Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club  



Reports from Summer 2010

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

19 September 2010
Clapham Junction Circular Ride
Wonderful Wanderings in Wandsworth, Wimbledon and Wichmond

[More photos on Flickr]

There was an impressive list of apologies for this ride. Ian was in France; John was in Italy; and Suzanne was in Nairobi! Goodness - the lengths some people will go to to avoid a Clarion ride! Joyce was said to be in Budapest, although this was believed to be a corruption of 'Buddha Fest'. Fred had declared that it was too early a start for him, and besides he did not fancy the steps at Clapham Junction (I nearly contacted him to point out that the lifts might well be finished by now, but was glad I didn't, because they weren't). Tessa also sent apologies; I forget the details, but at least she had done the practice ride so she didn't miss out.

19 Sept Clapham Junction

Even our other Londoners (the ride was led by Angelika) were unable to make it. Amanda had her mother visiting, and while Nick did actually set out, he soon discovered a puncture, and phoned through to say he would not be coming. We did think about sending 'Bicycle Repair Man' Leon over to sort him out, but Leon's thumb is still too weak from his injury, and pulling bike tyres off is not the sort of thing that is likely to help it heal. We could have all gone to rescue him of course, but Nick's house was not on our route, and fellowship only goes so far, and could not manage the three miles from Clapham Junction to Brixton.

Heron on the Wandle

Luckily, the list of participants was even longer, and Angelika pronounced herself very pleased with the turnout as Angela, Anne, Jenny, Leon, Maureen, Mick, Roger, Sandra and myself joined her for this 20-mile ride. It was very well organised; there were no fewer than two stopping places (future ride organisers please note!) and Angelika produced several copies of Transport For London's 'Local Cycling Guide 10' with the route marked on it in felt pen, in case we got split up. She had promised us 5 parks, but in fact we visited 6: Wandsworth Common, Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park, Barnes Common, and finally Wandsworth Park. There were also two rivers; the first of these was the Wandle, a sort of dual carriageway of a river, with a central reservation made of concrete, on which Anne spotted a heron. Seeing the heron brought to our attention the design of the bridge we were on. It was guarded by little men who were either Vikings or, as someone suggested, Noggin the Nog.

Wandle Bridge Guardian

Wimbledon Common provided the first stop, at the Windmill Museum and its associated café, with most riders opting for the latter while Leon and I investigated the windmill but did not go in. (After our wonderful tour of Shipley windmill last year, it would probably have been something of an anticlimax.) Another large group of cyclists turned up, looked at the windmill, saw the entrance fee and quickly disappeared. We thought they looked a bit like us - i.e. a raggle-taggle bunch with not an inch of Lycra in sight - and wondered if they might be the London Clarion, but I don't think they could have been because I understand the London section has very few members. Later, we came across a huge woodpile where people were helping themselves to logs. A bit like the piles of wood we saw on the beach on a previous ride (see report for 20.1.08) but without the guilt.


Next we went through a lovely woody section where the map was endorsed with a rather worrying 'Off-Road Bikes Recommended'. But we all made it through, off-road bikes and on-road bikes, and very lovely it was too. At the end of this section we encountered the second river - Beverley Brook, which was more of a babbling-brook sort of river, as its name suggests. The bridge over Beverley Brook was a very busy intersection, with cyclists, walkers and horses appearing from all points of the compass.

Beverley Brook

After a rather scary transit of the A3, we entered Richmond Park via Robin Hood Gate, which I remembered from my hitch-hiking days as the last place to get a lift before the Kingston By-Pass. Richmond Park is a real treasure - so big and wild that you feel like you're in the country, and not in a park at all; with both open and wooded sections, and lots of lovely deer who obligingly posed for our cameras. We found a nice spot for our picnic; the Pope's visit, and religion in general, provided the topic for our lunchtime conversation.


After lunch Angelika took us to Pembroke Lodge on the west side of Richmond Park; the path round the back of this building affords a spectacular view to the west of London. Having brought my compass and an O.S. map, I became a sort of impromptu Blue Badge guide, not only to our group but also to some passing strangers who wanted to know what we were looking at. (My response, 'Staines', seemed to elicit a certain disappointment for some reason; and Sandra and Maureen wanted to see Wembley Stadium, but it was hidden by trees).

View from Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park.

After Richmond Park, our route took us past the London Wetlands Centre and then to the River Thames. Here, going eastwards now along the south bank, back towards our starting point, we re-crossed our two little rivers (in reverse order of course), and at Wandle Creek Bridge we saw another heron, or maybe it was the same one, having moved downstream in search of dinner. Back at 'Clapham Junkshop' we said our goodbyes and our thanks to Angelika for a lovely ride.

Back at the Junkshop

But it wasn't over yet! Anne, Leon, Mick, Roger and Sandra got the Brighton train and Maureen went home to Sutton, but the Lewes train was not due for 45 minutes, so Angela and Jenny had a cup of tea with Angelika at Costa Coffee in the station forecourt, and I decided to join them and get the London Road train home from Lewes (a fatal mistake, as it turned out). We were soon surrounded by strangely-dressed young people spilling out from an old church across the road. Angela asked some of them what it was about; it turned out that there is a 'day club' (similar to a night club but in the daytime) held at the old church every Sunday, and presumably you have to be in costume to get in. There were some truly amazing costumes, and we thought it was a very good idea - maybe we'll see one in Brighton soon?

Picnic at Deer fold, Richmond Park.

On the train, we were once again besieged by strangely-dressed people when the train stopped at Plumpton and all the race-going toffs got on. Finally I had to go all the way back to Brighton via Haywards Heath, because there were no trains from Lewes to Brighton, and so I got the drunken race-goers all over again.

A long day, but a very enjoyable one. My thanks to Angelika, who is already talking about a future Royal Parks ride, starting and finishing at London Victoria.


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Sunday 5 September
Lewes Circular

[More photos on Flickr]

Twelve cyclists met at Lewes Station on a pleasant September morning: Angela, Ann, Corinne (now a paid-up member of National Clarion - our 47th), Fred, Jenny, Jim (our leader), John, Leon (with his new bike), Roger, Sue, Suzanne, and Tessa (with her new bike); apologies were noted from Ian who has been having problems with his old bike.

The start at Lewes Station

The purpose of our meeting was to hear a lecture on the history of Lewes station, delivered in fine style by our leader.

We then set off in search of wonders which we duly found. The first was the Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve, around which we cycled, literally, since we ended where we had started.

Absence of bridge

Then onto the disused Uckfield line, which took us as far as the river Ouse, but no further: someone had removed the bridge, several decades ago. So we admired the distant view of Hamsey Church, bemoaned the loss of a valuable railway route and resolved to persuade Sustrans to adopt it and put back the bridge! Then we turned round and cycled back to where we had started, well, not quite.

Wonder number three was whether we were ever going to get out of Lewes, but we did, via the deliciously named Earwig Corner and onto wonder number four: the new cycle path to Ringmer; it was still in the course of construction, but we made good use of what was there.

New cycleway at Ringmer

Then the unimaginable occurred: a challenge to the leader's route, which he generously accepted, given that all eleven of those being led seemed to prefer the proposed alternative.

Bridge over the River Ouse

Was it to re-assert his authority that he then challenged Jenny to the Norlington Speed Trials? The aim was to register the highest maximum speed over a measured distance in Norlington Lane; the distance specified was 'hardly any' and the winner was our, undisputed leader with a miraculous maximum of 23.3 mph. Jenny came a disappointing second with a miserable 23.2.

Wonder number five was the station at Isfield, at least for the railway enthusiast amongst us, and number six the lunch in the nearby Laughing Fish.

Ladies' table

Onwards through the wonder of later summer sunshine, along lanes, through fields, across footbridges over streams and onto another section of disused railway line which led to the former station at Barcombe Mills.

Our next wonder was the Church of St Mary's at Barcombe and the fine old country house opposite with its wonderful ornamental pond. And just behind the church, another wonder: the remains of a Roman settlement, currently the subject of an archaeological dig.

Barcombe Roman bath house

Our final calling point was Cooksbridge, first to view some wonderful paintings at the open house of artist, Tom Walker; my favourite was the game of snooker on top of the leaning tower of Pisa; surreal snooker seems to be the main theme of Tom's work. And finally wonders 11, 12, 13 etc. The mugs of tea and plates of cakes provided for us by Jenny at her home.


Thoroughly refreshed we quickly covered the 3 miles back to Lewes and hopped onto a waiting Brighton train. The train manager tried his best to get angry about the fact that there were so many bikes on his three carriage service, understandably perhaps since some (not Clarion's) were blocking the corridor. However, a bit of re-arrangement at the next stop seemed to satisfy him.

Many thanks to Jim for a wonder-full ride, and to Jenny for helping him plan it and for providing the much-appreciated afternoon tea.


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Bank Holiday Monday 29 August 2010
Clarion Summer Social, Devil's Dyke

Joyce points out the missing apostrophe to Leon

As I (Jenny) don't live in Brighton I joined the ride late, at the entrance to Hove Recreation Ground, but I'm reliably informed that nine riders started off from Brighton Pier: Angela, Anne, David, Joyce, Leon, Roger, Sue, Suzanne, and Terry. Sue and Terry went off to have a quick swim before catching up with us later, which was not difficult as our progress was rather sedate even by B&H Clarion standards. Of course, going from sea level to the Dyke inevitably involves a lot of, erm, gentle uphill work so the group became fragmented, with some resorting to Shanks's pony at times. As a result Ian and Sue, who went to the meeting point by the open-top tourist bus, were there for an hour watching the paragliders before the rest of us appeared. Fred caught a later bus and described the journey as 'freezing', but he managed a regal wave as the bus sailed past us grinding up the last hill and he was on hand to photograph us gurning as we climbed the home stretch.

Jenny 2nd

Our intended picnic pitch was just too chilly and windy, as well as overrun with people, dogs, and paragliding paraphernalia, so we relocated to the other side of the pub and found quite a peaceful, sheltered spot in the lee of the hill and the trees. Here we enjoyed a cheery picnic (thanks for the amazing bread, Leon) and wide-ranging conversation, which included the perils of sitting in the front row of a performance by a comedian, and an extended punning session about proctologists (don't ask). Then Roger produced his magnum opus: a list of eight very cryptic questions, the answers to which were to be found around and about the place. We went off in teams to investigate, with varying degrees of success, and at the reckoning-up four teams tied for first place with a very underwhelming four points out of a possible eight. Fred won the tie-breaker question, due to his extensive personal knowledge of the 1970s Brighton punk scene, and won a box of chocolates that the rest of us helped him to eat.

Roger enjoys Leon's pizza bread

Some people who had longer journeys ahead left at this point by bike or bus, while the remainder moved to the pub terrace for tea and more conversation, this time mostly about the Labour leadership election, so no more scatological puns. Then we enjoyed hurtling downhill back into town after a very sociable afternoon. Thank you to Roger and Suzanne for organising everything, leading the ride, and especially for the clever quiz. It was great fun.


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Sunday 22 August
Eastbourne to Hastings

[More photos on Flickr]

Joyce, Tessa, Mick and Anne were not put off by threatening skies and light drizzle. They rode to Brighton Station to meet Roger and Suzanne where we boarded the Ashford train to alight at Eastbourne.


Mick took the photo with his phone, the impressive station façade as a backdrop, and we set off down to the seafront. We joined the traffic heading east on the coast road and turned on to the coastal path at Fishermans Green, a mile or so from the centre of Eastbourne. We whizzed along, pushed by a gentle south westerly wind past Martello towers, fishing boats, abandoned playgrounds, amusements and cafes, the weather not looking great. At Sovereign Harbour we walked through the busy purpose-built café area which reminded me of Dubai, minus the sunshine, and wound our way inland through the residential area, which Suzanne pointed out was well designed and built, and standing up to the elements.

An inland main road led us to Normans Bay where another coastal path was fringed with fishing boats, large wooden boat garages and camping/ caravan sites. The day was getting darker and mistier. I felt sorry for camping families on their summer holidays. We crossed the railway at Normans Bay Station and onto a small road through the Pevensey Levels. It started to rain. We stopped under the railway bridge at Cooden Beach to don waterproof trousers for the last couple of miles to Bexhill, our lunch stop.


It was supposed to be a picnic on the beach. Instead we dripped our way to the beautiful De La Warr Pavilion and into their café. Having draped wet clothes over every available chair back we all ordered carrot and fennel soup and surreptitiously ate our sandwiches while we waited for it to arrive. For Roger and Suzanne, it was a long wait. The kitchen ran out of soup and had to make more. It was delicious and those of us lucky enough to get the early servings, sloped off to dry our wet clothes under the toilet hand-driers. Memories anyone?


We gave ourselves 20 minutes to look at the 2 exhibitions in the building :
Tomoko Takahashi's installations of everyday detritus, and on the roof Anthony Gormley's 60 cast iron life-size body forms made from 12 different casts of his own body. I particularly enjoyed the way rain had formed little pools in the crevices of the sculptures.

The rain had stopped and we continued riding through Bexhill, a really attractive seaside town. Once on the cycle track we came to a hill! Roger hadn't told us about that! We cycled up it fast though as we found it coincided with a stench of backed up drains!

At a bend in the cycle track we veered off onto an off-road track of sand and pebbles, at times compacted and easy to ride, at others harder to negotiate. It led us to the tarmacked cycle lane in St Leonards and then into Hastings. Three of us decided to have a quick swim and were pleased to discover that pebbles quickly gave way to sand, once in the water, making our entry into the waves easier on the feet.


Whilst drying off we noticed black shapes out to sea. Were they dolphins or seals frolicking? No, they turned out just to be prosaic rocks.

There was no time for tea before going back to Brighton. We cast a last glance at the sea as the sun came out briefly and then headed back on the train westward into mist and drizzle.

It had turned out to be a ride more varied in activities than usual, and very enjoyable. Thank you Roger.


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Sunday 8 August 2010
Chichester Harbour Ride

[More and bigger photos on Flickr]

The fun started before the ride began. Having taken the early train to avoid possible congestion at Brighton on the morning after Pride, I had an hour to kill in Chichester; so I cycled into town and had a coffee and a pain au chocolat. In the predestrian precinct, a rather talented busker called Rob Berry was singing and playing the blues on an electric guitar. I couldn't help thinking that this was how all rides should start!

August 8, 2010: Clarion Chichester circular

Soon Angela arrived, took her bike (Lily III) out of the car and proceeded to put it together. Ian appeared, resplendent in Clarion red and yellow; and Nick got off the London train, bearing apologies from Amanda who had just taken delivery of two kittens. Then the Brighton train came in, and disgorged three more Clarionistas: Joyce, Roger and Suzanne. It was a nice sunny day, and we set off on a well-pedalled route along the Chichester Canal. We saw ducks, fishermen and even a couple of boats. In the past, this was part of a waterway from Portsmouth to London, used to transport cargo from the port to the capital; Angela later told me that she has a print of Turner's 1828 painting of a collier brig on the canal (the original is in Petworth House) - purchased because she lives in Chichester Drive.

In Hunston, however, where the canal turns westwards, we left it. As we stood on the bridge and looked back towards Chichester, Joyce remarked that the view of the cathedral across the fields was essentially timeless - only the power cables giving any hint of the 21st (or indeed the 20th) century. Ian then led us in a north-easterly direction, a cunning ploy to get us onto a lovely path that runs between several lakes, collectively known by the birding and fishing fraternities as the Gravel Pits, since they came into existence after the flooding of some disused … er, yes, you've guessed it, gravel pits. We saw moorhens and possibly a few other species, although cycling and birdwatching do not really go together and it was all a bit of a blur really.

Continuing southwards through North Mundham, quiet lanes gave way to off-road paths between fields heavy with wheat and corn. This was Route 88, which reminded us of a song … kind of.

August 8, 2010: Clarion Chichester circular

The going was easy, as there was hardly an undulation to be seen, and we basked in the peaceful idyllicness (?) of it all. Emerging into Sidlesham Quay at the western end of Pagham Harbour, we stopped for our picnic, augmented in Joyce's case by a cucumber bought from a roadside stall, while Roger handed out madeleines, and I was advised to take one home to help me recall everything for the report. Hmmm … must read all that Proust stuff someday. Lunchtime conversation covered such things as the Cycle Forum, the Tour de France and wasps.

August 8, 2010: Clarion Chichester circular

A nearby noticeboard recorded the existence on this site of a tide mill, an eminently sensible 19th-century renewable energy source which consisted of a mill pond that filled at high tide, the water then turning a mill wheel as it flowed back out into the harbour. The mill ceased to function when the harbour was sealed and reclaimed for agriculture in the 1870s; and although the area became 'intertidal' again when the sea flooded through in 1910, by then of course everyone was fixated on burning coal instead, and today it is just a memory.

Similar back-lanes and paths took us westwards to West Itchenor, and as we waited to board the 'Itchy Bosom' (Itchenor to Bosham) ferry, Angela asked me what river we were going to cross. I didn't know, so I looked it up when I got home. It turns out that it is not a river but the Chichester Channel, one of the three arms of Chichester Harbour. Looking at the map, it does not appear to have a substantial river flowing into it and would seem to be a case of sea water invading the land rather than river water flowing out to sea, but Google could not help me discover the precise geographical explanation for this. As we neared the opposite bank, only minutes after setting out, a child at the front of the boat was heard to say, with some disappointment, 'Is that it?' - but a plaque on the Bosham side informs visitors that the ferry, which was discontinued a few years back but later reinstated, cuts out a 13 mile walk around the head of the channel at Fishbourne, so it is worth the £2.50 you pay for one person plus bike. There is no landing stage on the Bosham side, but the ferry has a ramp, and the ferryman (whom Angela described as 'a hunk') picks up the bikes effortlessly and hands them down to their waiting owners.

August 8, 2010: Clarion Chichester circular

A little further on, Bosham Quay came into view, and we cycled round to the café on the far side. However, it transpired that the proprietors allocate seating according to the quaint old English principle that strangers must not be expected to share tables, so despite the many vacant seats we were turned away. Attention then shifted to the pub up the road with the curiously Franglais name of The Anchor Bleu, but Joyce did not like the cruel treatment being meted out to the local wasp population, so she and I went back to the café and left the others to drink 'un cup de thé'. On the way to the pub, we marvelled at the high doorsteps, put there to keep flood water out, and at the fact that the tops of the doorways are at normal height, so the doors themseves are actually quite small and must have to be almost wriggled, rather than walked, through.

August 8, 2010: Clarion Chichester circular

By careful map-reading, Ian managed to find us a route back to Chichester that avoided the main road; we went via Taylor's Lane, and later passed the Roman Palace, crossing the railway line on what seemed to me to be an intrinsically dangerous foot crossing, made more dangerous by a bottleneck at the exit which led to a queue of bikes stretching back over the tracks. However our cameraman, Nick, refrained from 'doing a Fred' and defying death to get that definitive middle-of-the-railway shot, and so there were still seven of us alive when we got back to the station and dispersed on our respective journeys home, with 24 miles on the clock.

August 8, 2010: Clarion Chichester circular

We all thought this was one of the best rides for ages, and thanked Ian for such an enjoyable day's cycling, and fellowship, which - as we all know - is Life.


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Sunday 25 July 2010
Hassocks circular

Roger, Suzanne, Corrine, Joyce and myself, Sandra, met at a heaving Brighton Station. We caught the 10.53 train to Hassocks, where Angela, with her newly acquired bike, met us. She was very excited about using it on this ride.
The ride was to be led by Suzanne, (who had initially offered to lead it as Leon has an injury to his hand) but following the cancellation of Roger's trip to San Sebastian, Roger and Suzanne both led the ride. We all sympathised with Roger that his trip had been cancelled, due to a strike by the French air traffic controllers. We followed Roger out of the station with Suzanne taking up the rear, having complete confidence in their revised route for this Hassocks Circular ride.
The ride had been described as 'undulating', but The Weald certainly has its ups and downs. Roger and Suzanne had undertaken the task of doing a 'wreckie' on the proposed route and had subsequently made some minor adjustments - for which, I can promise you, I was extremely grateful!
The route took us through the most beautiful countryside, opulent houses and picture box cottages. Through shaded lanes out into brilliant sunshine, up the inclines, some of which were very sharp, but best of all down the declines, only to find another hill! We were magnificent in our efforts and eventually, not withstanding the ups and downs, we exhaustedly found ourselves at the Pub.
The Royal Oak at Wineham provided us with well deserved cold drinks and subsistence which we all enjoyed along with some interesting banter. The sun then came out with vengeance and Susanne and Joyce had to take cover. Time to apply more sun block and prepare ourselves for the next stage of our ride.
We decided to take the longer route home, which took us through Blackstone and back towards the A23 and the final climbs of the day, which seemed to go on forever. Finally we arrived at Washbooks Farm only to realise that we really did not have time to stop for tea and cake, as we would miss our train back to Brighton. The decision was to carry on and we arrived at Hassocks Station with some time so spare, so a final beer at the Station Pub was the order of the day.
This was a really great ride, with lots of challenges, which we all over came with flying colours. Tired and happy we boarded the train back to Brighton, looking forward to a relaxing evening and our Sunday suppers. Thank you Leon, and Roger and Suzanne for devising such an enjoyable ride.


[If anyone took any photos, would they please add them to the Flickr group]

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Sunday 11 July
Haywards Heath, Bolney and World's End

[More photos on Flickr]

Sunday's Clarion group consisted of eleven cyclists - Corinne, Fred, Jenny, Jim, Sue, Angelika, Joyce, Roger, Tessa, Sean and Nick.

The start at Haywards Heath

Excellent warm and sunny weather helped make Jim's Haywards Heath circular ride extremely enjoyable. Although it was hard to agree totally with Jim's pronouncement that all of his rides took place downhill, the occasional steep hills we did have to negotiate weren't too numerous and we seemed to spend more time either on relatively flat roads, or in the dappled sunshine of picturesque nature reserves.

The main drama took place before the ride had even started, when two of the the London Clarion contingent became confused as to where Jim's ride was due to start. Amanda and Nick became concerned when delays from London meant that they might miss the planned 11.20am start.  Although on different trains, Amanda contacted Jim to explain that she and Nick would be late arriving and asked if it was possible for the rest of the group to wait a few minutes. Jim and the rest of the Clarion cyclists kindly agreed to wait until Nick and Amanda had arrived.
Nick arrived at Haywards Heath at around 11.30, but couldn't see any Clarion cyclists around. He immediately phoned Amanda to say he was at Haywards Heath and wondered what time she thought she would arrive. Amanda said that she was under the impression the ride started at Hassocks  and was on her way to that station instead! There now seemed to be some doubt that the ride started in Haywards Heath. Just as Nick was about to phone Jim to explain that it didn't look like he would be able to make that morning's ride, Jim arrived on the platform and explained they had all been waiting at the other Haywards Heath exit. After a further phone call to Amanda, she decided that the trains were too slow to make it back to Haywards Heath for the start and opted to head home and read a book in the afternoon sunshine instead.

The Bolney Stage
After the morning's initial delay and confusion, we finally started the ride at just before noon. A late start was always planned because the Bolney Stage pub lunch stop was at quite an early stage in the route.  The lunchtime food at the Bolney Stage was quite expensive, but the cauliflower soup and plate of chips option was a good budget alternative to some of the pricier options on offer.  [More photos of food on Flickr]
Most of the day's cycling (18 miles) was actually completed after lunch. Although it was slightly problematic to enter Bedelands Farm Nature reserve via a narrow kissing gate, the eleven cyclists all agreed that the effort of carrying bikes over kissing gates was worth the effort. When leaving the nature reserve, the willow trees in Coopers Close were also rather impressive.

Bike trap
Possibly the steepest hill of the afternoon was the one leading to the 'High Bridge' railway crossing.  Although many of us walked up some of the steep road leading to the bridge, this was the last major cycling exertion required and it was reasonably a straightforward cycle back to Haywards Heath station.


Thanks to Jim for organising a very pleasant day's cycling. Although there was quite a lot of road cycling, none of the roads seemed particularly busy with cars. After being used to sometimes lengthy waits at stations for Sunday service trains, it was a pleasant surprise to find trains waiting for the Brighton and London Clarion cyclists when we arrived at Haywards Heath station. Unlike the the delays experienced from London in the morning, there was plenty of time to cycle home and watch the early evening coverage of the World Cup final on TV.

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Timing Issues - 2010 London To Brighton In The Slow Lane - Mark reports

I had one goal for the London to Brighton ride. I had ridden it several years ago (when trains took you the start and before mobile phones were prevalent) and failed to ride up the Beacon. Up to that point I had managed to haul my 25-year old tourer up all the hills on offer. So my goal this time was simple and singular – to cycle all the way this time.  I had even 'trained' by going up the Beacon successfully on a solo circular ride from Hove. What could go wrong? 

My brother-in-law Gavin was participating for the first time. A relative newcomer to cycling, he commutes 15 miles each way now. 

On my previous attempt I had a 6.00 am start, so I repeated this. These days coaches and trucks take you to the start, and I had a 4.00am start on Maderia Drive. I decided to get there early and left at 3.15am, cycling along the front. However late night revellers made me move to the road, but not to be defeated, a group of super-drunk revellers wandered out onto the street pouring out of a nightclub tried to tackle me close to the roundabout by the pier, but I sped up and swerved by, and a nasty accident was (just about) avoided. 

I then joined a queue for the coaches; I was about 20th in line. There was another nightclub close to where the queue was, so an interesting dichotomy was on show with stoned/drunk people of the night staggering past shivering, lycra clad cyclists.

We waited for ages. 4am came and went. There were maybe 100 of us in line. It seemed that while the coaches were there the trucks weren't. 'They didn't turn up until 5am last year' moaned a regular. We eventually left at 4.50am, and I didn't cross the start line until 7am. I didn't think this hour difference would really matter - but it did. I hadn't recalled how crowded the ride was, but we must have stopped for weight of traffic two dozen times; I guess the previous time I had avoided the worst by being near the front. The masses also walked up the first serious hill, again due to weight of traffic. I managed to set the Roberts in its lowest gear and cycled slowly up. This hill (and the next three like it) thus produced strange moments - me cycling up alongside people walking, and no one commenting, not even a glance. Odd. 

I sent my first text of the day to Gav at the start, and got a reply that he had just woken up and had to 'cycle to the start'. I did some mental calculations (he lives in Epsom) and decided he wouldn't make it before they closed the ride. 

I did stop for a pleasant cup of tea at my friend's house on the route, about 30 minutes in. He was expecting me at 7.30 (7.00 plus 30 minutes cycling) but I was there at 8.10 - a reflection of the significant delays. His young family were preparing for breakfast, and for a minute I forgot I was on the ride and nearly joined in. 

The ride itself, apart from the number of people, was pleasant enough, and hillier than I had remembered it. There were a few in fancy dress, and everyone was chatty and friendly although all frustrated by the crowds. As the miles unrolled, I got texts from Gav who had got a lift in the end to the start, and he seemed to be steadily catching me. I pressed on, secretly not wanting to be overtaken (we were meeting our families at my house in Hove) and I grew weary. Running over my training, I realized that I actually hadn't done that many Clarion rides, and virtually nothing else, and just had one 30 miler in the last three weeks under my belt. By the time I got to the foot of the Beacon Gav was apparently breathing down my neck. I sat on the grass on the bank my the bottom and my legs were lifeless; I was finished and a walk up seemed my destiny.  

I took a deep breath, got in the granny gear and started turning. And to my surprise I found I could get up. It seemed to me at least to be almost easier than walking. It had taken my 13 minutes to climb the Beacon on the occasion I had attempted before, and I knew the hill had 'false finishes', but I was unprepared for when it suddenly ended and I was on the top! I let out several whoops of joy, which seemed to startle a few people around me, and then waited for Gav. On the top I received a text saying he was approaching the Beacon. Good, I could wait for him and we could cycle together to the finish; no honour lost there. However, after an uncertain period of waiting - 30 minutes, maybe longer - he rang to say he was at the finish. It seems that his text had been delayed in the ether and he had already passed me.  

I then tried to hurry to the finish to save face, which was frankly impossible. I think it took me an hour to get from the top of the Beacon to the finish (with two gents with verbal diarrhoea having been recklessly given a microphone and seemingly believing they were unable to take a breath) to Marocco's where a soothing ice cream was our reward.

Gav was gentle with me back at the house - Mark left for an hour at the top etc - but the reality was he started 90 minutes after me and finished 60 in front. I chatted to lots of people on the route, and even got the odd compliment (and a few odd compliments!) on my bike. 

At the end of the day while my timing was awry I had achieved my goal – non-stop cycling. Albeit very slowly! 

Mark :)

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Brighton & Hove's Naked Bike Ride - 12 June 2010


It looked like there were two stalwart Clarionettes on this 5th NBR , Fred and myself , but of course it clashed with the regular Clarion ride so no surprise. For myself, apart from the pleasure and fun of the bike ride, there was the fact that the leader of the Council had tried to get it banned so I was not going to miss it. And it was a fantastic day, we were blessed yet again with wonderful weather and the turnout was awesome. The organisers said 800 – 900 ( 700) last year, but the police and local paper estimated over 1,000. The ride is of course part of the World Naked Bike Ride and there were eight other events in the UK and over 50 worldwide. Whether it was the publicity about the ban, people turned out in hordes, they were lining the streets clapping and cheering and it seems the ride has become part of the B & H calendar. As for 'frightening' the tourists, they loved it, cameras at the ready - I found myself posing with a delightful young woman from South Korea ... This time we had some really good music to accompany us - especially the young woman sitting on the back of a bike playing guitar and singing into a mike! And then of course there was the swim at the end - the water was bracing, the company genial and the music great.


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Sunday 27 June
Lewes - Chalvington - Glynde

On what was the hottest day of the year, two faithful Clarionettes Richard and Joyce turned up at Lewes Station to meet Jenny - others on holiday, out of Brighton, sunning it on the beach (or MAYBE , although I don't believe it, watching the match).

You have to believe we were there because our attempts to get the traditional start photo were scuppered by a young woman who kindly offered to take it, even saying she had done several so we had a choice, only to find there was nothing in the camera ...

New thatch at Glynde

Jenny led us out of Lewes by a quiet route I have never taken before - (always something new with the Clarion), until a short burst on the A 27 cycle path led us to Ranscombe Lane and on to Glynde. Then through lovely quiet lanes to the Yew Tree, Chalvington. It was a perfect route for the day and the weather - the odd hill just to remind what it is all about, but mostly tranquil lanes bursting with greenery and life - a hawk rising up suddenly from a field, squirrels running in front of us and seemingly nothing else on the road (were they all at home watching?).

Glynde forge, dated 1907 on facade

A lovely, prolonged lunch at the Yew Tree, where we decided unusually to eat inside in the cool - by this time it was very hot indeed and the sun cream had had much use. And there was no television ...

Off again - this was really Jenny's territory and she was able to point out places she had stayed dog or animal sitting. That explained the ability to find such lovely quiet lanes.

Gate keepers at Glynde Place

We decided after lunch to go through Vert wood where it as a bit bumpy but completely dry and lovely and cool. Then there were more quiet lanes to amble along, a salute to the llamas and as Richard said 'when one is cycling like this one could go on forever'. A last pleasure was tea and cake/scones at Glynde Place - again we were the only customers so we had the magnificent garden to ourselves. Then round the corner to the station for a 6 minute wait for the train. A really lovely summer's day - thank you Jenny.


Chalvington: horse-drawn transport.

Jenny adds: We saw this lovely horse-drawn omnibus full of people plodding along the lane from the pub in Chalvington, holding up the traffic. We couldn't tell why it was there, but wouldn't it be nice if it turned out to be a village bus service?

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Sunday 13 June 2010
Horam via Abbot's Wood

[More photos on Flickr]

I'll begin by quoting Roger's description: 'This ride has a "challenge" rating a little above average (some of them have to). It is slightly longer than usual and has a few steepish hills, but nothing that can't be walked. On the plus side it takes us past a secluded lake, and through some of the prettiest lanes in Sussex.' All of which proved to be true.


Seven riders met at Polegate station: Angela, Anne, Jenny, Mark, Mick, Roger, and Tessa. A passer-by kindly took our photo for us. We headed straight for the Cuckoo Trail then off-road into the woods: Oggs Wood, Nate Wood, and Gate Wood - and were surprised not to encounter too much mud, given recent torrential rain. At the edge of Abbot's Wood we stopped at the lake, which was lovely - a peaceful carpet of yellow waterlilies, fringed by wild irises and inhabited by a pair of friendly ducks. Later we crossed a bridge over a stream and stopped to admire a large number of iridescent blue dragonflies, sadly too flighty to photograph.

Lakeside discussion

When we emerged from the woodland tracks we were on familiar quiet lanes, but bypassed The Yew Tree at Chalvington as the ride will be lunching there in two weeks' time. Instead we had a very pleasant meal in the garden of the Golden Cross, a friendly pub that produced our lunches in double-quick time and offered very good value for money. Pity it's right by such a horrendously busy stretch of the A22.


After lunch we crossed the deadly A22 and headed through the outskirts of Chiddingly, past Farley Farmhouse, Roland Penrose and Lee Miller's former home which is well worth a visit. On the way north to Horam we had to tackle three hills of the long slow slog variety, and some of us ended up walking the last stretch, but with hardly any traffic, the hedges full of dog roses in full bloom, and birdsong all around us this was no great hardship. Eventually we rejoined the Cuckoo Trail, which was encouragingly busy with families out cycling, and sailed along to the Old Mill where there was time for a very welcome tea and cake break before a short ride back to Polegate in plenty of time for the train.

Many thanks once again to Roger for a really enjoyable and interesting ride.


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