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

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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.

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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

 

Quick Ride out to Brighton

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It suggested in the weather forecast that it would be windy and raining for most of the weekend, which is why I was suprised on Sunday morning when I was presented with blue sky and sun – a perfect spring day.   Out of the gloom of January and February, March had started as it should do.   It took me so much by surprise that I had not got up early or planned anything.  I could have had the choice of meeting a local CTC group at Littlehampton, but I would be on my own if I were to leave now for that.

Instead, we all got in the car and headed off to a local tea room for breakfast!   Proper bacon, proper sausages, and proper coffee.  A favourite place for cyclists to stop off and stop off they did – which rubbed it in even more that I had missed the early morning good weather.

When I got home, I had to fix the front mudguard of my commuting Highway bike, the plastic snapped off during last week from the stay, which resulted in it catching in the spokes.  It gave the bike a bit of a “motorbike” sound like we all used to do in the 80s by pegging a playing card on the forks to hit the spokes.  It was cool in the 80s, not so good these days.   Would you believe a replacement set of full mudguards cost anywhere from £15 to £20?    Before I committed myself on Amazon and a life of living in debt I decided to see if I could fix it.   While the plastic had snapped off, you could in theory put a new bolt and nut on, add a washer and tighten up, it would do the job.    Looking through my tool box containing mostly bits and pieces off Trabants, I found just what I needed.   Oiled and tightened up, mudguard stay was once again in position – ready to go for Monday.

It was still sunny and clear’ish sky, mid afternoon.   I had spotted that last time I was on the Royal when it was New Year’s Day, there must had been salt on the roads and this was evident on parts on the bike.   A bit of a pain, explains how the Highway daily commuting bike had turned quite so orange a while back.   I scrubbed off most of the fluffy white bits of components but the rear wheel rims clearly needed to be used to get rid of the last bits.    No time for a massive long distance ride, but a quick trip over to Brighton and back would be interesting.   A change of shoes and off I went.

 

New Year’s Coffee to Ponder Trips

Plenty of room this time, first bike, first customer

Second attempt for an early morning quiet coffee while I think about possible routes for next year, or should I say this year.    2014 has been a slow year for trips for various reasons, even though I still have various routes planned.  The idea of “I’ve seen it all” started to creep in, the idea that in theory I need to bike a good 20 miles before I reach “new ground”, the idea that there are so little options for getting across the South Downs means the first hour of any trip is pretty dull.   I started to think about extending my range by including a small train ride to start and end with, the amount of distance you can cover in just an hour on a train could take me to completely new places – although I would have to make sure I made it back in time to catch a rain back.

Before I started looking into that, I looked back in my notebook (ie Evernote) to see what I had jotted down and maybe forgot about.   The whole thing is, I don’t particularly like cycling in circles for the sake of it, there has to be a reason for things in life.   So while I look online at cycling map sites and see where others have been, it is not really that exciting if it is just a circle with no reason for doing it.  So a trip to somewhere of interest and back, in a circle, is good.   This means currently I have the following possible trips to do include:

  • shoreham to guildford along the old railway line, back along roads.   Includes old railways so that’s all you need
  • cuckoo line, including routes 2, 21, 20, and 222 – a complete circle done mostly on old railway lines
  • windmills of the Weald…  there are so many windmills around (well 3) it would make a nice summer ride
  • follies, Mad Jack Fuller was an interesting character and built a number of these “pointless” buildings
  • railway/offroad… I am told you can get all the way to London without touching a road (too much)
  • anything towards Southampton, it’s flat mostly in that direction!

Then, going a bit further a field, I still fancy the two day trip around the Sussex border.  Something I had pondered about and saw a friend of mine had been pondering too and even put a possible route up.  I’ll take a closer look and fine tune with an overnight camping spot.

So, that gives at least five possible trips before I look into trains and a possible two day trip.   I notice that after the grand excitement of a proper overnight “tour” in 2013, nothing had happened since.

Let us not forget too, that I still have the normal 50 miles each week during my commute on the other bike, although that route after four years has really become pretty dull and I am say many times I have got to work and suddenly think how I actually could not really remember the how I got there….  Don’t worry (or do?!), I used to find the same commuting longer distances by car too.

I took a gamble today, it is a bank holiday which is always prime time for MAMILs to venture out in packs.  But it is new year’s day, which surely means everyone is still in bed getting over the hang over after partying to see to clock strick 12 like it never does 365 over times of the year.   After a week off work, hearing my alarm go off when it was still dark was not good, it took press presses of the Snooze button to finally get me out of bed.  I could hear the wind through the closed windows, which didn’t really help much.

I forced myself up, looked out of the window to see the bleakness looking back at me.   You can’t only go out on windless sunny warm days… I reminded myself, a couple of times.   I left the house, the wind behind me as I set off for Steyning direction, it was cold but didn’t take long to warm up.   I decided against the off road route along the Downs Link thinking it would most certainly be pretty muddy and not pleasant, seeing as there was low cloud there would not be any fantastic flat countryside vista to be enjoyed anyway.

Not much excitement in the trip up to once again Stan’s Bike Shack, this time coming to Partridge Green from the south, maybe I will go back via Henfield.   I got slightly worried again as I got nearest and started to see much more cycling activity, but as I pulled in they all went straight on.   This time, the carpark was empty, infact the cafe was only just in the process of opening for the day.  Bingo.   Piece and quiet….

I had to wait for things to setup, but this was no problem, I was in no hurry and I welcomed the quiet that this was giving me.   A quick chat, a sausage and egg roll with a coffee was what I was planning and hoping for.   Second time round, things were working out well.   I eat and drank while I planned routes and generally pondered over all things bike and route.  I chatted with the owner and heard plans for the Shack which turned out has not even been open for a year, and yet it is a place that everyone talks about.  It seems so well placed at an hour from home for both outgoing and incoming journeys.     Good luck for the future and the plans.

Coffee was good, food was good.   I opted for a sausage and egg bap, cooked just for me and made for a very good breakfast.   A “test drive” of using a Chromebook with limited internet connection was good.  It turns out that the Shack has free Wifi but I wanted to test out the usability of a Chromebook for when internet is not so good.  I am pleased to say, all went well  (I connected to my phone for the rest in order to see how the battery coped when in such mode).   This is all good,  for the £120 Chromebook with the amazing battery life, no moving parts and all that.

I spent a good hour, typing and chatting now and then, looking things up….   The Shack was pretty quiet but had a steady stream of walkers and cyclists that came and went.   Most were Mountain bikes going along the DownsLink, by the looks of the amount of mud on the bikes!   After a couple of coffees and breakfast, I packed up and left for home, this time going the opposite way round than last time, through Partridge Green and through Henfield.   The weather had not improved and I certainly felt the wind which was before behind me, now infront of me.  On the bike though, it wasn’t cold, which for the 1st of January seemed quite good.

 

Number of coffees: 2

Number of sausage and egg baps: 1

Number of cheery “Hellos” to passing cyclists: 4

Number of cheery “Hellos” back: 1