The weather forecast for Brighton on 13th April was pretty miserable, showers and hail with the occasional spell of sunshine. The forecast was turned on its head and we had a great time. This was my first day ride in 6 weeks following my rib-crunching escapade so we opted for a ride of two halfs, a South Downs trundle rounded off with Stanmer singletrack.
From Sussex University the only way onto the downs is up, the initial climb was a leg warmer and had all of us panting despite taking the more gentle cruise onto the hills above Woodingdean. We made good time along the South Downs Way above Kingston in warm sunshine, the piles of cow poo dumped next to all the gates by the farmers were rock hard and we just skipped over them. The steep descent towards Rodmell was taken at a grin inducing and whooping full pelt. As we climbed towards the reservoir behind Tellscombe the sky began to look ominously dark and a cutting breeze was making itself felt by all except Jim who laughed it off in only shorts and short-sleeved shirt. Along the hill top above the ‘hidden valley’ we could all feel rain in the breeze so decided to cutout the climb via Castle Hill and headed straight back towards the South Downs Way when the heavens opened. Waterproofs were hurridly grabbed and we climbed to an open sided barn on the hill top to wait it out. Just as suddenly as they had started the wind and rain stopped and was replaced by bright sunshine. We were soon on downs above Kingston.
The descent into Kingston was taken carefully by all as the recently wet chalk didn’t look like it would take any prisoners! Not carefully enough, as there was a small incident, not on the steep descent but on the flat runout at the bottom. Across the A27 and down a long straight singletrack through Lewes with gravity on our side, slightly muddy but nothing to worry about. The climb to Blackcap was its usual slog and we began to get a couple of stragglers but the warm sun gave everyone a second gear and we whizzed to Ditchling Beacon. The conversations about the merits of different descents from and climbs up to the Beacon changed the mood of the ride and we began looking for humps and divots to jump off. Stanmer woods were practically bone dry and we had a blast including the old rooty corner on the steep descent. The entrance to this trail has been changed, there used to be a couple of bermed corners now its just straight down the steepest part of the hillside across a log step and then the sharp left turn across the roots. We all made it without incident.
We ended the ride sitting in the warm sunshine with coffee and shortbread from Stanmer Tearoom’s. A cracking ride, hopefully a good portent for 2008.