Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club  



Reports from Spring 2010

[Many more photos on Flickr - click on the pic for a bigger version]

16 May 2010
Chichester / Emsworth Circular

The weather forecast said rain, heavy at times coming from the west. The morning started bright and sunny, raising the spirits and hopes that the day would be good and not soak us like the last ride two weeks earlier.

Clarion. Chichester 16 May 2010

I arrived on a train replacement bus from Hassocks, having phoned Roger to let him know that I was on my way and could arrive a few minutes later than expected. I was greeted by Roger with a pair of group 4 saver tickets and several Clarionettes, namely Sue Pringle, Suzanne, Anne and Mick.

Only moments later we were all aboard the Portsmouth train to Chichester. Arriving at Hove station we were joined by Sandra, a new rider but not a new member, she has been a member of the Clarion for two years and decided it was time to ride with us. The journey was vibrant with greetings and stories to tell each-other since we last met. Arriving at Chichester we met Angela and David, making our rider group nine in total.

Clarion. Chichester 16 May 2010

No time to waste, we set off westward toward Fishbourne on the cycleway and a short section of the Portsmouth road A259. Turning off the main road into Park Lane, no not the flamboyant London Street, this is a quiet lane with early may flower buds just breaking. A few metres later we entered a footpath off which we saw some beautiful ponies with their young. The colts looked about eight weeks or so, old. Many of them were laying flat out, we thought they must have been resting and just enjoying the warm, but weak sunshine.

Just around the next corner we entered the low tide road of Bosham. The tide was on its way in but the seaweed slime was still very wet from the last tide, laying deep in places along the road. We went around to the Church but no time to dally, we cycled on, back to the Portsmouth road and west toward Thorney Island. The turning to Thorney proved difficult to locate, so our leader carried on regardless, hoping to locate it at the next and the next left turnings. We didn't find the turning, but never mind, we were getting near to our lunch stop at Emsworth by now and the time was becoming short so we did a short divert into Thorney road and up Slipper road passing the Mill Pond and into Emsworth and there it was The Ship Inn, our lunch was near and we were eager to get it. The food was good and the ale was welcome. This Pub should be on the 'Visit again list'.

After a very pleasant break we set out again, this time heading east with a slight following breeze. On our way we stopped to look at the Lumley Mill. The building didn't seem to fit the traditional architecture of a water mill as it was rather grand and didn't sit close enough to the mill stream to work.

Clarion. Bluebells on Woodmancote Lane

Onto a bridleway with some loose stones, followed by a rather nice footpath running east within sound of the A27. At this point we became aware that the May blossom was fully open, the birds were singing and the slight drops of rain had stopped totally. Then onto a beautiful country lane, Woodmancote lane where we saw bluebells in such numbers that they covered the woodland at the side of the road for about a mile. All to soon we were back into Fishbourne and Chichester and near the end of our journey.

Clarion. Teatime at the canal, Chichester

One final pleasure awaited us, tea and cakes at the canal before catching our train back to Brighton. The weather forecast was delightfully wrong. None of us needed to adorn ourselves with waterproofs, in fact I think some of us got a slight tan. This ride was one of those that fall into the category of 'Wonderful'. Thanks go to Roger for arranging and leading this ride.


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Dieppe Weekend

Fred's 'thank you ' to Joyce sums it up:

Big Thanks to Joyce for a fantastic Clarion Dieppe weekend - 
glorious weather, fabulous food, great fellowship and terrific 
cycling (tho I did wimp out of the hilly one!)!

There was supposed to be a Friday report too – but there seems to have been some mix-up over who was going to do it. Not me, Guv – I couldn't make the trip. But we have reports from Anne and Jenny.

[I adapted my blog posting in lieu of a Friday report - Fred]

[Lots more photos on Flickr, and if you took some, please add them to the Flickr group for all to see]

Friday 23 April - Fred's report

I was worried about the rush-hour train ban on non-folding bikes, but as my folder couldn't handle panniers I thought what the hell and set off. After picking up the cheap internet tickets I'd booked in advance, we got on the Seaford train no bother and picked up a few more of our group at Lewes. At Newhaven it wasn't at all clear what we cyclists were supposed to do, but eventually joined the cars and after showing our passports to a person in a hut, were on board the good ship Seven Sisters attaching our bikes to Deck 3 with rope. That was it - no tickets, metal detectors, frisking or confiscations - though Amanda did get a grilling for her New Zealand passport!

Joyce plans the ride

But where was Nick? It was 20 minutes before the departure time of 9.30 and no sign. After frantic texting it appears he missed his train and was at the terminal - and they wouldn't let him on! The next ferry was at 10.30 that night. Meanwhile the 4-hour sailing was calm and uneventful. I bought a cup of tea (ie given a teabag at the cafe till and a token for the coffee machine!) and a croissant. All the cafes had a Sussex theme - the cafe was called The Lanes; the bar was the Beachy Head - but all the staff were French! At Dieppe, we stood around in a cloud of fumes as the huge lorries left the ship, then it was our turn to mount the gangplank onto French soil. After being checked out by a Douane chap with gun at the roadside (we were still inside the barbed wire enclosure), we met Peter Avis and cycled over the two bridges into town and the Etap.

April 25, 2010: Dieppe

At the Etap we signed in and our bikes were stowed away under the stairs. Mine was first in so that was the end of any more cycling on the first day. So after spotting a brochure, a few of us popped by the Post Office to a lovely 1928 Modernist building called Villa Perrotte to take in some Art. The art wasn't that interesting - apart from the giant insects in the garden - but it had a lovely red window. Then it was a quick whizz around the cathedral-like Eglise St Jacques and a coffee ('tres tres chaud', said Angela) at a cafe opposite. Back to the hotel to meet the others, we then trekked to the Bar O Metre at the far end of the beach to meet Peter Avis again, and then off to Le New Haven, by the harbour, for supper. I had fish soup, mussels and chips, followed by a chocolate pancake, all washed down with a bottle of Pelforth Brune.

Jenny's birthday!

It was Jenny's birthday and Tessa had organised her pudding to appear with two candles. The whole restaurant sang Happy Birthday, first in English and then in French! Then it was back to the hotel to await Nick, who'd spent the day in Brighton. Amanda went off to fetch him and after a few wrong turns he arrived about 4am.


Friday 23 April - Amanda reports

Superb organisation by Joyce and a combination of car, train and pedal power brought our Group - Joyce, Anne, Mick, Annie, John, Angela, Jim, John, Fred, Tessa, Jenny, Angelika, Nick and Amanda - together at Newhaven Ferry terminal by 8.30 for what may be the first Brighton and Hove Clarion international adventure. Everyone that is apart from poor Nick who took the adage about it being better to travel hopefully than to arrive a little too seriously … arriving at the ferry at 9.15 he was not allowed to board and despite Joyce interceding with the ferry commissar the ferry sailed without him, to our great regret. He manfully re-booked onto the night crossing and spent a day with his new bicycle in Newhaven, Brighton and Seaford awaiting the next departure.

At the ferry terminal, Newhaven

On board the ferry our cheery party broke into groups of snoozers, eaters, readers and gossipers. Anne revealed a gift for baking, sharing delicious home made banana flapjacks. Jim began to learn some rather unsavoury French expressions, at one point claiming to be pregnant with food.

Four hours passed quickly, the sun shone upon us as we disembarked. Peter Avis - expat character, blogger and author of the delightful Taste of Dieppe booklet - kindly met us at the terminal and led our bicycle procession into Dieppe and up to our hotel, L'Etap. They welcomed us and were kind to the bicycles, setting a 'people in phone box' type record by storing 13 bikes in their understairs cupboard.


From there, we dispersed to various events - some to art galleries, others for seafront walks. Cafes were visited. Five hardy souls on finding the striking swimming baths closed for repair, braved the chilly sea and pebbly beach for the first sea swim of the year. (We deserved medals, but made do with coffee and gaufres.) Pre-dinner drinks were taken outdoors at a seafront café - Le Bar O'Metre - under the white cliffs at the western end of the town.

Dieppe sea crawl & tulips spring 10 001

Dinner arrangements were debated in Clarion style and after some vigorous bidding we settled on seafood at the New Haven, with our vegetarian wing going off piste to order omelettes. The restaurant staff coped admirably with the challenge of 13 diners descending upon them and we almost managed to fill the room, forming three groups to enjoy a wonderful range of food and some excellent gossip. A result of this was the revelation that it was Jenny's birthday which was then celebrated in some style.

The final event of the evening was the arrival of Nick who crossed the channel arriving at 3.30am, to be met by Amanda and taken on a slightly circuitous night tour of Dieppe before finally arriving at the hotel for a well-earned rest some 20 hours after he first left home!


Saturday 24 April (Anne reports)

Blue skies and green leaves on springtime trees in park opposite our 5th floor window greeted us on day two. Stomach felt bloated by over-indulgence in creamy Normandy cuisine previous evening at the New Haven [sic] Restaurant, but throat craved usual morning cuppa so we descended for breakfast. Small dining room for Etap and sparse buffet which Fred described as 3 kinds of cake for breakfast, not the hearty muesli to which we are accustomed, but ample tea and orange juice and chance to catch up on other Clarionettes. Glad to learn that Amanda had succesfully met Nick off the 3.30am boat, and, eventually, found the right roads back to the Etap, but dismayed that she was now having to wait outside the breakfast room, as a strict queueing regime was enforced by the hotel manager. Joyce told us to buy our picnic lunches at the market and asked us to be back at the hotel for 10.30 start.

In the park opposite the hotel

Fun at the market which stretched through several cobbled streets, to bump into our party and swap foodie suggestions. We all marvelled at the local farmers' products with their fine arrays of myriads of vegetables, cheeses, cooked foods, eggs, honey and piles of fresh fish from the fisherman. Bakers and delicatessen shops on either sides of the stalls were well stocked and well supported by queues of locals. Mick was disappointed to learn that a bakery had sold out already of his favourite rillette sandwich, but we found another with wholesome bread and deli with salmon and brocolli quiche and quiche lorraine, in tasty wholemeal pastry. The ficelle with bacon, seeds and nut bits was so tasty that I ate most of it while shopping and had to run back and buy another. When we returned to Etap our bikes were already being retrieved from their safe storage by Joyce and Jim and stacked in the park. After photos of us all propping up the granite cube scupture in the park, commemorating the town's war dead in Vietnam & Algeria, we were off!

The start of the Avenue Verte

Joyce led off her group at a good pace considering the uphill start through the town with its wriggling topography & 6 kms to go before the Avenue Verte starts at Arques la Bataille. More photo ops as we reached the trees and vistas of rolling hills and level cycle path, all explained on the maps and plaques. Very friendly local folk and considerate drivers on the way to the Avenue and at its start, welcomed us and a kindly passer-by attempted to perform the group shot with Fred's camera.

The track curves around a number of ponds and lakes and we spotted a heron and a grebe then were enchanted by the huge balls of mistletoe hanging in the trees way above us. Pink and purple blossom was out on trees and the track is smooth and wide. Birds sang their french songs and all was peaceful and calm. We passed a silver geodesic dome which is a covered swimming pool, a french stonehenge of a climbing wall, looking like a lesser, more artificial version of Tonbridge Wells High Rocks, but far superior to any climbing walls I've ever seen in England, as with the pool, for such a small village they are well blessed. The Avenue Verte gets some funding from the EU Interreg 111A programme and it is hoped to extend it from St Paul's Cathedral to Notre Dame in time for the 2012 Olympics and what a fine addition to the health and well-being of us all that will be.

April 24, 2010: Avenue Verte Clarion bike ride

Ten miles from Dieppe we came to the splendid Parc Naturel Educatif Guy Weber, an eco wet-land pilot project [EU Interreg] for an active relationship between adults with learning difficulties in Sussex and Normandy, linked by a green corridor of 'The Vanguard Way' and 'Avenue Verte' connecting the Railway Land Local Nature Reserve in Lewes , directed by Dr John Parry and River Ocean in Brighton. Here we found ice cold drinks, picnic table and plant stall, but the centre also provided leaflets, information and a wonderful garden with many unusual breeds of chicken, sculptures in the garden of sorcery including a shiny silver tree, a witch and several lovely fish, one diving into the water, a large fitness trail/section with much inviting equipment to stretch on, flower meadow, reed beds, orchard [apple conservatory], vegetables, medicinal herbs, willow arboretum [over 100 of the 350 varieties of willow], a yurt, rabbits, pond and bird reserve, and Socrates the donkey, plus a welcome WC! Could have stayed there all day, but not if we were to fulfil the planned route.

Picnic on the Avenue Verte

A few more serene miles under our wheels and we needed lunch. We passed a picnic table but it was already occupied by a group of friendly French cyclists, spreading their cloth over it, so we continued until a suitable green verge with magnificent views and some shade was reached. Market fare was enjoyed and shared. Broccoli and salmon quiche was chosen by 3 of us, olives passed around by Jim [later he unfortunately discovered they'd shed their olive oil marinade all over his panier], cooked new potatoes and huge radishes by Fred, banana flapjacks & orange melon from me, strawberries from Annie etc - all gorgeous grub gratefully gorged on soft green grass in warm spring sunshine. By now Angela was tired as she hadn't had the cycling practice due to other pressing caring commitments, so she and Jim decided they'd head back slowly the way we'd come. Fred had already ventured the extra mile forward and back to boost his mileage to his world record. [28miles return, though we all eventually managed 31 miles]. John had a last look round before we left and discovered a black and red Clarion badge. It wasn't Fred's and Joyce thought it wasn't hers, but the chances of another Clarion group having picnicked in the very same spot were v. low, so maybe it was.

Our progress had not been as swift as Joyce had planned as she'd hoped to make Freueville with its lake and chateau {?} for lunch. So, at the next junction we veered right and off the Avenue. We now tackled the hills that surround the ex-railway line. We'd passed a number of intersecting roads up till then, with their cute little brown and white striped railway cottages, one with a garden full of plaster animals and colourful, crafted parrots in its trees.

Wind power on the Avenue Verte

Now we entered more bourgeois territory with a guard dog at every house gate or high fence. The first one who greeted us looked like a polar bear with great furry paws showing over the gate. Fortunately the fences were high and dogs secure, but the lanes echoed with dogs barking to see us off. The houses beyond varied but one delighted us with its green roof, looking a bit like Leon's Mohican. Mick has a photo which I'll try to upload. Fred photographed an 'aeoliennne' windmill and the few people we did see all waved cheerily to see a stream of a dozen cyclists passing by their rural tranquillity. Roads were much more undulating now than the Avenue, which we could see below us on the opposite side of the river Bethune. What had seemed like a Southern headwind on the way down, now seemed to change to a Northern headwind on the way back! We tried to locate Joyce's previously chosen picnic spot and ended up down a lane which bore a sign on a tree saying private property. There may have been a way down there to the lake, but since our lunch was already eaten we didn't try to risk it. After a few more hills, lanes, barking dogs and waving locals, we arrived at the splendid gatehouse towers leading to a ruined two turretted chateau, one of which seemed entirely covered in ivy, inviting Rapunzel to climb down from her prison. We had a pause at the near-by village for snaps, drinks and rest. We soon rejoined Jim and Angela at the end of the Avenue Vert and went for a welcome drink in the pub by the start. It was showing all sorts of horse races on a giant screen and betting seemed to be going on, but they were most hospitable to cyclists, refilling our flasks with ice cold water and our tea-pots with boiling hot tea. After such fine refreshments we returned to Dieppe in an orderly fashion, though more tired and spread out and reached the Etap for a 90min rest before dinner.

At the Sarejevo

Saturday's dinner was at the Sarajevo Restaurant near to the hotel. We had a long table at the back. Opposite us was a large French group and the radio behind John, Annie, Jim and Angela was chattering away in Bosnian, so it was rather noisy. Peter Avis joined us again, so we were 15. Those on my right loved their meal; best omelette ever for Nick, even better than last night's mussels for Amanda, huge praise for the provencale scallops for Angelika and joy at the pepper fritters for Fred. However, on my left, beneath the Bosnian broadcast, disappointment rumbled and we all thought last night's New Haven meal superior. My fish soup was devoid of fish and my trout was covered in cream, which had already upset my delicate metabolism yesterday, then when I thought mint tea would settle it all a bit, I managed to drink too much of it and bloat myself all over again, with aching gut all night! So I might be biased. It was a jolly evening, however and fun to be able to sample Bosnian cuisine [from Mick's plate].

I walked home with Joyce, Nick and John, who all decided to head off to a bar to try and walk off some of the excess cream and excess food and see a bit more of Dieppe night-life. Thanks to Joyce for a wonderful, well-planned day, full of fun, adventure, eco-tourism and Clarion fellowship.


Sunday 25 April (as reported by Jenny)

Once again, bikes and riders congregated in the park opposite the hotel, and Joyce led us all in a series of exercises and stretches, including restraining imaginary balloons and passing them to each other, much to the bemusement of passing French people - Les Anglais! Pah!

There had been a lot of discussion about what route to take: To the forest? (Q. Will there be bears? A. Probably not). Along the littoral west to Pourville? (Q. Will there be hills? A. Yes, and nothing but.) Unusually for the B&H Clarion Section we chose the hilly option, except for Angela and Fred who decided instead on a leisurely cycle along the prom to play crazy golf. The rest of the party set off at a cracking but gently slowing pace up the first long undulation, which everyone managed with an ease that surprised us. We paused for breath to admire the vue panoramique from the Château Musée, Dieppe's beautiful castle, noting that there was no sign of Fred and Angela on the crazy golf course below – it later emerged that they had spent the morning cycling idly between bars and cafes instead, in more traditional B&H Clarion style.

Onwards! And yet again upwards! The next stop was at another viewpoint overlooking Pourville, a pretty town cherished by Monet according to Peter Avis's very useful A Taste of Dieppe guide. Here Joyce decided to turn back as she had arranged to meet Peter for lunch. When she arrived at the Place des Martyrs opposite our hotel, there was a ceremony taking place at the war memorial, complete with mayor and fire-fighters' brass band. It was commemorating wartime deportees, and she reports being very moved by its simple dignity.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Pourville the catch of the day had just been landed, and we paused to watch and to peer into the local Huitrière, where the air was full of the salty tang of oysters. Some wanted to return to the restaurant there for lunch, but others were less keen. Further on we nearly stopped at a cafe, but a motion was tabled that we press on (and up) westwards to try and find a lighthouse that was marked on the map. Motion carried by a fair majority, so on we went up yet another even longer and steeper hill.

April 25, 2010: Dieppe

When the stragglers finally caught up with the leaders at the top, a minor rebellion took place, with Amanda, Angelika, Jenny, and Tessa declaring UDI and heading back down for a shot of caffeine in Pourville. The remainder continued To The Lighthouse. The breakaway gang of four enjoyed an adrenalin-burst of terrific speed down the long hill again, and later discovered they had all had the same thought on the way – did we really cycle up that just now? Incroyable! Jim later reported his maximum (downhill) speed on the return journey as an almost record-breaking 28.8 mph.

We were enjoying conversation and coffee on a seaside terrace when Nick arrived to say that all the others, except John, had given up on the lighthouse and were now on the way back to Dieppe without us. Hah - Fellowship is Life suffers another blow. But the spirit of Clarion prevailed, and one by one they came back to find us. So we all toiled up hill and down dale back to Dieppe again, to find our lunch venue. While taking a rest-break, Tessa had a very alarming experience with a French public toilet, which suddenly sprayed jets of water all over her feet in what she described as 'a foot jacuzzi'. She emerged laughing, not screaming as most of us would have done - what a good-natured lot we Clarionettes are.

Lunch at Au Grand Duquesne

Joyce and Peter, along with Angela and Fred, were lunching at Au Grand Duquesne, a hotel restaurant with an impressive vegetarian menu, and most of the rest of us decided to join them. Amanda and Nick went off in search of a baguette and another look at the charms of Dieppe. Some of us lunched facing the window where we watched the world go by, including some extremely chic French ladies, and a man with a double bass in a case strapped to his back, off to a jazz gig somewhere no doubt.

After the enormous lunch there was just time to return to the hotel and collect our luggage, then as usual like unherded cats we all ended up taking different routes to the ferry terminal. Some of us came across John enjoying a leisurely coffee with Peter outside a bar, having put us to shame by cycling some 30-40 miles (he thought) to find the elusive lighthouse. He reported that it wasn't much to write home about, so I will not.

Waiting at Dieppe for the ferry

At the ferry we had a long wait, alongside a group of motorcyclists one of whom was having a nap on the hard ground. We serenaded his slumbers with a cacophony of bicycle bells and hooters, and much merry banter. The voyage home was more subdued than the outward one, as we snoozed and read the papers. When we disembarked (disembiked?) at Newhaven the English weather assaulted us with chilly breezes and drizzle, so we scattered to our various destinations by bike, train or car without too much delay.

April 25, 2010: Dieppe

What a lovely time we had! Thank you so much to Joyce for all the work she put in to organising a truly wonderful weekend full of classic Clarion fellowship.


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Sunday 2 May 2010
Balcombe Circular

[Lots more photos on Flickr, and if you took some, please add them to the Flickr group for all to see]

Joyce, Richard, Roger and Suzanne met on Brighton Station concourse at 9.45 on a rain-sodden Sunday morning. Joyce was the only one going to Barcelona. The remaining three yellow jackets immediately turned green. But on to the train those three jackets climbed, and off they climbed again at Balcombe, to meet Jim who had got on at Preston Park. Leon then loomed down the steps onto the platform having cycled (the long way round, from having taken the wrong way) from Hassocks.

The Start - Balcombe Station(2)

Balcombe is not a busy station, so in the absence of either a tame passer-by or a delay-action camera, we took two photos just to prove we were all there. And then we could not delay the start any longer. It was off into the rain.

The first half of the journey was 'undulating' … in an upwardly direction, or so it seemed. Yes, we hung on to our brakes as we skittered down to Ardingly Reservoir, but, boy, was it a push up the other side. After the delights of Paddockhurst Lane and Back Lane, a little detour took us into the grounds of Worth Abbey - and somewhat quickly out again as the temperature of the day was not rising and the rain was still certainly falling.

The Black Swan

Our next adventure was the Bridle Way through most delightful woods where the absence of bluebells (almost ubiquitous elsewhere) was compensated by the delights of coppiced trees, mossy knolls and carpets of brown fallen leaves. And by the way, did I mention it was raining? As we all know, officially no-one ever falls off their bike on a Clarion ride. That is the story Roger is going to stick to, but bridle ways will be bridle ways, and in the rain (have I said it was raining?) they do take on a perverse tendency to be slippy, soggy, slidy, muddy, squelchy, rutted, rough, potholed, puddle-infested and treacherous.


Eventually we reached the little bridge over the main train line and could see for ourselves the fascinating junction where two lines from the south become four lines to toward the north, thus allowing a fast train journey up to London. Parish Lane then led us uneventfully over the M23 and to the Black Swan at Pease Pottage where an excellent meal was had by all - so good, in fact, that when a lady came round with a clip-board to survey our impressions, we all gave the food, the surrounding and the cleanliness 10/10. Particularly welcome were the forceful hand driers in the loos and the candles on the tables, all of which were put to good use in drying out gloves and trousers.

White Phone Box at Slaugham

It was with great difficulty that we dragged ourselves back onto our bikes (perhaps I should point out that it was still raining) but were rewarded for our morning's uphill pull by the wonderful Grouse Lane which sped us down to Slaugham. The white telephone (erected 1938, Grade II listed and one of only 3 in England, so Google tells us) was dutifully photographed, but four soggy individuals (Leon had valiantly opted to turn off toward Warninglid and ride all the way back to Hassocks) were able to resist squelching round the interior of the church.

Several ups and downs (spiritual, mental, emotional and physical) followed Slaugham, although we savoured the well-manicured delights of the lawns along (private) Whitethroat Lane which eventually brought us out to a splendid distant view of Balcombe Viaduct and a swooping ride down before one last pull up into Balcombe … in the confident knowledge that Jim had fixed it for the Balcome Tea Rooms to still be open and for them to actually be expecting us. Just time to down numerous cups of tea and teacakes (with 'lashings' of butter) before an easy two minute ride back to the station for the 4.23.

As it was a day for surveys, we all agreed that the ride was a 10/10, and into the bargain, Jim has perfected his Clarion rainometer which was also registering something like 75%.

Very many thanks to Jim for an excellent ride … so I won't mention that it rained most of the day.


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Sunday 18 April 2010
Hassocks to Newick

[More photos on Flickr]

Well, it started with a phone call from me to Leon, asking if he would lead a ride out of Hassocks, either just him and me, or extend it to Clarion members living West of the London Road. My reasoning was that those living East would find it impossible to get to Brighton station because of the route of the Brighton Marathon.

Leon took the idea and ran with it. He offered the ride to the whole of Clarion, reasoning that some would love the challenge of getting to Hassocks Station.

And he was right. I spoke to Joyce who had managed to thread her way across the sea of runners on London Road, and John, who had cycled through the runners on Oxford Road, albeit to jeers! Also from Brighton by car came Anne and Mick and Ian.

When we assembled for our photo at Hassocks Station, Leon was joined by 5 train arrivals from Brighton: Roger, Suzanne, Joyce, Mark and Tessa. Nick came by train from London and Jenny from Lewes. In total 12. Chris, a possible future Clarion recruit, took our photo and cycled with us as far as Ditchling before heading off on his planned ride to Burgess Hill.

The first miles were dogged by traffic until we reached Swatham Lane where we were given the choice of a shorter, hillier smooth road ride with inevitable traffic, or a longer track route that would be bumpy in parts. We chose the latter. The first part of our chosen route was not bad at all and we savoured the perfect weather, ponds, ponies, butterflies, burgeoning bushes, birdsong and an array of flowers, predominantly yellow primroses and a pale lilac stock like flower that no-one knew the name of.

Spring flowers, The Hooke.

The 2 mile track led out by Streat Church and soon we were on a bumpier track called the Ridge which led to Plumpton Racecourse. At the junction, Anne found a pound coin, so was instructed to buy everyone drinks at the pub.

Enjoying a wooded glade, The Hooke.

We joined a lane that was fringed with wild garlic which some of us stopped to pick. It led us to East Chiltington Church. Whilst Leon, Mark and Roger headed off to the left, the rest of us were enchanted by the setting and went in to have a quick look at what turned out to be a rather garish stained glass window. As we passed through the lytchgate, Jenny pointed out the underside of the roof tiles. They were marked with the names of everyone who had contributed to the church's restoration.

Nearly all the group.

The road to Newick led us along Honeypot Lane, onto another track that became wooded, and passed the Hooke, a big country estate. We hit the A275 for a short while then turned into Markstakes Lane, a long hill, a downhill reprieve, another hill, then finally Newick and lunch at the Bull.

Lunch at The Bull, Newick.

Meals were deemed good but ranged from substantial to minimal. Joyce added some of her wild garlic to augment her buffalo mozzarella, Nick took photos of the mushroom soup and the squid, so Fred will be happy.

The afternoon is a bit of a blur. Quite hard work as we cycled into a strengthening wind with several uphills through some memorably named lanes: Butterbox, Slugwash, 100 Acre, and back to Spatham where we retraced our steps through Ditchling, Keymer, Hassocks. On the way, Ian and I noticed a dead badger, and we met up with an old friend from another ride, a piebald pony. This time, probably because of the frugality of lunch, we had nothing to offer him.

The end of the ride at Hassocks.

The lanes were littered with election billboards, mainly blue, but that didn't spoil what turned out to be a wonderful impromptu ride.

Thank you Leon!


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Sunday 4 April 2010 (Easter Sunday)
Clarion Easter Meet: 30-mile* 'Leisure' Ride

[More photos on Flickr]

This ride produced a record turnout, but then one would expect that given that it was the Clarion Easter Meet, and therefore open to all 550-odd members in the country. Those participating were: Ian, Fred, Helen, Jenny, Joyce, Mark and myself from the 'home team', with Bob joining us at the pub*; Charles Harvey from London; Bill Edgington from Dorset; Kerstin Bonau, Tobias Bauer, Matthew Ball, Alex Ball and Neil Heyes from West Lothian; John Clayton from Calder; Giles Perkins from North Cheshire; David Bisset,* Tony Bowles and Stephen Menhams from Bolton; and Ian Clarke* from Fenland. There was also someone wearing a jersey emblazoned with the slightly alarming words 'Bury Clarion', but after a few seconds of thought I realised it was not a command but an affiliation - however I unfortunately did not get the person's name. The Brighton & Hove contingent was particularly pleased to welcome Mark, who has recently re-joined after a spell in the USA.

Easter Meet leisure riders

Mind you, the number of riders seemed to change by the hour; 21 set out from the Cumberland Hotel in Eastbourne, but only 20 arrived at the pub, the King's Head at Lower Horsebridge. (We never did find out who the missing person was, or where they went!) Then when we left the pub there were only 14 of us (some of our number having gone off to see the Long Man), and pretty soon we were down to 12 - we had lost Joyce and Jenny! They had gone the wrong way, repeating (but the other way round) Anne's mistake six weeks earlier during what has become known as 'The Wet Ride'. In recognition of that, the junction of the B2104 and A271 has now been named 'Barry's Bane'. Mobile phone communication saved the day, however, and we were soon reunited, and in fact augmented by another group who had possibly gone by a different route.

Over the bridge

Earlier, we had put the more boring bits of Eastbourne behind us and joined the southern section of the Cuckoo Trail at Willingdon Levels, running alongside the A22 before branching out westwards towards Polegate, This was my first experience of this section of the Trail, and it was interesting to note that it appears to follow the course of the old railway line from Polegate to Stone Cross for part of its length. (Of course, railway buffs will know that the main Cuckoo Trail is part of the old railway from Polegate to Redgate Mill Junction near Crowborough.)

Inside the Kings Head at Horsebridge

Doing our best to suppress horrific flashbacks of that cold, soggy ride on February 21st, we entered the pub to find a chaotic scene - the place was full of Clarionettes and yet there were even fewer tables than last time, the restaurant having encroached into the bar space. I'll never understand how, but somehow we all managed to have some lunch, with cheesy chips and other goodies being duly photographed by Fred.

Kerstin's cheesy chips

Leaving the King's Head, we took the B road to Hellingly and then struck out eastwards towards the Levels via Magham Down. Around this time it started to hail, and waterproofs were hurriedly donned. We followed the inspiringly named Under Road and Lower Road, and somewhere along here Neil got a puncture.* Of course, since our motto is 'Fellowship is Life', we left Neil and his colleagues to it and pressed on. Well, they were the super-fast brigade anyway, and sure enough, before you could say 'Lack of Fellowship is Death', they were alongside us once more.

A puncture (but not our group!)

We got very spread out as we crossed the Levels, and when we reached the top of the hill (oh yes! the Levels do have a hill! It is at Horse Eye, where the sole 10-metre contour is encountered) there were yellow coats and red-and-yellow jerseys stretched out as far as the eye could see. In fact we lost some of our number for good here; by the time we got to Pevensey Castle we were down to the core group of a dozen or so once more. Jenny told me that there used to be an outfit known as 'The Pevensey Levels Mountain Rescue Team' which found it had very few opportunities to spend the money it raised and consequently spent an awful lot of time in the local boozer. Hmmmm.

Pevensey Castle (Roman wall)

The silvery dome of the Isaac Newton Telescope at Herstmonceux shone in the sun on the horizon; this was the last dome to be built, and since the Observatory was already established by then, the requirement for green domes was dropped by the local authority. At Rickney*, Stephen and I took a wrong turn and had to use the phone again. All my fault: I had asked him to pose with a horse while I repeatedly pressed the wrong button on my camera.

Stephen and the Horse

Arriving back at the hotel (having passed the intriguingly named Pennine Way en route), the clock was showing nearly 30 miles and various parts of our anatomies were approaching paralysis. As we sat down to the long-awaited cup of tea and cake, we were sobered by the thought that Alex, at EIGHT YEARS OLD, had completed the same 30 miles as the rest of us at the same speed! That lad will go far. Well, in fact, he already has.

Alex and Matthew from West Lothian Clarion

Thanks to Ian for organising the ride. It was a rare opportunity to meet Clarionettes from other parts of the country. It was particularly good to meet our relatively near neighbour, Bill from Dorset, and I remain hopeful that we may manage a joint ride in the New Forest sometime. Also Charles asked to be added to our mailing list, and we hope he will come out with us again; in fact, with five members and one 'honorary member' in London as well as Charles, perhaps we will even manage to do another London ride before the year is out.


* 30 miles? Not according to my computer. I think Jim may be forgetting that he - heroically - went back to rescue those left behind at the pub - which added about a mile. I did some back-tracking too as well as riding to the station and back to collect the Brighton contingent before the ride. With all that included my computer gives 29.06 miles. But I guess both my prediction - c 26 mls and Jim's 30 mls are near enough

Bob had led a longer (44 mile) Club ride and had left at c 9.30 with two others.

David Bisset is chair and Ian Clarke secretary of the National Clarion. David came with us from the start. Ian had been involved in racing earlier in the morning and joined us at the pub.

Neil and Co - the superfast brigade - had done the longer ride and overtaken us at Magham Down - about ten minutes before we came on them changing the tyre. One of Neil's friends (?) suggested that he ask Tobias (originally from Germany) what schadenfreude meant.

Jim was a little bit 'off the back' and the front of the ride was waiting at the Rickney junction when the 'white van man' incident that Jenny refers to in the Meet report took place. The driver seemed to think that we'd no right to be on the road and not only shouted at those of us gathered near the junction but also drove intimidatingly and bawled at the next group rounding the bend. I was so angry I shouted back and suggested he come back and have a fight! Fortunately, my challenge was not taken up.


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