Seventeen of us gathered in Hartfield for an “Away Day” to explore pastures new in East Sussex. Comprising mainly G5 riders led by myself and John Mac, we planned to follow a route I’d plotted of 73 miles that took us up over the High Weald via Crowborough and Rotherfield before dropping down towards Horam and Herstmonceux before climbing northwards back over the Weald via Netherfield, Dallington, Robertsbridge and Hurst Green. From there the route turned westward to Stonegate and south to Burwash and then onto Mayfield. From there it was about 13 miles or so back to the Anchor Inn in Hartfield for a much needed beer.
It’s fair to say that the terrain in this part of the world is somewhat different to the roads we normally ride in Surrey; in many ways it is like Devon, you’re either climbing or descending with little in between. The profiles certainly suggested this with over 7,000 feet of climbing.
I’d also plotted shorter routes for the G2-4s but, I think quite rightly in retrospect, they demurred form this particular challenge (note to self, next time find a flatter route!). And by the time we got to Crowborough it was clear that we’d need to split into two groups with the second taking a shorter route and so it was that five of us embarked on this one.
We were quite blessed by fabulous weather and really quiet roads. And in the main the lanes were in good condition too. Our intention was to really enjoy the scenery and new views. As Brian Costello has been know to say this was a meerkat ride - heads up no staring down at the wheel in front. That did work on the descents but I’m not sure John would agree about the ascents!
I’d chosen East Sussex as it used to be my home territory so I was keen to show off the best the county has to offer but when riding through Vines Cross our tour was interrupted when Richard N’s saddle literally fell apart due to one of the retaining bolts shearing. Fortunately we tracked down a local bike shop in Heathfield that agreed to sort us out. Poor Richard though had to ride the 3 miles under threat of doing himself a major mischief if he forgot not to sit down. In sympathy I decided to do the same and discovered that climbing is a lot safer than descending when the higher centre of gravity can make the bike a bit unstable.
Major thanks though to the guys at the shop who managed to track down a 5mm bolt of the right length and refused to take any payment. Our stop over had put us back at least 30 minutes or so and a change of plan was needed. We decided to make our way over to Dallington/Woods Corner where I’d first planned we might stop for a refresher but decided to go on three miles further to Burwash and the Rose and Crown for lunch.
Settling down with baguette and bitter we established that the other group were in Hurst Green and about 8 miles behind us. Despite going quite a lot faster than us we didn’t meet up until getting back to Hartfield where i found them lying on the grass looking well ridden! Chapeau to you all guys, I’d thought the estimated climbing would be overstated but in reality it was spot on so your tiredness was fully justified.
My group - the famous five comprising James T, Richard N, Howard T and Big John - set off to Mayfield taking a short cut down into the Rother Valley but there seems to be a rule in Sussex, short cuts tend to be outweighed by the increased climbing. I should have known this being an ex-local. Stick to the main roads and they seem to stay on the tops of the hills and so it was for this reason that John decided to take a less hilly route back from Mayfield.
Thank you to all those that came out to make this a great success. That you too to my group who made this such a great day even if it was tiring. In the end we did 54 mile and climbed 5,200 ft. And well done to John whose parting words were that next time he'd read the premable!
Lastly I promise the next trip will be more friendly to all groups but the idea of pushing into new ground seems to have been a big success.