Brighton, Beachy Head & Bikers
After taking Yammie on a couple of casual jaunts around London the promise of clear blue skies provided the perfect excuse to add a few more miles to our road trip log. A two hour trip to Brighton would be ample time for Neil to get some riding practice in and for me to practice my holding on skills. We should have allowed for longer… If I’ve learnt anything in our 12 months in London it’s that everything takes at least an hour. Going to meet friends for dinner 5 miles away? Allow an hour. Heading to work at 8am? Allow an hour. Meeting a friend (Rod) from work for a ride to Brighton (at 9am on a Sunday less than 5 miles away)? Allow an hour.
By the time we’d suited and booted, started the bike, carried the cover (read: blanket) and the massive bike lock upstairs, raced downstairs, put our helmets on, raced upstairs for sunglasses, raced back downstairs, fiddled with helmet straps and stuffed cameras and wallets into jackets we were off. One set of roadworks, five red lights, three Double-Decker buses and a two loops of the Vauxhall underground station we arrived – one hour and five minutes later.
After figuring out roughly what road we needed to be on for Brighton we were off. Neil (sans GPS, but being the more experienced rider) opted to take the lead. Forty minutes and two u-turns later we still hadn’t left London… Navigating your way around London as a pedestrian is difficult at the best of times; add one-way streets, road signs, roadworks, buses and speed cameras to the mix and you get an idea of just how crazy central London’s road network is. A tad frustrated, Rod and his trusty iPhone took the lead and we were soon on the A23 and heading towards the seaside.
Whilst Neil practiced his stop, start traffic technique I was relishing my new back of the bike freedom. An hour in and my excitement at all the new sights and new smells, was being trading for new aches, new pains and new techniques for keeping myself warm. Despite the sunny Spring weather it was somewhat nippy. Somewhere around Horley we decided to pull over, partake in some moaning about how cold we were (see, we’re really English now!) and then solider on towards Brighton. At Brighton we encountered most of the traffic we’d left behind in London and we crawled towards Marine Parade, where we were greeted with the task of finding a park (sunny days all the bikers come out to play). We managed to squeeze ourselves into a space between one of the biggest trikes I’ve ever seen and a chrome-crusted Harley before de-gearing (kinda) and heading towards the Pier for some fish n chips and a pint.
Brighton is exactly how I imagined an English seaside town – pebbly beach, pier, amusement park, deck chairs for hire. The orginal pier was built in 1823, however it was destroyed by a storm in 1896. The West Pier was built in 1866, but for lack of maintenance and funding this pier soon fell into disrepair and closed in 1975. The pier that stands today took eight years to build and was completed in 1899. It’s home to a small amusement park and a couple of restaurants. As we ambled along the pier, equipped with boots, padded pants and helmets the novelty of sightseeing on a motorbike wearing motorbike gear began to wear off and we were eager to get back on the bike and check-out more of the coastline.
An hour east along the A259 brings you to Beachy Head – the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162m above sea level. Whilst the view here is beautiful it’s also a little creepy, between the car park and the cliff is mere grass, no fence, no ropes just a 530 foot drop to the sea below. Unsurprisingly, Beachy Head is one of the third most popular spots for suicide in the world (second only to the Golden Gate Bridge and Aokigahara Woods in Japan). Deaths from these cliffs can be traced back as far as the 7th century and despite the good work of The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team, there have been ten deaths already this year.
After successfully creeping each other out at the edge of the cliff we jumped back on the bikes and headed back towards London via the A22 – a much nicer ride than the A23. Unsurprisingly we encountered the Sunday afternoon London traffic just outside of Croydon and crawled all the way home to London. Adding an hour or so to our return journey.
Total time on the bike – seven hours!!
Wanna donate to The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team?
The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team have been helping save lives since 2004. Help make things a bit easier for them and ensure they can continue their work by making a donation via text, phone, post, becoming a monthly partner or by volunteering. Find out more here.
Wanna ride to Brighton? We took the A23 all the way from London to Brighton. We opted for the coastal road around to Beachy Head before returning to London via Eastbourne on the A22.
Total miles: 136.