Leisure Cycling with a Car

This is the first of a series of articles aimed at leisure cyclists and families looking for enjoyable rides without traffic and few or no hills.  In general, too, it will mean the ability to carry cycles by car to the start and, equally inevitably, may mean an out and back route.  Still, things always look different going the other way!


The Forest and Worth Ways

These formed part of the railway line from Three Bridges to Groombridge.  I have found that a convenient place to start is Forest Row where there is a free car park with safe access to the route from which you can go eastwards to Groombridge along the Forest Way or westwards to East Grinstead and the Worth Way.


Car park at Forest Row.  Approaching from the south along A22, turn sharp right at the centre of Forest Row along B2110 to the signposted car park where there are toilets (although I’ve never known them to be open) and several adjacent cafés.


The Forest Way

Forest Row to Groombridge.  OS Explorer map 135 Ashdown Forest.  Google “Forest Way” to get many useful pages especially from East Sussex CC and GPS Routes.

A lane alongside Forest Row car park runs through a small industrial area to the Forest Way, turn right for Groombridge.  The picturesque route runs along the valley of the River Medway sheltered by trees for most of its length through farmland and historic villages.  It crosses only three minor roads along its length.  It is well signposted and the surface is smooth, fine gravel.  Approaching Groombridge, the route leaves the rail track, which is still in use, and has a dedicated path where there is a picnic area with tables. The end is on a minor road near a pumping station; Groombridge village is up the hill to the left about 1 km where there is a bakery and pub.  Total length of this section of the Forest Way is 7 miles (11.5 kms) so there is plenty of time for exploring the villages of Hartfield and Balls Green, as well as Forest Row and Groombridge.


The Worth Way

Forest Row to Crawley.  OS Explorer map 135 Ashdown Forest and 134 Crawley and Horsham.  Google “Worth Way” to get many useful pages especially from West Sussex CC (download excellent pdf) and GPS Routes.

Worth Way

A lane alongside Forest Row car park runs through a small industrial area to the Forest Way, turn left to complete the route to the outskirts of East Grinstead. There is a link signposted through the town to the Worth Way: it is a small town and it is not difficult cycling.  Turn left along Lewes Road, High Street, London Road and Station Approach to a large roundabout.  Here, carefully follow the signs to the station concourse.  You then have to dismount and walk your cycle up a few steps and across a narrow footbridge over the main line to the edge of the station car park and the start of Worth Way.  Alternatively, continue on from the roundabout to the right of the station and follow the signs to the station car park.


The Worth Way runs roughly westwards through wooded countryside with some interesting features such as Crawley Down Pond and Rowfant Station.  The surface varies but is sound with no mud! It crosses the M23 to Worth where there is a fine Saxon church (“worth” a look!).  To cross the M23, the path has deviated south of the rail route. From Worth Church, the route turns north along a road to regain the line of the track.  It then follows a gentle curve to Three Bridges railway station.  The total length of this section of the Ways is 10½ miles (17 kms).


The Avenue Verte: An Update

The Avenue Verte, a route between London and Paris for cyclists and walkers was signposted along it’s entire length just over 12 months ago. Ideally, you should now be able to jump on your bike in London or Seaford/Newhaven and just follow the signs to Paris but the signposting seems patchy so you could well get lost. However, help is now available in the form of the official guide to the Avenue Verte which has recently been published by Sustrans. It’s a good little book and has a wealth of useful information including maps, directions and accommodation addresses so would be an essential purchase if you’re going to cycle to Paris, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

Avenue Verte signpost on National Cycle Route 2

Avenue Verte signpost on National Cycle Route 2

The route is still being developed and, at present, only about 40% is traffic-free although this proportion should increase over the next few years, albeit gradually. Some of the route is on quiet country roads which is fine but, some is on of bridle paths which are not suitable for road bikes, especially if loaded with panniers. I haven’t yet read the book cover to cover but is seems that alternatives to these bridle paths aren’t always suggested which is a shame as cyclists may either have to walk or spend time trying to devise detours.

The start/end points in the capital cities are the London Eye and Notre Dame Cathedral. The route from London to Newhaven makes use of National Cycle Routes 4, 20, 21 and 2 and includes the Wandle Trail, Worth Way, Forest Way and the Cuckoo Trail. The total distance is 99 miles. Then it’s a ferry across the English Channel from Newhaven to Dieppe and a further 148 or 188 miles to Paris depending on which way you go.

The route from Dieppe to Paris is in three sections. The first, from Dieppe to Gournay is 51 miles and includes the superb 27 mile traffic-free stretch between Arques-la-Bataille and Forges-les-Eaux. The second starts just south of Gournay where the Avenue Verte splits into two. There is a 74 mile option which takes a westerly approach to Paris or a 114 mile option which goes eastwards for quite a long way before turning south westerly towards Paris. The two routes join at St Germain on the outskirts of Paris. The third section, from St Germain to Notre Dame Cathedral is 23 miles.

Having the choice of two routes could be an advantage in that you can cycle to Paris on one route and return using the alternative. This could appeal to those of us living in the Seahaven area who just want to cycle from Dieppe to Paris and back.

You can buy the Avenue Verte guide book from Sustrans. The link is: http://shop.sustrans.org.uk/products/6353-avenue-verte–london-to-paris-by-bike

Bonne chance!

Clive Aberdour

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: http://fristonmtb.forumotion.co.uk/

If you don’t fancy joining the forum then please contact andy.lock@cycleseahaven.org.uk 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.