Last Saturday we managed an extra special effort that saw us leave our local Surrey Hills behind and venture over to Bedgebury Forest in Kent.
It’s only around 14 months since the Bedgebury singletrack was officially open to the public and fewer than six months since it came on our radar but on the basis of our first visit it looks like somewhere we’re likely to return to fairly regularly.
Despite suffering from a reasonably nasty cold that in retrospect saved me from a miserable time in Wales as originally planned, I managed to have a blast on what turned out to be a pretty hot day for Mountain Biking.
So, what’s Bedgebury like? Well, it’s actually a piece of Forestry Commission land set in rolling Kent countryside just off the A21 near Tunbridge Wells / Hastings depending on your direction of travel. Part of Bedgebury consists of a Pinetum of rare conifers with the rest (where the singletrack is) being a mix of deciduous woodland and pine forest which gives a bit of variety to the trails. One minute you’re riding the sweetly scented loam of the pine forest, the next the trail is taking you past the richer earth of the deciduous wood.
There’s quite a bit to do there as well, with a visitor center that includes a cafe, bike hire and shop and ‘facilities’ for riders including a bike wash. All this is situated next to a large lake where you can take a well earned breather after your ride. There is also a pretty adventurous looking playground elsewhere on the site for children to have a bit of fun.
For riders, there’s a family trail of about 10km of fireroads, a ‘North Shore’ and Dirt Jump play area and of course the 13km Bedgebury singletrack. This consists of lots of different sections linked by short stretches of fireroad that let you get your breath back, which is welcome because you certainly work harder than you might think.
The singletrack loops in and around the trees, one minute following a gentle contour, the other turning sharply up or downhill so you are constantly active on the bike and end up wrestling it around quite a lot. There’s probably no need for expensive machinery since you never really stretch out on a long descent but I guess it doesn’t do any harm. I think Dave’s new Inbred 29er might be an interesting challenge round here and is probably well suited to the terrain.
So generally a thumbs up although after the recent rain there were some sections which were a bit muddier than you might expect from a made trail. I guess the trails are really still bedding in and need a few years to really become part of the landscape.
To compare it to our local Surrey Hills singletrack it’s interesting to note that some of our group felt it stood up well next to well-known man made trails like Summer Lightning, offering a similar mix of through-the-trees blasts and twisty sections. Obviously Bedgebury is far longer and offers a much more strenuous workout and the opportunity once you are familiar with the trails of a better flow as a result. Even so, I don’t think it’s quite up to Barry Knows Best standards but that’s over all too soon anyway and it’s just great to visit new trails in new places.
We’d recommend you start your day early though. We arrived, I guess, about 9:45 and rarely saw any other riders on what was an ideal day for riding. But by 1:00 when we left the place was packed.
Give it a go if you get the chance.
More information on Bedgebury
- Bikemagic review of Bedgebury singletrack
- Information about Bedgebury from the Forestry Commission
- Review of Bedgebury Forest on Sussex-mtb site