Ok, so there are undoubtedly some great places to watch the London to Brighton Run. If you don’t know it, it’s an epic car race for vehicles made before 1905 via a 60-mile route that starts in London’s Hyde Park just after 7 am and finishes at Brighton’s Madeira Drive. The last cars should arrive at the finish by 4 pm latest but … well, they’re over 116 years old and anything could happen. There are two official paddocks where you can view veteran cars, cycles and motorcycles in close quarters from behind safety barriers – one at the start and one at the finish in Brighton. The challenge for the avid spectator en route is to find somewhere to park up out of the way, with a good view of the cars and ideally with refreshments within easy reach! It’s been known to both pour with rain or be freezing cold so you need somewhere to warm up and replenish at times. This year’s race is on the 7 November.
The Sussex route
The Run enters Sussex from Lowfield Heath and Gatwick for an official coffee stop at Crawley, so that’s really your first Sussex spectator spot. The first vehicles could arrive any time after 8.30 am according to route guidance and they could still be trickling through at 2 pm. After that, the Run picks up the B2114 to Pease Pottage and on to Handcross, Staplefield, Whitemans Green and Cuckfield. The first cars are expected at Cuckfield just after 9 am and the route then takes the drivers on via Ansty, Burgess Hill, Hassocks and Pyecombe before it heads to Brighton via Preston Park and then to the finish at Madeira Drive. The route guidance suggests the first cars could be at the finish at just after 10 am. I reckon that’s pretty impressive for cars of this age and the finish line is of course a great place to watch a few moments of triumph.
Where to watch
All of the above places offer some sort of viewing spot. In Handcross, there is the roadside Red Lion if you want to book a table at the window and watch from the warmth of inside. Sadly, the pub in Whitemans Green has gone but Cuckfield has the Rose and Crown, The Talbot and The White Harte (The White Harte is right on the bend so not the best vantage place). Sadly, last time I looked the Ansty Cross Inn had closed and there’s no pub there anymore. After that, my next recommended viewing point would be St Peters Church, York Place in Brighton.
One of the best places to watch has to be Staplefield. If you don’t know the village, the vehicles enter down the hill from Handcross and then there’s a long run straight past the green. There is plenty of space to watch (and to walk the dog) and get a really good view as the Veterans approach. There are also two pubs in Staplefield, The Jolly Tanners and The Victory and in the spirit of motoring greatness, local motoring clubs such as the Morgan and Triumph clubs usually meet on the green near The Victory.
Lunch at The Victory
I have to confess, I spent a large part of my early years, in The Jolly Tanners, but in the name of research, I recently checked out The Victory for lunch. It’s a great location with seating outside and plenty of room inside too, along with some funky décor. The food was good quality pub grub. Nothing too fancy but absolutely what you want on a wholesome day out.
So, that’s my top tip for enjoying the best of the London to Brighton Run: take a lot of warm clothes or waterproofs, throw in a hipflask (if you’re not driving) and book a table for late lunch. It’s one of the great days of autumn and really shouldn’t be missed.
You can find out more about the history of the run here.