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Summer is over which means two things: firstly, it’s time to leave the muddy bridlepaths behind and hit the tarmac, and secondly, there’s no need to be beach gorgeous. What better time for some calorie-rich tours of the pubs and cafes of the Weald? This month Nick Marks heads out to Hurstpierpoint.
1 - Start at Seven Dials and head up Dyke Road. The cycle lane will be almost completely parked up, but this avenue of substantial properties does offer some dilemmas to ponder.
For example, is it tasteful to own two black Range Rovers? Does barring the gravel drive of your mock Tudor half-timbered house with electric wrought-iron gates increase or decrease its value? What is the ultimate personalised number plate?
Thus lost in thought you will soon reach the Hilltop Cafe at the end of Dyke Road, where you may choose to stop for refreshment.
2 - Carry on over the first roundabout, and go straight ahead at the second, taking the road north into the countryside. In the first hundred metres listen for grasshoppers and stop for your first taste of blackberries.
As you read this they will be at their ripest, so don’t miss out. Then follow the road north towards Saddlescombe. Admire the textbook rolling road before you as you dip down between the hills, and as you pass the farm at Saddlescombe you can once again stop for drinks and snacks, organic this time.
3 - Enjoy the long, steep downhill run just after Saddlescombe. You can put the bike in top gear and really let rip; just remember to keep a light but firm hold on the bars and resist the temptation to hold on too tight. When you reach the roundabout at the bottom of the hill carry on, past the sign for the Cat Hotel, and turn right at the very inviting Ginger Fox pub.
4 - Ride on through damp, echoing woodland, past a Scout Hut (they do still exist), and eventually you will come to Hurstpierpoint.
This is a village that used to be a bit chintzy; now it’s decidedly minted. Turn right down the high street and try to work out whether or not the hairdressers’ outnumber the interiors boutiques. It’s a bit shabbier than Dyke Road, but a lot more chic; there are a couple of good pubs here too.
5 - The high street goes on for ages but eventually you will arrive at a crossroads. Turn right and head south again.
Here you have half a mile or so of straight, dull road with fast traffic but it’s all worthwhile when you get to the railway bridge. Stop, cross over the road, and gape at the ornate castle, complete with turrets and arrow slits, that guards the spot where the railway line disappears under the Downs. Even more strange is the neat railway cottage built on top of the castle, complete with geraniums in the window boxes. Who tends them? Are they made of plastic? The Jack and Jill pub is close by if you need to sit and think about it.
6 - Carry on past the Ditchling Road, and take the next turning left on to Underhill Lane. Along this delightful little route you will find plenty more blackberries, some beehives sitting behind big Southern Water Keep Out signs, and finally the crossroads at the bottom of Ditchling Beacon which you may recognise from The Snowman.
7 - Turn right, and simply ride up the Beacon. It’s not as hard as you think but if you’re finding it a bit tough, you can always stop and admire the view.
When you get to the top, go straight on for a few miles until Hollingbury Asda heaves into view. Take the bridge over the A27, then tackle that last climb before the long downhill stretch into Fiveways. Stop for a doughnut at Raven’s, one of Brighton’s best bakeries, then carry on to The Level, where this ride ends.
* Time/Distance: Three hours or 20 miles.
*Difficulty: This is a fairly easy route, suitable for all.
*Your bike: You could try this route on any variety of bike.
*Thirsty work: There are stops all along the route for drinks, food and snacks.
*So you don’t get lost: OS map 122
*Online route: www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3989422