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London to Eastbourne June 2022 ride report

Our Sussex correspondence, Nigel, sends this report of the brilliant London to Eastbourne ride.


One of the joys of a Fridays ride in June is that I leave home in daylight. The moon was up, with little cloud, clearly visible to my left. This augured well. Temperature was warm, approx 15°, no need for leg warmers nor long fingered gloves.


Compared with the Thames Crossing ride only one month past, the train was busier. The girl on the train (would that make a good title of a novel?, nah), travelling solo, getting on at Gatwick with an oversized suitcase and a large wheelie case wearing shorts displayed a mid-thigh tattoo ‘Darling’. Although intrigued, I did not inquire.


Into Victoria amongst folk who were in town for fun and frolic. The youngsters’ clothing was trendy, both boys and girls appeared to be wearing apparel at least one size too small, they were so short and tight.


Train was on time so a spin up to and under the Wellington Arch and across to Constitution Hill. No access, barricaded off. As was the footpath. And two seated ‘security’ guards chatting away. No choice but to backtrack and along Victoria Street. Traffic was also busier than I recall for a while. And no shortage of blue lights. All signs of The Smoke returning to ‘normal’ after the past two years.


After the safety talk, we set off on time, only leaving one participant AWOL - a certain Jean-François Paree. A Fridays admin jesting, perhaps? Through the first two sets of lights en bloc, a good start. Past Herne Hill, through posh and leafy Dulwich, including the last tollgate in London. For daytime motorists, £1.20 each way; effective at discouraging riff-raff no doubt. Warmed up more on the rise to Crystal Palace and cooled on the descent. Large roundabout at Addington, all survived the tram tracks. Up and down. Through the ‘burbs and soon into cooler climate country.


The sky remained mostly clear, the moon glimpsed through the verdant tree foliage on our right. Up and down. Riding into pockets of lower ground, the temperature dropped, a misty haze just above ground level, minute droplets caught in the beam of front lights. Gloves and leg-warmers hastily donned. There was no sunrise as such, merely a gentle lightening, the sun filtered in milky opaqueness.


Up and down. Fully light now, we rolled into the Scout Hut at Forest Row. Certainly no Edifice, yet the welcome just as warming as the coffee and tea. Plenty of sandwiches, bananas and Swiss roll.

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This ride was billed as hilly. In this regard, the description was fully apt, unlike its claim to be the inaugural ride, as plenty among us remember the full wetness of the real inaugural ride three years ago. 


Next up, Kidds Hill, the highlight hill of the ride, aka The Wall. It is not difficult if treated with respect and not taken too quickly and/or in too high a gear. Some took a breather on the way up. Having reached the summit, the tree lined border disappeared and one is rewarded with superb views of the Ashdown Forest.


Continuing southwards passing hamlets and villages into Horam where we joined the Cuckoo Trail, a paved track on a disused rail line. Now well utilised, early Saturday morning users were friendly dog-walkers and occasional joggers or cyclists. After a comedy junction where a No Right Turn is allowed, along quiet residential streets we reached the pebbly beach at the west end of Pevensey Bay. 


A re-group where some wag suggested a group shot. The image now adorns the Fridays’ farcebake page header. 


Eastbourne itself was clearly visible 3.5 km distant in glorious sunshine, white cliffs as a backdrop, along the cycle path into a strong headwind.


Breakfast and rehydration followed at one of the local ‘Spoons. The backyard setting much improved by the entire space covered by gull-proof netting. Bizarrely, poached eggs off menu, yet fried or scrambled available.


A good route into town with an improved finish, thanks Tim.


Only one visitation, the result of brakes being constantly applied on a descent. Witnesses said the rims were hot. The rider informed me that you cannot knock two wheels, inners and tyres for ninety notes off eBay. I would beg to differ. 


Interesting wildlife was scarce. I spotted three of the ubiquitous urban foxes, one badger (deceased) and an elegant heron in flight near Polegate. Homeward bound I noticed a pair of deer, an egret on the mud banks of the Adur and a buzzard circling overhead.


On the train westwards to Shoreham, I enjoyed chatting with a self-proclaimed old guy, taking his massive wheeled e-off-road bike onto the South Downs and a young single mum with attendant boy in pushchair dreaming of acquiring an Orro e-cargo bike. Not that it exists yet.

A selection of photos from the ride can be found in the latest photos section.

Photo credit Jenny Hung

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