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The first (proper) century of the year

Sometime last year a guy called Justin commented on a photo I’d posted to Instagram. Something along the lines of “You ride so much! You need to contribute something to the website.” That statement is partially true. I do ride a fair bit but really I just take an inordinate amount of photographs. The website in question is nowherefast.cc (NWFCC), an interesting collection of stories, images and films from cyclists around the world. Go and have a look, it’s a nice thing. Anyway I did start to do some stuff for NWFCC.

I thought about a photo diary showing the varied landscape and changing seasons in Sussex. This would re-activate a photographic project I’d started but simply couldn’t find enough time for. After a bit more thought I came up with the idea to tie whatever I did to an actual piece of tarmac, choosing journeys I regularly rode, and write about and around that specific place; equal part memoir, local geography and history. I knew I’d be able to delve into an archive of images that would show these locations throughout the year. And so ‘The Lanes’ series came into being.

A few people started to comment on these via the website and twitter, and slowly an idea to organise a NWFCC ride taking in all of these lanes evolved. I soon realised the lanes are spread quite far so to fit them all in would end up in a 300km audax-style endurance fest, or a weekend stage race! After a bit of jiggling and tweaking I figured out a 100 mile ride that includes a variety of landscapes and lanes from the NWFCC series. A looping ride from Lewes that takes in the South Downs, parts of the low and high wealds, the marshlands of Pevensey Levels, with views of the North Downs to the, er, north, and the English Channel in the south. I also discovered that June 16th is official Sussex Day so that decided the date. Except it’s a Monday this year so the ride is planned for Sunday 15th June. The loop cuts back near Lewes around half distance so there will be a 50(ish) mile option.

This week I decided I should at least test the route, join the dots, make sure it all linked up nicely. Whilst I know most of the route like the back of my hand, there are bits I know less well. Due to Southern Rail’s far-sighted policy of banning bikes on trains out of Brighton before 9am I decided to adjust the loop to start & finish in Brighton. My friend Lois was going to come along as riding an imperial century is one of her 12 New Things for 2014, but unfortunately was unable to make it at the last moment. This was a shame but another friend Mark said he’d meet me for a few miles across the downs around Jevington and Litlington.

Descending from Devil's Dyke, South Downs.

Descending from Devil’s Dyke, South Downs.

Setting out early I climbed over the downs under a clear blue sky out towards Twineham Lane when I would pick up the “official” route on the lanes that form the latest piece for NWFCC – http://nowherefast.cc/lanes-no-6-spronketts-lane-sussex-southern-england/ – that took me up to Warninglid.

Long House Lane, heading north towards Warninglid

Long House Lane, heading north towards Warninglid

At Warninglid I turned left for a fast, flat(ish) section that took me along a ridge towards Haywards Heath, with views of the North Downs on the horizon. Passing under the London-Brighton rail line I headed for Lindfield, then Sheffield Park and skirting the edge of the Ashdown Forest ultimately a tea stop at Fletching.

Plummerden Lane, between Lindfield and Sheffield Park

Plummerden Lane, between Lindfield and Sheffield Park

Fletching

Fletching

Whilst stopped for tea I texted Mark to give an estimate of when I’d hit Pevensey Levels. Which was remarkably accurate given this was the bit of the route I was less sure of and didn’t even really know how far it was. Passing Piltdown Pond, source of the  “greatest hoax in the history of science?” it was then down to the Lavender Line at Isfield. This isn’t the most direct way to Pevensey Levels but it’s pretty and avoids Uckfield. Nothing against Uckfield but the best rides are never the most direct way to anywhere. From Isfield the route wiggles around a bit up onto the edge of the High Weald to Horam via some really nice quiet lanes that are yet to be written about. From Horam there’s a long downhill stretch before turning for Herstmonceux and Pevensey Levels beyond.

Onto Pevensey Levels

Onto Pevensey Levels

Some reeds. Pevensey Levels.

Some reeds. Pevensey Levels.

I met Mark at the Rickney end of New Bridge lane – http://nowherefast.cc/the-lanes-no-3-new-bridge-lane/ – and we set off towards Polegate. I knew Mark had limited time available so the next few miles would probably be a bit faster than the previous 50 odd. Yep. Mark gave me a nice tow up through Jevington to the top of downs at Friston Forest before the fast descent overlooking the Cuckmere Meander. In the valley we turned onto the Litlington Road – http://nowherefast.cc/the-lanes-no-4-along-the-cuckmere-valley/ – past the Long Man Brewery and up Chapel Hill to my favourite view in Sussex.

The best view in the whole of Sussex. Maybe.

The best view in the whole of Sussex. Maybe.

Down past the Long Man we crossed the A27 towards Arlington where Mark turned right for home and I turned left for home. Across the railway lines at Berwick I entered the flatlands around Ripe and Laughton (the next piece for NWFCC). After the lumps of the High Weald and the South Downs it was good to get some flat miles in. I even had a tail wind. That doesn’t happen around here.

After a detour up the last hill of the proper Sussex Day 100 past Glyndebourne, to avoid the main road through Ringmer, I dropped into Lewes to grab some food and sit by the river for 20 minutes. The last few miles home are a regular commute over Telscombe Tye and along the coastal cliff top cycle path to Brighton. 107 miles after setting off I was home and cracked open a well earned bottle of Long Man Pale Ale.

In the next few weeks I will go out again and ride the proper loop from Lewes so I can calculate the correct mileage and climbing, figure out where tea and lunch stops could be, and make proper route notes. Once all this is figured out Justin will post details at nowherefast.cc with map and top tube notes that can be downloaded. There might even be some audax style route instructions so that anyone could ride it anytime. However there will be an organised ride on Sunday 15th June if you’re interested. Leave a comment on this post or tweet me @themanfromicon and I’ll make sure you get the details later.

Route ridden: http://www.strava.com/activities/123610759

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