Review of the Avenue Verte

AV Seaford SignI recently cycled from London to Paris with a few friends by following the signposted Avenue Verte route. The signposting was completed in 2012, just before the start of the London Olympics. Some of it was a joy to cycle along but other parts were dreadful and sometimes dangerous. Parts of the route were poorly signposted but, fortunately, we took the excellent Official Guide to the Avenue Verte with us; without it we would have been well and truly lost on occasions.

The best section is the first 88 miles in France, ie from Dieppe to Bray-et-Lû. The worst section is from the start of the Avenue Verte at the London Eye to the beginning of Worth Way (just east of Crawley), about 45 miles. A lot of this section is not cycle friendly. For example, London Eye to Clapham Common is on extremely busy roads. Later on, some parts are on dirt/gravel tracks and one part is on a severely rutted farm track. Had we been on mountain bikes then these parts would not have been a problem but one is unlikely to cycle from London to Paris on a mountain bike; we were on road ‘touring’ bikes.

That said, just after Coulsdon, is a very pleasant section which goes across Farthing Down and continues for several miles. Unfortunately, a few miles later, the Avenue Verte goes through the built-up areas of Redhill, Horley and Crawley. Bizarrely, it goes through Gatwick Airport. Why cycle through an airport? Did some planner of the route think cyclists would be so fed up with the Avenue Verte by this stage that they’d prefer to hop on a plane to Paris!

I feel a more cycle friendly route out of London would be to start at Tower Bridge, go along the comparatively quiet NCN Route 4 eastwards and then head south along a route based on NCN Route 21. Turn off Route 21 as it approaches the M25, go through Godstone and cycle along quiet country roads east of the built-up areas of Redhill, Horley and Crawley. Also, Gatwick Airport would be avoided!

The section from the start of Worth Way to Newhaven is better but it’s not great. Worth Way is a shared-use path following an old railway line from Crawley to East Grinstead and then there’s another such path called Forest Way to Groombridge. These tracks provide about 18 miles of traffic free cycling, apart from a mile through East Grinstead. However, the surface isn’t ideal for road bikes as it comprises chippings and cinder so requires extra care on road bikes with fairly narrow tyres. Also, these paths are often quite narrow and their sides overgrown with vegetation so it often feels like cycling through a green tunnel. Unfortunately, you can’t see the countryside so cycling along these traffic-free paths is rather tedious.

The Cuckoo Trail, another path based on an old railway line starting at Heathfield, is a better stretch as, unlike the other two, this one has a tarmac surface. It’s a gradual descent for almost 11 miles to Polegate so makes for easy cycling. The next bit isn’t so good as the Avenue Verte goes through Oggs Wood on a rough surface which is quite muddy in places.

In sharp contrast, the first 88 miles of Avenue Verte in France between Dieppe and Bray-et-Lû is superbAV Sign (at Germer-de-Fly we took the shorter Western Option in preference to the longer Eastern Option). There are no busy roads, no dirt tracks and no dangerous junctions. The route is very well signposted; the small bright yellow Avenue Verte signs between Forges-les-Eaux and Gisors are easily seen and appear at every junction. There’s no chance of getting lost on this part of the route; if only the entire Avenue Verte could be signposted in this way.

This section of the Avenue Verte includes two paths along old railway lines but, unlike the British paths such as Worth Way and Forest Way, the French ones are much wider, have a tarmac surface and are properly maintained. Also, the vegetation at the edges of the paths is kept under control and you can see and enjoy the surrounding countryside as you cycle along.

That said, the route after Bray-et-Lû leaves much to be desired. It crosses Le Vexin, a regional nature park. The roads are quiet and it’s easy to devise a cycle friendly route through Le Vexin. Yet, on occasions, the Avenue Verte makes use of rough tracks. Fortunately the official guide recommends alternatives on roads in most cases.

After Le Vexin comes the large new town of Cergy-Pontoise. This is poorly signposted and easy to get lost. Eventually, the Avenue Verte approaches Paris by following the meandering Seine and then a canal with a rough path. The final few miles are very confusing and the chances are you’ll finish up cycling along some very busy roads.

The choice of route into Paris is strange as there more cycling friendly ways into Paris by going through forests just south of Poissy, through Versailles, Parc de Saint Cloud and the Bois de Bolougne, finishing at the Eiffel Tower.

I met many other cyclists on the signposted route who were similarly disappointed with some sections of it. It’s a shame that more thought wasn’t given into the signposting of the Avenue Verte but hopefully improvements will be made.



Lewis Coleman

Lewis Colemanv1

In loving memory of Lewis Coleman who passed away on 26th August 2013.

Lewis was an active member of Cycle Seahaven and was regularly out with the Club on mountain and road rides. At Lewis’s funeral on 9th September, his best friend Sally and active Cycle Seahaven member read the following Eulogy.


In the next few minutes I am going to share a personal view of Lewis.

Lewis was a dedicated family man. He is survived by his mother Pauline and his three sisters – Elizabeth, Caroline and Lucy. He was so proud of his four children, Sam, Laura, Jeremy and Pierre and he absolutely loved his young grandson, Adam. When Sam married Sarah before Christmas, Lewis was very pleased to have been best man. He really enjoyed the wedding reception because all his extended family were gathered together. Lewis told me that he was saddened that he would miss his children maturing but in the same conversation he asserted his absolute confidence that they would find their way and be happy. He loved his wife, Elizabeth and truly they made a strong couple, sharing key values, many memories and much laughter. Lewis’ family were all with him through his illness.

Lewis was born in 1957 in Tunbridge Wells. He started work at the age of 19 for an induction furnaces manufacturer called Ajax Magnothermic.  In this employment he travelled extensively abroad in Europe and once to the US and it was through this job that in 1985 he met Elizabeth. Two years after this he joined Parker Pen as a Computer Aided Designer.

I hope you can see this – it is a gold, fluted Parker ink pen that Lewis gave to me in January. Lewis designed the working parts of this pen.  He was an excellent designer working with care and precision and this pen writes beautifully. I did laugh when Lewis shared with me that the official Parker word for testing the nib of pen is “fluffy”. Apparently its cursive letters test all the edges of the nib. I like the idea of Lewis, the technically minded engineer, all 6 foot 6 inches of him, writing “fluffy” several times a day.

After leaving Parker, Lewis moved to Edwards Vacuum. Edwards were good to Lewis through his illness.  I know that Lewis appreciated this but I’m sure that it reflects his own hard work and commitment to the company. Lewis had boundless curiosity. He asked many questions and was interested in many things. When Edwards began working with Korean colleagues Lewis started to learn as much as he could about Korean culture and took his new Korean colleagues under his wing. He was very excited to have the opportunity to travel and work in Korea. He was adventurous in his way – he didn’t shy away from opportunities and he threw himself into learning Korean. He really loved that trip and talked about both the work place challenges but particularly his observations of Korean life and culture.

Lewis was both brave and courageous and his comportment through his very trying illness is the best example of these characteristics. He was immensely dignified when given his awful prognosis in January and above all he was kind. He generously continued to put others before himself. On the day of his first appointment with the cancer specialist my daughter fainted at home alone. I was in London and phoned Lewis to see if he could help. Risking lateness Lewis and Elizabeth raced round to find Florence and the first thing he said to her was “do you want a hug?”. He was a just lovely man able to both give and receive affection.

Lewis was a patient teacher. He taught three of his children to drive and he took pride in the maintenance of the family car. It was lucky for me that Lewis had a strong sense of proportion the night that the Colepeople (as he called his family) came for dinner and I managed to drive my car into his on the driveway. Men can be funny about cars so I said nothing that night but ‘fessed up in the morning. He laughed it away saying that it took the pressure off his family as the first bump had been made although he did occasionally remind me.

Lewis had a terrific imagination and zest for life. He was Assistant Cub Leader for 12 years for the 9th Seaford Scouts. My son Oscar was a cub with Lewis and I remember when they camped at Blackland’s Farm. Lewis organised a game involving long periods immersed in the camp swamp. Oscar came home wet and muddy and when I tipped his rucksack upside down in front of the washing machine to my horror loads of stag beetles exploded from the bag and disappeared down the cracks in the kitchen floor boards. I believe that courtesy of Lewis I am breeding a colony of stag beetles in the house foundations.

Lewis liked exercise. Probably his greatest love was his holidays in the French Alps where his parents in-law live. When there he enjoyed street parties, family walks and trips to the lake but above all he liked exploring in the mountains where he once saw marmots in the wild. Lewis also spent time walking the Sussex Weald with his mum.

In his youth Lewis was a keen cyclist, once impressively riding to Stockholm and back to meet a friend – now that is a commitment to friendship.  Lewis returned to cycling around six years ago. I made him come with me by telling him that he was getting fat.  We started very unadventurously but gradually we improved and joined, along with Elizabeth, Cycle Seahaven. Lewis cycled on the dark side – preferring mountain biking to road riding which I like but we compromised by riding trails over the Downs together. Lewis made many friends on his Friday night rides through Friston Forest in the dark. I vividly remember his delight when one night he faced his nemesis and rode down into and out of one of the very scary bomb craters. That night he also beat the rest of the riders up the infamous Cardiac Hill. It is a mark of Lewis’ commitment to service that just before Christmas he had volunteered to run the club website.

Lewis was a great friend and a wonderful person leaving a long legacy of affection. He will be missed by a lot of people but mostly by Elizabeth and the rest of his family and we are all here to support them.


Local riders meet Friston Forest Rangers

A group of 19 local riders met up with the Forestry Commission to discuss the possibility of forming a mutually beneficial partnership. Cycle Seahaven and other local groups & businesses were represented.

One of the outcomes was the forming of an online forum where options and direction could be discussed with a far wider audience.

To express your views and concerns you can join the forum at this address:

If you don’t fancy joining the forum then please contact with your views or concerns.


Minutes of the meeting

Meeting with Local MTB and Foresty Rangers 8th May 2013 Friston Forest Visitor Centre

Present: Mark Arno,  Marina Brigginshaw, Ian Bromley – Forestry, Leila Dawney – Highrollers, Mark Dawney – Highrollers, Nick Cole, Liam Harris, Kevin Head, Colin Homan, Harvey Homan, Nick Kelleher – Whipser Bikes, Gus Lock – Cycle East Sussex, Jamie Lynch – South East Mountain Biking, Dean McCartney, Ming (the merciless) – Sussex Muddy@rse, Philip o’Dwyer, Peter Rawlinson – Forestry, Chris Sparks, Mark Woodgate – Cycle Seahaven

Apologies: Sophie Anns, Lisa Bowell – Sussex Muddy@rse, Steve Carey, Edward Davidson-Bowman, Terry Edelston, Simon Godding – Cuckmere Cycles, Jors Man – Whisper Bikes, Jay McNally – Bespoke (Eastbourne)

Invited: The Facebook group FristonMTB (258 members at the time of writing) was the primary source of contact. This has been recognised as a limited medium for gathering interested parties and a better, more inclusive solution will be sought.

The meeting opened with introduction from Ian Bromley (FCE), the local ranger for Friston Forest. Ian outlined the reason for the meeting: to see if local riders would want to work with Forestry Commission (FCE).

Ian then explained the reasons why FCE would like to work with local riders: – FCE have a duty of care for all forest users (dog walkers, horse riders, walkers, husky trainers, …) – Ignoring the situation isn’t an option for such a large organisations such as FCE. – Apart from ‘Ignore’ the other option is to remove the trails/works. – The final option, preferred by FCE, is to engage with trail riders and builders, hence the meeting.

Ian then went on to say why some sort of recognised group would assist FCE: – there would be a single point of contact representing MTBers – sharing of information would be simpler (harvesting operations, events from MTB or other groups, access problems, confrontations…)

Peter Rawlinson (FCE) expanded on Ian’s introduction, and gave a brief outline of the new management structure. Friston Forest is now managed from Norfolk, in a ‘patch’ extending out from there to Oxford Brighton. Ian has responsibility from Friston and up as far as Gatwick.

Ian and Peter then gave examples where FCE worked with volunteer trailbuilders and a dedicated trails ranger (Thetford) to give the locals the ability to develop and maintain their trails.

A discussion was then had regarding liability for any local MTB group, i.e. who takes ultimate responsibility? Peter pointed out that litigation would automatically be directed at the organisation with the most money – that being the government funded FCE, rather than a local group of riders. Peter expanded on FCE’s duty of care and gave real examples of litigation against FCE in other forests. He also pointed out FCE’s ‘second to none’ record of successfully defending against claims where life changing incidents had occurred on FCE land.

Peter was keen to point out that any partnership (if at all) could be as formal or informal as the group desired. Examples were given of various partnerships with different levels of expectation and responsibility and that FCE were not looking to impose anything.

A lot of talk covered the expectations of local riders, namely to keep things pretty much as they are: to ride natural and built trails – official & unofficial, current & new. Two examples were given (by local riders) of sections that FCE might want to address – FourDrops and the DH run. Plenty of suggestions were made on how to address these, but FCE were keen to state that this would be a working partnership and dialogue would nearly always find a solution. The priority for now was to establish a channel for such dialogue.

Interaction with other forest users (walkers, equestrians, dog walkers) was discussed and examples given of possible conflict of interest. Local riders explained the steps already taken to engage with TROT (who manage the fee paying access to the forests for horse riders), whose main issue was the lack of clear signage throughout Friston Forest. There was strong support from those present for improved signage, which would clearly mark MTB trails/areas and would make it clear to other users (including MTB of different skill levels) to: be aware; take care; keep off.

FCE were quizzed regarding development of trails, including North Shore, the availability of heavy machinery and access to a budget. The response was that the level of development was dependent on the level of reposibility and formalisation that could be established by a partnership.

FCE have a ‘constraints map’, showing rare flora/fauna, Ancient monuments and New plantings. Any further development would have to be with consideration to this map.

There was some talk about the forest itself and how there is little in terms of restrictions of use due to conservation/ archeology etc.

FCE were asked about holding events and that there was no problem with that, the application of which would simply have to be assessed and approved by the FC. The process usually takes 8 weeks.

There was a brief discussion towards the end of the meeting about the “FourDrops” onto West Dean road. This has been identified by the FC as a dangerous area that needs addressing. Various options were explored and the discussion ended with a suggestion at this stage of an FCE notice simply warning riders of the danger.

There was general agreement that a representative group would be beneficial for all. It was pointed out that there are many who do not (and will not) have a Facebook account, which is a barrier to using the current Friston MTB account. An online forum was suggested, and strongly supported.


The next steps were discussed, and agreed:

– The attendees would exchange contact details and work out a way forward to creating a more formal group.
– FCE would assist in communication between local riders and FCE, other user groups and existing MTB groups working with FCE.
– There was general agreement that a representative group would be beneficial for all. It was pointed out that there are many who do not (and will not) have a Facebook account. An online forum was suggested, and strongly supported.
– Date of next meeting was not decided.


Cycle Seahaven partner with OVCN

At our AGM in Jan 2013 the membership and committee voted to officially support the Ouse Valley Cycle Network project for their planned routes names The Egrets Way.

We aim to run club events throughout 2013 to raised funds for this exciting cycle project, which will link Newhaven and Lewes via the 7 villages of the Lower Ouse valley.

More details of OVCN can be found on their website. We urge you to join online (it’s free and without comitment) to show your support.


The Egrets Way logo