Cycle tour operator calls for paved surface to make Downs Link accessible for all

Following a ride on the Downs Link with his young family Alex Baines-Buffery, who runs the Wine-Rides cycle tour company in Dorking, has written to the new Cabinet Member for Highways Roger Elkins asking for the route to be paved.

Their experience is familiar: when it rains you get plastered in mud, sharp stones in the unpaved path cause punctures, and there are too many on-road sections that are not accessible to families with young children.

Alex, who compares the Downs Link unfavourably to leisure routes he has ridden in the Netherlands, still feels it has “enormous tourist potential” if it were given a proper bound all-weather surface.

He has kindly allowed us to publish the letter in full (see below).

Dear Mr Elkins,

At the weekend 6 of us road the Downs Link. We enjoyed it.

I’d like to request some improvements: that it be paved.

We rode the link from Shalford to Shoreham-By-Sea. My pregnant wife, rode her mountain bike and I had our 3 year old son on my hybrid. I packed bags and camped over night at Rudgwick.

We did this with another couple and their 3 year old. The first day was a lot of fun as the weather was with us. I was pleased to see that we were not the only families doing this.

The route suffers from congestion near Cranliegh and seems to be at on near capacity there.

During the ride we got 2 punctures because it is miles & miles of sharp stones. On the Sunday we got hit by bad weather. Had the path been paved, we could have sped up to get out of the rain sooner. As it happens the dirt over aggregate surface that covers most of the route becomes very technical in the rain riding and slowed us down when we really needed to speed up.

Unpaved surface: “Needs specialist mountain biking equipment”

There are two sections where you have to ride on fast roads. I’m sure you are aware that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. These road sections means it will be many years before I can invite younger members of my extended family to do this ride. These road section limit the ride to people who will tolerate riding with fast traffic. Almost no one.

There is a very steep down hill section were one of us fell with a child on the bike near Rudgwick. It seems one rail tunnel has been closed, so you have to go over the hill.

In the end the person who got on best was my wife who was using a mountain bike. But she found the road section harder as, these bike are too slow for road cycling. Because the path is unpaved you really need to use specialist mountain biking equipment.

Clearly there is enormous tourist potential on this route. Given the link follows an old rail inline, there is no way to get off the route until the end because the rail stations have been closed. Which is why it is even more important that it has an appropriate safe surface. Its also just not very nice to get splashed by dirt.

What the Downs Link could be: accessible all-year round for young and old alike (Veluwe National Park, NL)

I hope this feedback is helpful. Please do let me know if there is anyone else I need to write to so my feedback can be logged and improvements can be made.

Kind Regards Alex

Alex Baines-Buffery

Wine Rides Ltd


  1. Robert Givens says

    Early in 2018 I run a Roughstuff Fellowship ride from West Humble station to Christ Hospital using the NCN 22 & the Downs Link, we joined the Downs link at Shamley Green. As it was raining very hard the Downs Link was waterlogged, when we got the Christ Hospital we were very wet but we were also covered to black dust (we looked like the chimney sweeps of old) which was being drawn up through the surface from I guess the old track bed, whilst a hard surface would seem ideal I much prefer it as it is.

  2. Mike Croker says
  3. Gregory Collins says

    The Downslink isn’t cycling infrastructure, just another line on a map. West Sussex have been determined that as-is is good enough since the late 90s when we tried to sort the on road section at Christ’s Hospital.

  4. To compare Britain to Holland is a bit like Sussex chalk , or in your case flint to Gaude cheese. To introduce a cycling culture it must happen from a young age with the full cooperation of the government. Then the general population will feel supported unlike now when we’re just in the way .

  5. A few years ago I spoke with the countryside ranger who maintains the route in Sussex. He was not in favour of a paved surface. He thinks it should remain a countryside experience.

  6. Mike Croker says

    Mirrors my recent experience of using 4km of the southern end between the Shoreham toll bridge and Botolphs whilst cycling back from Brighton at night. Got caught in rain on the Downslink and now my trike looks like it’s been cyclocrossing, despite full mudguards 🙁

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