I first undertook this ride in May 2009 on the first day on my way to Paris, since then I have ridden it often each year and refined the route a little. The ride crosses the attractive Wealden countryside of Sussex before reaching the interesting county town of Lewes and thence along the valley of the River Ouse past the South Downs and eventually into the coastal port town of Newhaven. For those attempting the now popular London to Paris ride via the Avenue Verte south of Dieppe, I believe this this to be the best and most practical route to the Newhaven ferry once past the M25; the alternative NCR 21 is much less direct, includes some off-road stretches and frequently suffers poor surface conditions that will require an MTB.
The first 13-miles of this route to Turners Hill is on roads I use for shorter day rides, ending at the top of the aforementioned eponymous and somewhat steep hill, with a convenient bench on the green on which to take a rest. At this point the route has now entered the Wealden geology that constitutes the central part of the ride, which is typically hilly and wooded and forms an altogether attractive ride. Along the way are Wakehurst Arboretum, Ardingly and Lindfield all of which provide pleasant and useful stopping points if there’s time.
After the Weald, the section between Wivelsfield Green and the South Downs becomes more rolling in character and in my opinion, is perhaps the most attractive part of the ride; the view ahead towards the now looming South Downs is beautiful but stop, turn round and look back on reaching the junction with the B2116 for a real treat of what England’s best countryside looks like. After crossing through the South Downs by way of the Offham gap on the A275, the road enters the county town of East Sussex, Lewes. If you have the time and have not visited Lewes before it is very interesting and well worth a look.
Thereafter, after a short winding section that passes the county prison, it is preferable to take the Kingston – Piddinghoe Road that runs along the western edge of the River Ouse and finally into Newhaven; the alternative A26 which runs along the eastern side of the river is much busier with traffic, including lorries going to the port and is far less suitable for cyclists. The small villages strung out along this final section to Newhaven are all very pleasant and worth brief detours to see. Though somewhat hilly, a deviation right will take you into the quintessential Downs’ hamlet of Telescombe, a real beauty that is worth the effort to see.
As a working port, in truth the centre of Newhaven is industrial and somewhat run down but take Fort Road the short 1-mile further down to Newhaven Fort and eventually the outer harbour and an alternative, more pleasant part of the town is discovered. On a good day from here the view towards Seaford and the white chalk cliffs beyond is very attractive but also the Fort itself is worth a visit.
If you’re not going on from here, perhaps to France, there is a regular train service back to London from Newhaven station located immediately adjacent to the ferry terminal. All-in-all this is a very enjoyable 41-mile ride from Redhill or South London, with some beautiful scenery along the way and, if warm enough, it can be worth a dip in the sea to finish.