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 Last Ride: 21 July 2013 NCN2 – Palace Pier to Seaford

24 July 2013

Having volunteered a couple of months ago to do the ride on July 21st, when we knew we’d be around, we returned from holiday at the end of June to find an invitation to a 70th birthday party at lunch time that day. So, rather than let anyone down, we compromised by offering a half day ride with various options for the “missing” afternoon.


Thus, 7 of us set off from the Palace Pier at 10.20am, 3 more joined us at Rottingdean, that 3 left us at Newhaven to cycle back to Rottingdean for Smugglers songs on the terraces there & Mick & I scooted off post-haste to catch the 12.57 from Seaford to Brighton leaving 5 on the NCN2 seafront path to swim, picnic, cycle or train home.

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21st July is/was the centenary of the Walk for Women & our pier was the start for an epic re-enactment too. They were asked to try to wear bonnets & purple sashes as the suffragettes had done & a dozen or so of them had already assembled. The Brighton & Hove Labour banner was there as was Baroness Joyce Gould & Pavilion Green MP Caroline Lucas, who were to give speeches, plus local LP activists & Fabian secretary & walker, Maire McQueeney.
We started fairly promptly as Mick had his train times in mind. There was a rather unhelpful headwind & clear blue sky as we rode along the Brighton seafront track then the Underliff Walk, dismounting when told to do so by the signs at the Ovingdean Cafe. The path was clear of stones & we were happy that no-one got punctures. Nor was the path crowded at that relativlely early time on a Sunday am.

At Rottingdean Terraces in half an hour, we met Angela, Helen & Steve, the latter having driven down from the Midlands starting at 6am. Nothing much happening on the Terraces with their Smugglers Day yet, just a few stalls, so we didn’t explore them.
By the time we arrived at Saltdean, however, Steve realised that he’d left his backpack back at the terraces, with all his money etc, so dived back to retrieve, hopefully, while the rest of us filled water bottles or climbed up from the seafront to the clifftop at Saltdean. Just as David Jezeph had been at Chichester station, a few rides back, Steve was lucky & the back pack was retrieved. Same could not be said for me on our previous ride when I lost my bike pannier & its contents at Woods Mill Nature Reserve, never to be found, & sadly missed.


Pausing at the top of the hill by Telscombe Tye, Mick asked for volunteers to write the report but, as none were forthcoming, I said I’d do it, thinking it would be easy since I knew the ride & the ropes. However, that overlooked some struggles with Flickr on my imperfect photos. Hope others on the ride may have better pics.


We’d decided to take the Hoddern Farm Route as easier & therefore quicker & those who wished to see the more exciting Clifftop [foot] path could return by that way without our leadership. Having lifted all the bikes over the gate just after the farm, 2 vehicles came along & would have saved us the bother if they’d been earlier, or we’d been later.
I tried to take some pics of the views from the Hoddern Farm Road as I cycled but they weren’t much good except for this one of the Ouse.


The 21st was the Annual Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race, starting from Lewes at 11.30, but there was no sign of any of them yet. On our way home on the train a man from Newhaven lamented that the raft race had declined over the years & only about 7 rafts in it last year. From the train we saw a bridge full of expectant spectators & our co-passenger said it used to be fun water bombing the rafters as they passed below the bridges.


At Newhaven, Angela, Helen & Steve decided to say goodbye & return to Rottingdean for the sea shanties on the terraces.
We cycled through the nature reserve & I regretted not having the time to visit an Open Garden in the National Garden Scheme at Bishopstone. Had read that it was a national award winner & would have dearly loved to explore, but, no time to lose, as we saw the 12.27 Seaford train heading off to Lewes, knowing that we only had 30 minutes before the next one left & a few more miles to cycle.
The final entrance into Seaford has been much improved & now you can cycle all along the pavement on the right hand side of the road without having to tangle with the traffic on the road at all, as previously, jumping about from track to road & back to track again.

We left Rob, Julia, Corinne, Polly & Sue at 12.40 & hope they had a good afternoon. We raced to the station & spent a very warm, muggy afternoon at the party, having a much needed sea swim around 6pm.

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 16 October – Brighton to Seaford

4 October 2011

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

This is a linear ride, which has two serious hills that go up and two that go down. We start at the former Palace Pier in Brighton and cycle along the Undercliff Path to Saltdean, then on a cycle path up the hill to Telscombe Tye, a common owned by Telscombe Town Council. (Yes, Telscombe does claim to be a town, but when we cycle through it, we may think otherwise.)

Here we will turn inland – watch out for traffic as we cross the main road! The track across the Tye to Telscombe is a bit rough. Admire the mystic concrete standing stones at the start.

There is a steep descent into the village itself with a temptation to fly straight through at high speed. It might be worth stopping to see the houses in the village centre; look out for the former Judge’s Lodgings on the right, used by judges visiting Lewes until a few years ago. There’s also a graveyard behind the church of St Laurence where Gracie Fields’ brother is buried.

Most of us will walk up the hill out of Telscombe and then jump into the saddle for the delightful run down to Southease, one of my favourite bits of cycling in Sussex. I’ve been trying to fit it into a Clarion ride ever since I started planning them.

At Southease we can revisit the old swing bridge over the Ouse, which we looked at last year; it should have been refurbished by now. Then there’s a bit of a climb out of the village onto the rather busy road to Newhaven for lunch at the Hope Inn by the harbour entrance.

After lunch those who want a slightly longer and hillier ride can make their way back to Brighton along the cliff top (reversing Mick’s recent ride). The rest can follow me to Seaford for a cuppa at the Salts Café on the seafront and a train ride back to Brighton via Lewes. We could take a short diversion on the way to visit the tiny village of Bishopstone and see the church of St Andrew, built between AD 600 and 800.

Meet: At the Palace Pier at 10:30 am.
Cycling distance: Approx 20 miles or 23 if you cycle back to Brighton from Newhaven.
Off-road / traffic: Lots of traffic-free cycling on the Undercliff Path and the cycle path to Seaford. The road from Southease to Newhaven is rather busy.
Hills: Yes – two short sharp climbs out of Saltdean and Telscombe. Otherwise mostly flat.
Catering: Lunch at the Hope Inn, Newhaven (01273 515389). Tea at the Salts Café, Seaford.
Getting home: Trains leave Seaford for Brighton at :27 and :53. The fare is £3.60 (£2.40 with a railcard). We’ll probably need to buy tickets from a machine at Seaford station or from a train manager.
My mobile: 0789 985 1172. Please let me know if you plan to join us en route.