Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Epsom to Shoreham-by-Sea via the Downs Link

Posted by Jez | August 25, 2009 | 13 comments so far

It’s easy to obsess about the latest kit being dangled before us and the level of choice available now is extraordinary. Have you seen how many tyres are for sale on some of the bigger bike websites? I can’t tell you because I fell asleep counting but I reckon it’s above 400. Folding, tubeless, dual compound, snake bike protection, the variations go on. Wanna new grip? Try picking from over 250.

Don’t get me wrong. The choice is fantastic but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics. I am not talking about single speeds either. With my own titanium model dripping in Thomson, Race Face and Phil Wood I have no moral high ground on that score. No, what I mean is pedalling. It’s good to just pedal. And it’s good to pedal from A to B. Just what bikes were invented for really. So that’s exactly what two of us did. We set off and rode south until we hit the sea. Simple really.

St. Martha's Hill, Downs Link. Photo: Colin Smith

Photo: Colin Smith. Attribution Creative Commons Share Alike

It wasn’t quite as spontaneous and free spirited as I’ve made out. I had for some time wanted to ride the ‘Downs Link’. It’s rather appropriately named as it links the North Downs with the South Downs making use of an old railway line that’s found new life as a cycle path.

The route itself begins in Guildford but our starting point from Epsom meant a more challenging beginning across Box Hill and Holmbury. This was all familiar stomping ground but rather than waste time and energy on some of the tougher trails we took a more conservative route that made use of more back roads than would normally feature on a ride. It was going to be a long day so there seemed little point in wasting time in our back garden.

We joined up with the Downs Link at Cranleigh and from there on the map was left in the pocket as the route was well signposted and easy to follow. There were no significant hills to speak on route and it was a simple matter of turning the cranks at a steady rhythm.

It wasn’t long before we passed a sign advertising tea and cake. Like moths to a flame we turned off the path to find a rather quaint tea hut offering all manner of home baked goodness. It was next to a rather optimistically called ‘Lake’ but I will forgive their advertising as the pond was pleasant enough and they got bonus points for cushions on the chairs and a scrumptious chocolate cake. They also had a rather neat sculpture of a cyclist made out of bike components. The biking android looked like something from The Terminator so it pleased both bike geeks and small children alike.

We continued onwards and got into a steady pace. The path itself is a pleasant place to amble along and chat away. Riding around the more challenging trails of the North Downs you can easily forget that some people just like riding their bike and the path is also an ideal place to take little ones out for a traffic free adventure.

Putting the world to rights took our minds off the mileage and we eventually realised we were hitting the 40 mile mark. Time for a lunch break and thanks to weather we munched home-made sarnies sat in a sunny field. It’s the simple things in life.

After that we were into the final stretch with the South Downs looming before us. The path follows the river Ardur at this point so doesn’t ever go over the top of the chalk hills. Instead it continues in the shadow of the river’s relentless march to the coast and ends in Shoreham-By-Sea, also taking our mileage above 50.

To get to the beach you need to walk your bike over a footbridge crossing the river. It’s worth it having ridden that far to sit on the pebbles and watch the kite surfers enjoying their sport. All that was left was to grab a beer, rejoice in our success and head homewards by train which was altogether more challenging. It wasn’t an endorphin rich ride but it made a refreshing change to get back to basics and just ride a bike from A to B, or in this case A to Sea.

Filed under Rides in August 2009


About the author

I've been riding around in circles for quite some time now but only regularly in last few years since meeting the moles. Wannabe endurance racer but too lazy to train. And compete. I'll just stick to the circles. I can do circles.

There are 13 comments on ‘Ride report: Epsom to Shoreham-by-Sea via the Downs Link’

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  1. Andy C says:

    Nice one, Jez. I’ve ridden the Downs Link from Guildford to Shoreham Gap(?) on a Charity ride with the missus and my (teenage) kids. They laid on buses to get us back to the start.

    Was the tea hut in a railway carriage at an abandoned station? I seem to remember a small museum there too.

    Maybe for the Moles we could throw in some more challenging North and South Downs routes to ‘top and tail’ the old railway track link for a challenging day out?

  2. Stig says:

    Great write up Jez, really makes me feel like getting up early and heading off to explore. Glad to see that unlike Sunday, you managed to factor in a tea stop or two.

  3. Andy C says:

    Nice write up! I’m doing the Y2Y charity ride along the downslink from Hove to Guildford in September. Now to make the decision between my GT avalanche, which would be perfect for that, or my Commencal meta 4x, which I would be less appropriate, but more fun 😀

  4. Jez says:

    cheers chaps. The tea hut is closer to Cranleigh and I would recommend it and it has signs from the path.

    I do remember the railway carriage Andy C mentions next to a disused platform. It’s much further south and I think the old station was called West Grinstead.

  5. Matt says:

    This sounds like something we should give a try. Anyone interested?

    It sounds to me as if the trail would be pretty much all-weather although the prospect of a wet all day ride is less appealing!

  6. Baz says:

    Hi Jez

    sounds like you had a great days out and Matt yes definatly be interested in a run down it,


  7. Jez H says:

    You are correct in the referencing of the old train, it is located at the old West Grinstead Station, just past the station traveling south bound, you pass through my father in-law’s farm!


  8. Roo (Dave W's mate with the orange Orange) says:

    Sounds like a great day out – must find the start in Guidlford and maybe take my kids too.

    Any mention of the South Downs reminds me that I would dearly like to do the South Downs Way again one day….

  9. DaveW says:

    I fancy this. It would need to be an early start though – how long did it take Jez? (and at what sort of pace?)

  10. Al Summers says:

    Could anyone answer how suitable the Downs Link would be for road bikes. We are considering using it as part of a route from Paris to Oxford next month.

    Any info much appreciated.


  11. Dave says:

    CX bikes would be OK Al, or maybe tyres with a tread on. From memory the Downslink is well compacted fire road like surface for much of it but there are roots and the like to contend with, at least one section with a big hill over the disused tunnell.

    Not ridden a road bike in ages.

  12. DandyC says:

    I guess it depends on how skinny your tyres are! It’s been a few years since I rode it on a charity ride with Mrs C, but as Dave says, it’s mainly a compacted gravel / fire road surface. I rode it comfortably on my commuter bike, but that has 35mm tyres that are quite ‘robust’. Not sure how it would feel with 23mm racing tyres. The section up and over the disused tunnel Dave mentions is not that long, maybe half a mile from memory. Hope this helps.

  13. Related: Ride report: Downs Link | Muddymoles

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