When I received the detail of this ride with a request to post it on the site as a forthcoming event I was surprised to read in the ride description “The ride is generally quite flat …” Now I don’t know Sussex very well at all but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it described as other than rolling with regular short steep ups and downs. And so our ride today proved to be, at least for the morning session.
Most of us met at Orpington to catch the train for the ¾ hour ride to the start point at Stonegate. We emerged from the train and found Inci (our West Malling rider) waiting on the pretty station forecourt. It was clear that someone had gone to a deal of trouble to fill the flowerbeds with a colourful display of summer blossoms. Under the searing sunshine it made an ideal setting to start our ride adventure. I’m sure when Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton wrote their children’s books it was exactly this sort of setting which inspired them.
Pressing through the station car park we emerged onto the road and were off. There were nine of us, five to four for the women. Unfortunately we had received a couple of cancellations from folk who just couldn’t make the timings work which was a shame.
We made good but relatively slow progress under a wide blue sky. We were able to admire the hedgerows and, with little traffic, listen to the mid-morning birdsong. At one point at the top of a particularly steep incline we were suddenly disturbed by a clattering and crashing in the undergrowth as we disturbed a couple of deer. They were too fleet of foot for us to get more than a glimpse.
We stopped for a pleasant coffee break at the Butchers Hook Café where a refurb was nearing completion. We could not go inside because of the wet paint, but the owners were happy for us to sit in the shade of their large tree at the front. It was unfortunate that here we were sitting beside a temporary set of traffic lights on a busy road so for much of the time there were queues of motor vehicles belching fumes. The teas and coffees were refreshing and restorative.
From here we made our way to Heathfield where we joined the Cuckoo Trail. Fourteen miles of disused railway track converted into a path for walkers, horse-riders, dog walkers and cyclists. The overhanging trees provided long stretches of shade and it was DOWNHILL all the way – God bless you Dr Beeching.
Between Hailsham and Polegate Tracey had found us a wonderful lunch stop at the Rainbow Crafts Centre; simple, quirky, quiet and peaceful. We sat nattering and generally soaking up the atmosphere (and the tea) for an hour.
The Cuckoo Trail finishes at Polegate and here we were spilled out onto the Pevensey Flats – battle of Hastings terrain. We cycled in the afternoon sunshine with fields lush with summer growth as far as the eye could see. At Cooden Beach we called out the fire brigade to a blaze in the undergrowth which seemed to be getting out of control. A little further on we were passed by the Bexhill fire engine heading at full pelt to investigate.
Bexhill-on-Sea was a great place for an ice-cream stop on the seafront where we once again sat in the sunshine. The sea was awash with small boats and dinghies make the best of the fine weather.
Crowds thronged the pavements, beach hut owners sat in their deck chairs soaking up the rays as we completed the final few miles to Hastings Station where we had about twenty minutes to wait for the direct service to Orpington at 1720 hrs.
This was a wonderful ride in lovely weather and with great riders. In particular it was great to have Janice with us. Janice attended our adult cycling course in March and since then has progressed through some of our more local rides to full on Bromley Cyclists’ outings which include some quite challenging hills. It was also nice to have Sue with us who has not been very well of late.
Thank you Tracey, I know you went to a lot of trouble to make sure the day was a success and all your riders are very grateful to you!
Distance: 39 miles
Time out: 6:45:00
Riding Time: 4:37:42