Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Newhaven and Lewes 30th. August, 2009.

You may know that I was recently injured almost fatally in a cycle crash of sickening severity. It is only my exceedingly tough constitution which has enabled me to pull through. I mention this because I have milked just about all the sympathy that I can out of it, and people have begun either to look bored, or change the subject whenever I mention it, which even I have to admit is alarmingly often. All the previously sympathetic ladies have stopped falling for my exaggerated limp when I get off the bike, and no longer offer me their shoulders to lean on. I am reduced to advertising my crippling incapacity in this newsletter in the hope that there is some unsuspecting soul from whom I can dredge up even more attention, or who may even, you never know, start up a collection for me. Hmmm, now there's a thought........

The day dawned a bit overcast, and the temperature was down a little compared to the recent past, but there were a few blue bits, and not much wind. Outside the bike shop were Ron, Graham and Kate, Chris (a nice lady who, due to foot problems, is having an enforced rest from a lifetime of running), Peter, Jane, and then Steve and Zoë. Another gent whose thick wavy hair I envied very much was also there. He was Fred, Chris's husband who had come to see her off and say hallo to us before nipping off to play tennis for the day. I gave up trying to get a word in edgeways as everyone yabbered away, so as usual I just listened, until I heard the instruction to start moving. Priory Road beckoned, up to the Goat crossroads, and left. Just along a bit we passed a woman cycling along, and when Graham came alongside me just after, he informed me that she was Beverly, and had been outside the bike shop before my arrival. She had decided to come and check us all out, before peeling off in the direction of the llama park to meet the other ladies, Val, Hazel and Jeanita for a gentler introductory ride.

We others all turned off to the right, where we encountered numerous brave people cyling apace towards us. One of them had just enough breath to inform us that they were all in the Burgess Hill Sportive event. They are always testing, nearly as hard as races, and it looked like they had been set a particularly hilly course. Good luck to them. We crossed the ford which was much shallower than normal, and took that long climb up which leads to Coleman's Hatch.

The weather was looking a little bit dodgy by now, but we meandered along, everyone chatting, except myself who was still listening. This is how I learned that Chris has been running about 50 miles a week since the year dot. Unfortunately, she has now got a problem with her heels which means she won't be able to run for some time, and has therefore had to pull out of this year's London Marathon. Bit of a blow. However, she has put a brave face on, and having come out with us for the last couple of weeks, decided that she would buy herself a new bike. Its a really nice one too, a hybrid, and she has started to ride like she intends to put us all to shame. All those years of competitiveness are showing. Good for her.

The rain decided it wasn't going to hold off any longer, and we had to stop under a tree to put the wetproofs on, although it didn't last all that long, and so we were soon singing 'The Stripper' as we emerged once again from all that Goretex and the like.

Peter was the next one to get the listening treatment from me, and we passed the time amiably. I can't remember exactly where we were, but when Peter informed me that he intended to turn back at Balcombe, I began frantically to consult a mental map. Luckily, he immediately corrected himself. Barcombe! Blimey, I'd been so engrossed, I hadn't realised we had covered so much ground. A short while later, I looked round to see that he had departed for home. Either he had something else to do, or he had had enough of being listened to for one morning.

Suddenly we arrived at Lewes, which for me is one of the most interesting towns I know. A couple of years ago, a woman to whom I was married at the time, was on a rather long jury service at the Crown Court. On a number of days I drove her there, and spent the day wandering around with a local map and information supplied by the local tourist office, whilst she no doubt spent hers imaging with glee that it was me in the dock. Most people rarely have the opportunity to wander for several days, I imagine, especially the murderer who is banged up, still with 18 years to do, but for me it was really informative. I can now tell you that there is a hidden, disused public lavatory not far from where public hangings used to be carried out, and where there is a memorial to seven martyrs who were burned at the stake, and from where it is possible to have a fine view over the town. I could show you the house which used to belong to Virginia Woolf, and which is constructed of the bottom part of an old windmill, and a mural of Thomas Paine, who settled in the town in 1768, where he was an excise officer and noted political activist before emigrating to America. There are several narrow and steep alleyways called 'twittens', and a number of houses fronted by glazed tiles which are affixed in such a way as to resemble bricks, as that became fashionable at one time. I should think you probably know the steep, cobbled hill next to the old book shop, which looks a lot like 'Gold Hill', that one in the old Hovis advert. This one is reputed to have been descended by a Prince Regent in a coach and four horses, for a wager. I don't know how much he won. Next time someone you know is doing jury service there, or is on trial even, offer to drive them there and have a good poke around.

The 8 of us made our way on foot the wrong way up a short bit of road, then rode along the high street to our usual Lewes café. Most of us thought that we were going to do this on the way home, but Ron had other ideas. He had evidently decided that this was as far as he wanted to go, and tucked into a breakfast. So we all took the opportunity to eat, and then Ron was followed home by Jane, Steve and Zoë.

Graham led us out of the town along a hidden cycle track, and under a bridge so low that we all ducked, even though we didn't really have to, and then we took that mostly hedge-lined back road that roughly follows the River Ouse, although you can't see it at all. What you can see, though, is Mars Bar Hill. When we pass that, I always remember Steve telling us that when one of his sons was quite young, Steve promised him a Mars Bar if he could cycle to the top of the monster hill which leads up to the top of the South Downs. When the little lad succeeded, Steve was miffed to discover that he didn't actually have a Mars Bar as he'd thought. But not as miffed as his son who has never let him forget it to this day.

A loo-verly picture of JohnGraham, having a stone heart and no sympathy, raced off to the Iford sign, without the slightest conscience about beating a crippled man. He did the same at Rodmell, looking more smug, and positively oozed gloatiness when he reached Piddinghoe in front too. That man. Anyway, the meander through the pretty little village helped me forget.

Once in the town of Newhaven, I used my bike to lean on whilst I entered the public loo, and Kate got a photo of me riding it back out of the building. Well, actually she missed me coming out, and made me go back and pose 'til she got her camera ready.

A couple of the cafés that we have used in the past have closed now, so we ended up in the Sainsbury's café, where we had oceans of coffee and mountains of cake before taking John, Graham and Christine enjoy the view from Newhaven Fortthe opportunity to see the sea before we headed home. A not-too-long but fairly steep lane climbs through thick shrubs, and suddenly emerges onto the grass at the summit of the cliffs overlooking Seaford Bay from Newhaven Fort. It was a fine late afternoon, and well worth the effort for the spectacular view.

It was now fairly late, and we retraced our steps through the town, and back through Piddinghoe and along the road, where Kate pointed out some blackthorn bushes, heavily-laden with sloes. She also described the method of making sloe gin and made my mouth water. (I returned the next day in my car, and spent a happy hour picking a load of them which are now steeping in a bowl of sugar next to me as I write).

Joy of joys, Graham was caught on the hop talking, whilst a cripple decisively beat him by a mile to the Rodmell sign. Not so the Iford one though, as I was distracted by the sight of some attractive-looking jars on a little table outside a cottage. I stopped, and selected one of blackcurrant jam and another of plum chutney, and eagerly stuffed them in my pockets. They were still warm! Lovely. A little sign invited me to put my money in the adjacent box. I looked in it and decided that instead, I would remove that crisp, tempting £5 note, which also went into my pocket before I pedalled gleefully away. (Poetic licence only - the last bit is NOT true, officer).

And so on home to Forest Row, where the flagging Kate was glad she had left her car, and where Fred had returned to pick up Chris, still dressed in his tennis gear. (Fred of course, not Chris!).

Graham and I were left to finish the last couple of miles to East Grinstead, me happy in the knowledge that I would soon be feasting on fresh blackcurrant jam, and Graham gnashing his teeth that he can't even beat a poor old soldier to all the signs.


If you took part in a ride, why not write a report? The more florid the language, the more inflated the hyperbole, the more tumescent the innuendo, the greater your chance of winning the FRBC Prize for Original Plagiarism.

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