Sussex by cycle – The Cuckoo Trail
PUBLISHED: 15:25 28 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:25 20 February 2013
Cycling is a fantastic way for all the family to get a little exercise and make the most of the beautiful Sussex countryside. In this new series, Si Beales looks at a different route each month
Cycling is a fantastic way for all the family to get a little exercise and make the most of the beautiful Sussex countryside. In this new series, Si Beales looks at a different route each month.
There can be few greater pleasures than cycling through the Sussex countryside on a warm summers day particularly when there are no cars to think about and the route is relatively flat and easy to follow. The Cuckoo Trail, which runs from Polegate, near Eastbourne, to Heathfield, is a fabulous route for all the family to enjoy.
You can start at either end or at any point along the way, if you prefer. There is plenty of free parking, good signposts and lots of places to stop along the way. At 11 miles, it will take about an hour and a half each way, but you can always turn around wherever you like or take a break for a picnic.
The trail runs along the route of an old railway, the Cuckoo Line, so called because traditionally the first cuckoo of spring was released from a cage at Heathfield Fair. Originally opened in 1880, the line was eventually closed by Dr Beeching in 1968. Work began in 1990 to transform it into a route for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and the local councils and Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, have done a brilliant job.
One of the loveliest aspects of the route is the variety. One minute you will be in a shady green tunnel of trees and the next in open countryside with fabulous views. There is plenty of wildlife to see and if youre lucky you might come across orange tip butterflies, bullfinches, weasels, green woodpeckers and, of course, the occasional cuckoo.
In early summer, look out for orchids growing near path edges and under trees. And there are benches, picnic tables and sculptures, as well as other artwork to look out for. Its also a great place to build confidence for those who are just learning to ride or who havent been on a bike for a while.
Occasionally you need to venture on to the road but generally only for a short distance with little traffic. My toddler, Finn, had a wonderful time as he travelled in a bike seat behind me, even spotting a cuckoo along the way. But remember, children in bike seats get hotter and colder more quickly as they are static, so make sure you have the right clothing and lots of sunblock.
In these busy times, cyclists can get a little stick. But its important to remember that cycling is cheap, environmentally friendly, keeps you fit and gets you out and about. So next time it looks like a sunny day, why not take a trip along the Cuckoo Trail.
You can find links to further details at sussex.greatbritishlife.co.uk where youll find downloadable maps, guides and advice on places to stop off on the way.