Brighton Rock Audax

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I pondered for weeks and weeks until finally…. on the last day of entry, I decided to give it a go.   I have been on Brighton&Hove CTC events before and have never felt let down or out of my comfort zone – plus they always have great cakes!   This would be a bit different as it would be a longer route and also because it would be an official Audax event with cards to put ticks on and everything.    It would also be a longer route than normal which itself would not be a worry but adding on the mileage to and from home would potentially put it at over 100 miles.   But the pull of the route and the ride told me I would go for it, life is not a race but a journey….. and the same thought goes into my biking too.

The theme of the ride was “Brighton Rock”, 117km around the city of Graham Greene’s classic story, made into an equally classic film with young Richard Attenborough, riding around the locations of the film.   A clever idea for a route I thought, and that in itself would mean I would join in.   Of course, I do remember a lot of the story took place at Brighton race course which just happens to sit at the top of a hill overlooking the city – with that I quickly remembered how little I enjoyed large hills….

I started the day with porridge, yuk.   Something I have never liked, even when as children we used to mix Ready Brek with chocolate powder it never hid the stoggyness of something like that looked like it would not be out of place in Oliver Twist.   This time I bought a mix of oats and bits of fruit and nuts (premixed etc…), I popped it in the microwave and actually it was not too bad.  Eating first thing in the morning is never a favourite but I wouldn’t have the chance to stop on my way to Brighton so it had to be.   I added in an milk energy drink that suggested it would be me 10 hours of “power”, and it was going cheap at 50p a cartoon.  Strawberry flavour it wasn’t too bad.    But more importantly, I made a large expresso using the AeroPress, famed by many for great coffee and little mess (that bit sold it to me).

An early start would mean I would get to the start at Falmer within plenty of time without having to rush.  This early you have the cycle route along the beach to yourself, if it was a bit earlier in the year I would had seen the sun rise.     At this point I seemed to be having quite a bit of strange and new rattling going on as I passed over the bumps, looking down I soon found this to be the first bottle holder was no longer really holding its bottle.   Further investigation showed the small joints had come away holding it all together, it was just hanging there with a full bottle ready to fall out at any minute.   Not an amazing problem as I could just use the other bottle holder and put the spare bottle in the pannier, a small curse maybe for buying ultra cheap at Wilkingsons months previous.

Water bottles re-distributed, I continued on my ride to Falmer along familiar route through Portslade, along Old Shoreham Road, Upper Lewes Road, the new cycle way around Sainsburys, and finally Falmer.  A little bit earlier before opening time but a friendly welcome given while I registered and a cup of tea before everything started.

Broken bottle holder, serves me right for buying the cheapest
Broken bottle holder, serves me right for buying the cheapest
The debated Sainsburys cycle way, not actually that bad it seems which surprised me
The debated Sainsburys cycle way, not actually that bad it seems which surprised me

 

The first thing I noticed this time round was there were a lot less people attending this ride, maybe due to its length.  The second thing was the type of bikes and people, no unicycles attending this time round but instead plenty of expensive fast looking bikes and people.  I was slightly happier when I saw a couple of Surly Long Haul Truckers arrive, there was also a tandem that turned up,  but it was clear this was a bit of a different game to the previous shorter rides.   Not a problem though, as the pre-ride talk was taking place the emphasis was on enjoying the day and with that we all left at our own time and pace on the first section.

The first part of the ride was straight to where all the action took place in the story, the race course.   This would mean a bit of uphill along a country but very busy road.   The well planed out route instructions gave the option here to take the road or take the new gravel cycle path which looked like a friendly farmer had allowed along the side of the fields, following the road but quite separated by trees and bushes.   While most of the road bikes opted for the road, I took the cycle route and had a pleasent and not too bumpy ride to the top of the hill, not too much of a problem.  It was clear that the majority of the group was quite a long way ahead of myself, but like all such rides you start to fit into your own group of riders of which you pass and vaguely keep together swapping places for many miles.  We passed the race course and got to the top of the hill ready to descent, but not before putting down the answer on our sheet for the first question.

 

quiet cycle route away from the busy road
quiet cycle route away from the busy road
while others took the road...
while others took the road…
first casualties
first casualties
view from the race course...
view from the race course…

 

A quick swoop back into the city centre going down one of the long hills rather than up, which seemed good to me.   We joined in with the city traffic, slightly busier than I would imagine for the Sunday morning until I noticed it was the yearly London to Brighton mini run.  The huge number of Minis both old and new gave the clue away.  We all mingled together on the road down to the seafront and the Palace Pier, another key location of the story.   We left the minis as we headed West towards Shoreham.

mingling with the minis...
mingling with the minis…
some sort of clue that the London to Brighton run was on...
some sort of clue that the London to Brighton run was on…
minis and tandems
minis and tandems

 

It was still quite early in the morning for Brighton and so the seafront cycle route was quite clear, a mixture of bikes on the road and the path as we continued mostly together.   Interestingly I started to spot people in funny costumes, just another morning in Brighton I thought.   They were starting to appear more and more until finally we passed what looked like a charity run or even possibly bike ride for those dressed as super heroes!   It looked like fun.

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super heroes on bikes!
super heroes on bikes!

 

After the Brighton and Hove seafront it was inland at Shoreham to the second check point, something I nearly missed if it had not been for the group ahead all stopping and getting out pens and their card.   I was on more than familiar ground here being the route from Shoreham to Steyning and a road I go along to get to anywhere north of the downs.  This would take us through Steyning and up to Partridge Green before heading back towards Brighton

The route back into Brighton would not be straight back but instead going over Devil’s Dyke and following the old railway line back into the city.   The hill for Devil’s Dyke is never too bad, certainly a steep hill but nothing that is too much trouble if you just settle down into your comfortable pace and just keep going, upwards upwards upwards….   Sure, you do think you have got to the top a couple of times and find out there is more to come, but just take it steady and all is fine.

One part that I had never ridden before or knew it was there was the old Dyke railway line, I knew the line existed but I didn’t know it was now a paved route for walkers and cyclists taking you right over the A27 and back into the city.    Devil’s Dyke (basically a large ditch at the top of a hill, created by glaciers or the Devil depending on how you think) was once a huge tourist attraction in the Victorian days.     These days there is just a naff pub chain serving cold hard peas and little else, a pity, the Victorians really knew how to enjoy themselves and had the engineering to make it happen.     The railway made the journey up the hill a lot quicker although for some reason didn’t go all the way, passengers had to the final 200 feet, which is maybe partly why it was not a long term success.    The line closed in 1938.   The initial cutting off the main line was filled in with the help of old anti-tank concrete blocks, all trace of it has gone at this point, but further out towards the Dyke it is now quite a popular path.   The ride along this narrow path downwards towards the city was nice, imagining myself as a passenger on a train on the constant slight downwards slope of the railway on the side of the hill.

 

The next check point would be West Blatchington windmill in the depths of modern day housing estates.  It seems like a windmill put on top of a church.  Once in the middle of the countryside, now looking somewhat alien isolated in the middle of a road island, hard to believe so much can change around something standing still in time.   I had never seen it so it was quite interesting, maybe I would had liked to had spent a bit more time there, but it was now just only miles back to the main checkpoint, a piece of cake and a cup of tea.    Still in small groups, we joined the city’s traffic, retracing some of my route from earlier on in the morning until we turned off to go past Brighton train station and back along Lewes road up to Falmer.

That was the first half done, a really enjoyable ride discovering things new on my doorstep which I had not seen before, everything I always want from a ride.    The second half I thought would always be less so, more of a basic square which of course took in the cliffs along Peacehaven.  A key part of the Brighton Rock story, Pinkie plans to throw his girlfriend off the edge to her death.   Quite a popular activity it seems, Quadrophenia’s Jimmy possibly pushes his now disillusioned idol’s scooter off the edge for a similar ending.   Bringing it right up to date, Tiffany’s ashes in Eastenders went the same way, I don’t know who she is, but it seems she went out with style.

Setting off again, the groups had all split up and so I left on my own heading through Stanmer Park with the plan to come out the other side onto the Ditchling Beacon road.  I never knew you could get all the way through, which was evident when I got lost and stopped to consult my map.  Fortunately a friendly face of someone else on the ride showed me the way and we both head off through the village and up the car free hill to be main road.    She left me there while I kept at my own slower pace on the ever so slight upwards to the top of the Beacon.

This would be the highest point in East Sussex, biked up on the easy side, the way down would be much quicker and something which is a bit of a challenge for local cyclists going upwards.  Indeed, I do remember breaking down in our 1967 Triumph Herald while attempting to drive up one time.  I was just wondering just what I was going to do, a queue of cars behind me and no hope of making a standing start and getting any higher when a friendly Volvo driver stopped with a tow rope and pulled us the rest of the way up.   From there, he coasted mostly all the way down the other side to Asda petrol station where we were able to fill the car’s cooling system with water, it had all boiled away.    This time though, on the bike, I started my way downwards at speed, remembering to stop at the bottom and take a quick right along Underhill Lane, forgetting to make a note of a checkpoint.

The wind seemed to be against me for this stretch towards Lewis until I noticed I was not dropping below 20mph and hardly noticing it, I concluded the wind must be behind me.   Having left the other cyclist to go ahead on the way up to the Beacon I had not seen another person from the ride and that is how it would be until the end.  I was starting to get quite tired by now, espically as I turned south at Lewis and made my way towards the joys of Newhaven.    I kept in my mind the long hill out of Newhaven that I would soon face, I had almost decided in my mind that I would walk up that bit maybe, I would certainly have a small break at the next check point in Newhaven, a small bit to eat and then carry on.

This is indeed what I did, the small 5 miles to Newhaven seemed to go on for ever until I finally reached the town, stopped at the checkpoint, had a small bite to eat.  I used my my free energy gel I was given back a the bike show in London earlier on in the year.  Not really a person for gels (I’m not racing about after all) but packed it in case of times like this, I swallowed down the citrus and caffine flavour goo (yum!) and carried on to the foot of the hill out of the town.   Probably more in my mind  than anything else but in the end I didn’t stop to walk up the hill but instead just settled down to my own pace and slowly climbed up to the top.  In the end I was wondering what I was fussing about and why I had found it so hard last time I was this way, this time it seemed not a problem at all.

That just left the run along the cliff top towards Brighton and then turning off and upwards back to Falmer and the end of the route.   The wind was certainly against me now and the sun was out (to give me quite bad sunburn I was to discover at the end and the following days).    Had I planned my route better I would had taken the walk at the bottom of the cliffs and gone passed the various up and downs of the road and possibly quite a bit of the wind.  However, I was unsure if I would be able to get off the path in order to turn off and upwards back to Falmer, so decided to battle along the rode.  Bad choice, I could had taken the easy route I worked out later.

A long hard constand upwards going inland, constantly in the lowest gear I had possible, slow but steady.  I once again had in my mind to get off and walk but I carried on, I got to the top, I got to the gravel cyclepath which then led all the way back down to Falmer.   I made it to the end…   A bit puzzled why I never met anyone else go past me on this second stage, I wasn’t going fast and so had expected.   I wasn’t the last to return, but I wasn’t in the first wave, plenty returned after me while I eat some of the left over cake and had a cup of tea.   I heard some did not do the second half, I talked with another who said he took a shortcut from Lewes cutting off the last 10 miles.   I was pretty happy with my performance for the day, and well done Brighton and Hove CTC for yet another well organised free and easy event.

 

No time to patting myself on my back though, I still had 13 miles back home to do.  I knew it would be against the wind all the way.   Brighton seafront now extremly busy with day trippers and Minis, I stopped off for a small food break before setting off, head down, homewards.

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Number of Miles: 98!  (should I have ridden for a couple more just to get over the 100 mile mark?!)

Number of super energy gels: 1

Number of great cups of tea: 2

Number of unicycles: 0

Number of tandems: 1

Number of times thinking when will this road end: quite a number

The ‘fed up at work’ ride… to the end of the world

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The plan had been to leave work at midday making the most of flexi-time, to then spend the afternoon for a bit of light biking seeing as I had not been anywhere for a while.   It didn’t  quite work out that way, after an unsuccessful day in the office I finally left at half four, only one hour earlier than normal!   This changed the ride into more of an early evening rush than an afternoon browse.  For some reason I notice my front light had stopped working, so I really would have to make sure I got back before it started to get dark.

The destination would be nowhere special or tricky.  When looking for somewhere nearby I noticed Pagham which would be somewhere I would never get to pass through on the way to anywhere as it is completely out of the way and a bit of a dead end.  Nicely, the route is all completely flat and only 20 miles away.

A late start meant I would have to get a move on, I was hoping that the head on wind against me would mean the ride home would be a lot more pleasant.   It was quite nice then after a hard day at work to be on the bike with the wind against me allowing me to have something to work against!   Within no time I had gone through Littlehampton and onto Bognor.

The weather was turning and I was starting to get a little bit worried about the light.  The sun would not be due to go down for a number of hours, but even so I was sure it was getting dark already.   I checked the map to see how much further it would be, it seemed so close and as a place I would probably nether bike to again (so out of the way there would never be a reason).  I decided to go on.

A small stop to check the map while the GPS was directing me into a private estate, it turned out it was correct.  A curious occurrence within the area between Littlehampton and Chichester it seems, private estates of houses, little oasis of poshness full of walled and gated houses.  It suggests they are all private roads, but they are on the map and the gates are mostly open (although warnings all the time that the gates can be closed at any time).   There are plenty of signs, no parking on the road, no stopping, no fun etc… but never No Entry.   They are though creepy places, walled and gated off from the smelly public.  The roads are wide and clean, no cars on the road, large fake houses (thatched in this case) and range rovers on the long drive ways.   There is never a person in sight, but you feel like everyone is watching you.  It must be a bit like how biking through North Korea must feel like at times.  Maybe it is out of an episode of X-Files, or Dr Who….   I soon made my way out the other side, although not before getting lost in the labyrinth, feeling all the eyes behind the posh net curtains watch as I stopped to look at a map…. It felt that if I stopped for too long, something bad would happen, Scully and Moudler would have to be quick to rescue me.

I did escape and continued West to Pagham bay.   My visit through X-Files world would soon come back, this time not a posh clean private estate but more like a collection of houses made of old railway carrages and sheds sitting on the pebbles with the road a pot marked dirt track.   The sign to this estate suggested there was nothing to see, I continued on slowly along the unmade road.  Lots of signs, private property, no parking, no breathing.  A bit more interesting this time though, no fake old looking mansions but instead little shacks made into houses, all sitting on the pebbles on the beach.  Must be a great place to live, if not a bit strange.    Just like the posh estates with their little noddy looking junctions and fake road signs, it was the same here, although seemed more like a refugee camp with road signs made of old bits of wood with badly painted letters.    Following these signs I found the last “road” to the edge of the bay, the end of the road Westward, it warned me (with rough painted sign) that the carpark was not open, not a problem for me.   When I got to the end of the road, it just stopped with a large locked gate across (the carpark really was closed, and it looked like closed for good).    Not a huge amount to see, the weather was not the best, a bit strange and “end of the world” like.

Some photos before I started back.  I was starting to notice and get a bit worried about my rear tyre as I was sure it was not as pumped up as it was, I was certainly I could feel the bad unmade road a lot more than I should.  All of a sudden, 20 miles from home on what seemed like the estate at the end of the world, I remembered the only tool I had with me was a bike pump.  I only hopped if I did have a puncture it would be a slow one.  The interesting and strange estate at the end of the world on the pebbles suddenly turned into a dump with an unmade road which seemed to be damaging the bike, I just wanted to get back to tarmac and a normal world….

Pagham itself did not seem like a pretty place, a bit of a rundown amusement arcade and a cafe, a closed down pub and not much else.  It did seem now as if it was starting to get dark, I started my way home as quick as I could.

When I finally got home, my rear tyre didn’t have a puncture, I would keep my eye on it and check again the next day.  An interesting ride out after a not so productive day at work.

 

 

Hot Cross Buns at Beachy Head

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A bit of a last minute ride on an unexpected free day with good weather.   I decided it had been quite some time since I last went Beachy Head way (a good 10+ years!), a route that we used to take quite often (by car) in a previous life.  A quick look on the map and it seemed a ride along the coast out, “round the Beachy Head block” and then back along the coast to home.   Without going too bonkers out of my way there was no other way to do it unless I came back via Lewes and the other side of the Downs, to come back home via Bramber.  I decided the “same way back” idea, although it would be something I would question later on.  No need to put the route onto the GPS, we all know how to get to Beachy Head, so preparation was quite simple.   I packed my bag full of hot cross buns (it was Easter Monday after all) and set my alarm for “early in the morning”.

It was dark when I woke up, after a breakfast of apple, raisins and crunchy oats, the sun was still coming up when I left.   The weather was suggested to be calm and warm so I had decided against bringing a jacket, but I soon popped back in to grab my gloves when I noticed ice on the cars.  The ride through deserted Lancing and Shoreham was quiet and nice for once biking into the sun rise.   The sun was coming up red, a oman of “red sky in the morning, naff weather…” as the old saying goes.   That seemed to be a bit different to what the weather forecast had suggested.  One thing was for sure, it was pretty cold, ice on the parked cars and the beach huts, by the time I got to the bridge at Shoreham the feeling in my fingers were a distant memory.  I stopped to put on my gloves, thinking that given time the sun that was rising slowly would soon warm us all up.   An unexpected frost all the same.

 

Stopping in Brighton for the “West Pier” photo, along the recently opened cycle path that has been closed on the seafront for ages while building work has been taking place.   No longer do people need to write into the local paper complaining of either “cyclists using the pavement while the cycle path is closed” or “cyclists using the road while the cycle path is closed”.  Now it is all letters about brand new cycle path and cyclists don’t pay tax (which is annoying as I seem to pay a load of tax and I still can’t work out how only the cyclists featured in the letters page manage to not pay any….).   However, early in the morning there were few people around, those that had ventured out so early were people on bikes, using the new cycle path.

 

 

A quiet sunny seafront in Brighton is a rare treat, it was nice cycling along past those preparing for the day, the various street cleaners and those making their way to work along the front, camper vans, lorries and coaches parked up with curtains still drawn.   Soon I could see the marina in the distance and the shape of cranes and new buildings.  I had seen for many years in the paper reports of planning for a couple of tower blocks to be build at the marina and the various objections.  I am thinking the plans now say they must not go above the cliff top from sea level and so no disturb anyones views from the houses above.    In the “old” days, I remember coming to the marina and on an Easter Monday the whole place would be full of families sitting on the grass eating picnics and enjoying a day off work.   Now… there is no grass in sight at all, it can be quite hard to find a view with a boat in it with all the new development turning it into quite a busy “town”.   Still, as I rode past the petrol station I noticed it was 2p cheaper here than in Shoreham…. not all is bad it seems.

 

Undercliff walk took me from the marina to Saldean and away from the cliff top ups and downs and main road.   A shared cycle path, although constant signs telling cyclists will be shot if they even think about doing anything at all, shows that it has maybe not been a popular idea.  Even so, it was still early, the only people using the path was myself and the odd dog walker, plenty of room for everyone.    It was in the 1930s that the path was created, really a sea defence with a walk on the top in order to stop the corrosion of the cliffs and the main road that sits quite close at the top of it.    It was always designed to be a bit of a tourist feature, taking you from popular Black Rock to Rottingdean and Saldean further on.    While parts of it have been closed some winters and the whole path in general not advised in bad weather, it has done well and is still popular, even with the demise of Black Rock to be replaced with the marina.

Previous times I had ridden along here the spray and at times the waves from the storm sea were splashing over as I quickly made my way along (ever so mindful of salt water….), today the tide was right out.  This permitted me to not only see the (black?) rocks but also for the first time the foundations and route of the track for the infamous “Daddy Longlegs” railway built by Magnus Volks.  So much has been written about this that it is no mystery, it is instead an idea by Magnus Volks in the late 1800s to have a rail track on the sea bed with a car like a pier on long legs to allow it to move along in low tide and also look like a spooky boat (maybe) in high tide.  It was called Pioneer, but everyone called it the Daddy Longlegs for obvious reasons.   Not too much of a surprise, while popular, it did not work well and soon closed when sea defences cut through the route and plans to go round them were never drawn up.   His more successful land based electric railway lasted better, being the first electric railway in the country to still running today.

After the flatness so far, it was time to venture up onto the cliffs and the route to Newhaven.  The road down into Newhaven has for many years been a wide road with the edge coned off, probably a measure to stop cars trying to overtake on the downwards bends that was never revoked and just stayed.   There are two ways into the town from this direction for a bike, either along this road with the rest of the traffic (normally going the same speed as you due to the downhill) or follow Cycle Route 2 which hugs the coast a bit more until dropping suddenly into town, but not before it has climbed suddenly upwards along an unpaved road.  It’s not good.  Nice to see then that they have started to turn the coned off side of the road into a cycle path which in time will allow you safe passage along the side of the road, maybe keeping speed down seeing as it will be a (wide) shared path.

Once into Newhaven you tend to keep going.   It’s mostly a large roundabout with some closed down shops in the middle and factories around the outside.   There is a ferry too, probably the only saving feature for a town that is neither “new” or a “haven”.  It is listed in the book “Crap Towns” and it didn’t get there by chance.   You know it is port town as signs in French direct you to the town centre, but you probably wished it had not.

It is not all bad though, I have fond memories of picnics in the back of the car on damp days watching the large ferries come and go.   It starts as nothing, you sit eating your corned beef sandwich in the back of a 1980s car just staring at the horizon while others in the car pour hot tea from a Thermas into china cups and saucers perched up on the dashboard.    You slowly see something appear on the horizon and great excited envelopes, although thinking it will be forever for the ferry to get any neither.   But, within a surprisingly short period of time, the ferry appears larger and larger until you can make out the shapes better, before you know it there is a sodding great big ferry moving past you just meters away with their passengers waving (they look happy, they have not come to Newhaven before….).      It is quite an experience.    It was made even more so years back when they had super fast catamarans which halved the time it took to go between Newhaven and French.  They were like space aged super boats which would, once again, appear as little specs on the horizon but in a matter of minutes be towering boats from the future making loud un-earth like noises as they skimmed past almost flying.    They don’t run anymore, a pity.

Let me not also forget the Fort that stands to stop enemy ships at the entrance to the town, quite a structure.  It was never used, no-one wanted to invade Newhaven.

 

 

Onwards to my first break stop and a moment to eat hot cross buns, into Seaford along cyclepath and beach front.   It was still very early in the day, everywhere was quiet.  I stopped by the martello tower to watch the ferry appear on the horizon – I didn’t wait but instead continued on.

Next landmark would be Seven Sisters and a bit of a challenge as while the ride down into the valley would be fun, the ride up the other side and the start of the white cliffs would maybe be not so.   Since last time I came this way an alternative off road section of Cycle Route 2 had been opened.  Instead of rejoining the busy A259 down the valley you have the option to go cross country instead.   I opted for that and while initially quite a bumpy track it soon took you through a series of fields all populated by lambs and sheep, making a bit of difference to cars.   Most sheep took their young and hurried away as they saw me coming, some were caught by surprise and quickly scampered away at the last moment.  Some brave lambs ran alongside and stopped with me when I did, only to get a disapproving look from their mother who, in silent sheep language, called them back and to stop talking to strangers.    It turned out to be a good route, hills were not steep and I was soon at the bottom of the valley facing the large climb up the other side.

 

If you are not in a hurry (and on ride why should you be?) then hills become a lot friendlier.  If you are in a rush or part of a groups, hills are set to kill you.   The plan of action, find a good pace, find a good gear, peddle.   Nothing too complex or taxing.   I got to the top and it was not a problem at all, I didn’t get to the top in super fast speed, but it didn’t take me for ever either, plus was not out of breath.   This was a good job as basically it was an upwards trend all the way until I got to the Beachy Head/Eastbourne turn off.

I could had continued on down the steep switch back into Eastbourne or turn towards Beachy Head and the start of making my way back home.   Eastbourne would be for another day.

Beachy Head is a bit like Lands End, it is a feature in the landscape but once you are there it does not present much to look at.   The top of a cliff is like any top of a cliff.  Unless you are one of the many who go there to end it all and jump off the edge, you are not going to get too much out of your visit.    There are walks that take you to the good spot to be able to see the light house at the bottom, it all seems a bit close to the edge for me to venture that way.   I sat for a rest, eat a hot cross bun, and continued on my way.  I noted now I was having to battle against the wind quite a bit, I thought due to the height but I found out the wind would be against me for the rest of the way.

 

 

The Beachy Head road is a good road and a good place to ride/drive and visit.  If being on the top of a cliff is not your thing then the Belletout light house is interesting just for its story.   Beachy Head is a “head”, ie it is jutting out a bit and no doubt there are various rocks under water you cannot see which a boat would soon find as they made huge holes in the bottom of it.   The Belletout lighthouse was build at the top of the cliff so ships 20 miles away could see it, and if you could not see it then you had got too close to the cliff!   This worked well, apart from the times there was fog and mist at the bottom of the cliff meaning you could not see the light.  But an even bigger problem was the fact that erosion round this way is quite big,  the lighthouse was getting a bit close to the edge.   The now famous red and white striped lighthouse at the bottom of the cliff was built to replace this one.

This should had been the end of the lighthouse as it changed hands, fell into disrepair and finally got used for target practice during WW2.    The council took it on, understanding its historical significance, it was repaired and put back into use…. by the BBC for film of “Life and Loves of a She-Devil”.    The end really did look coming when it had become so close to the edge that it was no longer safe.  Like a cat with 9 lives it escaped once again by the whole building being put on rollers and moved to the other side of the road!    Now  it is a bed and breakfast, you can spend the night there to wake up with quite a unique sight in the mornings.

Erosion doesn’t stop there, further on down the road I got to a favorite stopping place, Birling Gap.   It is a gap in the cliffs, and it must be near a place called Birling I would think.   Apart from stories of smuggling and invasion threat, there is nothing too amazing until you look at old photos.   There sits just a small terrace of old coast guard cottages, still being lived in by the looks of it.   Look at photos 10, 20, 50, 100 years back and each time you are shown a completely different view.  The terrace of cottages were build, sensibly, a way off the edge, you could had got quite a number of more houses there before you got to the edge.   Due to the nature of the chalk and the formation of the coastline, it all contributes to massive erosion.  This means the terrace of cottages are now just few in number, with the last one looking a bit unloved and not lived in, and only meters away from the edge.    Maybe some might had thought the cliff edge would get near, but I wonder if they saw that given quite a short amount of time they would one-by-one start falling off the edge.   Indeed, in another 20/50/100 years, not only will the coast guard cottages be gone, the hotel and cafe and accompanying car park will be no more, they will probably be trying to protect what would by then be the cliff top coast road.   At the moment, there are no plans to save the houses, nature is just too powerful to stop it seems.

 

The wind was certainly now against me now, I put my head down and started my journey back home along the way I came.  A quick stop off at Friston church for a hot cross bun.   A small but pretty stopping point on the side of the road that if you didn’t know was there you would go straight past it in a car.   I have visited and had picnics here before, I had always known there was something special about the church gate and indeed it did look a bit unusual pivoting off a centre post.   I had to wait until I got home to find out more and indeed it is not only a special gate but it is just one of six in the country and they are all around Lewes (maybe I need to plan a route to visit them all?).

The idea behind these gates was to make it easy to open from either side with little effort and yet span quite wide openings.  For those carrying coffins it made it much easier.  For large animals (not welcome in a grave yard) it was too narrow due to the centre pin for them to get through.   Copies have been made, but in theory you will not see a true Tapsel gate outside of Sussex and indeed far away from Lewes.

Turning around and looking in the other direction you are drawn towards a pretty village pond, making this site ideal for a picnic without venturing off the main road.   A lot of work has been done on the pond recently I found out by reading the information board next to it.  It turns out it was of great importance during the war as a source of drinking water in an emergency, and so guarded by soldiers.   Probably then it was good it was never needed as it was said that the soldiers would drive their vehicles into it in order to give them a wash!

 

As with all trips, the rest of the journey went by on the quest to get home.  The undercliff walk was now busy with walkers and cyclist, at points making it so busy that there would be people queuing to get through the thinner sections.  This was replicated once into Brighton with the seafront path being a sea of people, again slow progress through was made.

I got home, in time for lunch.

 

 

Number of miles: 63

Number of sheep and lambs: many

Number of long hills: lots

Number of lighthouses on rollers: 1

Number of doomed coast guard houses: 1 terrace (or infact now half a terrace)

Number of Tapsel gates: 1

Number of tourist feeling pleased in Newhaven: 0

 

Stand.. and deliver – a gamble with Lidl

Before - a bit on the muddy side

I noticed on forums that this week was the start of cycling goods at Lidls, some promising items of dubious quality but very low price.   I was not at work for the day so I thought I would take a look seeing I was in need of new cycling gloves after leaving mine on the back of my bike and cycling off after the Brighton Breezy last year.   At £3.49 during the Lidl cycling event they seemed to have my name on them.

Walking out of Lidls I had the new gloves, new sun glasses (£2.99!) and a new bike maintenance stand.   The gloves were good (on par with the cheap Halfords ones before), the sun glasses were… cheap but functional.  The stand (only £24) I was interested in.   Once I got home I decided it was time to clean the Royal and putting it on the stand would make it a lot easier.  I had also decided to change the saddle back.      During the week before I had purchased a large container of “Rhino Goo” which told me all I had to do was spray it on my bike, leave it for five minutes and then rinse off, it would be like magic!   Not completely taken in on the advertising, it was only because people had recommended a similar Muc Off product and indeed I had watched the You Tube videos of something spraying it all over, what I thought, a pretty clean bike, rinsing it off and bingo, a clean bike!     Pretty pricey however, if I was going to be swept up with all this marketing magic then I was going to do it a tad cheaper.   A quick five minutes on ebay and a massive bottle of Rhino Goo, promising just the same (although in this case it suggested it would work with motorbikes and caravans as well as bikes!) for not much more than a tiny bottle of Muc Off spray was on its way to me.     Armed with a spray bottle of Goo and a spray bottle of clean water, along with a watering can of more water, I was ready.

Setting up the stand was pretty straight forward, but like a music stand but on a larger and heavy duty scale.   I fitted the magnetic tool holder, something actually quite useful when working on shingle.   The legs spread out pretty wide which meant even on the not so flat bit of shingle I was on, it was all pretty steady when I placed the bike on.   I tightened bits up and all was ready for the cleaning.

Water down with the watering can, spray with Goo over and over, give some parts a bit of a rub, especially the tyres and up under the mud guards, leave while you make a cup of tea.   Come back, rub down some tougher bits, rinse with the clean water spray, another watering can of clean water and let it all drip dry.

While drying, load chain cleaner with Gunk degreaser and whizz it around a number of times.   In the stand, this was much easier than on the floor where back pedalling means your chain spends a lot of the time jumping gears and ultimately coming off.  Pedalling forwards I had none of this problem.     A quick brush with degreaser in all the cassette, wipe chain dry again by pedalling, bingo.

Dry last bits off, spray on some funny stuff from Halfords that tells me it will displace any last bits of water (I doubt it), give a quick polish.   Re-oil chain, rub of excess by pedalling.  Job done.

I don’t think it was any quicker but it was a lot lot easier just walking around the bike, getting to bits underneath and being able to pedal.

While on the stand, I replaced the saddle with the more padded one again making sure the angle was not tipping me off, no need to bend down as everything was at standing height.

Took bike off, folded stand up and stored out of the way.   Pretty much a success making me wonder that the stands costing hundreds of pounds do that my £24 one does not.    The only grumble was the stick for keeping the front wheel straight, you were meant to hook a piece of rubber with holes in it onto the pole but the holes just seemed so very small.  I am sure after a lot of swearing and such like I would had got it, but using the bungee rope normally on the back rack did the job just as good, quickly and without swearing.

 

Before - a bit on the muddy side
Before – a bit on the muddy side
After - all sparkly and clean
After – all sparkly and clean

West Wittering for Breakfast

2015-03-08

A most famed beach location, West Wittering gives sand and lots of sand dunes.  As most beaches nearby are full of pebbles, you can imagine in the summer this location is packed full of people.  The owners know this too, the private estate that owns and looks after things have made a massive car park on the surrounding fees, they are not afraid to charge for it, £8 during high session to park….   We should feel lucky however, we all know of Adolf’s fondness of Butlins (see here), he could had been in luck if all had gone to plan and he happened to had come West Wittering way after he had spent a but of time in Bognor first of course.     The Butlins holiday complex was talked about in the 1950s but as soon as the local population heard about it they didn’t just put together a Facebook petition like what happens these days, but instead put together money and collected enough to buy the land and set up a preservation trust.   The car park had been a commercial success since the 1920s and the trust kept things going, the aim to preserve the area and keep it open to the public.    The parking then costs money, but it keeps things going with this unique Trust, it also in a way stopped invasion from Germany in WW2, no Butlins = no real reason to invade (that and WW2 had finished years earlier!).

I’ve only been once, paid the high parking charge and taken in the sandy beach of which Sussex has very few.   About time I had another visit.

One change for this trip, I had been not finding the saddle too comfortable lately and so I decided to swap it back from the comfy one to the original.  I had experimented with this a couple of years ago where I had swapped the very hard original saddle with something a bit spongy, but not too spongy.  I am told such really spongy saddles do not resolve anything, it is all about your bum bones being in the right place.   It was when I was swapping it back over I noticed that I was able to change the angle of the saddle, I had been feeling as if I was getting tipped off forwards all the time which in turn meant my “bum bones” were not in the ideal position, hence feeling uncomfortable.   Bingo then, I continued with the harder saddled but adjusted the angle, I would I would see how it went.

Early morning start, the day looked like it would turn out promising weather wise.  The coldness of the early morning soon dissapeared as I set off Worthing way.  Hardly any cars about at that time in the morning, but it seems many people on bikes be they all lycra’ed up for a Sunday ride or paper boys with their bags.

The initial plan was to see what time I got to various places that had cafes for a spot of decent breakfast, unfortunately due to my early start time and it being a Sunday I managed to go past them all way before opening time!   Good job I had a small bit of breakfast before I left.

A slightly circular route, because no-one likes having to go and come back long the same roads.   There was only so much of a circle I could make, there are not many options to get around some areas where the coast cycle route goes quite a way inland to get from Ferring to East Preston, and there is no real option from Littlehampton to Bognor.     Once the other side of Bognor I decided to go inland up towards (but not quite getting to) Chichester.  I judged the wind to be coming from the West and so an easier journey home, indeed all the way I had been against the wind which was keeping my speed down and effort up high, so a more inland route out and back home along the coast.  This meant getting most of the way up to Chichester following a lot of cycle route 2 leaving it at the canal.  While the cycle route used the tow path to to Chichester, I followed (on road) the canal the rest of the way to the sea.  I could have had used the tow path but being still winter I was imagining it as bumpy and muddy and decided to use the road instead.   I would rejoin the canal at the road into the marina, although at this point the canal was more of a river with no access to boats, making its way to the final old lock (no longer working) and out to the sea.

I knew there was a cafe at the marina, but taking a look it seemed a bit too posh, I decided breakfast would wait a bit longer.

 

At the marina you meet the Salterns Way cycle route.  It comes all the way from Chichester and (I didn’t know at the time) down to West Wittering using a mixture of quiet roads and off road tracks.   I wasn’t too keen to do too much off road this time due to it being winter time.    In a quiet corner of the marina you find the remains of the lock that used to be the connections between the canal and the sea.  It is now blocked up, houseboats on one side and am empty lock with broken old gates on the other.  A small bridge over takes you to the other side.  Rather amusing is spotting the small Salterns Way cycle route signs (quite had to spot), with a big crossed out bike symbol attached.  I can see why, it’s a small narrow bridge with low sides and a big drop on one side.

I kept loosing the Salterns Way after this.  As expected, there are a number of large posh houses and many private roads making it slightly unclear which roads you can go down on a bike, where the Salterns Way takes you.  I lost the small signs and continued to follow the arrow on the GPS.    The number of large sparkly clean Range Rovers and houses behind large gates were getting more and more.

West Wittering soon came up, highlighted by a public toilet block and a small cafe.  The toilet block was very welcome, the cafe seemed a bit small and posh like.  Even though I was by now getting hungry I didn’t quite fancy the small cafe, no menu outside and unable to see in the windows, I continued on.    At this point, cars are told they are entering the private West Wittering Estate and there will be a car park charge at the end of the long road.   I opted the road alongside, marked as a dead end and as a private road, but marked on the map as any normal road (although agreeing it was a dead end).    This took me through the various gated houses, each in their own little spot of paradise countryside, none having anything to do with anything outside of their walls and fences.    After a short while I reached the sea!   Some fantastic expensive houses here, gardens (with no fences for once) going straight into the sea from hugely long bright green lawns, a Range Rover parked on the gravel.

The path continued along by the sea, it wasn’t marked up as a bridleway and it seemed pretty popular with dog walkers I felt it not wise to follow but instead go back to the road and rejoin the main road to the car park.    A small queue of cars were queuing to be let into the car park, the barrier popping up each time a driver handed their money over.   It was March, the weather was overcast and not particularly pleasant, the number of people visiting for the day was huge.  I passed whole fenced off fields marked out as car parks, I can well believe on a summers day there must be thousands here.

I spotted the cafe and made my way towards it, a certain place to find an all day breakfast and cup of tea.  It was closed.

 

I was by now actually quite hungry.   I sat on the sandy beach for a while, watching families wrapped up warm making the most of the “only sand in Sussex” thinking I must one day come back in the summer.  I wonder if I ever will, certainly not by car and with such an out of the way location, probably not by bike either.    It was time to turn back home, wind hopefully behind me, looking out for beachside cafes for breakfast.

As there is a West Wittering then there must be an East Wittering of which I soon came to find.   It seemed just a single street straight down to the beach.   A bit deserted and wind swept but obviously a hugely popular hidden location on better days, something to remember about.    Numerous cafes dotted the streets trying to make the most of passing winter trade.  I pondered for a while before I chose my cafe for the day, the one advertising all day breakfast for £7.50 on the board outside won out.   At two sausages, two bacon, two fried bread, two hashbrowns, black pudding, beans, and a cup of tea…. it is what was needed.

Eating on your own, unless there is something to watch out of the window, it is a tad boring.   I turned to my phone in order to read some web pages but no signal.   I really wished I had bought along my Kobo or even a real book.   However, my mind was taken away from this when my breakfast arrived, a full TripAdvisor review in progress in I think!   The holy grail of a good breakfast from a cafe means it must come with real sausages and not cheap frozen ones full of sawdust.  I had two real sausages, I had perfectly done fried bread, black pudding that was not all dried up, two fried eggs done well (one with a double yolk, bonus)   It seemed I had found the right place.

2015-03-08

It was now really time for home, eastwards all the way, mostly along the seafront as much as I could, wind behind me.   It didn’t quite work out due to:

  1. seafront taken up by gated houses, Range Rovers supplied as part of the house
  2. the seafront turning into more marsh and so no roads
  3. the wind seemed to be one of those magic winds that are never fully behind you for some reason

I stopped off quickly at Bracklesham Bay in order to check out another cafe for future reference.  Good reviews and recommendations, but advised to arrive early.   I turned up at the small wooden building and inside was packed, I felt glad I had found my own quiet cafe in my own quiet seaside town.

In the GPS I had included a diversion off to Selsey if I thought I had time when I came to it.   A strange town, one that I have probably visited before but not in any recent years.  It has one road in and out, there is no reason for anyone to ever go there, it’s not on the way to anywhere, it’s miles from any larger town.  Patrick Moore lived there, not much light pollution then I am thinking.   Because of it’s “out of the way” nature I was tempted to make the 10 mile diversion, but I had spent too long eating real sausages, I had to get home.   Will I ever return I wonder?

As normal, the route home is never as interesting, but I had planned in a small route to bypass bits of main road.  On the planner it seemed it was a road, in reality it was a gravel track through a farm (with plenty of “turn back, all is doomed” type messages) and out the other side.  I was a bit taken by the notices in Polish on an open gate, feeling a bit like an extra from X-Files I continued on.  I passed a vegetable packing factory as I kept on what seemed like a newly created gravel road for large lorries (area 51 located near Selsey anyone?) until what seemed like miles I finally saw traffic on a road ahead.  Condidant that a newly built gravel road of this size must surely join a main road at some point I continued on, until I got to a large high fence with a large high gate, locked.   Bugger.

I didn’t fancy back tracking.  The yard was surrounded by fields, a large ditch filled with water all the way round, or did it?   I found a small gap in the ditch, bike on the shoulder I climbed over… a quick dash along the side of the field and back to tarmac as if nothing had happened….  I was a bit muddy.  That short cut had got me about a mile along the road I was originally on, it had taken a good hour….

I kept to known roads for the rest, through Bognor, through Littlehampton, through the strange X-Files type villages into Goring, along the seafront and back home.    The GPS, who’s battery was halfway at the beginning of the day was now showing nearly empty.  A good show I thought, it must be the 3rd or 4th full day of cycling on the same set of AA batteries.   Take that modern USB rechargable GPS!

Number of miles: 77

Number of Range Rovers: so many

Number of white or gold Range Rovers: too many

Number of perfectly good sausages eaten: 2