Don’t be fooled by the picture. Yes, we certainly found some deep puddles today, but overall it was a sight less muddy than the Surrey Hills. Where were we? Over at Thursley and Frensham since you ask.
Yesterday afternoon the usual forum thread kicked off from James (who ultimately couldn’t make today anyway!). After a bit of teeth sucking over what our local hills were like – muddy, apparently and likely to be more so after yesterday’s heavy rain – it was decided to indulge in a ‘Karl special’ starting on Thursley Common. After a bit of A3-related delay, Lloyd, JR, DaveW, Elliott, Karl and myself set off from The Moat car park and headed up to Pudmore Pond.
This proved the be the trickiest part of the day as Pudmore is ringed by a well made boardwalk which unfortunately is devoid of any chicken wire for grip. The boards were wet and like an ice-sheet, as Karl found out. I was at the rear of the group nursing a sore back and following Lloyd who is instinctively wary of low traction surfaces – with good reason. Still, we made it round the pond, which is probably a great place in the summer for bird watching if that’s your thing as the whole place this side of the road is a Nature Reserve.
Once on firm ground the surface was exactly as described. Very sandy, but firm after all the rain while still managing to be sapping. Only John really had a bike suited to the conditions as he was on his bright green fat bike. He appeared to be able to motor over long sections of sand without difficulty although John’s like that normally anyway!
We soon crossed the road and headed for Kettlebury Hill, a large open area of undulating heathland that the MOD uses. The whole area is sand and features stout climbs and rapid but non-technical descents. At this stage, the rumoured sun had yet to make an appearance. We would alternately drag ourselves to a viewpoint, then motor down the other side. Where there were trees, they tended to be pines with the promise of interesting singletrack if anyone could get the time and permission to build some.
Despite the sand, or maybe because of, progress was remarkably slow. Maybe some of us were not quite firing on all cylinders (I know I wasn’t) but we couldn’t be said to be challenging any speed records today. When the sun did come out – shortly after story from John about a recumbent off-road tricycle which I started to think was pharmacologically inspired but was assured otherwise – it felt like all the effort to get here and ride was all worthwhile. We basked in a thin January sun for the rest of the ride and loved it.
Pretty soon we had Frensham Great Pond in our sights, peppered with small sail boats and seemingly guarded by an army of families out walking kids and dogs. We weren’t in any competitive rush (it’s not the place for that sort of riding) and managed of co-mingle without difficulty and blessedly, without argument although if D’Andy wants to get stuck in, this would provide a rich source of people to exchange views with!
Karl recommended the tea rooms at Frensham Little Pond, backed up by riders familiar with the area, so off we set for coffee just 15 minutes up the trail. Unfortunately on arrival we found the place closed and being an uncompromising lot we soon determined to turn round and head back to the Great Pond, via a hill which managed to look like a gentle rise but turned out to be a long and painful drag up to the top a mere 100ft above the level of the lake.
The reward for me was a very large bacon roll at the Great Pond snackery. Having crossed Bacon Lane twice to get there it was the only ting on my mind. Initially thinking it was a bit pricey, it turned out to be perfect and I was Powered by Bacon™ for the rest of the ride.
Without us noticing, time was getting on. We set off slowly again to allow for the bacon to do it’s job and headed back to the Little Pond via a slightly different route, eventually circumnavigating virtually the whole Pond, avoiding walkers, dogs, horse, runners, kids and all manner of recreation based objects.
We then left the Ponds behind and crossed Tilford Common en-route to Yagden Hill and it was here on this second half of the ride that we really started to encounter some big puddles some of them seemingly bottomless. It proved a good idea for John to plunge in, parting the waters like Moses with his 4.8 inch tyres as a means of finding out if the puddles (lakes?!) were rideable. Generally the ground itself was firm underneath so once your tyres had cut through the slop there was grip to be had but of course if slowed us down.
We reached the car park quite abruptly after a phone from my wife to find out where I was, with 17.5 miles on the clock. I enjoyed the day, loved the sunshine and found the riding made a nice change to last week’s dousing. It may have been a bit light on gnarr but the company very much made up for it. Thanks Karl for shepherding us round!
More photos can be found on Flickr.