I guess I’m partly to blame for the drop in popularity of this regular event, as due to my well planned ‘work/life balance’, I’ve been encouraging late afternoon starts for fellow slackers – sorry, home workers – to take advantage of the summer and early autumn evening light.
Since the beginning of November we’ve managed three Wed night rides, with one being postponed to a Thursday morning as I was the only ‘taker’. From a heady four participants on the 2nd Nov, we had the postponement for the 9th Nov, just two last week and three last night. Matt and I met at the garage, picking up James at the rvp where the Admirals Track intersects Crabtree Lane, at the top of what is popularly known as, “Dog Sh1t Alley” !
I had a carefully planned route in mind, and amazingly we managed to stick to it. Wiggly Wood was first up, and with the cold and dark evenings it’s mercifully free of argumentative walkers. As we headed down towards Bagden Farm, I intended to pick up the first left footpath to take us back towards the cottages at the top end of Crabtree Lane, but because of the combination of a dark night and unfamiliarity, we missed it and ended up heading straight into the path that leads directly to View to a Kill (or Bat Run, if you prefer). The trail was quite damp but still running rather nicely, though I think Matt had a moment or two as he adjusted to the challenges of winter night riding.
Picking up the road down towards Westhumble, we then turned right at the ruined chapel and made our way to the back of Denbies vineyard and the road (and gates) back up to Ranmore. By this stage it was time to remove unnecessary layers or unzip jackets to avoid overheating. Not that it was warm, we’d simply over-estimated how cold it was likely to be.
Golden Nugget proved a particularly challenging trail for me, as I veered off the trail very early on, before cocking it up again later and knocking my battery off the top tube where it had been quite securely attached. I can’t say I enjoyed the subsequent climb from the Ranmore Common Road towards the ‘Dearly Beloved’ bridleway, but then again, I seldom do. We turned off the road for the Youth Hostel and took the path leading towards the extended run-ins to Ricin Beans and Rip van Winkle.
RvW was first up, and after a few more straying off the trail incidents, the leaf cover really was making it difficult to pick out the trail, we picked up the original trail. Here it was Matt’s turn to experience another little ‘incident’, when the final steep ‘up & over’ resulted in him drifting straight towards a very solid tree. He dutifully laid his bike down as an offering to the mtb gods, rather than riding into it.
The ‘Winkle rising’ climb proved too much for my single-speeding abilities, and having spun out I failed to get any real momentum going and pushed up half the climb. Up next was a return to the Rip van Winkle / Ricin Beans start, this time keeping to the right and taking Ricin Beans. James and I really enjoyed this one, with both of us getting plenty of speedway-style drifting. James slowly pulled away from me until a misjudgement and a rapid application of the brakes saw me catch up towards the end.
We took quite a while to find the start of the ‘Ronnie Pickering’ long traverse; these trails never look the same in the dark. A crossing of the field at Bagden Farm, followed by the climb through Polesden Lacey took us back towards our original route, with a stiff climb up to Wiggly Woods for Matt and myself, and another traverse and a second descent of View to a Kill for James. As you can see from the photos, The Anchor provided much needed post-ride nourishment for Matt and myself, with a few pints of Tillingbourne’s ‘Falls Gold’ being particularly welcome.
The ride stats were 24km in just over two hours of riding, with 450m climbed. Cheers !