|Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club|
Reports from Winter 2006/2007
Sunday 18 March
There had been some rather depressing weather forecasts, which deterred John (understandably, given his experience two weeks before!) and it was also Mother's Day, which presumably claimed others, whether givers or receivers of thanks. (This gave me a certain sense of déjà vu, since I did the report for Mother's Day last year!) On top of all that, Jeff's bike had still not been fixed since his gear broke on the previous 'ride', so only four of us made it to Hassocks Station today: Ian, Fred, Joyce and myself.
Jim, Fred, Ian and Joyce at Hassocks station
As it turned out, the weather was kinder to us than it might have been (it didn't rain, other than a few spatters when we were passing through Clayton, and in fact the sun shone nearly all day); but the cruel wind made up for the lack of rain, and really slowed us down, even on the flat. It was the noisiest ride I had been on – towards the end, we were all grunting like mad with the effort it was taking to battle against the wind.
Fred and Joyce on the B2116 – Jim's photo
It was, for me, a very interesting ride, as it included parts I had never been to before, particularly in the second half. For almost the entire ride the northward-facing escarpment of the downs looked down on us and seemed to be saying that 'real' cyclists would be up there in a flash … but we were content to traverse the entire length of Underhill Lane instead.
An interesting tree
A hedgeless field
Over lunch at the Half Moon at Plumpton, I quizzed Ian about Pevsner, whom, as you may have noticed, he is given to quoting in his ride descriptions. From Ian's reply, and a bit of internet research, I learned that Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, who had been born and brought up in Leipzig, came to England in 1933 at the age of 31, and launched himself into a project 'to document every building that mattered between Berwick-on-Tweed and The Lizard', the result of which was his 46-volume Buildings of England series, published between 1951-1974.
To me he sounds rather like the architectural equivalent of those Radio 3 pundits whose enjoyment of a piece of music is spoilt by the fact that the oboist came in a demisemiquaver too early in bar 46, while the rest of us notice nothing amiss … but perhaps I am being too hard on him?
[Part of] Anne of Cleves house
At any rate, as you will have read, he didn't think much of the Anne of Cleves House in Ditchling. I tried to find out more about this house, but gave up after the second page of Google hits, by which time I had already discovered that apart from the famous Anne of Cleves House in Lewes, there is also one in Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, and another in Haverhill, Suffolk. Like the Lewes one, they all seem to have been given to Anne by Henry VIII as part of the divorce settlement, but it is not clear whether she actually lived in (or even visited) any of them. (Presumably if there were as many as my quick Google search suggested, she would have had a full time job simply visiting them all once a year!)
The Polish RAF memorial
Some time after Ditchling, having traversed the entire length of Spatham Lane and then turned eastwards, we hit the Wivelsfield-Chailey road. Here we stopped at the Plough Inn for a minute or two to look at the pyramid-shaped monument to three Polish squadrons that were based at RAF Chailey (not a trace of which seems to remain, at least from the look of my 1:25000 OS map; perhaps Jeff's great-uncle's wartime map might help here?) The Poles only lost two airmen from the base, and their names are inscribed on the monument, which is clearly well looked-after.
The Downs in the sunshine – Jim's photo
We were denied the delightfully-named Honeypot Lane, but Highbridge Lane, which took us to Chiltington, and Allington Lane, which followed it, were just as pleasant. (I say 'Chiltington', because that's what the aforementioned OS map says; it suggests that in order to arrive in East Chiltington, we would have had to take Novington Lane instead; the only problem with this is that 'Chiltington' is a mile or so EAST of East Chiltington, to say nothing of West Chiltington … help! My partner, Sally, recently spotted that the 'London South' 1:25000 OS map shows Clapham Junction station in Brixton, so perhaps we should not take these maps too literally?)
The Half Moon at Plumpton
Two pilgrims leaving the church
From the end of Allington Lane we turned west, and for the first two or three miles of the B2116, the wind was assisted in its tormenting of us by rather too many cars going rather too fast; but peace was regained at Westmeston, and we then followed Underhill Lane all the way to Clayton. Here we stopped to have a look at the 11th or 12th century wall paintings in the church of St John the Baptist. On the way, we had been hoping to catch a glimpse of Plumpton Place, which looks rather like a moated castle from the map, and which Pevsner actually liked; but it is not visible from the road. Its grounds were presumably largely given over to what used to be known as Plumpton Agricultural College, which has now dropped its middle name and appears to have diversified into such fascinating areas as Animal Management (now THAT would be a good idea!) and Equine Machinery, although maybe those are two different things?
Some of the land we passed through between Westmeston and Clayton appears to belong to South East Water. This intrigued me, as I thought this was Southern Water's turf, and raised the horrific possibility of unscrupulous Kentish hordes stealing our water ... but, thanks again to those nice people at Google, I now know that 'South East Water supply 3,607 square km across areas of Kent, Hampshire, Berkshire, Sussex and Surrey with 400 million litres of water every day'. So there – it isn't as simple as it seems ...
Clayton railway tunnel
After leaving the church at Clayton, we had a look at the castellated folly that is the north portal of Clayton railway tunnel. Pevsner called this an 'engaging oddity', but presumably this was before the addition of a modern brick-built section that entirely fails to fit in with the rest. As it is the only part with windows, one can only assume that it has, or had, a purpose connected with human habitation, although it is much too small for anyone to live in.
Black sheep and a vista of mid-Sussex – Jim's photo
Danny - Jim's photo
Tired, but not downhearted enough to take the easy way home when Ian put it to the vote, we then struck out along New Way Lane, which took us nearly to Hurstpierpoint. The first section of this lane is really an extension of Underhill Lane, but it then turns north and passes Danny, a 16th century country house which has now been converted to retirement apartments. (Apparently – thanks to Google again – the name Danny is a corruption of the Saxon Danehithe, meaning 'valley and haven').
Hassocks Station – where have the bikes gone? Jim's photo
Thanks to Ian for a fascinating ride, which, interpolating Joyce's and my readings, we agreed to have measured about 19 miles. Unfortunately I will not be able to make the next five rides (the life of a student layabout is more hectic than many imagine!) but will be back on June 10th, by which time I hope to have completed plans for two new rides, to be tried out in July, trains permitting.
Sunday 4 March
I was joined at Glynde station by four stalwarts – Fred, Jim, Jeff, the latter two's friend, John. Jim duly recruited someone to take the usual 'setting out' photo (which will appear on the website in due course, no doubt) and ignoring the precipitation which at that point was somewhere midway between steady drizzle and light but serious rain, we made a start.
Ian, Fred, Jeff, Jim and John at Glynde station
On this route most of the uphill is accounted for in the little hill up past Glynde Place right at the beginning. We had almost reached the top when misfortune struck with Jeff's gear-arm breaking off completely – making the bike impossible to ride. [It could have been far worse – it might have happened when there would have been a ten or twelve mile walk back to the station instead of half a mile.]
At the summit
Jeff's broken gears
By this time the rain had moved up a couple of gears and was coming down pretty sheet-like. I was already pretty drenched and I imagine this was true of the others. We debated whether or not to continue, minus Jeff, obviously – or to call it a day – not something we would ever do lightly, needless to say. The decision to abandon was unanimous, so we walked back to that station with Jeff and then repaired to the Trevor Arms next door where, although strictly speaking they weren't open, they kindly rustled up cups of coffee for us. We had an interesting chat there for twenty-five minutes or so before it was time for the train.
Coffee in the pub – Jim's photo
Quite honestly, had I not been down to lead the ride, I'd have thought twice about turning up today. I've still got a bit of an excuse in the shape of the tail-end (I hope!) of the very bad cold I've had since a couple of days after the Chiddingly ride and the local weather forecast for the day was (and is!) rain throughout the day, cold and very windy.
[Note from Fred: my camera packed up shortly after taking a snap of Jeff's broken derailleur gears, but a spell on the radiator when I got it home dried it out and brought it back to life!]
Sunday 18 February 2007
Jeff, Ian, Jim, Joyce, Tessa and Roger at Berwick station
Ian was on the platform to greet us at Berwick. After the usual group photo we set off towards Laughton, passing a farmyard en route in which a Dalek was sitting watching the world go by (honestly!).
Ah, this is better....
Oh no it isn't!
The road goes ever on...
A fine pair of horns
That's the way to get around!
Jazz at the Six Bells
Lunch in our cubby hole
Washing the mud off
Sunday 14 February – Pevensey Levels
Jeff, Joyce, Fred and Jim
The first bit shouldn't have been a problem, because we knew that on alighting from the train at Polegate Station (and after the obligatory photo, taken by the second person we asked, the first having been frightened off, probably by Joyce's luminous yellow coat) we had to make for the Cuckoo Trail.
Unfortunately, neither of the maps actually showed the Cuckoo Trail; mine (dated 1974) only had the wispy geological features left by the cuttings and embankments of a 'Dismantled Railway', while Fred's (thought to be late 19th century [1960, actually fred]) showed an actual railway (and both, incidentally, showed Polegate Station in its old position, about a quarter of a mile east of the current one). Of course, both of us had planned to buy new maps for the occasion, but unfortunately we had to blow SIX WHOLE POUNDS on our Clarion membership renewals instead …
Luckily, the Cuckoo Trail features very regularly in Clarion rides, so we could do that particular journey with our eyes closed, although we'd probably be run over in the process. I was interested to note that the first section of the Trail does not actually follow the track bed of the old railway, but instead descends gently down the side of a cutting. At the foot of this incline, if you look back towards Polegate you can see the (non-asphalted, and rather overgrown) old track bed curving away to the left, but as we did not stop here that was all I could see. I had another look on the way back, and thought I could discern a bridge or a tunnel at the Polegate end, but since by this time we were racing for the 3.42 train home, there was no time to do any more; so there was simply nothing for it but to go back the next day and have a proper look. OK, I'll be honest, I'm not really that much of a nerd; I just happened to have an appointment at Herstmonceux the next day, so I made sure my return journey took me along this section of the Trail.
What I saw was (a) a whole army of Men In Hard Hats 'coppicing', making it look a lot less overgrown, and (b) a vertical bank at the end – how disappointing – I had hoped to discover a scary old tunnel! The cutting must have been filled in before building the new estate that starts just at that point and extends to the main road, since on the other side of said road you can see the (very overgrown) cutting reappearing.
The Dog House
Back to the ride. Well, we turned off the Cuckoo Trail proper almost immediately, and went eastwards along a pleasant tree-lined path that is also described as 'The Cuckoo Trail' but is clearly not an old railway line. At the end of this path we turned northwards, joining a lane which, according to the 1974 map, turned off the aforementioned main road (then known as the A27) in the direction of Hankham and Rickney. Of course, since then, a new by-pass has been built, and usurped the name A27, and the lane now crosses over it via a bridge. From here we could see the other bridge, perhaps half a mile to the west, where the Cuckoo Trail crosses over the bypass. We continued along this lane – very narrow, quiet and cycle-friendly, although I wouldn't have liked to meet a fire engine coming in the opposite direction, or, indeed, any direction – across the south-west corner of Pevensey Levels, meeting a slightly wider road and eventually turning southwards at a junction known, according to my map, as 'The Horns', and into Hankham. Here we passed a rather impressive looking house called 'The Dog House', which had featured in an earlier ride. If that is the sort of accommodation they give their dogs out there, the humans must live in palaces! On the way, we had noticed another substantial edifice – Lusteds Farm House – which had a cute little thatched hut in front of the main building, by the road, and wondered what it was for. I found out the next day; as I passed the house, a huge yellow drain tanker was parked there; the hut obviously houses their septic tank!
Castle Cottage Tea Room
On to Pevensey, crossing the A27 yet again, via the intriguingly named Peelings Lane. Then round the castle grounds; we shunned the £3.20 entrance fee for the castle itself and instead headed for a coffee (or in Joyce's case a jasmine tea) at the Castle Tea Rooms. The church next to the Castle is apparently the first one the Normans built in Britain. Of course in those days, Pevensey was on the coast (and indeed was shown as such on Fred's map - no, only kidding) – an honour that nowadays goes to Pevensey Bay, a collection of various weird designs of bungalow (some semicircular, or perhaps elliptical), a Martello tower that is apparently being converted into something, and a railway station where hardly any trains ever stop.
A study in one-point perspective
Eventually the coast road runs out of houses altogether and there is a caravan site – yes, we are in Norman's Bay. Here the road crosses the railway line at an attended crossing; Fred thought the middle of this very straight stretch of railway line would be a good place for a photographic study of Single-Point Perspective, but unfortunately the crossing keeper thought otherwise; however, I think he got at least one shot before being turfed off.
Jeff heeds the notice
A formation of geese practice low-level flying for Jim and Joyce
After having a quick look at the (private!) beach and deciding it was too cold to go in the sea, we re-crossed the railway and made for the pub – The Star at Norman's Bay. We had been warned that this might be a bit crowded and noisy, but it seems the cold weather had put enough people off to allay our fears. In fact we sat outside! The conversation over lunch was of the forthcoming Clarion branch AGM (Wed 7th at Joyce's), rumblings of a threatened takeover of the national organisation by Lycra-clad Blairites, and the importance of mandating our delegate to vote in an appropriate fashion.
Joyce practices her numeracy and dexterity skills
After lunch we turned back towards Polegate, taking the more inland route to the roundabout on the A27 (in fact, this is where it starts, on its epic journey to Southampton) and up the Wartling road, turning left towards Rickney and retracing part of our outward route, eventually joining the Cuckoo Trail further north than we had left it in the morning. A possible afternoon tea stop was eschewed because of the imminence of the train.
A very pleasant eighteen and a half miles, and hardly a hill in sight. Thanks Ian, and we hope you feel better soon.
Sunday 19 January
Seven eager cyclists assembled for the group photo at Hassocks station; this time kindly taken by a young Brighton woman cyclist who was waiting on the platform for her brother, plus bike, to arrive on the London train. We gave her the Clarion message and welcomed them to join us, but maybe our pace was too quick for them to catch us up, or maybe they'll go to our website and see us again. The weather was sunny as forecast, but a keen west wind whistled round the ears as we headed west from the station up the hill.
Jim, Sue, Ian, Anne, Joyce, Mick and Fred at Hassocks station
Soon we were down a lovely lane and quieter roads, passing through a 'Second Life' of private roads and extensive, expensive, rather gorgeous, dwellings. Would we really like to live in these exclusive, private homes we pondered? At lunch, later, some of us, at least, discussed the distribution of the current Brighton and Hove City 'Rose', perhaps more in keeping with the Clarion calling. Next highlight was fleeting glimpses of Cuckfield Park, beautiful Elizabethan manor house, approached by a long avenue of lime trees. Wonder who owns that and what it is today. No time for me to photograph it as Mick is racing on ahead, setting cracking pace.
Lonesome pines in Borde Hill Gardens
Now we reach the borders of the Borde Hill Gardens estate and travel down tree-lined lanes, avoiding the outstretched blackthorn and holly bushes, through the stone gateway, admiring the stunning views and ancient trees. Fred risks the boggy ground and takes a prize-winning photo of reflections in winter puddles, and Ian has to wait for us two, once again; sorry Ian, and everyone else, but such a joy.
View of the lake
Anne's photo of same view
Another group photo or two above the lakes and in the sunshine, then we hurtled off again, passing palm and pine trees on our left, inside the National Trust grounds of Borde Hill. I had to stop again to snap the huge red hot hibiscus basking in our January sunshine. As we left the estate bridleway for the road, we had to wait for the Brighton CTC to climb up the hill. Jim teased the last cyclist that we had gone up it much faster, but regrettably, Jim was rudely rebuffed! We sailed down the hill that they had toiled up, thanks to Ian's canny navigational skills.
Red hot hibiscus basking in our January sunshine - Anne's photo
Fred stuggles up the hill – Anne's photo
The Clarion call: One off, all off! - Anne's photo
By now all tummies were rumbling and thoughts turning to hot soup. We passed the intriquingly named Witches Inn, pausing only to regroup and continue. Some of us had time to read the pub signs promising locally sourced, fresh organic food and to hope that Ian had even better fare in mind for us. Half a mile further and we reached the promised Lindfield, jewel of Sussex villages, East or West. Crocuses were blooming in the grass verges, yet another sign of impending doom via global warming, or should , I say, early Spring. (No)
We were now faced with The Bent Arms and its attached Art Café, or, what seemed to me to loom on the horizon, the Tyger Inn. Since The Bent Arms offered too gourmet and time-consuming lunches and its attached Art Café's menu did not proffer soup, we voted to explore the Tyger prospect. This proved to be illusory on closer inspection as, in small print, 'formerly' appeared before and, 'now church property' after the pub sign, so, to waste no further time by recycling the half mile back to the Witch, we entered the Art Café. A warm welcome, if not warm soup awaited us. Seafood, cheese and ham sandwishes, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, hot teas and most delicious home-made chocolate cakes appeared and were shared out among us in the bright art exhibition space, which we all enjoyed. The Clarion annual meet at Hereford was discussed and whether we could still enter for the most miles trophy. Would Neil still be keen? We'd hoped to see him at Hassocks on his home turf and hope all is well with him and his growing family. Our 7 February Clarion AGM and local Labour and city cycling topics were aired and shared, along with redistribution of Ian's salad and Anne's chocolate cake and ginger and lemon tea, to Anne and grateful Sue, respectively. Jim offered to take Joyce's spurned cheddar for a much preferred brie option, but, alas, two cheddars arrived too promptly to change.
The Art Cafe
Thankfully, we whizzed down Slugwash Lane after lunch, heeding Ian's timely warning of treacherous bends at its bottom. A lovely ride down, again passing more lycrad-clad cycle tourers toiling up. However, our ups were yet to come and we had to hurry to catch the train. I had forgotten about that as I tarried , yet again, photographing, first the arrival of Fred, then an amazing twisted tree, which, probably, no-one else even noticed, as they knew where we were and where we had to be to reach the 3.38 train and I was still enthusing and enjoying every moment and not conscious of time.
Twisted tree - Anne's photo
In the woods - Anne's photo
Mick and Ian ensured that Joyce, Fred, and Sue all caught the train home and Jim phoned for his lift as Ian, Anne and Mick stowed bikes in cars for home. As Mick and I entered Brighton at the Duke of York's cinema, Fred cycled into view on the cycle track. We awaited at traffic lights and I couldn't catch Fred's eye or ear, such was his concentration, or exhaustion. It was a pleasure to see that the cleaner, greener, public transport option had delivered Fred home safely and faster than the car (though, admittedly, car was warmer, but , this was offset, somewhat, by oil from bike-stashing in boot, contaminating Mick's lovely new alpaca Evo Morales sweater. My Bolivian balaclava from same website arrived this morning and I could have done with that earlier in the ride.
What a lovely day to remember and treasure, especially as North winds, dark clouds and freezing rain now reign. Thank you Ian, for another brilliant Clarion ride.
7 January 2007
Roger, Joyce, Ian, Suzanne and Fred at Lewes station
Suzanne braves the mud
Up the hill
Roger and Joyce near the top
The Royal Oak at Newick
Pinnacle Lodge … a charming Late Georgian folly
Clarion 'Brunch' Ride
Mick, Andie, Joyce, Ian, Fred, Anne and Ed set off from the Palace Pier
Outside Carats Cafe – Sue's photo
Passer-by missed the point of a group photo!
Ready for the ride back
Sunday 17 December
Why oh why did you stay-a-beds and laggards miss such a beautiful outing? Jim came. Only his second outing with Clarion, but there he was relaxing on a Brighton station platform bench ready to be greeted by Joyce, Roger, Sue and Suzanne. Ian met us a Berwick. The traditional hapless passer-by was press ganged into pressing the button to take the memorial photo of the gang setting off.
Jim, Roger, Joyce, Sue, Suzanne and Ian
Gently rolling countryside – with amazing amounts of water rolling off the fields and none at all falling on our heads. And there we were at Golden Cross. Sue couldn't resist looking at the camper-vans so the rest of us took off, determined to beat the all time record of doing the whole two miles to Ripe in over thirty minutes. And I'm pleased to say we are now world champions of the less-than-four-miles-in-the-hour record (don't forget The Lamb at Ripe doesn't open til noon!).
Conspiracy theory* has it that The Lamb is particularly quiet these days since it has abandoned Harveys and has become a Shepherd Neame establishment. None the less, the baguettes were well filled and came with chips. Back on the road replete and happy. Sun still shining. Selmeston Tearooms looked inviting but as it was only 2pm the consensus was to give it a miss and fit in a quick cup of coffee at the Berwick Arms. Mission accomplished. Onto the 2.48 and home before dark.
Thanks to Ian for all the planning and thanks to the sun for being there.
* Mine, I'm afraid. I didn't know the pub was no longer Harveys when I planned the ride – and was looking forward to a pint of 'Old'! Ian
Sunday 26 November – Essence of autumn
After last time's bumper turn-out, a sparse 3 was all that we could muster for the last run of November, penultimate of 06. Having been engulfed on the gold course yesterday, Mick was allowed a game with his brother, leaving Anne a golf widow. She, or I, in fact, was delighted to see Fred at Brighton station, though he was a bit wary, or weary, having over-consumed at Carluccios, the previous evening. Train took a 10 minute detour through Hove to Hassocks, due to works on the line. No-one joined us there, but Ian awaited us at Hassocks and a lightly clad young woman was pleased to take the team photograph at the station. Sorry, there’s no photo of her. She was only lightly clad for November and I was heavily over-clad and sweated in my snow-boarding trousers and layers of woolies, discarding hats and gloves atop all the hills and Fred left his hat in both the pub then the tea-room. Ian was far more sensibly clad in his cycling helmet, which was just right. [Ian adds: I was wearing clothes as well - it was far too cold for just a helmet!]
Ian, Fred and Anne at Hassocks station
Lunch at The Royal Oak, Wineham
Ian and Fred approaching Blackstone - Anne's photo
Ian and Anne pause to admire Blackstone
View from the Lanterne Rouge
Ostrich or rhea?