Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club  



Reports from Autumn 2010

[Photos are usually on Flickr - click on the pic to be taken there]

Sunday 7 November 2010
Polegate - Cowbeech

Todays' ride started with fun and games at Brighton station. Five of us met to catch the 10:20 train - Corrine, Joyce, Leon, Roger and Sue. I was first through the gate. The ticket inspector said he wasn't sure if we'd get our bikes on the train because it was only two coaches. I said we'd done it before and marched off towards platform 8. By the time he'd had similar conversations with four more Clarion members and a couple of other cyclists the ticket inspector was itching to wield the rule book.

He followed us to platform 8 where we were already loading the bikes onto a fairly empty train. He managed to persuade the train guard that, even though there were no wheelchairs or baby buggies to be seen, bikes should not be allowed on the train, not even in the bike space. So we had to wait for the next train.

Fortunately it was not a long wait. The guard on this train helped us find places for the bikes and Joyce asked him if there was any reason why we had not been allowed on the other train, a health and safety inspection perhaps? No, the guard's view was simply that the ticket inspector concerned was rather over-zealous (not his exact words).

When we got to Polegate we found Ian enjoying a coffee at a café: Leon had phoned to say that we would be late.

Unfortunately no one had a camera so there are no pictures of the glorious autumn colours on the trees along the Cuckoo Trail. The sky was a beautiful blue that Joyce wished we could photograph. Leon's comment that memory is the best camera didn't placate her: she feared that this colour may never be seen again. I asked if she was predicting the end of the world, but no, she just felt that some experiences never recur. We chatted on along these lines, touching on Greek philosophy, the metaphysics of identity and a deconstruction of Monte Carlo or Bust, none of which I will recount.

A few slightly challenging hills brought us to the Merrie Harriers at Cowbeech to find a table for six labelled 'Reserved for cyclists'. The food was prompt and enjoyable. As we ate, the sky outside darkened and the rain started. As we returned to our bikes it stopped and the sky was blue again, but a slightly different shade!

We rode across the Pevensey levels with a tail wind, stopping at one point to let a family of swans - or were they ducks? - across the road. As the sun dropped, the air got cooler so we stopped for tea at the Old Loom. Then, on to the station, just in time for the 15:42, two-car service back to Brighton; it was crowded but no railway officials turned a hair as we - carefully - squeezed our bikes in with the baby buggies and large luggage.

Many thanks to Ian for a great day out!


[NB Corinne used MotionX-GPS on the iPhone to track the ride - it is a bit confusing because it also includes half of a previous ride from Lewes! I suggest you view this Google map in Satellite mode and hit the 'End' button to take you to Polegate where they started and ended!

View Larger Map

If you have Google Earth installed, contact me and I'll send you the file - fred]

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Trauma And Delight On Downslink Adventure

Sue P/Sikka's sponsored cycle ride raising money for Buddhafield's Land Appeal

[More photos on Flickr]

(see to find out about Buddhafield's Land Appeal)

The End

On Sunday 17th October, at 7.45 I started out alone to begin my journey. It was a beautiful crisp sunny morning. I was somewhat apprehensive as the first half of the route was new to me, but the weather was auspicious.

Travelling on the train to Guildford via Havant I was shocked and in panic when my train missed its connection. The 37 mile ride is advertised as taking a whole day - and the nights are closing in early. So my schedule was already tight!

In Guildford my downloaded local authority map to the Downslink didn't quite cut the biscuit so I asked directions - of many people - and was sent up into the town and round and about, getting more and more distraught and desperate. After a grand tour of Guildford town I eventually settled for a footpath winding its way up and down the Chantries (ie wooded hilliness) mostly pushing my bike through thick sand. Everyone I met there reassured me - 'it's a long way' to the Downslink!

So when I eventually passed St Martha's Church on the top of the North Downs Way to begin my official ride it was already 12.15! In fifteen minutes' time, at 12.30, I was due to meet two friends at Southwater, 20 miles away. This was not going to happen! I blessed the mobile phone - and Jill and Malcolm - when they offered to ride up the path to meet me on my way down.

St Martha's 2

The top of St Martha's Hill is very beautiful - high up (166 metres), covered in trees and sandy soil, with wonderful views over the weald. Lovely for walking, treacherous for cycling. So much deep sand along the bridleways. Finding the start of the track was like solving a Chinese puzzle. With many routes going every whichway, and visibility interrupted by trees and slopes, I again resorted to asking. This time it paid off and I found the commemorative stone announcing the building of the Downslink path in 1984 and my first Downslink signpost.

Downs Link

Sand is mentioned on the internet as a feature of the North Downs - until I experienced this myself, it hadn't occurred to me I would have to walk my bicycle over much of the first stage of the route. A fantastic surface for horses - to whom I gave way. Also very rutted, and not at all level! In fact until reaching the track built over disused railway lines, starting at Bramley & Wonersh station, deep trenches, boulders and steep sides to the path impeded my travel. Once on this wide and level (if jarring!) surface I could cycle freely, bent on making up time. The 'hundred years railway' had been built in 1865 joining Guildford via Bramley with Christ's Hospital, while the southern half of the Downslink from Christ's Hospital to Shoreham had been built over a line opened in 1861 at nearby Itchingfield Junction. Both were closed by Beeching in 1966.

Baynards station

What joy just beyond Cranleigh, to meet up with my two friends, and to seek out with them a sunny wooden bench where we could eat our picnics. Not enough time to stop for a meal in the pub (further on The Bax Castle is well situated for those with time on their hands, about half way down near Christ's Hospital and Southwater).

Refreshed and with renewed energy we travelled on with the image of a large pot of tea hastening our pace. Just got to the Country Park at Southwater in time!! What bliss - tea, bread pudding and ice cream - all they had left. Delightful to sit inside by the window and look out onto the lake - a lovely spot.

Southwater Park

(In earlier days the clay pit now filled with water and home to ducks and swans, had been dug out to make bricks.)

After debating whether to continue - it was 5 pm and the sun was low on the horizon - Malcolm and I chose to cycle the 7 miles to Henfield while Jill drove the van to meet us at the Cat and Canary pub, situated conveniently on the Downslink itself. Formerly the Henfield Station Hotel, it is just a few yards north of a housing estate, ironically known as 'Beechings', where the old station used to be.

That last stretch, and having company for half the ride, transformed my day. The surface had improved to become almost smooth. It was level and we sped along, enjoying views over fields and rivers, with the sun low over the South Downs and beauty all around.

The Cat and Canary proved to be the last stop of the day. Useless to continue in the dark. So we settled for a beer and I was grateful for a lift home.

Cat and Canary

Next morning, still hyped up from the day before, and full of a desire to complete my journey and my commitment, I travelled to Henfield and enjoyed a pleasant morning cycling the last stage through Bramber to Shoreham in lovely open country with a backdrop of the Downs and Chanctonbury Ring.

After a brief pause to appreciate the view over the river Adur, with Lancing College on my right and Shoreham Airport to the left, I turned my back on the old wooden tollbridge and toddled off back to Brighton.

Shoreham tollbridge

That afternoon - I fell asleep!

Many thanks to those who generously supported me with donations - and if anyone feels inspired to contribute to the Buddhafield land project, or would like to find out more, just go to the Just Giving website at the top of this report. It's surprisingly straight forward.

Sue P aka Sikka

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Sunday 17 October 2010
Clarion ride from Brighton to Bramber

[More photos on Flickr]

Scene: The Palace Pier, Brighton.

Cast: Angela, Anne, Corinne, Fred, Ian, Jack, Jenny, Joyce, Mick, Leon, Suzanne.

Dialogue: What a lovely day! Nuisance the trains aren't running on the main line. Well done Leon for riding all the way from Hassocks. Well done Angela and Jack for ditto Saltdean.

Group photo

Scene: Marrocco's, Hove.

Cast: As above + John (appeared as by magic) and Tessa (waiting patiently).

Dialogue: Say cheese.

Ye Bramber Castle Hotel

Scene: Ye Bramber Castle Hotel, Bramber.

Cast: Cyclists as above + Mein Host and Meine Hostesse (Germanists, please correct).


Dialogue: Yes, you can move the tables. Yes, we can provide non-meat soup. Facebook is terrific. No, it isn't. Are you going to eat all those chips? Why didn't we know about the demonstration in favour of the 20-mile-an-hour zones? There's going to be an anti-cuts demo on … [Joyce, please fill in details].

Exeunt: Fred (having adorned self with Piranhas badge in readiness for next incarnation - from cyclist to punk fan in 1 easy segue) and Leon (having to rely on self to return to Hassocks sans train).

Downs Link

Scene: Coombe Lane.

Cast: Cyclists as above.

Dialogue: The sun's lovely but it's a bit cold in the shade. Who put this hill here?

Scene: Shoreham Airport.

Cast: Cyclists as above.

Dialogue: Why are we eco-warriors having tea watching smelly little planes? These cakes are delicious. Let's put the worlds to rights, NOW!

Exit: Jack, somewhat cold and keen to pedal just that little bit faster than the seniors.

Scene: Hove Promenade: Exit Corinne. Exit Suzanne. Exit John. Angela to take tea before tackling the long haul back to Saltdean.

And then there were none - save the thanks of all to Ian for rearranging the ride at short notice, for making sure the pub were expecting a whole cast of characters and for making sure we all knew where to come on and turn off.


And Leon (see above) adds:

My ride home from Bramber to Hassocks on Sunday 17 October.

After a wonderful meal and social at the Castle Hotel in Bramber I cycled with the group as far as the castle ruin; this is where I left the group to wend my way up the Downs-link to Henfield.

The way was quiet with only a few walkers enjoying the afternoon sunshine. I was mindful of taking care when riding over the rough stony areas that seem to be plentiful on this section. I didn't want to repeat my error when I last rode here. To those that are not familiar with my thumb tendon injury, I'll say no more.

On reaching the point where the track diverts from the old railway line, the link becomes rather undulated and has some rather sharp bends that seem to follow the contours of farm land. When the link rejoins the old line it becomes much easier to ride, with a finer grit under the tyres.

About half way between Bramber and Henfield is the bridge over the river Adur. I stopped here as I often do to enjoy the tranquillity of the scene. There were swans on the south bank enjoying eating some tender meadow grass. On the west side of the bridge is a more pleasant view with sky and tree reflections on the river that bestow an air of peace on the viewer.

Downs-link crosses the river Adur south of Henfield.

Entering Henfield and climbing a small incline on Station road (there is of course no station now) I turned right at the Cat and Canary pub and then onto the High Street and Furners Lane to take advantage of a short-cut through some lovely country lanes.

The roads are still so quiet; this made my ride into Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks very enjoyable and relaxing.

Thank you Ian for deciding to lead this ride on short notice of rail track closures, I loved it.


...and Fred's


I retraced my ride along by the Adur taking the opportunity to snap some of the sculptures on the way. I continued aling the new cycle path to Ropetackle then caught the train from Shoreham to Brighton. Then it was the Punk Brighton all-dayer at the Prince Albert, where lots of superannuated punk musicians were reuniting, including local legends The Piranhas, playing again for the first time in 30 years!


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The Gridiron 100k Randonnée, 10 October 2010 - Jenny's report

This is an annual 100-kilometre ride around the minor roads of the New Forest, organised by Wessex CTC. It's called the Gridiron because it goes over a large number of cattle grids. I would never have imagined I could cycle 100 kilometres (62 ½ miles in old money) in a day, but in fact it wasn't as impossible as I'd thought, and thanks to an invitation from John I got to give it a try, along with about 800 other cyclists of all types, ages and abilities.

Randonnée translates as 'ramble', and although there's a time limit it's generous, so we averaged about 10 mph overall - not exactly racing speed (I'm told that touring speed averages about 8 ½ mph). The whole thing took us a total of 7 hours, including two checkpoint stops where we spent probably longer than we should have drinking tea and relaxing. Our total riding time was about 5 ½ hours. This route has one or two hills, some of which I found quite demanding, but overall it was pretty flat. As it was a dry sunny day we had a brilliant ride and met some friendly and interesting cyclists along the way.

I'd recommend giving longer-distance rides a try. It certainly showed me I could do more than I thought I could, and this one was a fantastic way to see the countryside. Thanks to John for being so patient, when I'm sure he could have covered the ground more quickly without me! Maybe a larger Clarion contingent could try it next year?


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Sunday 3 October 2010
Chichester Circular in the Rain

The weather forecast for Chichester couldn't have been much worse but four of us met at Brighton station, clad in waterproofs and hoping for the best: Jenny, Joyce, Roger and Suzanne. Sadly there's no evidence of this, or anything else, as no one remembered to bring a camera.

At Chichester station we were joined by James, Joan and TJ, and we set off in drizzly conditions that got steadily worse. Joyce was feeling groggy, recovering from a virus, and the rain crashing down probably didn't make her feel any better, but well done to her for keeping going until the lunch stop at The White Horse Inn in Westbourne. What a nice pub - the landlord and staff couldn't have been friendlier or more helpful, and the food was very good with lots of veggie options. Highly recommended.

After lunch the weather did improve, but our leader Roger suggested we miss the off-road part of the route, as it would be very muddy. So we kept to the roads apart from a well-made track through the woods of Stansted Park, a beautiful route with a long downhill section where we met many intrepid charity cyclists doing it the hard way (upwards). Heading back towards Chichester young James kept our spirits up with a demonstration of his rather startling single-footed pedalling technique, before missing a turning and hurtling off in the wrong direction despite six of us bellowing at him from way behind. Luckily he caught on eventually.

Back at Chichester we had almost an hour's wait for the train. Disaster - the canalside tea-stop was closed! The only source of the magic beverage was Stavros's Food Stop, where requests for six cups of tea threw the kitchen into chaos (they specialise in kebabs) and we had to drink the tea standing on the pavement outside. Joyce was in need of cake, but Stavros could only offer a mystery ice-cream concoction called Lumpy Bumpy, which we all enjoyed very much.

In spite of the rain I was very glad I'd made the effort to join this ride, as I'm usually such a fair-weather cyclist. Getting wet doesn't hurt after all! Thank you Roger for another interesting and enjoyable day. We must do this route again in the summer, as we didn't get to see Ratham Mill, the pond, or the sawmill because of the weather.


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