Category Archives: cycling

245. London to Brighton, and back

Well, almost. London to Brighton to Guildford, anyway.

wey and arun canal near billingshurst west sussex england by roadsofstoneTravelling home with the bike on the car roof was a comfortable way to rest weary legs after the London to Brighton Bike Ride. And then, somewhere along the bleak A23 south of Crawley, I saw them.

Lone cylists, still carrying their London to Brighton numbers, pedalling along the bleak dual carriageway and working their way through the late afternoon across Sussex. Heading north and back to London.

The idea was born — to complete the 54 miles of the London to Brighton Bike Ride, and then glide (or limp) home to Guildford afterwards. That would make a long day’s ride of perhaps 100 miles in all.

And the last four years, I’ve done that — although on different routes each time.
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228. Twin peaks in the Surrey Hills – two classic cycle climbs to Winterfold Heath

barhatch lane climb mid section cranleigh surrey england by roadsofstoneOver the summer I’ve discovered two more tough ascents in the Surrey Hills.

Both lead through the woods up to Winterfold Heath, deep in the Hurtwood Forest set high above Cranleigh.

footpath in winterfold forest roman road cranleigh surrey england by roadsofstoneThe Hurtwood is one of the largest privately owned estates in Surrey.

Mercifully, most of it is accessible on a dense network of footpaths, one of which is an ancient Roman road.

Maps below:
Alderbrook Road (A to B); Barhatch Lane (D to C)
barhatch lane alderbrook road climbs cranleigh surrey england google maps satellite view barhatch lane alderbrook road climbs cranleigh surrey england streetmap co uk

The two ascents are different.
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227. South Lincolnshire summer: Little Bytham and the Mallard

“The past is another country” — The Go Between, LP Hartley (1953)

august evening harvest fields bassingthorpe lincolnshire england by roadsofstoneAugust days are with us now, the ripe Lincolnshire corn shimmering tall and golden in late summer afternoons.

The stuffy, restrictive heat and bustle of London feels a world away from here.

grimsthorpe castle lincolnshire england by roadsofstoneThe landscape has changed little across the years — parched harvest fields and desiccated stately lawns still wait ready for a boy or girl delivering some fateful message to Julie Christie in The Go Between or Keira Knightley in Atonement.

Only the slow progress of the monster machines that gather in the harvest serve to tell the tale of a landscape now worked with many fewer people.

summer at the black horse inn grimsthorpe lincolnshire england by roadsofstoneAcross long, easy days we cycle over gentle Jurassic hills. Three miles to reach another village, four villages to find a pub. It’s a pleasant way to slow down and find the summer.

The pace of life seems slow, and it’s hard to equate this landscape with a world speed record set three quarters of a century ago and still standing firm today.
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225. Running on Roman Road 2 – from Stane Street to Guildford

stane street roman road slinfold sussex by roadsofstoneIt’s late on a summer’s evening and I’m cycling homeward along one of the most beautiful country roads in England.

This morning’s London to Brighton bike ride is well behind me now and I’m rolling towards the sunset on the longest day of the year.

Eighty miles are in my legs by the time I pass the pretty Saxon village of Slinfold, with twenty more ahead to Guildford.

Beyond the church, I slowly climb a steady rise and turn right onto the main A29. One of my favourite cycling stretches, this — perfect blacktop, arrow straight, and for now at least, heading gently downhill towards the river.

This is Stane Street — the Roman road from Chichester to London. Built in the 1st Century AD, it’s more than good enough for me now. I pause to eat and think at the bridge across the Arun. Here, inside the meander of the river, the Romans built a staging post or mansio.
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223. Cycling on Surrey and Sussex hills – from White Down to Ditchling Beacon

climbing ditchling beacon london to brighton bike ride sussex england by roadsofstoneDitchling Beacon is the high point of the London to Brighton Bike Ride each year, in lots more ways than one.

A whole year of training is finally distilled into one breathless blur of uphill climb.

cycling ditchling beacon london to brighton bike ride sussex england by roadsofstoneAnd no matter how many hills I’ve toiled all winter, it never seems that success on Ditchling is guaranteed — because it’s the toughest ascent I do.

Here’s a map and a profile of the hill, and a comparison with White Down, the steepest climb in the Surrey Hills close to where I live, and the last training test I do before setting off to Brighton each year.
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155. Le grand départ – the Tour de France in London 2007

tour-de-france-london-2007-park-lane.jpg

The streets of London deserted … except for a million people lining the roads.

A Brit leading the Tour de France halfway through Kent, and pulling on the King of the Mountains jersey, later that same evening.

The best weather of the summer.

The Tour de France – in London, for the first time ever.

Truly, the weekend of a lifetime. And we were there, too.

On Saturday afternoon, we wandered happily from Green Park to the Serpentine, watching the cyclists flash by. The speed of the racers was simply unbelievable – Hyde Park Corner hasn’t seen traffic moving so quickly for many a long year.
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153. The green monster – Ditchling Beacon and the London to Brighton bike ride

UPDATE February 2012
For a Ditchling Beacon map and gradient information, please see here:
223. Cycling on Surrey and Sussex hills – from White Down to Ditchling Beacon;

And for return routes back to Guildford, see here:
245. London to Brighton, and back;

* * * * *

ditchling-beacon-the-green-monster-2007.jpgSummer. Early afternoon. A soft and unassuming heat haze rising from the lush green meadows of Sussex.

And rising too, slowly but relentlessly behind this pretty village, lies the reason that we’re here.

The most famous climb in all of southern England.

The mean city streets of London seem such a long time ago. The start in Clapham lies almost fifty miles behind us, and barely a handful more remain ahead. The countryside is peaceful. Very peaceful.

The chatter and banter of those early miles has faded now. With a myriad and more of cyclists on the road, along the classic route to Brighton – you can hear them, all the way.

london-to-brighton-bike-2007-spirit-of-the-peloton.jpgNot just the whirr of spokes, the squeal of frantic brakes, or the grinding, mashing sound of crunching gears. There’s a richer, more lyrical sound to listen to, louder and more urgent still than the rhythm of the riders’ breathing.

Much more than that. Because I’ll swear that on these Sussex roads you can hear the spirit of the peloton. Continue reading