy Part III)

6 December 2012

Report on Jim’s Ride to the Source of the Ouse

The 2nd day of December 2012 seemed fated. Anne and my trip to London to celebrate our daughter’s 40th birthday was cancelled at the last minute due to the dreaded lurgy now known as the norovirus. We made haste, phoned Jim, struggled to load the bikes into the car and began to reverse out of the driveway. An awful grinding noise ensued. On investigation we discovered Anne’s helmet trapped underneath the car. Fortunately she was not wearing it at the time.

A delay followed while the helmet was removed, utterly crushed. One of the tyres appeared to be low. Could a puncture have been caused I fretted. A fresh call to Jim and we made our excuses. Jim mentioned, however, that if we were able to come, then Angela was due to join the clarionettes at the Half Moon at Balcombe at 12 and we could meet up there.

A trip to the garage re-assured me that there was no puncture so we set off again and arrived at the Half Moon by 11.50. Half an hour later another call to Jim elicited the information that lunch had been transported to the Victory Inn at Staplefield. From a gastronomic point of view this turned out to be a definite plus.

Jim had suggested we drove to Staplefield but lacking exercise and fresh air we decided to ride. Making our way in the direction of Handcross we turned off down the long and exhilarating descent of Brantridge Lane. As usual the exhilaration got the better of me and I arrived at the Victory Inn just as the party were ordering their drinks. A quarter of an hour later with the fourth phone call of the morning I learned that Anne was at the other pub in Staplefield but was now on her way to join us. Wherever it is one goes after the doghouse I was already in, I was ordered to it.

Jim, Linda and David, we learned over lunch, had had a hilly morning and fine views.

Ouse Valley Viaduct

Angela had indeed joined them at Balcombe and they had all left the Half Moon 5 minutes before our arrival. We all enjoyed the meal, most had soup or a substantial sandwich and I had tapas for one (is that an oxymoron?). David produced a print out of the Ouse, the Adur and all their tributaries. He had also discovered a cycle tour company that will do a 7 day tour of the Ouse for £750 or so. After our pints several of us made a brief exit to explore the source of the ooze. A group photo was taken outside the Victory Inn.

Haywards Heath Circular Group

It was a bright clear day but the warmest part of it was definitely over by the time we set off and with nightfall approaching we made swift progress, the warmth of cycling uphill was almost welcome. We stopped outside the church at Slaugham.

Haywards Heath Circular

but declined Jim’s invitation to explore the off-road fields behind it where we might glimpse this mysterious source. We continued, stopping again opposite a lovely hammer pond where on other side of the road there was a pretty water staircase which some had falsely claimed to be the true source of the Ouse. Our scientist leader assured us that it was not.

We went on to Plummers Plain, stopping only to disconnect Angela’s front brake which was impeding her progress. We turned back towards Cuckfield. For a few seconds some of us stared reverentially down at a rather dirty ditch which Jim assured us was the real source of the Ouse.

Our goal having been achieved and dusk approaching fast we made our way swiftly through the charming, albeit undulating, High Weald until, arriving in Cuckfield, there was a pause and I heard the words llamas and photos. With a groan I made my excuses and pedalled back to Balcombe for the car while everyone else went on to Haywards Heath Station.

It should be noted that David and Linda both cycled from Lancing before the ride and back again afterwards, thereby adding an extra 20 miles to their day not bad on their second Clarion ride.

As always with Jim’s rides this one had been meticulously researched. Thank you, Jim.

Mick


The Next Ride: Sunday 2 December 2012 – Haywards Heath Circular (Ouse Trilogy Part III)

20 November 2012

Lindfield – Ardingly – Balcombe – Staplefield – Slaugham – Plummers Plain – Warninglid – Cuckfield

You want to come on this ride? Well, it’s LONG; it’s HILLY; and some of it is on BUSY ROADS. Still want to come? OK, but don’t say you haven’t been warned!

This is the third and last Ouse ride, continuing on from my Lewes-Haywards Heath ride of 20 May, which itself followed on from Seaford-Lewes on 22 January. As it is a themed ride, we can’t be too choosy about the terrain or the length of it. Our patience and/or stamina will be rewarded as we will eventually find the infant Ouse in a channel only a foot wide (though we probably can’t get to the actual source).

We’ll start off with a crossing of the river one bridge upstream from where we left it last time – at Lindfield Bridge. Then to Ardingly for a possible coffee stop, after which a big zig-zag and another bridge (Lower Ryelands Bridge) bring us to the most famous of all the bridges over the Ouse – the Ouse Valley Viaduct with its 11 million bricks. This is a railway bridge of course – the road crosses the river here at the somewhat humbler Upper Ryelands Bridge. 

We’ll then continue to Balcombe in order to access Rocks Lane and Rowhill Lane, which is a Big Hill, and I’m afraid it’s the “up” variety. We have whizzed down this hill twice on previous rides, and now it’s payback time. We will walk. At the top we get an impressive view of the viaduct, but a more impressive view awaits us later on.

Then off-road to Staplefield, where we will have lunch at the Victory Inn. At nearby Slaugham we’ll revisit the Ouse, which is now just a few feet across, behind the ruins of Slaugham Place and St Mary’s Church.

Now we have to get into detective mode, as there are conflicting accounts of where the river actually begins. V.M.Taylor’s River Valley Odyssey, which has provided some useful nuggets of information for the previous rides in this series, claims that it originates in “three small waterfalls” on the south side of an old hammer pond north-west of Slaugham. We will find these (one of which I think is what is known as a “fish ladder”) but we will then go on to look at the other candidate, which joins this branch further south. My money’s on this one; just about all the other authorities I have researched say that the Ouse rises “near Lower Beeding” – and they wouldn’t say that if they meant Slaugham, which is just as big; one actually mentions Plummers Plain, a sort of blip on the map which is near to Lower Beeding. It is here that we’ll find the second branch, disappearing across a field in a narrow trench.

Then we’ll speed back to Haywards Heath via Warninglid and Cuckfield, partly reversing the outward route taken on my last Haywards Heath ride, on 11th July 2010, and revisiting the delightful Blunts Wood & Paiges Meadow nature reserve. Before Cuckfield we get a splendid view of the viaduct in the distance, pretty well broadside-on. Tea at Haywards Heath if wanted.

In order to provide a little diversion from the hard graft, I will be distributing copies of my OUSE QUIZ at the start of the ride; judging and prizegiving will be done at lunchtime. To prepare for this, you may wish to consult the descriptions and reports for all three Ouse rides, and any others which seem relevant. (And yes, I realise the report for this one will not exist at the time; but you wouldn’t want it to be TOO easy, would you?)

Vital Statistics:

Start from Haywards Heath station at 10:00.
Length: 26 miles (a shorter version, 11 miles, is available for anyone who wants to get the train home from Balcombe and get their own lunch; alternatively you can join us at Balcombe for a 15 mile ride; let me know if you are planning to do this).
Duration: about 6 hours including coffee and lunch. (Longer with a tea stop)
Terrain: Mainly on hard surfaces. Some off-road. Some hills. Some busy roads: the B2028 (Lindfield-Ardingly) may exercise us a little, but the B2115 (Plummers Plain to Cuckfield) is quieter.
Lunch: Victory Inn at Staplefield
Getting there: Get the 9:14 or 9:34 train from Brighton. Londoners should get the 8:41 from London Bridge or the 9:02 from London Victoria. If joining at Balcombe, catch the 11:00 from Brighton.
Getting home: trains from Haywards Heath to Brighton at 08, 31, 36, 54 minutes past the hour and to London every 10-15 minutes.

N.B. Sun sets at 4. Bring lights.

Jim.