Sailing around Sussex with friends searching out windmills. All eight listed on the brevet card found and logged. At the almost the exact midpoint between the starts of meteorological and astronomical spring, it was the first ride in what felt like spring. Gloves off and jerseys unzipped. Riding with shadows and laughter.
It didn’t start out like this. Setting off along the coast, the sea fret hid the view beyond the cliff edge to our right. We barely caught sight of the first windmill up on the cliff. In and out of the Ouse and Cuckmere valleys we turned inland, away from the Downs and fog for the first ride across the marshes of the year, or simply the first time for some of our small peloton. Hazy horizons and diffuse sunlight. Climbing to edge of the hills of the High Weald our shadows flickered into life. After bagging the fourth windmill and almost half way round we stopped at a garden centre, sat outside in the sunshine with tea and bacon sarnies.
Weaving back across the weald, we passed through the village that I’ve only ever known by it’s name on signposts. Despite all of us crisscrossing this county for years we all found new ways and places, the best kind of ride. Back on roads we know and which tilted every so slightly downhill the pace rose until we hit Uckfield. My internal audax sat nav kicked in and I sent us the wrong way, automatically turning for McDonalds. All the way around the roundabout and we were back on track. Familiar lanes, autopilot, but the next two mills, Chailey and Oldland, were new to us, both less than a mile from roads we know like the backs of our hands. Oldland involved some off-roading to find but worth every effort. Standing in the sun we could see our next quarry, Jack and Jill standing on the Downs across the way. However before that there was a tea and cake stop in Ditchling. There was no rush. The days are stretching out again, there was plenty of daylight left.
Climbing to Jack and Jill we could see Oldland Mill stood across the fields, it’s whiteness concentrated by sunlight against the haze. We realise we must have seen it across the way hundreds of times without really noticing or knowing what or where it was. Now we know. And where that lane behind the Ditchling war memorial leads. Back over Devil’s Dyke and we could see the sea for the first time despite having ridden next to it for an hour earlier in the day. We hurtled down the hill for the final mill at West Blatchington, then turned for the pub.