|Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club|
Reports from Winter 2009-2010
[Many more photos on Flickr - click on the pic for a bigger version]
Sunday 21 March 2010
[More photos on Flickr]
It was raining earlier Sunday morning, in spite of forecasts to contrary, so changing into, then out of, rain trousers, made me 5 minutes late for the groupsave gathering @ 10am. I almost joined the first group of cyclists I saw, before realising it wasn't the Clarion. Extracting myself from them, I saw Richard, Fred, Joyce, Sue and Terry in our familiar spot, having already bought their groupsave, so I joined the small queue in the ticket office for my senior ticket. In rushed Suzanne just in time for me to buy hers too. So off we seven set for the Eastbourne train. There were four carriages and a helpful guard, so we were able to stack our bikes and the bikes of the other group, who were also going to Berwick. They were BLAGSS, Brighton Lesbian and Gay Sports Society and one of them kindly agreed to take our assembled photograph at Berwick, once Angela and Jenny had arrived from opposite sides of the station, having come by car. Jim had got on at Lewes, though by then, the train was filling up with bikes and he was directed to the rear of the train by the guard.
It was thus quite a prompt start from the station, as we often have to search for a suitable passer-by to do our group photo and there aren't many passers-by at Berwick Station. BLAGSS were still assembling as we headed north from the station, passing the Arlington Reservoir on our right, with its sign for drinks and ices, which I'd never noticed before. After half an hour of Langtrye Lane, Darp Lane, and Mill Lane, we reached Church Lane and stopped at All Saints Church. Jim wanted to go in and pay for the History booklet he'd picked up on his research for the ride and it seemed like the service might just be ending. It was and we were all invited in for coffee and enjoyed the hospitality of the vicar and congregation, among whom were the owners of The Roebuck Inn where we were booked for lunch.
The nave is the oldest part of the church and dates from 13c, ie Early English style. Both outside walls of the nave have examples of the local 'winkelstone', Sussex marble; limestone formed from fossilised freshwater snail shells. Sir John Pelham was given the King's buckle for capturing Jean the King of France and this badge of honour can be seen in many churches in the area showing the influence and power of the Pelham family. The Pelham family built, or rebuilt so many church towers that they became known as Pelham towers. Laughton Church now contains a ring of six bells and we asked the bell ringers how long it took to learn how to do it. I think about six months was the answer. Sue asked me to point out that a refreshing coffee stop was much appreciated.
Cow Lane, Common Lane and Shortgate Lane were all ideal for cyclists, with hardly a car at all, but several beautiful horses, piebald and skewbald and a few friendly cyclists going in the opposite direction. There were plenty of horses and ponies in the fields too, clumps of snowdrops and the occasional celandine brightening the verges. Jim said that when he planned the ride 3 weeks ago some of the fields were completely flooded, but the waters had now receded.
We then took a farm track leading to the moated Laughton Place. We parked the bikes and explored the tower, which is all that remains of the grand Renaissance house. By 1600 the Pelham family had abandoned the house because of the damp and subsequent remodelling in 1753 into a Gothick farmhouse were pulled down by a new owner in 1927, leaving only the tower. This is where Jim, Sally and their friends had stayed last autumn, since it is now owned by the Landmark Trust. The area was once a major brick producer with 4 brickworks nearby and the splendid tower showed them off a treat. It seemed that no-one was in residence so we wandered around and listened and watched the numerous rooks in the surrounding trees. There were about 20 nests in the stands of trees; some with 3 nests and some with much more and there was a real cacophony of crowing.
We retraced our route back to The Roebuck Inn, which we'd passed earlier, but Jim had not allowed us to approach. On the way we saw a dead badger on the grass verge and Jenny estimated that it had been there a week or two. The garden of the inn seemed warm but not warm enough and so we sat by the front window and contemplated the inviting blackboard menu. Five of us had the punchnep soup, stuffed full of root veggies, accompanied by superb bread, or in Sue's case... roast potatoes, in Joyce's; tasty salad and mine; goat's cheese and roasted peppers on italian bread, Jim had Rye-caught cod, Richard - ham and eggs and Terry had roast; all excellent value. Joyce, Jim and I were delighted to see another couple arrive at the pub, who were old friends from Brighton Labour Party; Jane Thomas and Shaun. They had since moved out into the country nr Lewes and joined us at our table. We're hoping that they may join us on Clarion rides in future, but great to bump into them today.
After lunch and pudding, in Sue's case, we set off again. The sun was out and Jim consulted us as to whether to take the Vert Wood option. Jenny counselled against it as the weather has been so wet, but the spirit of adventure seized Joyce and we fell under her spell. It was, indeed, wet, puddly and watery, but we managed to cycle most of it, apart from an uphill stretch. Jim rechecked his maps on his way home and emailed me that, strictly speaking we were not in Vert Woods, but Brickhurst Wood and Laughton Common Wood, the former being mainly coniferous and the latter deciduous - main thing was, no-one fell off or got mired in mud and all enjoyed the sylvan beauty, birdsong and tranquillity, even if it was a bit oozy.
Back to the asphalt and more lanes until we reached Ripe. After the Lamb Inn we went in to the grounds of Eckington Manor and admired the goose sculpture with the 3 children, with us trying to puzzle out what it depicted, myth or nursery tale. Jim soon realised that we were now running a bit late and catching the train would be tight. He said we had 9 minutes to do about a mile. However, it was a bit uphill and we remembered an earlier conversation concerning level crossing times and how long the barriers stay down here compared to say, Switzerland, from which I'd returned yesterday. As Sue approached the level crossing, orange lights flashed, sirens sounded and the gates came down, a full 5 minutes before our train was due, on the opposite side of the barrier, with the next one an hour's wait away. Luckily the signalman was in his box by the crossing and saw us all waiting - desperate to cross, as the Eastbourne bound train pulled into the station. He shouted down to us that he would open the barriers after the train had left and before ours arrived so that we could cross and catch the Brighton train; if we were quick! We had several minutes to do this, but dashed across, impeding a couple in a sports car, but our need for haste was more pressing than theirs. We were all relieved to catch the train, apart from Jenny and Angela, who returned to their cars, not living near stations.
It was a great day out and a lot of fun, for which we thank Jim's careful preparation, good guidance,fair weather and good company.
Sunday 7 March 2010
[More photos on Flickr]
Gorgeous sunny day promised and dawned, but as we set out for the station icy winds chilled our tootsies and icy roadside puddles warned that Spring had not yet sprung. Six other Clarion cyclists gathered on the concourse; Joyce, Alice, Tessa, Suzanne, Angelica, Mick & me [Anne]. Mick felt out-numbered by women, but then Richard arrived, so Joyce decided to buy 2 groupsaves as 4 costs the same as 3. Soon Sue arrived and took up the 2nd 4th, as Richard didn't need a ticket due to commuting to London for 5 months. As we proceeded through the gate I was ticked off by the guard for cycling 5 yards on the station concourse on my way in and I vowed never to transgress again.
It was easy to stash the bikes on board as the train went straight to Hassocks with no stops. Unfortunately Jim was waiting at Preston Park station as every other day of the week it did stop there. He phoned to say he would catch the next train and cycle hard to catch us up. Alice was the only person with a proper camera and she took a photo of the 10 of us, as Leon and John were at the station. We had a chat about where we'd all been when we missed previous rides and it seemed the years and the hard winter were taking their toll on our crumbling bodies [speaking personally anyway]. John joined us after being a member for almost 18 months and not appearing; - good to see him and off we go, after another quick photo of all 11 of us by a passer-by on the platform, who took a very quick shot, as Angelica and Sue, or Tessa basked on the bench in the sunshine.
Out into the wind again and Suzanne set a cracking pace. I'm thinking Jim will really have to hurry to catch us up before lunch time. We got warmed up as we climbed through to Hurstpierpoint and then hit the back lanes, holding up the motorists. The pretty village of Blackstone was admired for its interesting tile-hung cottages and one with clambering quince with fruits, and buds. As I was enjoying the fresh country air and rich molasses smells, listening to the birdsong from the shelter of the hedges and admiring the Downs, I noticed 4 deer watching us from a field on our left. Two were sitting down and two standing fairly near to us and they didn't flee at our approach but continued to stare at us over the hedge.
Further along the same lane we stopped to photograph 4 little ponies [Shetlands?] in 2 pens opposite each other, with a group of chickens in the background. We thought each pair was a mother and foal, but one mother had a very naughty boy. At first we thought he was just a bit frisky, but his behaviour deteriorated into biting, kicking, rearing up and chasing. We had to leave in case we were upsetting them and in case we got too far behind and caused our leader Suzanne to have to wait too long in the cold for us.
The delay was good news for Jim, as we soon heard the honk of his bike-horn and he joined us for the last leg to the pub. On the way we saw the emus that we had often cycled by in the past. This time we all stopped and Mick ventured over a ditch and nearly into barbed wire fence, to capture them on his phone's camera.
They made a booming noise like a bittern. [Coincidentally, in last night's Argus there was a report of a woman bumping into a bittern in this area.] Now we were the dozen that Suzanne had booked for the pub lunch.
The sun was still shining and the garden looked inviting but a large table was reserved for us inside and doubtless, was the best place, though some brave souls were seated outside for lunch. There was an exciting choice on the menu, with exotic dishes and dishes of the day, but at gourmet prices, as Suzanne had warned. After extensive soul-searching 6 soups, 1 shared nutroast, 1 risotto, 2 salmon fishcakes with mango and chilli salsa, and a plate of 3 sausages with mash were ordered and, eventually, arrived. Food was good, with the nut-roast that Sue and Alice shared having the most plaudits and possibly, Leon's 3, not particularly nice, sausages for £11, being the worst bargain. Leek and potato soup at £6 was not copious, nor memorable, but certainly, palatable, with tasty bread and sufficient for cycling. Mick said his fishcake gave him a nasty aftertaste, but, then, he could have allowed me more than the tiny morsel he swapped for a bit of my bread. Surveying the other pub diners' food, I wished I'd been more adventurous as the shared fishplate did look delicious and Joyce and I had dallied over whether to share a hummous plate with roasted garlic bulbs and tomato and mascarpone dip; finally opting for the soups, as doubting our ability to share fairly. Sue thoughtfully provided a large bar of Lidl's chocolate, which we shared in fellowship, perfect pud for pedallers.
Before the next café in Preston Park, we faced the daunting prospect of heading East, uphill [slightly] to the M23. The wind was horrid without the previous protective hedges, till we reached the NCN route by the M23. Poor things cabinned, cribbed and confined in their noisy metal cars, where we had the freedom to observe the land around us, stop when we chose or whizz along with a strong tail wind. There were three cyclists heading North and they had a harder task, as the wind pushed us homeward. Generally agreed that it was better than the Btn to Lewes bike track which is so close to that v. fast road. We regrouped by a sign to the Chattri, with its Dally on the Downs walkers signpost and we recalled the wondrous C-Curve of Anish Kapoor that graced the hill last May for Brighton Festival, reflecting landscape, skyscape, cows and delighted people of all ages.
We twelve were joined at the Rose Garden Café in Preston Park, by Roger, who'd had a little leg op and been forbidden to cycle for a spell, making 13. Then who should join the cake queue but Fred, who'd been ukuleleing in Margate the day before and worn himself out. Soon, Sally and her sister Mary, arrived too, so we reached 16, a bumper number and a happy band. Joyce led a group of Alice, Tessa and Angelica off for a warming sauna and Mick and I arrived home by 4.45. It was a great ride for a chilly day, with a raw wind, but well paced, varied, peaceful in parts and with the wind behind us when it mattered. Thanks for all the fun and care, Suzanne.
Greetings to Nick, Amanda and Angela , who either sent their apologies, or had last minute car problems; - see you all in Dieppe, which we did discuss over lunch, mainly how to reach the harbour by 8.30am.
Sunday 21 February
[More photos on Flickr]
I was very pleased to see Joyce and Fred when they turned up at Brighton Station. It was a rainy day but the optimists among us thought it would clear up.
Jim joined the train at Lewes and we spent the journey planning a suitable 'inauguration' for Nick who had formally become a Clarion member. Ian and Nick were waiting at Polegate. Our luck was turning out to be mixed. I discovered I had left my warm and expensive ski gloves on the train. Luckily Ian had a spare pair to lend me and train expert Jim suggested I talk to the ticket clerk to see if he could retrieve them for me. Ticket clerk turned out to be a star - he bent over backwards to help, arranging for them to be dropped off at Polegate in time for our return journey - way beyond the call of duty.
Photo taken, we set off in steady rain. (It had started to hail at Polegate before our arrival, so the optimists among us thought we were lucky to have missed that!)
We were getting very wet, and under Woodham Bridge, all of us except Ian and Joyce, who were ahead, decided we would like to shorten the ride. We carried on to the shelter of Horsebeech Lane Bridge where we dug our heels in and after contacting Joyce by phone, decided to wait for their return - we knew our pub lunch stop was on the way back from the Heathfied end of the Trail.
Reunited, 5 very cold and wet riders joined Ian and Joyce for the last few miles to the Kings Head pub where a watery sun was starting to filter through the clouds. Ironic that it turned out our only clear skies were when we were in the pub! What a relief to be in the warm. We stripped off, some more than others, and creatively tried to dry off bits of clothing - newspaper stuffed in shoes, constant use of the loo hand drier - Many had rather meagre bowls of soup, but it was hot and delicious, augmented by Nick's plate of cheesy chips which he shared.
Conversation took in various cholestrol beating diets, fairy cakes, cinema and Joyce urged us to go on the 'Robin Hood Tax' website to click our support for a tax on speculative bank investments. [Don't forget to do this! IB]
Nick's 'inauguration' was to be 'Fellowship is Life. Lack of Fellowship is Death' announced loudly 4 times in the pub. He deferred, saying he needed time to practice, he would do it on the Dieppe trip!
We donned our still-wet clothes and headed off into the biting wind and rain. We got separated from Anne who took a slightly longer route back to the station It was only a few miles and we met up with her on the platform with only a few minutes to wait for our train. I had retrieved my warm and dry gloves from the ticket clerk. We waved goodbye to Nick, still on the platform waiting for the London train.
Sunday 7 February
[More photos on Flickr]
A group of us met at Brighton station. There was an immediate problem when one of us (Joyce = me) had to rush back home, just as the train was leaving, to check on something (too boring to relate but it concerned an open door) . She promised as she fled "to try to catch up". . .
But this is the Clarion Club and fellowship is life, so there they all were waiting at Hassocks station, and by this time we had become a crowd of 13. The role of honour being: Angelika, Anne, Fred, Helen, Ian, Jenny, Joyce, Leon, Richard, Roger, Sue, Suzanne, Tessa. Happily there had been so much greeting, catching up, photographing, that the wait had not been too long.
So off we set following leader Ian under a grey sky, but quite pleasant weather, not too cold and no wind. And as promised it was a tranquil ride, mostly undulating rather than hilly (except for one or two ) with only a short spurt on a main road. Happily spread out for what looked like about a mile (but obviously was not ...), we sped along , noticing funny bird noises which no one could identify and taking in the small signs of seasonal change and commiserating with Jenny who managed to put half her leg in a massive puddle.
And before you knew it we had arrived at the 8 Bells to a hospitable reception, everyone rushing around getting a table organised for us all. If there were the superstitious who had doubts at having 13 around a table, they were calmed by Helen deciding (nothing to do with the numbers) that she wished to eat her meal outside, although she joined us later. After Jenny had put her shoe and socks on the radiator (not near our table! ) ... we settled down to eat.
The food was truly excellent and very good value - as Richard said "the best lunch we had so far", we were ready to congratulate the chef, but he/she never appeared. What with admiring the wonderful scooter (belonging to the landlord which he apparently takes to shows ...); with guessing at the origin of the name "8 Bells", - all our nautical suggestions turned out to be nonsense – it is simply because the local church has 8 bells! and Angelika getting sign-ups for the London to Brighton ride, time went quickly and we were ready to test our full stomachs with the ride back . After a slightly more testing ride back we arrived at Hassocks station in good time, and since you can never keep a good appetite down some took the opportunity to get a good cup of tea/coffee at the local pub.
A lovely ride thanks to Ian and special thanks to all from me for waiting.
24 January 2010
[More photos on Flickr, including photos of two of only three Sussex churches with round towers]
Twelve riders assembled at Brighton station:
I learnt something new today; Keep calm, even when unreasonable demands are made to supply a ride report within a timescale that rides roughshod over the writer's other commitments.
It was suggested that I …
KISS (Keep it short, stupid).
Were you aware that the dirt-track police were on duty today? No? Well they were.
Further along on narrow lanes between Southease and Piddinghoe the motor traffic was like a busy town at rush hour. Motorists were hooting and honking at our group of riders to get out of their way, even though we ride single file.
More motorists' bad behaviour was encountered when a young woman was walking a young horse ahead of our group. We slowed down to allow her time to regain control of the beast, when a fool in a car sped past the back riders, only to be halted by the quick actions of cyclists at the front. Will motorists ever learn to be courteous to other road users? I don't think so.
At the Hope public house in Newhaven we were joined before lunch by Liz and Les, who later rode with us to Seaford.
At Seaford railway station some of the group waited at the station while others sampled tea at a café opposite.
Normally, I ask that if possible ride reports reach me not later than the Monday evening following the ride - so I can get the circular out and give the maximum notice of the details of the next ride and/or any other events. Usually, people manage to do this, but on the rare occasions they don't it's not the end of the world.
This time, since I couldn't come on yesterday's ride - I was away at a family funeral in Nottingham - I asked Roger to explain and ask whoever volunteered to do the report to try to let me have it by Monday lunchtime - which, self-evidently, Leon managed to do. And I thank him again for that. This was because, exceptionally, I am tied up more or less continuously from this afternoon (Monday) until Wednesday at the earliest.
No one should feel obliged to write a report anyway. And no-one should feel pressured into doing so or into meeting my (aspirational - to use the current political vogue word ) 'deadlines'. But it is helpful, as I've explained, to have the report in in good time. It was, and isn't, certainly not my intention to 'ride roughshod' over anyone. Or even smooth-shod!
Sunday 20 December
[More photos on Flickr]
Roger and Suzanne had laid on an impressive do, hiring the function room of the Open House pub and preparing a cycling quiz for our pre-lunch delectation. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't playing ball; the snow had come down two days before and then froze. It had taken Joyce half an hour to get down Bentham Road, but she persevered and made it to the pub. Mick turned up but without Anne - she was on her way up Ditchling Rise, and half an hour later she was still on her way - but just before we all went out to look for her, she too arrived. Understandably, several of the people who had planned to come were put off by the weather, and in the end there were just nine of us.
Having delayed the quiz to wait for people to get there, we decided to go straight on to the lunch. There were meat roasts and veggie roasts, child portions and adult portions, all very much enjoyed.
For the quiz we split up into two teams. With Roger asking the questions and Suzanne doing the marking, there were enough people for one team of four and one of three. My team consisted of Angela, Anne and myself while the opposing team was made up of Mick, Fred, Joyce and Tessa. And yes, the questions really were about cycling! So, predictably, scores were low, with Angela and me just pipping Fred, Joyce and Tessa by one point (the Barrys having left half way through for the next event in their social whirl).
Then it was time to set off on the long, slow and careful walk home – walking in the road and hanging on to parked cars being the favoured tactic. Thanks to Roger and Suzanne for organising the event and let's hope we get better weather, and a better turnout, next year.
Clarion New Year's Day Ride
[More photos on Flickr]
The annual Carats ride was overshadowed by the recent death of Sheila Schaffer. Joyce has written a piece about Sheila. We will all miss her. She had been out of the saddle for some time, but always attended the New Year events. Over lunch, it was noted with sadness that Sue had been accustomed to bringing two passengers in her car each year – Ed and Sheila – but this year she travelled alone.
So six subdued and thoughtful cyclists set off from the pier, into the west wind – Ian, Joyce, Fred, Mick, Anne and myself. We were joined at the café by Jenny, who has had her operation and will soon be cycling again, and by Sue, and two potential new Clarionistas, Les and Liz.
It was sunny but cold, and there were divided opinions about sitting inside or outside the café. But 'fellowship is life' - so what else could we do but split into two opposing factions? However, when Fred and I had eaten, we joined the 'outside' group along with Jenny and the Bullocks, and several people gave me money. That's because the subs are due, folks! So if you haven't paid yet, pay soon and we will see if we can call the boys off.
Just before we left, the wind behind us now, we saw a very brave (or maybe foolish) young man having a dip in the sea. In true 'herding cats' style, the six cyclists returned to the pier in two groups of three, but the groups were reunited en route. At the corner of Hove Lawns, a woman accosted Fred and asked for £1 for the parking ticket machine. It transpired that this was no common highwaywoman, however, but one of Fred's many friends. Nevertheless, this did not stop us discussing the fundraising potential of similar activities on future rides!
Sunday 13 December 2009
It was a cold morning with the promise of some rain but, even so, ten Clarion stalwarts met at Berwick station, all appropriately attired: Alice, Anne, Ian, Joyce, Mick, Richard, Roger, Suzanne and two welcome visitors from the London section, Joan and PJ.
There was little by way of incident to report about our journey along the quiet Sussex lanes. I think everyone was focused on keeping warm and getting to the pub. It was sunny as we left Berwick; drizzle settled in after the first few miles but it didn't dampen our spirits as we sped towards the Yew Tree Inn at Chalvington.
A welcoming landlord, an open fire, a table big enough for ten and a varied menu, what more could you want? Butternut squash was the reply from one or two people when they learnt that Alice had ordered the last remaining portion, but there were other non-meat options.
Lunchtime conversation ranged from hiring a Christmas tree in Hove to preventing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, with something for everyone in between. Ian outlined his plans for our section's contribution to the Clarion Easter meet, which were heartily endorsed. And then it was out into the cold again for the short push back to Berwick, just in time for an early train home.
Many thanks to Ian for an enjoyable finale to another good year of Clarion cycling!
Sunday 29 November
[More photos on Flickr]
Well, not exactly R.I.P., as seven intrepid Clarion cyclists, namely Alice, Anne, Joyce, Ian, Richard, Roger and Suzanne met at Three Bridges station to ensure that travellers continued to ply the route. Despite an inauspicious weather forecast, we set off beneath a changeable sky, first stop, the delightful(ly warm) Worth Church for a swift look at this mainly Saxon building (c 1050), and then over the less than delightful Elizabethan motorway (c 1974).
Thanks to West Sussex County Council et al., the Worth Way (opened 1979) has a good surface, so good that the rain water runs off it into lateral gullies which were hopping and gurgling merrily as they flowed past us. The Worth Way was opened after much of the railway land had been sold off, and so, frequently deviates from the straight railway track bed, but by keeping a keen eye on Joyce, our leader, we made sure that we did not shoot off along farm tracks or side lanes that had no business detracting us from our intended route.
Although the modern parade of shops has obliterated Grange Road Station at Crawley Down, The Victorian Royal Oak public house (c 1850) had most clearly not disappeared and beckoned us to lunch which was copious - but do plough-persons really have prawn cocktail for lunch?
Our luck had run out after lunch as the rain was falling. Saddles were wiped dry and, undaunted, we carried on along the Worth Way, stopping only to snap the fine Wealden House called Gullege (c 1560s) along with a spectacular rainbow as the sun came out.
East Grinstead was a short ride away, at which point it was unanimously decided to do a 180 degree turn and pedal back down the Worth Way as more rain threatened and the Worth Way 'sans lights' did not seem a good idea. The rain more or less stopped. The wind was more or less behind us, the cycle route went more or less downhill, Alice was more or less covered in mud (thanks to a dodgy-fitting mud guard) and Roger was more or less praying that he did not have a puncture as he had left his wheel unlocking tool at home. Back to Three Bridges Station (Edwardian) where the one and only contretemps of the whole day occurred when Anne, Roger and Suzanne managed to get up the stairs to the platform for the 3.24 whereas Alice, Joyce and Richard were beaten back by alighting travellers and had to wait for the next train.
Many thanks to Joyce (and her co-conspirator Anne) for sussing out the route last week, thus encouraging us all to spend a convivial day together on Sunday.
[Again, even more and bigger photos on Flickr. ]