|Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club|
Reports from Summer 2009
[More photos on Flickr]
Sunday 20 September: The Ascent of Hill 81
[Many more photos on Flickr - click on the pic for a bigger version]
Mention of the words 'high' and 'hill' in the ride description deterred all but the hardiest, toughest, meanest characters; so it was that the Goring Seven (we can't call them the Magnificent Seven as that phrase was used last time) rode out on September 20th. Here are their names, lest anyone should forget their brave stand against impossible odds: Fred, Jim, Joyce, Richard, Suzanne and Tessa, under the command of the redoubtable Roger.
Highdown Hill (also known – by me – as Hill 81 after its height in metres) looks down menacingly on Goring-by-Sea station (5 metres a.s.l.) from the north-west. But we were too cunning for it; we didn't go that way. To lull it into a false sense of security, we actually proceeded away from the hill, in a southerly direction, towards Ferring, crossing fields on an old concrete road and admiring a tastefully designed newish block of flats in the 1930s style (ask Roger for architectural details).
The last time I cycled through this quiet, somewhat opulent area there were people everywhere with armfuls of timber from the wreck of the Ice Prince. But it was quieter now. We crossed Ferring Rife (a stream that flows from Durrington to Ferring; 'rife' is not in the dictionary in this sense, so is it generic or unique?) and passed through Kingston Gorse, before negotiating a tricky level crossing east of Angmering Station.
By now you will hopefully have realised that our strategy was to circle the hill, keeping it guessing about precisely where we would strike. It appeared every so often fleetingly, through tress. That was how we wanted it: we could see it, but it couldn't see us.
North to Angmering village, past a former Clarion watering-hole, the Lamb (Roger explained that we were eating at the Fox, and they have to keep the Fox and Lamb on opposite sides of the A27 for obvious reasons) then up Dapper's Lane and across the aforementioned highway to the Fox, which is officially in Patching and was once on the A27, before they built the dual carriageway.
We voted the Fox the best lunch venue for ages – choices were wide, with no fewer than 3 menus; and the food was brought quickly – in Richard's case, before we'd all even sat down; portions were plentiful, prices were reasonable, and the waitress even took our photo! Conversation topics ranged from nuclear waste to next year's Clarion trip to Dieppe, and there was an animated discussion about advance stop lines at traffic lights, by the end of which Joyce's napkin was covered in strange hieroglyphics and could probably have fetched a tidy sum at an art auction.
Back over the A27 – and it was then that we struck the fatal blow, scampering up the bridleway before Hill 81 even knew we were coming. On the way we saw a newborn calf just getting to its feet, and being licked all over by its proud mummy.
Before you could say 'Last one up's a wimp', there we were on the Neolithic earthworks, admiring the view and doing a bit of off-the-cuff triangulation. The view certainly lived up to what Roger had promised; OK, it was not a totally clear day and we couldn't see the Seven Sisters, but we were happy to make do with the Seven Cyclists instead.
On the way down we had a look at the Miller's Tomb. The 'eccentric and colourful' John Olliver kept a mill here in the 18th century, and erected his own tomb here too – 27 years before he died. His white coffin was kept under his bed until his death in 1793, when it was drawn by eight ladies in white robes (one of whom was called Ann Street – so now you know) before 2000 curious onlookers.
Further down, we came across Highdown Gardens. These gardens were created by Sir Frederick Stern during the early 20th century, in what was once a chalk pit. They now host a huge variety of plants; we spotted, among other things, a Paper Bark Maple, Vipers Bugloss, a Chusan Palm and a Judas Tree. Stern left the gardens to the Council when he died in 1967.
Then it was time for the adjacent tea rooms. Some of us had cake with our tea, but Fred did not know quite what was coming when he ordered a rock cake. It was enormous, and despite help from Richard and Tessa, he had to take most of it home with him.
Down the (unnamed?) lane to the A259, and thence to Goring station once more. Only eleven miles, but it's quality that counts, not quantity; and what quality! A newborn calf, a lovely pub, a stream with a weird name, stupendous views, an eccentric miller, lovely gardens and huge cakes! But maybe the last word should go to quantity after all – 31.4 mph down that last little lane, a thrilling end to a wonderful ride. Thanks to Roger and his glamorous assistant, Suzanne, who had persisted doggedly in their quest to carve a ride out of this initially unpromising territory, and thus unveiled all the hidden delights of Hill 81 to a grateful band of followers.
We'll be back!
Sunday 6 September.
[More photos on Flickr]
Fred, Leon, Roger and Suzanne, who had bought their group-save at Brighton station and were unaware of any other Clarionettes at Brighton, were delighted to see Annette and Kevin emerge from the same train at Polegate station.
But Nick had beaten everyone to it by having both the longest train journey and the biggest breakfast 'in the best café Polegate has to offer' (sorry, Nick, couldn't quite work out if there was any tinge of irony there – cheese and tomato toastie for breakfast... um!)
Ian was there to meet and greet ... and who's this come to join the gang. Hurrah! It's Amanda. The SatNav's behaving itself for once.
The Cuckoo Trail was not at all busy and we wended our way north with Suzanne as backstop ... at least she thought she was until, as if by magic, the breakaway group suddenly appeared behind her and the peleton. Mystery solved when we discovered that the leading group had missed a turning in the outskirts of Hailsham – but of course they had the best of possible excuses: they were chatting!
Once more back on track, it was over the Cuckmere (the first of several crossings of the day), past the sadly defunct Hellingly station.
By the time we reached our turn-off point at Horam we had climbed almost imperceptibly from the lowly 5 metres above sea level at Polegate to the giddy heights of 60 metres asl. A few gentle undulations (at least that is what Ian calls them) brought us struggling up to Vines' Cross and the Brewer's Arms where Roger, Leon and Nick were promptly pilloried – literally.
Food ordering was a little hit and miss, as was the service in the pub/ gastro pub / restaurant: two different menu boards in two different bars had us eating a wide range of meals (Fred's appetite for photographing food seemingly more ardent than his appetite for actually eating it) and chaos in the kitchen meant that Annette and Kevin had to wait over half an hour for a bowl of chips and a venison pie. However, the delay did give us all a few extra moments to recover our strength for Stage 2.
This involved real undulations: the fact that we were crossing part of the High Weald being a bit of a clue to the dulation-ness of the undulations. Yes, there was that lovely long swoop down to Beeston's Farm but another testing rise faced us before we could fly down Hammer Lane to Sheepwash Bridge where we crossed the Cuckmere for the second time. Right at Stunt's Lane (65 metres asl – yes, all the way up from the Cuckmere valley) and then a truly exhilarating run down through Ginger's Green (I'm not making these names up, honest) down Cricketing Lane and out onto the sunny lowlands of the Pevensey Levels. Don't be put off by the fact that we crossed The Bowley Sewer, the Magham Sewer and the Whelpley Sewer. They are completely innocuous drainage ditches and, in one place at least, fit habitat for a couple of stately swans. Looping round the Down Level we came back into civilisation, passing a rash of little farms and, oh Heaven, oh Joy, it seemed no time before we were back on the Cuckoo Trail and a downhill couple of minutes to tea and cakes at the Loom.
Lap of honour
The need for curtain rings detained Annette and Kevin at the Loom, so the unMagnificent Seven set off for various forms of transport: Ian and Amanda to their 'horsepowered' carriages, Nick to his electrified public conveyance which would take him straight to Victoria (the station, not the queen) and the unFab Four squeezed into a suitcase / bike/ buggy-crowded railway train back to Brighton.
Yellow Jersey – Leon (the rest of us only had yellow tabards)
Many thanks to Ian for shepherding us so expertly round a favourite Tour route.
The Annual Picnic 2009. Roger reports
[More photos on Flickr]
Eleven members met at the cycle track in Preston Park on August bank holiday Monday. They were Alice, Anne, Fred, Ian, Jim, Joyce, Mick, Roger, Sheila, Sue and Suzanne.
The light covering of cloud started to clear as people arrived and the sun was soon sending some of us scurrying for shade or sun-cream. The festivities started with Giant Jenga, a ridiculous game which involves trying to make a pile of wooden bricks higher by removing bricks from the lower part of the pile to add to the top. Logic suggests that there will be a limit to how high the pile can become, but that this limit will only be discovered after the pile has collapsed. And so it was: I can't remember which players caused the various collapses, but the best result involved twenty eight bricks being moved before catastrophe struck.
We soon moved on to something more cerebral, Giant Connect Four. This game involves putting plastic disks into slots and trying to get four in a row before your opponent does. It turned out that Roger had been practising and was showing signs of beating all comers. When he dropped out, a knockout competition developed, with a new player challenging the winner of each previous match. By the end Joyce remained undefeated and challenged Roger to a 'final', with the winner gaining the honour of writing this report.
Of course the real purpose of the get-together was to eat. A vast array of shareable goodies was produced and spread before us. There were salads, crisps and pizza, apples, brownies and date slices (all home-made), plums (some home-made), juices, sparkling water and chocolate covered dried apricots (really!).
Some people had come by bike and there was much talk of riding around the cycle track, but in the end I think Fred was the only person who actually completed a circuit.
It was a glorious way to spend the bank holiday. Thanks to Suzanne, our social secretary, for organising it, to Ian and Roger for transporting the games, and to everyone for bringing such wonderful food and drink.
Sunday 23 August
[More photos on Flickr]
On what turned out to be a beautiful summer's day Alice, Ann, Jeff, Joyce, Mick, Roger and Suzanne met on Brighton station, in time for a quick dash for Joyce to get something to eat (forgot it was a picnic), to be then joined at Chichester by Angelika.
We then set out for a ride which must have included every possible permutation of riding experience (except hills – thanks Roger!). The set-off was the usual Clarion leisurely (not to say slow) start, with some needing the toilet, then the photo and, before we had gone many yards, Joyce being tempted by the site of tomatoes, jams etc., for sale in a front garden – her excuse was that she needed vitamins with her lunch – not so for Mick who joined her for the jam...
But after that we were on our way through Chichester by a totally unknown route (to me anyway) to the extension of route 88 – this one much more of a track – past the beautiful lake (which I was told was once a quarry), through farmland, all the while on different surfaces. Through widening and narrowing tracks, farm roads, the beautiful Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve, a short dash on the B 2154 and all under a cloudless blue sky with regular stops for the sun cream. Then what seemed a long randonne through what Roger calls the 'suburbs' of Selsey until finally spread before us was, with the tide in, the calm glittering sea. What bliss :- the prospect of a swim in that glorious sea and lunch afterwards. And bliss indeed it was – Alice, Mick, Anne, Angelika and Joyce, wriggling into swimming gear, hobbling over the pebbles, avoiding the large patches of seaweed to finally dive into surprisingly warm water (the top anyway) for a wonderful swim, whilst Suzanne, Roger and Jeff took their ease on the beach. Seriously hungry by this time, we then settled down for our picnic.
Loath as we were to leave, it had to be done so eventually we gathered ourselves for the lap home. This gave us the opportunity to see different aspects of life in Britain. Quite soon along the beach road we encountered an enormous mobile holiday homes settlement and a bit further along the route we intended to take was blocked by a 'Beach Party' - Here there was music, jollity and throngs of people. So a detour, then to our surprise Roger indicates we have to turn into a field and cross a very large ditch 'You're not serious was the cry' ...
But team work prevailed (well I have to be honest the blokes did most of the hauling up of bikes, although Suzanne did a spectacular charge across). Then we were cycling through some of the best that Sussex has to offer: – meadows, a field of clover (no not thistles as I first thought), quiet shady lanes. Through more 'housing' – this time lovely old thatched cottages, well cared-for gardens, large elegant houses (who lives in these places I always wonder...). Finally on to the familiar and well-beloved canal route back to Chichester, with Mick and Ann opting to take the quicker road route because of an appointment in Brighton. The rest of us ambled along happily and rounded the day off with tea and the rest of Suzanne's fruit bread and Jeff's currant loaf at the canal head just before the station.
Can't thank you for the weather Roger which was splendid, but thanks for a very full and enjoyable ride.
[More and bigger photos at Flickr - just click on the photo]
Nine of us met at Brighton station, but since that included Jim who has a free pass, Joyce queued to buy 2 lots of 4 groupsaves. However, Jim then spotted Maria all togged out and ready for a bike ride and, assuming she was coming with us, asked Joyce to buy 1 extra senior railpass ticket. It turned out that Maria was not coming with us and only going to Shoreham, but she gamely accepted our spare groupsave to Ford and paid £5 for it. But, Joyce still ended up with 1 extra set of Ford tickets. After lots of checking we had to assume that this was a mistake by ticket office and try to catch the train. Jim was distracted by another acqaintance who enquired about our trip just as the rest of us grew tired of waiting for the platform to show up on the display panel and decided to try and head through the barrier and towards the western platforms.
We found the bike carriage and got 4 bikes on, then Jim hurried in and explained that he had been told not to get on the train as there were too many bikes already. He'd only got through the barrier by saying he was going to London Road. He thought he'd better disappear in case he was being chased. He was being chased as the ticket collector then came on to the train and demanded to know who the red bike belonged to and where he was. We protested that there was still plenty of room, but the guardian of Southern Trains reputation as bike enemy no. 1, insisted that a wheelchair user may wish to use the space at any point on the journey. There were no wheelchairs in sight or prospect. However, there was another bike and it was Maria and her Ford groupsave. Officious guard then shooed her off the train and had to deal with yet another complaining passenger. Pretty soon the train started off and Jim reappeared magically. Hove was the next stop and another cyclist got on. She looked like Maria so I went and asked after her. She was Maureen, a member of Brighton Explorers Club, like Maria. She had been forbidden entry to the train at Brighton so had cycled on to Hove and then 2 more women cyclists appeared the other side of the barriers at Hove and we pressed the open doors button and let them on. They seemed to think that Maria was on the train too, somehow!
Joyce got a text message from Nick via Fred, that he [Nick] would be a bit late at Ford, having stayed up too late with Fred in Islington, the night before. Fred was still abed. When we arrived at Ford after stopping at every station, 2 new Clarion riders were there, Joan and TJ from London Clarion C.C., plus Ian and an unfortunate Angela. She had dismantled her front wheel at Saltdean to stick in her car and drive to Ford, but when she'd arrived at Ford, she discovered she must have dropped a wheel nut at Saltdean and couldn't put her bike back together again. Nobody had any spare nuts to give Angela, but she'd brought her book and so decided to follow[?] us in her car and meet us at Climping beach, then for lunch at Walberton and then again for tea at Arundel. While we waited for Nick, 2 more cyclists arrived at the Ford level crossing and performed a dramatic dog rescue. Just before Nick's train arrived a loose dog went through the level crossing gates onto the track in front of the train. We couldn't call it from our side but the two the other side managed to catch it and the train driver, too, seemed to notice it and slowed right down, so fortunately, we were spared the sight of mashed dog. Angela took the photo of the twelve Clarion cyclists and Joyce set off at a fast pace as our leader on her new bike.
Nice flat roads around Ford followed by a flat track through fields, brought us out at the beach at Climping, pleasantly situated away from the huddled masses arriving by car and confined in/near the carpark. Angela soon joined us and 7 of us went in the sea for a swim.
Back on the bikes refreshed, it was then a pleasant half hour's ride to Walberton and The Holly Tree, Joyce again setting a cracking pace. Food and situation proved first class, with varied menu and everyone enjoying and commending their meal. I particularly covetted Geoff's whitebait, but my salmon pate, Mick's chilli, Richard's baguette, Joan's roast and starter and everybody's chips etc all drew praise. The gardens were colourful with busy lizzies and/or petunias and the houses opposite charmed with names like The Old Post Office, The Old Forge and the Old Schoolhouse, but tasteful not tatty. Table talk at our end turned from past adventures; like Angela's trip on the Bosnian convoy during the war in former Yugoslavia, Alice's trips home to Oz and the past and future Clarion rides. Not a chip or carrot was wasted as we left and wended our way to Arundel.
Joyce led off at the usual fast pace and took the majority up the first hill we had encountered all day. But, no, Leon shouted, that was not the way. Joyce was so fast she had missed the turn. So we left the roads and entered the bridleway. The pretty lane was lined with cherry plum trees which Leon shook vigorously, dislodging a torrent of delicious little yellow plums, which he assured us were safe to eat. We all found room for an unusual food for free treat.
The track through Binstead Wood was a lot wetter and muddier than when Joyce and Leon had reccied the ride and proved challenging, but no-one fell off, though all got spattered and exhilarated. We came out on a road and calmed down a bit, but had to return to the woods and a narrower footpath, preceded by a leap down into a ditch/river crossing, then up the other side. At some point there was a narrow plank bridge to cross too; bit tricky with a bike, but all twelve crossed safely. You could hear the main road at some points as we passed through the pretty wood. Poor Angela was missing all the fun, having to drive along the busy road, while we frolicked under and around the trees, through the mud, tree roots, rivers, puddles and ditches.
Arriving back on the road right near Arundel we now had to negotiate a very busy roundabout. Our leader suggested the best tactic was that of Critical Mass; ie a mass assault on the roundabout. This was performed and it was a delight to behold our cohort as we were waved through by a large petrol tanker - 'oil' indeed - and all safely arrived at Arundel three quarters of the way round the roundabout. We swiftly toured around the town and castle and headed down to Swanbourne Lake. Joyce went in to the lake area to find Angela and we discussed ways of conveying her to Offham.; a mile or more down the road. She was about to try hitch-hiking when Leon gallantly offered her a ride on the back of his bike. They gracefully glided down to The Black Rabbit by the river at Offham, as did we all.
Tea was copious, Alice had cool lime and soda, I had pea soup and Joan and TJ both had 2 smashing looking apple cakes with toffee sauce and ice cream. Shortbread biscuits came with the tea too, as did a super view of the castle, the river, boats, trees and flowers. A few August wasps, as at The Holly Tree, but no squashing of wasps and no stinging from wasps, so wasps were allowed to waft away. As trains were only one an hour we didn't linger long, though Joan and TJ didn't want to rush their cakes and stayed to finish all the tea. The rest of us pushed on through Arundel's one-way system and many delightful eating opportunities, negotiated the roundabout in a mass strike safely once again and arrived at Ford station with plenty of time to spare.
Nick was pleased to see that the Victoria train was due in a few minutes, but before it did, Joan and TJ hoved into view and their train arrived. Bit of a melee to enter the train as the station was packed with foreign language students not sure which train to catch. I glimpsed Nick trying to put his bike in one carriage, half succeeding and then being ejected onto the platform and trying for the next carriage. I pressed the open door button on the carriage near me, but think the guard was looking out for him anyway [hopefully in a good way!]. We assumed he did manage to get on the train and waved like mad at all the many carriages as the London train sped off with our three London Clarionettes aboard. Ian had left us at the station and the Brighton train arrived very soon afterwards. Mick and I missed the conversation on the way home as we were in a different carriage, packed full of young German school students, playing cards and loud music. We said goodbye and thanks to Joyce, Alice, Geoff and Richard at the station, knowing Leon would be taking a train home to Hassocks, but where was Jim? Do hope he wasn't being chased by that officious, grumpy guardian Gorgon of the Southern gateway. Hope, too,that Angela found that missing nut on her return to Saltdean.
Sunday 26 July 2009
[More photos on Flickr]
Leader Leon met the train–borne Clarion-ettes on Three Bridges Station disguised as a Polynesian folk-hero in his very fetching sarong. After the photo of Angela, Alice, David, Fred, Jim, Joyce, Leon, Richard, Roger, Sue, Suzanne and Terry had been taken by a very obliging railwayman, we set off south through the mysteries of Three Bridges and southern Crawley, over the rickety bridge (disguised as a footbridge over the roaring M23) and into Tilgate Forest.
The Merry Men and Wo-Men then turned right and westward onto the prettily named Parish Lane (aka NCN20). Feelings were mixed about the enormous (mobile phone?) mast cunningly disguised as a pine tree – was this a good way to ensure an attractive environment or a dismal case of modern technology encroaching on beautiful countryside?
Another kilometre brought us back to the roar of the new A23 as we turned south again onto old A23, now heavily disguised as the B2114. Ah! How the mighty are fallen. A nice flat run brought us into Handcross where we swung across said A23 to take Coos Lane down (literally) to Furnace Pond, home of the Slaugham Angling Club (if you really want to know, Slaugham is the modern – if you consider 1324 modern – spelling of the Saxon slāh hamm or 'sloe meadow'). Legs were a little tired by the time we had hauled ourselves up to Warninglid (no lids needed warning – the name of this settlement, as we all know, comes from Weardelinga hlip – the slope on which Weardelin's people lived). The Half Moon pub looked tempting, but of one common accord, the Clarionettes said: 'Nay! We will not be deterred from our great leader's plan to feast at the sign of the Royal Oak.'
So off we went downhill (and uphill and downhill) along the 'undulating' Spronkett's Lane (don't worry – the origin of the name is not in Judith Glover's excellent book Sussex Place Names, so I won't bore you with it) past Inyes Cottages – which turned out to be No 1 Nyes Cottages – before gratefully turning in to the Royal Oak. Lunches were ordered, furniture was moved, cutlery was hunted down and we all settled down to our second favourite sport (after cycling, of course) of having the most absurd conversations imaginable – some of which even bordered on the scatological. The ploughman's lunch (heavily disguised as a huge portion of smoked salmon in one case – it's amazing what you can catch with a plough) was copious, the soup delicious and the ginger cheesecake (no names – no pack drill) caloriferous. However, our luncheon was of the most elegant, for our table was embellished with a beautiful bunch of red roses. These were returned to the 'charity' table after lunch, but Sue decided to purchase some pretty, long-stemmed white flowers which made a fetching addition to her rucksack as they bobbed along behind her.
Average speeds were somewhat lower as we started to wend out way back to Hassocks along Bobs Lane (I'll get Jobs Lane in a bit later – read on), and had to share the road with horseboxes in Hickstead Lane. Richard was beginning to be a little concerned about his back wheel rubbing. By the time we had reached The Sportsman at the end of Jobs Lane there was serious concern as a wobble was clearly visible in the wheel. While some of the group were finding out about the 'ram raid' on the pub in March, others were making a closer inspection of Richard's bike. This revealed that the wobble was caused by a broken spoke. Fortunately the bike was still rideable with care and the whole group was able to get back to Burgess Hill with ease. Leon, Angela and David opted to continue by bike to Hassocks, but the rest of the contingent more than happily caught the 16.01 from Burgess Hill as the rain started to pitter-patter on the station canopy.
Many thanks to Leon for arranging a lovely trip over much new territory.
Sunday 5 July 2009
Participants: Jeff, Mick, Anne, Jenny, Joyce, Amanda, Ian and Alice [and Allen on one of the longer rides IB]
The yearly ride from Shoreham to Wiston tearooms to raise money for the repair and upkeep of the old Toll bridge presented its yearly challenge for the Clarion riders. Challenges started well before the start of the ride with one of the riders nearly getting locked onto the train at Shoreham whilst trying to manoeuvre the bike off, only being saved by another group member running along the platform pushing all the open buttons and finally gaining the attention of the guard.
The start of the ride changed from previous years at Coombe farm to Ricardo's just over the toll bridge. Ride numbers were issued and fixed to back of shirts and the group eager to start on our chosen route 2. A phone call was received from Ian who had been held up and would meet us at Wiston tearooms. Off we set towards the A27 traffic lights to find the road closed with cones and had to cross this busy road using the pedestrian crossing. Our route took us past Lancing College, St Botolphs and then some challenging undulations into Steyning.
Sailing through Steyning heading towards A283 we made use of the first refreshment stop, fuelling up on apple juice and water. It also allowed an opportunity for the only photo of the group event.
Eager to reach our destination for lunch we set off to meet confusion at the junction with the A283 where we could not find directions for route 2 only 3&4. Cautiously crossing the road, a decision was made to follow the direction for route 3&4 taking the B2135 until Spithandle Lane that we joined for a pleasant cycle through the woods. Some of the riders spotted deer that were obviously startled by the sheer speed of the passing Clarion group.
At last we reach Wiston tearooms, placing our orders for food and drinks and made a scramble for a table and chairs in the garden. This was quite a feat, because the tearooms are a popular spot for cyclists to take a rest (not just those on the Toll bridge ride) and family lunches out.
The usual wide range of repartee accompanied lunch as we awaited the arrival of Ian. Bets were taken on the estimated arrival time varying between 12:35 and 12:55. Mick was the closest with 12:55. After a leisurely lunch it was time to head back to Ricardo's. Being the last of the riders we assured the race official that he could remove all the race direction signs, as we were familiar with the route back.
Welcome refreshments awaited the tired riders and because all the cake had been consumed the chocolate biscuits were broken into. Numbers were removed from our backs and medals given out for our achievements, which we all displayed with glowing pride. Well-done Clarion riders.
Ian adds: It began for me as 'one of those days'. About to start I discovered the car was out of petrol – and it was too late to get to the station to take the train. One 5 litre can from the nearest filling station didn't seem to do the trick – still wouldn't start. And when Sue and I tried to get a second can in the flap over the petrol cap was jammed and resisted our efforts to free it for over 10 minutes. When we finally got it open and the petrol in – the wretched car still wouldn't start. At this point I'd decided to send my sponsor money in and ask them to credit it to Joyce, but on the very last try the car started.
By this time I'd alerted everyone via Joyce and said not to wait but I would try to catch up at Wiston tea rooms. I was delayed further by a fairly long hold-up on the A27 caused by lane closures and then got myself in the wrong coned off lane, had to leave by the flyover slip road and drive all the way round through Shoreham and the airport to get to the start. When I went in they tried to award me a medal! I think I probably deserved one by then, but I explained that I hadn't finished the ride but was trying to start an hour and a half after the time intended. With the preliminaries now concluded I tried to phone Joyce again to say I was finally getting going but don't wait for me. Only to find I'd left the mobile in the car! Having retrieved that and phoned I final left just before 12 noon. Arriving at Wiston, the first person I saw – in a Clarion cap – was Allen who was doing one of the longer rides. Then I found Alice et al up the tea room garden.
Sunday 12 July 2009
[More photos on Flickr]
Alice, Jim, Joyce, Roger, Sue, Suzanne and Tessa all met at Brighton Station to catch the 10am train to Christ's Hospital. After some confusion regarding our destination (Suzanne nearly buying a ticket to Christchurch), we boarded a very long train. Our group dispersed and my group spent the journey to Three Bridges talking tips about mobile phones, renting rooms to foreign students, singing groups - and the Naked Bike Ride.
Leon joined the train at Hassocks. We made an easy change at Three Bridges, and met Jenny at Christ's Hospital.
A blue wheelie bin served as the photographer for the group photo, Leon putting it on a time delay so he could saunter over to join the rest of us.
We immediately took the Downs Link track through dappled sunlit woods which led into a quiet undulating lane. In no time at all we were at Dragon's Green, our lunch stop the George and Dragon. It was tough for vegetarians at the pub as the menu paid lip service to them. Everyone praised the chips as we sat at two tables apart from each other - one sunny, one shady. Our lunchtime conversation consisted of stories from the past, jokes played on friends and colleagues, Leon's boy scouting days - and the Naked Bike Ride!
A short ride took us to Shipley Windmill where we spent nearly an hour on a very comprehensive tour that included a video twenty odd years old dating from the time the Friends of Shipley Windmill took on its repair and maintenance. It was a fascinating tour of a structure that was made of, and included several types of wood – Douglas fir, pitch pine, oak, hornbeam, ash and mahogany. The other elements of the windmill were an intricate cog structure of iron (and hornbeam), and millstone grit grinding stones. There was an air of sadness among the guides as their tenure was coming to an end due so the great grandson of Hilaire Belloc, who owned the windmill, inexplicably refusing to renew their lease.
We now became two groups - one heading back to Christ's Hospital - the larger group of six heading for Wiston Tea Rooms. A short off road track took us over a bridge where we spotted water lilies in the slow moving water. We joined a small road that took us to Ashington. The headwind became stronger as we joined the larger Horsham road but before long the tearooms appeared and we sat out in the lovely sheltered sunny garden where we talked about diets and which way to go home - and possibly the Naked Bike Ride.
A small change of plan cut off a few miles. We backtracked a few yards to Spithandle Lane which provided more dappled sunlight and headed for Steyning. There were a couple of hills and a continuing headwind which eased when we took the Downs Link. We passed a group of stately swans who got rather flustered by a small dinghy and canoe passing them. We splashed through puddles on a track lined with endless purple Budleia in bloom.
On reaching Shoreham station we subdivided again, Joyce, Sue and Tessa choosing the train, Alice, Leon and Roger adding a few more miles to the 24 we had clocked up by cycling back to Brighton.
A big thank you to Jeff for suggesting that we visit Shipley Windmill, a beautiful structure fascinatingly explained by its Friends, and to Jim and Leon for planning and guiding us on the day.
Sunday 28 June 2009
[More photos on Flickr]
A small but select band of six met at Burgess Hill Station on a very hot and beautifully sunny morning: Anne, Jeff, Joyce, Leon, and Mick who came by train, and Jenny, your reporter, who came by car (because trains don't stop at her local station, Cooksbridge, at weekends, grrr!). A friendly departing passenger was easily persuaded to take the group photo, and for good measure Leon also took an arty one of us reflected in the convex mirror on the platform.
From the station we followed ride leader Leon through suburban Burgess Hill to Folders Lane, then we braved more traffic to cross over the Ditchling Common roundabout. Passing the northern end of Plumpton village we paused to admire the local landmark known as 'the V' – a clear and massive letter V on the Downs escarpment, formed of trees planted in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee.
We then rode along the charmingly named Honeypot Lane, and passed Pouchlands – now a residential development but in 1873 it was the brand new local Workhouse. The complex was designed by James Peerless, accommodated up to 250 inmates, and replaced several smaller nearby establishments. The buildings have all been carefully preserved and converted for their new incarnation as rather select housing.
Next came the only off-road section of the ride, a track known locally as The Hook. At one time it would have been a pretty smooth ride, but sadly it has been 'improved' by being resurfaced with stony substances more friendly to cars than to bikes. While bumping along we were passed by a shiny four-by-four, which kindly left us a mighty dust cloud in its wake.
However we survived to cross the A275 into Markstakes Lane, where we encountered the first of two long and tiring undulations on our way to the pub, the Royal Oak at Newick. Here we rested and enjoyed very good food, including Jeff's essential cheesy chips, at reasonable prices with cheerful and friendly service – who could ask for more? The conversation turned to naked bike rides and sarongs, and as requested the reporter is unable to remember any details of it.
From Newick we headed towards north Chailey, then crossed the busy main road into quieter lanes lined by gorse bushes noisily exploding their seed pods in the heat. Here some might not have realised it (we were just too far apart for the reporter to get everyone's attention), but we passed yet another interesting new rural housing development. Chailey Heritage, a well-known residential school and therapeutic centre for children and young people with a range of disabilities, originally set up in 1903, has several locations thereabouts, but the one we passed in Warrs Hill Road was among the oldest, known very confusingly as 'New Heritage'. After the school ceased to use that huge site the abandoned buildings fell into horrible decay that was very sad to see. Now all but one or two protected buildings, such as the Grade II listed former chapel, have been demolished and in their place is a large estate of rather uninspiring new houses including, it is understood, some 'affordable housing'. How do they sell it if only some of it is 'affordable' one wonders?
Yet another diverting road name came next as we rode along Butterbox Lane to Scaynes Hill, where the A272 was so busy that most of us used the pelican crossing to provide a safe gap in the traffic, before heading briefly west towards Haywards Heath. We stopped just outside the village to admire and photograph the largest and tallest array of Common Spotted orchids any of us could recall seeing, in the verge right next to the main road and undamaged by council verge trimmers. Very soon we turned south into our third unusually named byway, Slugwash Lane – a reference to cleaning slugs or removing them? Arguments raged.
At Wivelsfield we decided to take the quiet option, and rode the length of Hundred Acre Lane without being troubled by much traffic, only raucous pheasants. Then it was back to Folders Lane and suburbia, and eventually to Burgess Hill Station and a weary trip home. Many thanks to Leon for a very enjoyable ride.
Sunday 14 June 2009
This year's NBR was bigger and better than ever. No definitive figure of attendees yet, but definitely more than last year (which was 400) – I would bet somewhere between 5 – 700. The weather was fantastic as we all assembled on the Level in an atmosphere of fiesta. It does seem that getting one's clothes off in the sun and as a large group makes for conviviality, maybe it's because all pretence is over and everyone is as vulnerable as another, perhaps that's also part of the pleasure of sun bathing on the beach. Anyway enough speculation, the fact is that it was a great experience – colour, music, a sense of freedom and the pleasure of taking part in a common purpose (it occurred to me as I went wobbling along handing out the card about oil and global warming that this may be what historic Clarionettes felt when they went out on their bikes with their leaflets.) As it turned out Leon, Joyce and Fred seemed to be the only ones carrying the Clarion torch (or trumpet) this time, I know the others were out on the 'proper' Clarion ride.
We did about 8 miles sailing past the Pavilion, along the seafront into Hove with crowds of people, clapping, laughing and cheering all the way. When I asked Leon if he wanted to do the report he said that he could find no way of expressing his feelings of 'euphoria while whirling through a kaleidoscope of fantastic colour and movement'. Seems to me he summed it up very well.
We ended at the nudist beach where a fantastic day ended with a wonderful swim in a breathtakingly cold sea and a naked man playing the trumpet (Leon has a great photo but not for the Clarion web site!)....
[Video of the ride passing Jubilee Library here]
Sunday 14 June 2009
[More photos on Flickr]
The landlady of the pub opposite the station agreed to take our photo and I asked her to put the pub in the photo, out of gratitude for the photography. Regretted it afterwards as the station itself was picturesque and said Barnham on it – thus labelling the ride [or not thus, as it turned out]; my fault as my camera was the only one available. Landlady keen for us all to have a drink, but we were all keen to get going on the ride; as we did.
Entering Nyton Spinney we were cocooned in green branches and surrounded by swaying grasses. The girls joined in choral singing of 'Underneath the Arches' and the birds provided Messiaen-like accompaniment. A truly peaceful, sylvan ride along field edges ensued. You had to keep your wits about you and react to the track [footpath] and not take your eyes off to the views of the distant Downs, or you'd come a cropper, but nobody did.
We crossed the first of several little bridges over clear, tranquil streams and came out onto roads again. After crossing a level crossing, with our leader, Roger, over and 5 left while express train rushed through, Roger joked that he had toyed with the idea of dashing off and abandoning his charges, but that would not be the Clarion way, for 'fellowship is life'.
As we approached Bognor we were able to use their cyclepath and Bognor CTC raced past us, without the exchange of pleasanteries we sometimes exchange with CTC. I noted curious orange patches on road and these later proclaimed themselves Home Zones with 20mph limits.
Ariving at Bognor town and Bognor Pier, seemed to some like tripping back to the fifties, after booming Brighton. The pier was ludicrously short too, though Roger remarked that they held cycling off the pier contests annually. The web reveals that the pier is now only a third of its original length, bits being removed last year for safety reasons and that the annual Birdman Rally had been won for past 5 years by Ron Freeman who flew 270 feet. After a brief stop by Gypsy Rose Lee's fortune-telling caravan and the ladies loos, we proceeded East, past some fetching modern flats, even more covetable than Brighton's Van Allen Building in my view, past the vast Butlin's estate and Hotham Park, 'the people's park' – 20 acres of public space reopened in May 2009.We were heading for the beach at Felpham for our picnic. Mick and I [Anne] had a short swim in slightly choppy sea and dried off on the rocks. Sandwiches were swapped and the state of the Party discussed. We adjourned to the beach café and enjoyed 6 splendid mugs of great value tea, whilst money was donated to various sponsored charity events with which we were involved, like the forthcoming Tollbridge Ride. Ian's recent letter to The Guardian which topped their letters page was further debated. First rate café, but pity to see the 'Under Offer' sign which may mean changes.
Fortified, we continued and came to the promised new cycle route, original inspiration from Fred for the ride. Surrounded by high banks of varied grasses, crossing more bridges [photos] enjoying Downland views, birdsong, windmills, varied horses, ponies, foals, nettles, ferns and trees with all habits [firs bending down] and leaves of all hues from red to green, with no other people around, we proceeded back to Barnham.
It was a pity to leave all that loveliness, but the church at Barnham was still in an idyllic spot and when we got back to the pub and station, another treat was in store. There was half an hour to wait for the train so we went for a drink in the pub, where in the doorway stood a man with a barn owl on his arm. He was joined later by has wife with a boy barn owl [1 year old - photos]. He told us tales of the 2 there and the other two at home and the landlady was eager to advertise an imminent owl free-flying event at the pub. If anyone is interested please phone the pub.
Trains were a bit delayed and only 3 carriages, but we all got on, apart from Ian, who drove home. Linda alighted at Aldrington, Tessa at Hove and all thanked Roger for a brilliant summer sea-side and serene country outing.
Sunday 31 May 2009
[More photos on Flickr]
All Clarion rides are unique and wonderful in their own way, but this one was close to ideal:- 'where every prospect pleases and [only cars were] vile'. A bumper turnout collected from diverse points at Berwick station : Alice, Angelika, Fred, Helen, Ian, Joyce, Leon, Nick, Richard, Roger, Sue. The day was glorious so we headed off in high spirits into what was the Sussex countryside at its very best , lush and green after last week's rain, with everything bursting with new growth, under a soft blue sky studded with little puffs of cloud. Through lanes with wonderful open vistas of fields of sheep and cattle, into cool wooded areas where we (I) was entranced with the patterns of the dappled sun on the road. All this with permanent bird song and a gentle breeze to temper the very hot sun.
Yes I said 'close' to ideal – there were the cars, the weather also brought out the Sunday drivers so there were more than we are used to. However the day must have affected them too because by and large they were careful and considerate, and, of course, there were lots of places where they were absent. Other groups were out too and we were pleased to encounter the Seaford branch of the CTC taking a parallel route to us.
We sailed past the Long Man, admired the White Horse, and sped down a wonderfully long descent (where Leon claims he did 35 mph), but life being what it is were brought to a halt further on ( fortunately not on the descent), when Helen came off her bike. But our luck held, no harm done except a slight graze. Onwards then to the track through Seven Sisters Park down to the Haven. Here I will leave it to Fred's pictures to describe and just say it was absolutely beautiful. The most strenuous exercise of the day was then hauling the bikes over the (very large) pebbles to get to somewhere for our picnic – after which Leon , Joyce and Alice hiked off to the sea for a paddle for Alice and a dip for Joyce and Leon.
The way back went through Friston forest and a mental note was taken that another ride could take in a lot more of the lovely forest. On then to the '30s tea rooms at Litlington, where tea was accompanied by poems and Ian's jokes.
The day was so enjoyable that, arriving at the crossroads for Berwick, and noting we had time before the next train, we diverted off to Alfriston, losing Richard for a bit on the way. The Clergy House was much admired and even visited by Angelika and Roger. And finally down to Berwick along the cycle track where in rain-sodden 25 January I had said it felt like the northern moors. What a difference! That is what is so great about Clarion rides - one sees the countryside in all its moods.
So many thanks to Ian, the weather and our luck in having the Sussex countryside, for a great day.
[Again, even more and bigger photos on Flickr. ]