Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Out and about – things are sticky

Posted by Matt | May 21, 2019 | 3 comments so far

Bird AM Zero at Reigate
I know what you are thinking… how can things be so sticky when there’s no mud around?

Well, the truth is that someone – either stick-man or stick-woman – is out sabotaging trails up on the Norbury estate and around the Mickleham Gallops. In the case on Mickleham, a popular off-piste trail has been very substantially blocked by the landowner.

Some of this is for good reason; trails that spit riders out unsighted onto bridlepaths for example are going to end in tears at some point and the landowner needs to show efforts have been made to curb unsantioned activity.

Elsewhere, things are petty and clearly the work of individuals. One of my favourite trails on the way home from work has been blocked with many, many sticks as I discovered last Thursday. Except they are not always sticks; some of the blockages have been substantial branches dragged across the trail, or placed in dangerous places like across sharp dips, or placed to knock a front wheel sideways in turns.

This is bad. Not only because there are clear attempts to greatly increase the risk to riders but because it shows a rising level of intolerance toward mountain bikers.

Footpath view toward Box Hill

In some ways, I get the point. Some of these trails may have taken long-used but unmarked paths and made them unwalkable (I don’t mean the image above). Some of these trails are being sessioned multiple times by riders on e-MTBs (I was once overtaken by four riders on e-MTBs while climbing up to Mickleham as they flew uphill in order to hoon back down). I don’t blame anyone on a e-MTB but I can see it greatly ups the ante compared to anything person-powered. Though to be honest high activity levels from ‘normal’ MTB riders are going to attract the wrong sort of attention at some point anyway.

Still, this intolerance and the asscociated sabotage is bothering me. I and many others have ridden these hills for years, often on man-made under-the-radar tracks that riddle the Surrey Hills but equally on the many bridlepaths available to us. It’s a huge draw and its very disappointing to see mountain bikers be treated with the same contempt as is routine on our roads. This is not something I want to see.

I do understand a landowners right to curtail activity and enforce boundaries, but I don’t think individuals placing traps for the unwary can end anywhere good. The trail sabotage I’ve seen has been systematic and extensive.

What can be done? Not a lot I think; in the absence of knowing how to stop it, I’m writing to let other riders know that trails in Norbury and Mickleham are being targetted.

I don’t want to sound like I have a sense of entitlement about the trails either. I appreciate they are there and enjoy riding them but wouldn’t for a minute suggest we as mountain bikers have any priority over other trail users – live and let live is my view.

Incidentally, Norbury House is now patrolled by ‘Ghurka Security’. In Jan/Feb, I was stoped one evening by a Ghurkha-looking chap in a car as he drove down the old Norbury House drive and asked where I was going. ‘Going home’ I said and continued on my bike up the hill. I was pretty annoyed at the question to be honest.

At which point he turned his car round and trailed me for several hundred yards with me in his headlights which I found more than a little intimidating. I think he decided I was no ‘risk’ when it was obvious how knackered I was climbing the hill(!) but it is another example of the suspicion and distrust towards bikers at the moment.

Ride safe everyone and respect to all!

Filed under Lifestyle, Mutterings in May 2019


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 3 comments on ‘Out and about – things are sticky’

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  1. Related: Searching the Stickless | Lifestyle, Mutterings | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

  2. AJ says:

    I’ve been riding similar trails on my trusty hardtail for a few years now – only just come across your page though. Thanks, it’s great stuff.

    Must admit, I had been wondering where stick man had been – have had to clear Life on Mars of blockages a few times in the recent past, having come a cropper previously thanks to his activity (smacked my head on a tree once having fallen foul of a log strategically placed in a dip/bend) but he seems to have been fairly quiet recently – guess I know where he’s doing his sabotaging now. I have actually come across walkers on that trail a few times, but they’ve always been friendly enough & receptive whan I’ve slowed/stopped or just said hi. There’s always a small minded minority though unfortunately, the same lot who take down route markers on organised events & then moan that people are (lost) riding on footpaths etc. Probably a result of bad experiences with MTBers in the past I reckon. Always remember that you’re an ambassador for all of us when out riding – if you ride like a d***, they’ll think we’re all like that.

    Anyway, I was out this morning & noticed the rather forceful closure of that trail through Juniper Bottom – the barbed wire seemed a bit excessive (shame, it was one of my favourites up there) but as you say, if it’s private land, there’s not much arguing to be done.

    Anyway, thanks again – maybe see you on the trails at some point

    • Matt says:

      Hi AJ, yes totally agree that we all have a responsibility to represent MTBers. Some people don’t do us any favours.

      I have some sympathy with walkers, if you are on a bike then its easy to appear on the scene quite quickly with little warning – but it works both ways. People need to be more tolerant.

      The most important thing is none of us are sitting at home on the sofa but are actually out enjoying the countryside in our own way!

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