Reports from Autumn 2005
Sheffield Park – Bluebell Railway – a Fred Special 23 October 2005
Fred 's Report
It was a record turn-out for the Clarion - the train was full to bursting point with bikes (luckily we had a sympathetic guard) and by the time we met Ian outside Lewes station, we were 12-strong: Joyce, Mei, Roger and Suzanne, Tessa, Sue and Helen, Mano, new riders Jennifer and Terry, and myself, the train spotter!
Mano, Helen, Jennifer, Suzanne, Mei, Sue, Joyce, Ian, Tessa, Terry and Roger
Ian led us a labyrinthine route through the twittens and alleyways of Lewes,
avoiding steep hills and main roads and eventually we arrived at the woodland trail we came down in the opposite direction, the last time we were cycling this way (3 July). Unfortunately, although the weather had been kind to us yet again, there was a fair amount of mud, which didn't suit the road bikes.
Jennifer and Mano avoid the mud
After some encounters with runners and ramblers, we reached the top (and Ian had the first of two spills - Mano had one a little later, while dismounting!) and were able to relax on the tarmac of Offham, where freewheeling down the hill the mud flew off the tyres and into the air.
Sue, Joyce and Helen after the mud
Thence to the outskirts of Barcombe, a place signposted 'Narrow Road', and eventually on a short stretch of main road, to Sheffield Park and the 'Giants of Steam' gala at the Bluebell Railway.
Suzanne, Roger, Joyce, Jennifer and Ian at lunch
We took lunch and a pint at The Bessemer Arms, within the station (for which we had to purchase a platform ticket), sitting out on picnic tables on the platform, and were able to watch several locomotives steam by, some of which had been built at Brighton loco works. After a quick visit to the sheds, we were back on the road.
The [F]letching turn-off
The trouble with such a large group is keeping track of everybody. We lost three of our number at the Fletching (signposted 'letching') turnoff, but Roger gallantly rode off to reel them in.
No cycling in the woods
Walking up through the sandstone gorge
There was a spot of rain going through the woods, but it eased off as we went through Newick (a village with many pubs!) and on to Barcombe Cross for tea (plus puddings, such as Eton Mess and cheesecake) in the garden of the Royal Oak.
Tea at the Royal Oak
Then it was a short ride back to Lewes, with Sue leading us off the busy main road through another maze of lanes and tracks in the outskirts, until we caught the welcome sight of Tescos by the river.
Not far to go!
It was 26 satisfying miles in all, and a bit on the undulating side (even Ian had to get off and push at one point), but another splendid day out with the Clarion. Cheers Ian!
9 October – Centurion Way
Five of us, (Mei, Joyce, Fred, Ian and Sheila) met up at Chichester. Four of us had taken the slow stopping train from Brighton as the lifts were out of order at Hove or rather the operator had had an accident. It was a most beautiful autumn day and perfect for cycling, sunny and still and a perfect temperature. We mused that after the first Clarion ride on the Cuckoo Trail, when we all got soaked to the skin, no matter what the forecast the weather has always been kind.
Ian, Joyce, Sheila and Mei
After the customary photos we set off along a cycle path through Chichester to the Centurion Way. This is a disused railway track to the outskirts of West Dean via East Lavant.
Mei and Sheila on the Centurian Way
Ian joins the scupture
The cycle tracks from Chichester Station, both north and south are very good. Other routes out are not at all bike friendly. At West Dean we passed the College, and the gardens. And then at the Open Air Museum at Singleton we had to ride on the A286 for the last mile or so. Fortunately it was downhill so we got over it quite quickly. We left the main road and went through Singleton to Charlton.
The Fox Goes Free
Joyce, Ian, Mei and Sheila enjoy lunch al fresco
There we stopped at the wonderfully named pub The Fox Goes Free. The weather was so good that we were able to eat in the pub garden. The scenery north of Chichester is quite spectacular.
Mei and Joyce takes a breather at the top of a hill
Sheila, Ian, Fred and Mei prepare for the descent
It is very wooded and there are streams (mainly dried up at the moment) in sharp contrast to the starkness of the East Sussex downs. Eventually we had to turn south and face a long slow climb and then down past Goodwood and back to Chichester.
Ian informs us: 'Ian Nairn (who did West Sussex for Pevsner) says that it was built in 1501 by Bishop Story "almost Cotswold in design, not at all like Sussex". He says that the statue is of Charles I – not II as the lady paser-by who told us all about it. It has, he says, been attributed to Fanelli.'
Is this the last time we will be able to sit outside for lunch this year? The trees seem to have kept their green leaves quite late this so that we did not see many autumn tints as yet. Perhaps another cycle to woods later this year would be good. Personally I was delighted to have cycled 18 easy miles. Everyone was very kind about waiting for the slowcoach.
25 September 2005
I was hoping to get someone else to write this report – so that they could say what a good route I'd constructed. Well, I was pleased with it, anyway. Four of us, Fred, Joyce, Neil and myself met up at Hassocks station. It had rained earlier, which may have deterred some people, though as often happens, the Accu.weather report's hourly summary proved correct and we had very pleasant weather for the rest of the day.
Neil and Joyce admire the Hust cow
Heading west to Hurstpierpoint we turned north along College Lane past Hurstpierpoint College, where there was considerable excitement generated by a multi-coloured plastic cow - apparently associated with a local festival; and predictably little by my none-too-well-remembered attempt to explain the place of the Willard Schools in the evolution of Victorian middle class education.
From there we zigzagged through the largely deserted lanes and crossed the A23 at Hickstead carrying on west to Twineham, then north to Twineham Green, then west again along Bob Lane (but what's become of him, we asked each other?) past Twineham Grange to Wineham where we stopped for lunch at the Royal Oak.
Joyce samples the last of the blackberries
I'd been a bit concerned about the pub which I thought I remembered from some years ago as being a sort of poncy horsieculture-green- wellington-for-driving-down-the-pub-in type of place which I feared might have gone by now in the gastro-pub direction (like the ex-pub now restaurant The Gallops we went past nearby on the way back). The sort of place that has me misquoting K Marx on 'rural idiocy' quite out of context of course. But for once (!) I was totally and utterly wrong – be nice to hear one or two politicians starting with TB say that sometime, wouldn't it? In fact the pub is unpretentious, pleasant and cheaper for a sandwich than Carats Cafe! We must go there again soonish.
The Royal Oak – a pub with no beer pumps at the bar!
Joyce, Neil and Ian at lunch
Heading off southwards after lunch Joyce made an impressive bid for the Ed Furey Prize for Shooting Off the Wrong Way 2005 by ignoring (or rather failing to hear) my cries of 'First right, Joyce!' and suchlike. Fortunately Neil was in training for next year's Protour and hared after her in superb style while Fred and I lingered at the junction with me, irreverently, muttering 'Cloth ears!' under my breath.
Then we took the lane and the bridle path through Shermonbury Place and, after struggling with the gate, we had a short main road spell on the A281 before heading back along the B2116 towards High Cross.
Autumnal colours at Blackstone
We then went down Blackstone Lane, through the pretty hamlet of Blackstone - where our photographers were busy with the half-timbered houses - and reached the A281 again. We avoided most of the main road by taking the quiet Bramlands Lane and returned to Hurstpierpoint and then Hassocks via the B2117.