The Last Ride: Sunday 9 July 2017 Woods Mill – Bramber – Shoreham

11 July 2017

Our group of six cyclists at Hassocks station. Start of ride 9th July 2017

Present on the ride were leader Leon, Joyce, Wendy David Sikka and Richard. A well prepared and clearly experienced Leon led us for about an hour and a half from Hassocks station over gently undulating roads in brilliant sunshine via pretty Sussex villages like Albourne and Hurstpierpoint to our lunch stop at Woods Mill Nature Reserve.

Paintings on building at Woodsmill.

A leisurely picnic in the shade of ancient oaks was followed by a short stroll to the nearby mill lake, sadly now lacking water movement and covered in algae but still a lovely tranquil spot with damsel flies in profusion. It was time to follow the butterflies, including slightly elusive but gorgeous Red Admirals, so some of lost ourselves in that blissful and innocent activity for a while.

Refreshed, we set off again towards Bramber. Sikka and David left us for a while to investigate a possible future ride (watch the Clarion site). Cars, and sweating young men hunched over the handlebars, shot past in both directions from time to time. The author wishes them no ill but fancies we enjoyed our ride somewhat more.

Woods Mill Clarion ride Sunday 9th July

Outside Bramber Castle entrance we regrouped and availed ourselves of David’s knowledge of a newer and alternative route to the Adur on a pristine cycleway, flanked by fields in which the grass grew tall. Soon the wide river came into view, which we crossed, and passing through the ancient Salts parishes of yesteryear found ourselves on the eastern bank on the old railway track. Back then through the northern suburbs of Shoreham, where David took his leave, and beneath the railway bridge at Southwick to Shoreham Lock.

Glancing idly down at the collection of Sunday boaters waiting for the lock gates – all amateur maritime life is to be observed there – the party unanimously decided that a swim was irresistible. The water temperature was perfect for cooling off after twenty miles or so of midsummer cycling and a certain stoniness of beach did not discourage us. The author learned that Lycra cycling shorts and tiny pebbles are unfortunately inseparable, and that this does not increase saddle comfort. No matter. Suitably cooled we headed off to take tea in a suburban garden in Hove. Apple and blackberry cake, muesli bars and fresh strawberries were thoughtfully provided by Wendy and Sikka.

Paintings on building at Woodsmill.

The author hopes that our predecessors of 1893 are looking down on us benevolently and feeling that our summer idylls are not so impossibly different from theirs. Thanks again to Leon, without whom…


EXTRA! a video from Leon:


The Last Ride: Sunday 10 March 2013 Hassocks – Woods Mill – Fulking – Newtimber

14 March 2013

Despite the grey and dank weather, with rain and snow forecast for later in the day, ten hardy souls met at Hassocks station on Sunday morning for a second attempt at Mick and Anne’s ride that had been scheduled earlier for 10 February, which had been postponed due to heavy rain and strong winds. Mick, Anne, Jenny, Joyce, Amanda, David, Linda, Julian, Michael and Peter set off at 10.30am for refreshments at Woods Mill Nature Reserve about six miles away, just south of Henfield. After only a few minutes, unfortunately Joyce didn’t feel too well and decided to return to Brighton for an invigorating sauna; we hope she gets her full strength back for the next ride.

Starting out at Hassocks

The route through Hurstpierpoint, Albourne and High Cross was straightforward, following good roads with only gentle hills, and after a debate between the ride leaders about where to go at the next junction, we headed south down Blackstone Lane and on to the picnic area at the nature reserve, where Anne provided welcome hot drinks and high energy snacks. As we had plenty of time to get to our lunch booking for 2pm at The Royal Oak in Poynings, we set off along the paved walk to explore part of the reserve, which we were told, offered all manner of Springtime nature: water shrews, snipe, green sandpipers, little egrets, barn owls, toads, wrens, bistorts, carp, great-crested newts and water rails. Some of us did spot a treecreeper (or it could have been a nuthatch?) running up the trunk of a distant silver birch; Julian pointed out a robin, and Mick found a white, lesser, pond spoon. Otherwise we had to content ourselves with a exhibition of habitats for beetles, slugs, frogs, hedgehogs and other endemic fauna.

Tea break at Wood Mills


Watching a treecreeper creep up a tree

Back-tracking along Horn Lane, we headed through Woodmancote and then turned south towards Fulking. Along the way we passed four llamas in a field, two Sheltand ponies and Anne said she saw a small ostrich, or it could have been an emu. As the Shepherd and Dog had been fully booked for Mothers Day, Mick and Anne had reserved a table at The Royal Oak at Poynings, where we arrived more than one hour early. Fortunately they could still takes us, but Anne and Peter had things other than food on their minds. Locking up her bike, Anne noticed something different about her equipment – her back pannier had disappeared! It had either fallen off at one of the various stops, or had been left behind at the picnic area at Woods Mill. What to do? Eventually Mick and Anne decided that after lunch they would cycle on to Hassocks station and lock their bikes up there, and Julian kindly offered to drive them back over the route to Woods Mill to see if it was still there. Meanwhile, Peter arrived ten minutes later with a big, beaming smile, pushing his bike back with a flat, rear tyre. This was a brand new bicycle he had just bought on the Internet and assembled that week for today’s ride. Unfortunately the inner tube could not be repaired and no-one had an similar spare, so he had to make a call to his back-up, support team who arrived from home within half an hour. The food at The Royal Oak proved to be excellent and reasonably-priced, with the lemon sole and fish pie specially recommended, and Harvey’s beer is always tasty and refreshing.

miniature pony

Amazing what you can see from a bike

Peter arrives with a flat tyre

Anne, Peter and Julian

After lunch, we made a brief visit to look at Newtimber Place, a Sussex moated house, built of flint and brick with a roof of Horsham stone. The original house was probably built by Richard Bellingham’s son, who was Sheriff of Sussex in 1567. The fields and woods around the house were full of flowering snowdrops and other spring flowers. In the mean time, Jenny decided to cycle directly back through Upper Beeding to her home in Portslade. By now, the temperature was falling rapidly, and we decided to forego any refreshments at Washbrook Farm and head straight back to Hassocks station via the B2117 and Hurstpierpoint. Before taking Julian’s lift back to Woods Mill, Mick advised me to follow the road under the railway tunnel and approach the platform on the other Brighton-bound side. This proved to be excellent advice, as it enabled me to catch up with Linda and Michael and be on the platform five minutes before they arrived panting from their exertions of carrying their bikes through two flights of stairs under the railway line. We waved goodbye to Amanda who was waiting for her train back to London.

Newtimber Place

The Moat

snowdrop wood nr Newtimber

Many thanks to Anne and Mick for organizing this very pleasant ride.


[More photos on Flickr]

The Next Ride: Sunday 10 March. Only 18 miles with hardly any hills. Hassocks – Woods Mill – Fulking –Newtimber

27 February 2013

Having been cursed with atrocious weather every time we’ve attempted a Clarion trip recently, we are trying again on March 10th, by when we hope conditions will be Spring like. Catching the 10.15am FCC from Btn  & reaching Hassocks at 10.24, we hope to make a prompt start for Woods Mill Nature Reserve, where we stop for refreshment in their picnic area. Woods Mill does not provide any refreshment itself, so we shall have to bring our own, but they do offer all manner of Springtime nature; – water shrew, snipe, green sandpipers, little egrets, barn owls, toads, wrens bistorts, carp, great crested newts water rails [?] Last Monday we saw butterflies & heard glorious bird-song. There is a short little paved walk we can do or merely rest in the relative tranquillity & green shade.

We have to backtrack a mile or so after this to reach Blackstone Lane but Woods Mill is worth the trip [I think], being the HQ of Sussex Wildlife Trusts. Saw lovely little miniature pony in Blackstone Lane & even Mick let me stop & photograph it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any food for it, in spite of it begging fetchingly, so will try to remember an apple this time. After the long lane we come to Fulking & are near the Shepherd & Dog but, since it is Mothers Day they won’t have room for us till 2.30pm so we will progress a little further to The Royal Oak which will take us at 2pm in their new upstairs dining room. They are recommended in the Les Routiers Guide & do super food. Soup is a bit dear at £6 but it is worth it, as a real treat & there are sharing plates & loads of interesting & delicious food on offer. Please let us know if you want to come on the ride as Mothers Day is one of the busiest of the year & the pub needs to know ASAP.  694484.

Next highlight is Newtimber Place where we can have a peep at the house & grounds. It has an Open Garden on April 10th, but there is a Clarion Ride to Chichester then, so you won’t be able to go then. After the house we cross into a wood which was filled with snowdrops when we went & hope it still is. If we need any more refreshment after that we can stop at Washbrook Farm for tea & cake, chickens, geese & golden grouse.

Trains back at 16.06, 16.15, 16.34 & 16.45, which seems very good for Hassocks on a Sunday. I’ll put my photos of the snowdrop wood & Woods Mill on Flickr site. Click here for the Royal Oak site.

Meet at 10 00 for 10 15 at Brighton station or at 10 24 at Hassocks station.  Trains for return at 16 06,  16 15, 16 34, 16 45.