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Days out of the Duck House #1


In the first in our series of days out of the Duck House we took a ride from the picturesque village of Peaslake in the Surrey Hills to Brighton and back. This is a great ride and can be adapted for all levels of rider. In this version we went right into Brighton, over the South Downs going into and out of the city, however for an easier journey you can always stop short of the downs themselves for some lunch or navigate into Brighton using the flat path adjacent to the A23.

Peaslake. Always good for cheery banter and a pork and leek slice.

Peaslake, our start point, is a quintessential English village nestled in the middle of the Surrey Hills. A magnet for mountain biking in the South East, it is an ideal start point because of the ease of parking, quiet roads and legendary village store. Upon embarking on a long ride like this, even as experienced riders, we took some careful time planning routes, packing the appropriate amount of food and checking equipment before heading out far from home. We spent some time loading the route onto our Garmins and had a back up device should one go down. Food and drink wise this will vary from rider to rider and can only be learnt through experience but as a general rule of  thumb I pack something to eat for every 45 mins of riding. So our pockets were full upon departure! 

Our route was long and punchy in places. Before setting off its best to prepare for this.

Leaving early we dropped out of the Surrey Hills catching the morning light and spotting a few deer in the fields between Peaslake and Ewhurst. These were to become a frequent welcome sight in the interior of West Sussex! It has been a while since I had done a ride where I had all day and was following a map rather than numbers and within the first few hundred yards this refreshing change gave the day a renewed feel of exploration rather than the normal pressure of tempo that often accompanies road rides.

Out of the North Downs the sun began to break through and after the first hour it was time to remove the gilets, we wound our way south via a couple of main roads but mostly on minor roads through villages and hamlets into West Sussex and with the South Downs looming in the foreground. Sussex is a familiar county to your scribe having spent a number of years living, studying and working in the area and going back is always a reminder of how beautiful a part of the country it is. The miles of land between the M25 and the coast has many corridors of green and pleasant land and riding through Barns Green, Partridge Green, Ashurst and into Steyning many happy memories were brought back. The South Downs arrive quickly when you reach Steyning.

The view from the middle of Steyning Bostal, looking back from where we have come you can just see the North Downs in the distance.

The Steyning Bostal is a road that until now I had only read about and at a signposted 17% isn’t to be taken lightly especially with another 60 miles left to do. Turning right from the village up Bostal Road the climb has two distinct ramps to it, both pretty hard work but once at the top the view across the middle of the down is stunning as is the view back over the village to where we have come from. The long straight(ish) road shoots you down into Sompting and you need to be careful when crossing the A27 from where you can then navigate pretty easily to the seafront and then turn east toward Brighton. Here we used the main road to Hove before getting onto the cycle path. This may not be everyone’s choice, there is a cycle path that runs along the seafront and if in doubt is probably worth using. As a former resident I was able to guide us through junctions and knew what to expect, so if repeating the route is something to consider. Certainly a change from the tranquil lanes of half an hour previous.

Brighton's functioning pier on a tranquil Spring day.

It’s a little surreal getting to a city like Brighton after a morning of pedalling. Normally after a couple of hours in the saddle I get home and put the kettle on but here we were coffees and sandwiches on the seafront ready to tackle the return leg. Here I think it’s worth noting a couple of things about cycling in Brighton. Locals do generally stick to the cycle paths. Junctions and lane allocations around the city can be confusing and only added to by flocks of tourists wandering around with selfie sticks, especially during the summer, so care needs to be taken. We took our time getting out of the city going along the seafront until Palace Pier where we turned left and followed the cycle paths from the Old Steine out towards the universities; which have been greatly improved to allow the movements of people up and down the Lewes Road. There are other routes out of the city but for us this is the simplest. For anyone that has done it we are following the London to Brighton bike ride route but in reverse at this point.

And so now you have to get out of the downs again. Up Coldean Lane, which is hard work, another double ramp with the second one significantly longer than the first and to avoid queuing traffic behind us we used the footpath on the climb. Taking the first available right turn at the top you continue to climb, if more sedately, to Ditchling Beacon whose descent can be unnerving even for the experienced. The view from the top however is unrivalled. On a clear day such as this we could see all the way back to where we will eventually finish and seemingly further. The beacons descent should be taken carefully, another ramping hill it undulates before bends making judging speed tricky on a slightly unsettled aluminium horse.

The view from the Beacon into Sussex. We picked a good day!

 From Ditchling we headed North West a touch through Hassocks to cross the A23 at Bolney and down Jeremys Lane into the lanes that ascend north with the A23 up past the familiar marker that is Gatwick Airport. Of these roads Hammerpond Lane, with its punchy climb finishing climb and picturesque ponds, and Tower Road which takes us quickly into Colgate are my highlights and classic staples of this ride whatever route you eventually take. With the North Downs now in sight as we pass Rusper the final half an hour or so can be taken at a steady pace knowing that going into Peaslake will require some legs on some gritty single track Surrey roads.

A great day can only be rounded off by a coffee and a cheese straw from Trudy in the village store who we have got to know well over the last few years. A classic day out. Yeah, you could say that!

 Notes on our route:

Strava aficionados can get our route here: https://www.strava.com/routes/4656199

If you want to cut it short of climbs turn East at Steyning and head through Bramber, picking up Clappers Lane and taking your way to Fulking for lunch at either The Sheppard and Dog or The Royal Oak before heading out north through Henfield and trying to pick the route up again close to Bolney. Like most routes this does have its frailties. Heading purposefully for Steyning Bostal does mean a slog along the seafront and a better route for the uninitiated would to be to head in via Henfield over Devils Dyke and into the city via Hove. This is probably preferred to be fair and we only took our route really because we hadn’t climbed Steyning Bostal before.

If you have any suggestions for a day out or want to join us on our next Day out of the Duck house please drop us a line. If you fancy joining us for our next trip please do the same, we will be riding the route of the Fred Whitton in the Lake District on Wednesday 27th April.