Reports from Winter 2005
Sunday 12 March
Centurion Way and into Hampshire in search of New Brighton
Since I'd had to change my plans in order to lead the ride, I knew that the absence of volunteers to take my place meant that several 'regulars' couldn't make it. As it turned out it was just me and Fred. Can't speak for him, of course, but I had good company [likewise! – Fred]. Weatherwise it was a bit like the last time out – cold and windy but otherwise pleasant. I knew the route only from the map – but what I'd hoped, that we could gain a bit of height effortlessly by taking the Way far as Lavant and then heading west and very gradually south on the flat with more than our share of 'downhill' proved correct. So it was a pretty easy 21 miles we did.
Now where do we leave the Centurian Way?
In spite of the cold weather – and reports of snow elsewhere in the country – we saw evidence of spring's arrival not only with the flora but also among the fauna. A couple of very young rabbits scurried into the hedge as we approached them soon after leaving the Way, and there were tiny ducklings swimming in the stream in the aptly named Watery Lane between West Ashling and Funtington.
Even the ducks looked cold!
Ducklings by the side of Watery Lane
Near a rather mysterious MOD 'Research Establishment' a little later we also encountered a very large field of free-range pigs. They watched us pass with a rather bored air, grunting half-heartedly but cheerfully enough and thereby tended to bear out the dictum attributed to Churchill that whereas dogs look up to you and cats look down on you, pigs treat you as equals.
It wasn't until we were quite near Woodmancote, that checking the map, we discovered that the very first place across the Hampshire border – a suburb of Emsworth – rejoiced in the name New Brighton. So at the cost of adding a few miles to our route – some of which we recovered by taking a more direct route back into Chichester than originally planned – we continued on to investigate. Unfortunately, whereas the easterly bound get 'Welcomed' into West Sussex, Hampshire on this road is less hospitable – and we could only find New Brighton – which we both had imagined was on the Wirral – on a road sign. Never mind. We've been there even if there are no T-shirts to prove it.
The only evidence we found of New Brighton
With hindsight we should then have stopped at one of the pubs in the pleasant village of Westbourne but I led us on to the Woodmancote Arms. In the last circular I joked about the 'imaginativeness' of the name. Now I got my comeuppance! It wasn't that they didn't do food – quite the reverse – they had so many customers they were booked up and couldn't offer us any sustenance till 3.30! So we drank our pints and chatted – for too long as it turned out – and then continued on to the Richmond Arms in West Ashling.
The Richmond Arms
On the way back
Interesting architecture on the route
But now we were too late! However, tipped off by a couple of cyclists – or to be more precise a cyclist and a tricyclist – we made do with free hot roast potatoes from a basket on the bar and – in Fred's case – some treacle pudding. (They were still serving that.) All was well and ended well; we got back to Chichester station in good time – but without a long wait – for Fred's train.
Sunday 26th February
Hassocks – Wineham – Hassocks
Bitter northeasterlies of 17 mph and cloudy skies were ominously forecast, but Joyce, Anne and Tessa assembled at the station and Sue soon joined us. Fred finally awakend from his post-party slumbers at 10am and realising that Ian's words on the web 'for late-risers' applied to him, rushed down and up to the station for the 11am train. Alighting at Hassocks we were met by Neil and Ian, the latter being on his home territory and the former having arrived by car. An innocent passer-by was press- ganged into an alluring photo-opportunity – the start of the Brighton Clarion Feb 26th ride. A text to Tessa announced that we need wait no longer for Suzanne (is that right?) [Helen?] as she would join us at the pub.
Tessa, Joyce, Sue, Anne, Neil, Ian and Fred
So we were off behind Ian in the yellow jersey soon cycling down pleasant country lanes with purple crocuses, clumps of snowdrops and great views to the right of us of the Weald and the world beyond, so we must have been going uphill a bit but barely noticed it as we were bustled along by the easterly wind. We passed a farm with a table offering some tempting bags of chicken manure which at first I thought would be just the thing to heat up my 5 compost bins, but then the threat of bird flu and its intimate connection to bird faeces made me realise it would be an unfortunate addition to my bike basket and thence lungs, for the rest of our trip, but I doubt there would be many enthusiastic takers in the present atmosphere of bird flu panic as France and Germany succumb.
Crocuses or is that croci?
Ian soon presented us with the choice of a shorter ride if we were feeling weak and wan in the wintry weather but all were for braving it out and how right we were as the sun shone, especially after lunch and then blue skies,even if a little light snow and a gentle sprinkling of rain in the morning did make me ponder.
Into Bob Lane – where's Tessa?
At Bob Lane with its pretty cottages and host of giant snowdrops, or early daffs, my eyes aren't so good and we didn't approach closely – we turned down. Tessa nearly made a spectacle of herself as she added to the puddle in a secluded gateway and 2 cars seem to appear from nowhere and pass her private moment.
The author of this report
On our right again was a huge Transco sub station taking us about ten minutes to circumnavigate the plantation. Pylons and electric derricks and Danger of Death signs proliferated. On our left was the line of the Downs so we were heading west again.
Ian looks out for stray spronketts
A few more lanes and farms, one with ponds and geese and 2 or 3 elaborate tree houses, a little bit of up and a little bit of down and we were at The Royal Oak at Wineham; a thirteen century inn with great rural charm but not the roast dinners that some of us had been craving, not even the hot soup that is promised for winter on the website.
Website says the same family have run it for the past 200 years and looked like little has changed. However, the sandwiches were hot, toasted and tasty and the rooms were quaint and friendly with delightful little nooks and crannies, doors and passages, inglenook fireplaces and helpful children delivering the food. I officially joined the Clarion Club and precipitously agreed to do the report, without having read the detailed previous reports on the website. Had I realised, I might have taken a few notes as I've probably got this all wrong and someone will have to edit, censure and rejig it to make it worthy of the website. Suzanne [Helen] and her friend [Marilyn] joined us at the table and regaled the chilled with tales of recent easycruising with Stavros in the Carribean and Joyce rejoiced in reminiscing of her life in Martinique. All this exotica heralded a sunny afternoon.
Outside The Royal Oak, with one extra rider
Feeling somewhat refreshed, a few extra crisps and calories still being consumed and a few more photos taken by Fred, we resumed our ride homeward to Hassocks. The hills seemed a bit harder as we faced the east wind, even though Ian told me, before correcting himself, that we were still heading west, then he said south. Blackstone Lane (?Is that right?) was an avenue of overhanging trees, 4 Elms Farm had magnificent elms that over arched the lane, oak leaves peppered the path and I thought I heard a bittern (unlikely) and Joyce saw an ostrich, maybe the source of putative bittern's boom.
View from the rear
At, was it Blacklands Farm(?), Ian stopped and offered Anne, Tessa, Neil and Sue the choice of going in for tea thus missing the 3.38 train, and having to catch the 4.38. We all chose 3.38 and Fred and Joyce started the trek uphill towards Hassocks without even stopping for discussion. The last lap, against the wind and against the clock proved challenging. I was desperate to keep up with Tessa who had looked at her watch and calculated that we needed to sprint. I was hopelessly lost and disoriented and didn't look back. We finally reached the station, in spite of my doubts and misguided shouts to Tessa, to take the wrong road. Neil said his goodbyes and Fred soon made up the rear. But where was Joyce as the train approached? I left my bike to go and search but she wasn't in sight. We hoped Ian was with her. As I got on the train with Sue, and the doors closed , Joyce just hoved into view and I shall be haunted by her image the wrong side of the train door, with an hour's wait, alone. Some Clarion members said Ian may be with her and sweep her up and ferry her home in his car. Sue tried to contact Ian or Joyce on her mobile but tunnels and cuttings cut off the signals and their phones were off. When we got to Brighton Fred tried again to make contact with our missing member, but his credit ran out and I had a half an hour trek home eastward uphill to get home and other distractions at home so didn't manage to phone Joyce either. So guilty feelings of lack of solidarity towards Joyce, whom I knew to have sciatica and to have been pedalling furiously, and who had encouraged me to join you all, will haunt my sleep, but, otherwise, a tremendous day and thanks very much to Ian for organising and shepherding and hopefully, saving Joyce from a long and lonely wait at Hassocks station.
Sunday 12 February
Pevensey Levels & Herstmonceux
I'd begun to think that the Clarion had some special dispensation protecting it from miserable weather. I joined in the summer and the dry sunlit rides seemed to continuing well into the Autumn.
Neil, Joyce and Ian ready for any weather
No such luck today. The forecast was for persistent rain and that, along with a chilly wind, was exactly what we got. Undeterred, Fred, Ian, Joyce and myself met up at Polegate Station. There's something bleak about Polegate Station at the best of times and as the wind gusted and the rain fell the prospect of a 23 mile ride seemed, momentarily at least, a less than attractive option.
Single-file through the Pevensey Levels
Things seemed much better as we made our way onto the Cuckoo Trail and, turning onto the Pevensey Levels a relaxed mood and pace seemed to have settled in. Our first hour or so of riding was accompanied by the distant and occasionally not so distant sound of shotgun fire. I looked round for some indication as to the direction it was coming from – scattering rabbits, wildfowl dropping from the sky, Dick Cheney's motorcade fleeing the scene – but there were just no clues to be had. Joyce reassured me that the likely targets were clay pigeons and I satisfied myself with that explanation.
Ian consults the map
We passed Chilley Farm and my toes seemed to take this as a reminder of the conditions. As I was trying to wiggle them back to life I looked up only to see Ian passing in the opposite direction. When I caught up with him, Ian was consulting his map and explained that we'd missed the sign for Herstmonceux. We headed back towards the gunfire and found our turning.
Back on track
Across the muddy bridleway
As the long road across the Levels reached a junction we stopped to discuss the conditions and the possibility of detouring away from our bridleway route at Herstmonceux Castle and the angry man on the gate (who I'd not personally encountered but had read about in previous circulars). Undaunted we decided to press on as planned.
Herstmonceux Castle through the gloom
There was a sense of anticlimax as we cruised through the unmanned entrance to the Science Centre and set about finding the bridleway. We all missed the sign and carried on into the Science Centre car park. Our movements had not gone unnoticed and within seconds a car drew up alongside us. The window wound down to reveal another (different) angry man who's expression suggested that we were by no means the first people to have missed the bridleway. He turned his car and herded us back onto public land.
Up the other side
The rain had taken its toll on the bridleway and we headed carefully through the mud. The Castle and Science Centre looked impressive in the surrounding countryside but I couldn't help wondering what they do or keep in there that warrants such security.
The highly secure Science Centre (from the bridle path)
With some relief we rejoined the main road and decided to get lunch at the next pub we passed. This turned out to be the Horseshoe Inn at Windmill Hill. The chalkboards outside suggested that we might be restricted to Sunday roast. Joyce and Ian debated whether to carry on to the next pub but the lure of shelter got the better of us and we were rewarded with a decent bowl of soup.
The mock-Tudor splendour of the Horseshoe Inn
With the rain persisting, we headed back over some hilly roads eventually rejoining the Cuckoo trail just north of Hailsham. We dodged the dog walkers and counted down the miles to Polegate. Ian headed for the car and Fred, Joyce and myself headed home on the train which was delayed because of an earlier fatality – a grim end to the day.
This ride will be one to recall on a hot sunny ride in the summer, sat out in a pub garden – 26 miles (including the three-mile detour on the Levels!) and, as Joyce pointed out to me, the whole ride was completed in the rain.
Sunday 29 January
Glynde – East Hoathly – Glynde 21 miles .
We'd had very cold weather and even snow during the previous week, so I was a little bit apprehensive about what it would be like today. As it turned out it could hardly have been better – bright sunshine all day. The wind was a bit of a problem on the 'outward' stretch, but made the return journey much easier.
Ian and Fred
Only Joyce and Fred met me at the station, so it was a 'Three Musketeers' day. We struggled up the little hill past Glynde Place – closed at this time of year so no possibility of tea there later and we were soon looking at fields packed almost to overflowing with alpacas and the odd (some very odd) llama. The proprietors had thoughtfully provided a great deal of information on the field gate so we made our way onwards a little less ignorant than we had arrived.
Glynde church, with Glynde Place in the background
Field full of Atlantic Alpacas
Joyce and Ian learn all about them
After crossing the A22 we had a good view of the still-under-construction Hamilton Palace (sic) with its dome or cupola or whatever it's called glinting in the sun. Unaccountably, Mr Hoogstraten didn't invite us in for coffee so we made our way instead to the King's Head at East Hoathly where we had lunch.
The King's Head at East Hoathly
It was more downhill than uphill on the return leg and even the uphill was easier with the fairly strong wind at our backs.
Ian on the lookout for 'bent wildfowl'!
Pottering along near Ripe behind Fred and Joyce riding into the bright sunshine with the shadows of trees dappling the road and the South Downs in the distance I was reminded of the work of the 'cycling artist' Frank (aka Pat) Patterson whose already very dated-looking and rather sentimental pictures appeared regularly in both Cycling (aka 'the comic' and now called Cycling Weekly and the CTC Gazette when I started cycling a bit in the late '40s (He died in 1952). All we needed was someone in plus fours on a 1930s style touring bike with a big saddle bag! Alun will remember him, I'm sure.
'...the shadows of trees dappling the road...'
We got back to Glynde with some time to spare before the train back to Brighton. I was going home by car but I think Joyce and Fred dropped in for a coffee or whatever at the Trevor Arms while they were waiting [no – we stayed on the station!]. A really pleasant day out – apart from some Yahoo of a driver who blared his horn at us quite gratuitously while we were waiting to cross the A22. My face felt like it had been in the sun when I got home – not bad for January!
Sunday 15 January – Suzanne's Report.
Fred, Roger and Suzanne met up on Brighton station to be whisked away to Berwick in a smart new, two-coach diesel train on its way to Ashford International. What a pity this magnificent new service does not deign to stop at some of the intermediate stations, as Sue would tell you herself, after having seen it zoom past her as she stood on the platform at London Road.
Roger, Ian, Suzanne and Fred outside Berwick (Sussex) station
Ian met us at Berwick station and we set off northwards. One of the delights of cycle riding is that any route looks completely different if you approach it from the opposite direction, so although the terrain had been covered before, it felt quite new and very interesting.
The Lamb Inn
Close-up of the old CTC sign outside the Lamb
A gentle twiddle or two of the pedals and we were in Ripe – too early to get into the Lamb Inn (at least, too early to get in without physically battering down the doors) but in plenty of time to admire the 16th Century Eckington House on the main road and to spot the blue plaque of the day: this time it was a plaque to commemorate that Malcolm Lowry, the novelist, had lived in a little house in a back lane in 1956-57. Given that he died in 1957, perhaps Ripe was not good for his health.
Blue plaque of the day
The same might be said for the generous portions of excellent chips served up with the baguettes, burgers and broth consumed by our party in the Lamb. But the best part of our visit to the Lamb was that Sue finally managed to catch up with us and as if by magic, popped up just in time to order lunch.
Ian, Sue, Suzanne and Roger outside the Lamb
After finally prising ourselves out of our cosy corner in the Lamb we pottered along some twists and turns (encountering a 4x4 road-hog along the way) to another cosy corner in the tea rooms at Silletts Cottage Restaurant, Selmeston. The gentlemen delicately sipped tea while the ladies tucked into butterscotch meringue [see last year's ride] and hot chocolate. No wonder Sue had the good idea of giving herself a good tough ride back from Selmeston to Glynde along the old coaching road at the foot of the downs. The weaker brethren (ie: all the remaining four!) made their way back to Berwick station. Good to her word, Sue hopped onto the Brighton bound train at Glynde.
Many thanks to Ian for planning a very enjoyable day.
Sunday 1 January
New Year's Day Brunch Ride to Carats Café – Mei's Report
The city seemed still asleep that morning after the previous night's celebration of the New Year. Clarion riders gathered by the Palace Pier for the first ride in 2006. Ian wasn't sure who would be coming. Fred, Shelia and myself were waiting to see if there would be others. Luckily, Jim and Annie came toward us, then Anna, Lucy and Stuart. Finally there was Joyce.
Annie, Joyce, Jim, Lucy, Mei, Anna, Stuart, Sheila, Fred, and Ian
As usual, Fred took a group photo by the Palace Pier then we set off to the Carats Cafe. The clouds were thick and grey. Seagulls appeared and disappeared in the gloomy sky.
Sheila and Mei on the desolate road to Carats
Around noon we arrived at Carats Cafe. It had already lots of people inside so, despite the cold wind, we sat outside. Everyone introduced himself/herself again and we had a relaxing talk. Stuart mentioned that he had seen a line of cars with their wing mirrors smashed, presumably as part of the New Year's Eve 'celebrations'. Also, Shelia asked where the 'Boots and Spurs' came from and Ian explained its history to us.
Jim, Annie, Ian, Joyce and Mei at Carats cafe
The other end of the table: Joyce, Mei, Fred, Anna, Sheila, Stuart, [Lucy], Jim and Annie
After the food and chat, we set off home all looking forward to the next ride. Joyce, Shelia and Fred cycled to the end of the Carats café area.
Jim, Joyce and Annie go as far as they can along the harbour wall
Ian thought they would come back so we could cycle back together to the pier. However, they still didn't reappear after ten minutes or more. So Ian and I decided to leave. On the way home, more and more people seemed to have appeared on the seafront on that windy New Year's Day.
Sunday 18 December
Shoreham Fort and Airport – Roger's Report.
Brilliant winter sunshine and a clear blue sky greeted the impressive crowd of cyclists who assembled at Brighton's only remaining Pier, on the Sunday before Christmas.
Ian, Suzanne, Neil, Fred and Roger outside the Palace Pier
Ian, who was one of the last to arrive, must have thought that his promise of a 'no hills' Christmas treat had attracted a record number of members. In fact the majority were the start of the Bricycles 'Rolling Lunch'. We let them go first (so as not to show them up), which left five Clarion riders – Suzanne, Neil, Fred, Ian and myself- plus Mei who joined us en route in Hove.
Roger, Suzanne, Fred, Neil, Mei and Ian outside Carats cafe
Fred persuaded a Bricycles straggler to take our group photo, then we set off westward along the cycle path. We had a short stop at Carats Café to debate whether to go in to warm up, and also whether 'Carats' should have an apostrophe. After some foot stamping and finger flexing to get blood flowing we decided to skip coffee and push on towards Shoreham.
We walked over the footbridge to Shoreham Beach and made a short detour to see the old fort at the harbour entrance. Ian gave us a bit of the history: it was built in 1857; the 'caponiers' or small buildings attached to the east, south and west sides were to protect the troops from pebbles thrown up if cannon fire hit the shingle in front of the fort; they also served as WCs.
Roger, Ian and Neil admire the fort
Our destination was another historic, though more recent building, the 1936 art-deco terminal building at Shoreham Airport. The attraction was not so much plane spotting as the good food and beer in the airport bar.
Roger, Ian, Neil, Mei and Suzanne after lunch
Fred, Mei, Roger, Ian and Neil outside Shoreham airport
The lunch break was enlivened by some well-informed discussion of cycle paths, 24-hour licenses, the nature of bureaucracy, and the lack of good music in the hit parade. Then back into the cold for the return ride, by an inland route over the Old Shoreham Bridge.
Neil and another cycle past the doomed King Alfred building
As we said our farewells back in Brighton the sun was just staring to disappear behind a bank of cloud. Perfect planning!
Sunday 4 December – Sue Pringle's report
Although the weather forecast had been promising, Joyce and myself (Sue P.) set out for the Palace Pier meeting place in the rain. I was very impressed to find Fred already there in spite of the wetness. He had a message from Joyce who had gone back home to fetch her pannier – adding several miles to her day's cycling! So Fred and myself sauntered along to the King Alfred via the cycle lane to meet up with Mark.
Fred, Mark, Sue and Joyce outside Carat's Cafe
A short consultation led to a unanimous decision that we would wait for Joyce at Carat's Cafe, treating ourselves to a well-deserved coffee break - after all - it was raining!
Once Fred saw the menu he could not resist ordering a breakfast, and to keep him company I did the same. Joyce arrived just as we were finishing, having raced all the way, wet outside with the rain, and inside with condensation! As we emerged from Carat's we found the sky clearing and the rain stopped.
View of the Adur and Lancing College from the toll bridge
We crossed the locks, and Southwick Green, making our way to Shoreham by the back roads. The ground was still very wet and we chose to cycle over the wooden bridge and to Steyning via Coombe Lane, where Mark showed us a clean pair of heels up each incline. A little concerned about time, Joyce pointed out the three old churches we could have stopped and looked at, including St Botolphs, but we zoomed past and on through Steyning to our lunch at The Star. Service here was good and the staff helpful so we enjoyed a pleasant hour of r and r.
Bull in field from one of the hills, overlooking the cement works
The Star Inn at Steyning
Wishing to avoid the main road, we made a detour round the backroads, stopping to visit the 12th Century church of St Andrew where a service was about to begin. Thence cycling over the main road to reach the Downs link which took us back to the old wooden bridge and Shoreham. There was a general consensus that mud and puddles on the flat cycle track would be preferable to retracing out journey over the hills of Coombe Lane. So we all returned with our bikes covered in mud!
St Andrew's, Steyning – note the blue sky!
Mark, Joyce and Sue get ready to take on the mud!
At Shoreham station, no-one cared to wait 20 minutes for the next train, so we all set off back to the Palace Pier, arriving as the sun set, having dropped Mark off on the way. We were all pretty pleased with ourselves, having completed about 26 miles on a day that had started out so grim.
Old Shoreham toll bridge on the way back
Fred has recorded much of the ride on his camera, giving us plenty of little breathers as we rode – so all is dutifully recorded.
Starlings swarm over the remains of the West Pier
Well, in spite of the wet beginning, I really enjoyed being outside, and in good company. A pleasantly flat ride and satisfying to having begun and ended by bicycle, all on our own steam!
Thank you to all four of us!!
Sunday 20 November
Seaford – Litlington – Arlington – Wilmington – Seaford
I'd missed the previous three rides and I think my head must have been somewhere back in the Summer when I planned this one. Worried that my original plan – a 'there and back ' ride from Seaford to Litlington – was a little on the short and repetitive side I added a slightly more ambitious loop crossing the A27 and skirting Arlington reservoir before returning south through Wilmington and back onto the Litlington Road (20 miles in total).
Fred, Mei and Neil at Seaford station
I'd had a nagging concern that my journey from Hassocks to Brighton to meet up and catch the Seaford train might present a problem and, sure enough, my enquiries early on Sunday morning revealed that a bus service had replaced the train on the mainline from London. Not wanting to test Southern's 'bikes on buses ' policy I decided to make the journey by road and so, set about dismantling my bike in order to fit it into the back of my car.
With everything successfully reassembled in Seaford I made my way to the station and met Fred, Joyce and Mei off of the train. We headed for the seafront and rode straight into a dazzling and spectacular sun that was to stay with us all day. We were all unaware (and just as well) that we would still be riding as the sun was setting and that our return along the same coastal stretch would be a mad dash for the train completed in near darkness (luckily we all had our lights with us!).
Joyce, Neil and Mei admire the big cannon
Mei and Joyce in the Tardis of a museum
Joyce, Mei and Neil outside the Martello Tower
Halfway along the seafront we decided to take a closer look at the Martello Tower, now a museum exploring the tower's original purpose as part of the coastal defences in the Napoleonic wars. While this period is clearly the Museum's main focus, the curator explained that the tower has interesting post-war history adopting a number of different guises before becoming a museum.
We returned to the bikes and headed out of Seaford. The road to Litlington brought much needed relief from the busy A259 and we set about tackling the many undulations. We spotted a flock (gaggle?) of geese flying low above the river. They were in loose formation and did not seem intent on migrating any time soon. In conditions like this who could blame them for staying put.
The Yew Tree Inn
Through Litlington, we veered west enjoying the idyllic view of Alfriston church from across the river. Over the A22 we headed for Arlington using the road we'd last navigated on our Cuckoo Trail ride in the summer. We decided to stop for lunch the Yew Tree Inn near Arlington reservoir. We had a good lunch and lobbied Joyce with suggestions as to how Brighton's new cycling money could be spent. A former Hanover resident myself, I liked Fred's suggestion of a 'ski-lift ' to assist cyclists climbing Southover Street – watch this space!
Back on the road I turned right for Wilmington and pedalled on. Oh dear. I should of course have waited at the junction and made sure that we'd all made the turning. Half a mile down the road I realised that I'd not seen Fred or Mei since the turning. I rode back to the junction but couldn't see them. I headed back to Joyce who said that Fred had rung her (just as well that they both had mobiles and managed to get a signal). They'd understandably ridden straight on at the junction and were now retracing their steps. I rode back to the now familiar junction where I met Fred and Mei and made my apologies.
Mei on a downhill stretch
It was already clear that we'd not make the 2.54 train and our unexpected detour meant that we'd now struggle to get the 3.54. I reassured everyone that the return was largely downhill but sensed faith in my predictions beginning to ebb as
we then faced the steep climb out of Wilmington. We rested briefly at the Long Man before heading back onto the Litlington Road. We passed the geese who did not seemed to have moved an inch from earlier and then Fred spotted the White Horse – our second chalk carving in half an hour.
We made it to Exceat bridge at 3.45 and it was clear that we were not going to be back in time for the next train. Now with over an hour to spare we decided to avoid the busy main road back to Seaford and take a further detour along the footpath heading out to the cliffs. With light fast fading and conditions muddy we made slow progress on our way out to Seaford Head. Joyce then came a cropper negotiating a gate and with the temperature plummeting and the clock ticking our return to Seaford began to take on the feel of a doomed polar expedition.
View of the Seven Sisters from Seaford Head
The view of Seven Sisters from Seaford Head rallied our spirits but with only twenty minutes to get the train the last stretch of our journey would be a frenetic dash. Halogen lights guiding our way we were strung out along the streets of Seaford and with our finish at the station almost in sight I half expected to see a Tour de France style '1km to go' sign. We scrambled onto the platform with the train just about to leave. An accommodating guard pointed Mei, Joyce and Fred in the direction of the cycle carriage and I made my way back to the car.
After today's display it's with some relief that I hand the organisational baton on to Joyce and Sue for the next ride and probably best that I humbly resume my place in the Clarion pack!
Thanks to all for a really enjoyable and longer than expected day.
Berwick – Bo-Peep – Old Coach – Firle – Ripe – Golden Cross – Chalvington – Berwick
6 November Ian 's Report
Well, it couldn't last for ever could it? For the last few rides we've been congratulating ourselves on our luck in avoiding bad weather – even when rain has been forecast. It was raining quite hard as I drove to Berwick and I was doubtful whether anyone else was going to turn up. I decided not to get my bike out until the train had arrived in case I was on my own. Listening to Radio Three on the car radio a piece by Holst was announced. A good omen, I thought, since the composer had connections with the Clarion movement in his early years. (See 'History' on the webpage.) Then came the title – a suite from The Perfect Fool. I wasn't so sure! So I felt a bit ashamed as one of little faith when the train rolled in and disgorged Joyce, Fred, Sue and a new recruit Tracey who had found us via various links for Cycling for Life.
Sue, Tracey, Joyce, Ian and Fred ready for any weather!
Most of the time the weather wasn't too bad – though vicious gusts of wind were disconcerting now and then. We crossed the A27 at Selmeston and went down Bo-Peep Lane and picked up the Old Coach Road following it behind Charleston to Firle. We had a pause there to have a look at the John Piper window from 1982 and the church generally. Joyce was a fount of knowledge about brasses and brass rubbing.
Onto the Old Coach Road
The Old Coach Road
Encounter with ramblers on the edge of the Firle Place estate
The John Piper window, representing the tree of life, plus Sir John Gage and his wife
Joyce at St Peter's church, Firle
Then we were out in the wind and drizzle again and following both surviving bits of the pre-straightened main road to begin with soon arrived at The Lamb at Ripe for lunch. Sue, meanwhile, having to get back in time to work at 2pm had taken off in the direction of Glynde to get a train back.
Ian, Joyce and Tracey leaving The Lamb
I'd planned things so that it the weather was really foul we had a short 2 to 3 mile sprint back to Berwick station. Although it was still raining when we left the pub everyone opted unanimously to stick to the original idea and do the rather longer loop up round Golden Cross and back to Chalvington. But it was getting really rather unpleasantly windy and starting to rain much harder by the time we got back to Berwick station. Fortunately the Brighton train was being announced within seconds of our arrival. Everyone agreed that we'd had an enjoyable ride in spite of the weather. But with Saturday having been as sunny as a midsummer day often isn't and Monday likewise, we did seem to be a bit out of luck on the weather front this time.