Ever since we got started back in 2004, I have tried to make a slightly longer version of this circuit the final ride of the year – nice and easy and not too long in the cold! It hasn’t always worked. In fact the very first year it was just two of us – me and John Hopper – who did the ride. In those days our stopping point for lunch was The Lamb at Ripe. But that went downhill foodwise after the pub changed hands a few years later and we switched to the Yew Tree which among other advantages means that we don’t have so very far to ride with that full–up feeling after lunch.
Another time I recall – much more recently – was when there were dodgy patches of ice about. Jenny had just finished telling us about how she’d been brought down by one on the way to Berwick from Cooksbridge when an (unknown-to-us) cyclist came round the corner in the opposite direction, skidded on another patch of ice and crashed down – fortunately without doing too much damage. Then there was the time even more recently when, lost in a reverie brought on by a lovely day of hazy winter sunshine, I led everyone a good half mile past the pub before realising my mistake!
In 2014 I spotted in time that the trains were not right and we did the ride on the penultimate rather than the last date of the year. I failed to be as attentive last year and had to substitute a Twineham and Wineham ride with a stop at the Royal Oak as the final ride of 2015. But this report is supposed to be about yesterday – not the snows of yesteryear!
I’m not able to take on leading any rides for the moment, so I was delighted when I heard from Leon that he and Joyce had the Berwick ride in mind. Luckily, I was able to take part in spite of the machinations of Southern, our farce of a railway company, which, as you will have seen from Joyce and Leon’s post-ride note yesterday (below), did its best to sabotage our ride schedule.
But I made it by car and found Joyce and Leon having a cuppa in the Berwick Inn just across the road from the station. Soon Helen’s splendid people carrier – (Note to self – I must never call it a van!) – arrived with Angela also on board. So the five of us set out and soon were overtaken by a car containing Anne and Mick who parked at the side of the road, extracted their bikes, and joined us to make seven of us altogether. It was surprisingly sunny for a while at least and somewhere just before Golden Cross a bird of prey was spotted in the trees that no-one could identify for sure. A peregrine falcon? A very young buzzard? An unusual variety of owl? Julian was sorely missed at this point.
Onwards we sped (perhaps not quite the right word – but you get what I mean) to the Yew Tree for lunch. Portions of everything seemed to be massive but I thought the food was not as good as I remembered from our previous visits. Perhaps I made the wrong choice. Over lunch our main topic was – almost inevitably – ‘Brexit’. I maintained, as I have done consistently since 24 June that ‘It’s not going to happen.’ Everyone else was less sure. I have to say in my defence that I was one of the few people who correctly predicted the outcome of the 1974 general elections. But that was a long time ago and my stock as a prophet (except possibly of doom) has declined since then. So don’t place any bets on the basis of my hunch, particularly since Mick drew on his legal experience to tell us that gambling addiction was a very strong contender for the most common cause of divorce.
We did also ‘talk of many things’ apart from Brexit. Shoes, ships and sealing-wax did not figure. Nor did we speculate on a boiling hot sea nor winged pigs. But we did touch on ‘cabbages’ (the food) and ‘kings’ (Michael Gove’s attempts to reduce the school history syllabus to a chain of stories about them). Also the possibility of having a handicap system for ‘power-assisted’ riders.
It seemed to have become a lot colder by the time we left the pub, though this may be simply the effect of leaving a warm environment. Mick and Anne reclaimed their car en route. Fortunately, for the remaining five of us it didn’t take long to get back the Berwick station. No trains in either direction were indicated on the electronic signs. Southern strikes again! We conferred on how we might get Joyce and Leon back to Brighton – probably with one of them having to run along behind, or both taking it in turns- but fortunately a train did arrive a few minutes later. And it was actually going in the right direction! Is this a record for Southern?
Leon and Joyce add:
We are sorry for those who were intending to come on the ride on Sunday for the disappointment. The cancelling of the 11.12 train was unfortunate, also unfortunate was that we could not warn people, although Leon had checked trains a week or so before, we only knew Sunday morning, first through Ian calling and our checking at the station. Another contre temps was that the membership email list Ian had passed to Leon could not be sent from his smartphone.
As it happens we were at the station very early and, knowing that Ian was intending to go by car to Berwick, we made the decision to catch an earlier train that happened to be running, thinking that others might be driving to Berwick, as indeed, as the report will show, some did.
We feel really bad about those who were disappointed and to avoid similar occurrences it would be useful if those who even think they might ride would text the organiser so that in an emergency they can be phoned/texted so they can be informed of any problems. Of course the organiser will continue to let people know the evening before that a ride is cancelled whenever possible.
Leon & Joyce
It was a lovely ride & really enjoyable. Ian phoned to tell us that the 11am train was cancelled, when I was dithering about whether we should go by car anyway, as neither feeling too good with colds & coughs. Lured by the thought of last leaves of autumn & prospect of meeting up with Clarion chums, we decided to risk it & hot foot it to Berwick. Delighted to see 5 Clarionistas about 5 miles from the pub. They waited while we took our bikes out of the car & we set off altogether.
One of my highlights was seeing a big bird fly across the very quiet road in front of me. I thought it must be an owl. I waited till the 3 following caught up with me, & he flew across in front of us again, then into a nearby field, spotted by Angela. She thought it was more likely to be a peregrine falcon. Must have a look online to check it out.
Thanks again Joyce & Leon, Ian & Angela & Helen.