Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 12 April – Swinley Forest

Posted by Matt | April 19, 2009 | 11 comments so far

Colin on the berms at Swinley
So we finally made it en masse to Swinley after a couple of reconnaissance sorties in the past few weeks. The advance raiding parties brought back favourable reports, tempting 12 of us to get up ridiculously early on a Sunday morning to get there (and back) at a reasonable time.

Now I may have got a bit confused on the names side, for reasons which will become clearer later on but I think we had Dave, Colin, Lee, Mark, Jem, DaveP, NickB, Graham, Andy, Nick (easynow), AndyC and myself starting today’s ride, a surprisingly good turnout. And you read that right, for the first time in a long time we had Dave, Mark and myself together on a daylight ride, the three (sort of) founding members of the Muddymoles.

I think everyone was startled at the early departure from Bookham (7:30), you just don’t want to see these guys first thing in the morning! Lee was looking as if he wasn’t sure what planet he was on, let alone whether it was morning, noon or night as his firstborn is now 12 days old and the broken sleep is starting to really kick in.

That was nothing however compared to myself and DaveP who were both below par. DaveP seemed to be lacking that crucial second lung, recovering from a nasty cold and I was, well paying for a weekend of excess. Unfortunately it wasn’t the kind of excessive weekend I’d choose as much of it had been making further inroads into my 35ft Leylandii hedge in the back garden. Getting one of these on the ground is straightforward enough, it’s just chopping it up small enough to fit in my car to take to the tip that takes the time!

So I reckon I was knackered from that, possibly with a bit of sunstroke thrown in. Oh, and completely unrelated (of course!) I’d had ‘a couple of glasses’ of wine the night before at Dave’s! I was feeling rough I don’t mind admitting but was hoping to improve over the ride – I even had a few slices of malt loaf ready to top me up.

Well, that was hoping… as the ride wore on I wore out, more and more quickly until I was almost on my knees, a tricky job on a bike. Lee reckoned I was heading for a conversation on the long white telephone but I was just drained and struggling to concentrate. Eventually DaveP, Mark and myself bailed out (as originally planned) and I have to admit the couple of miles on the fireroad back to the car park were the longest I’ve ridden for a long time. By the time we got back I had a thumping hangover cranked up to number eleven and was seriously thinking about just getting off the bike and crying. I’d reached the point where I had a massive sugar bonk but no capability to eat or drink to combat it.

As it turned out, it got worse and by the time I got home I was looking extremely green according to my wife. I went to bed and didn’t get up until about four o’clock. On a day when I was hoping to make my bike meow it was depressing to find it was me under the blankets making faint mewling sounds instead!

DaveP on Tank Traps at Swinley Forest

But enough of me. The ride still covered 12 miles of fantastic, intense singletrack and the bulk of the group would have added a few more after we left them. Swinley really is all our advance scouts had told us it would be, full of well drained soil, short sharp ascents and descents and a maze of well planned if a little ping-tastic man-made routes.

Highlights for me were Tank Traps which we did twice, my line choice through the gully no better for doing it a second time. I really made me think my Inbred, soon to go properly singlespeed, was not only the ideal bike for the trails but also needed better braking than my old Hope Minis could offer as you really want to be able to stand on the brakes at times. At others, the trick is to learn to trust the berms which are placed to give faster riders maximum advantage by helping the flow. If you’re too slow you just find yourself feeling like a pingball!

Basically there are miles of clever trails that loop back and forth within a tightly contained area to keep the MTBers away from other users of the forest. Someone has clearly spent a lot of time planning and building these trails and I’m mighty appreciative for that.

Another eye-catcher was the jump gulley where there’s several jumps, tabletops and doubles for people to ride. You can roll it all or try a bit harder and we spent several minutes looping round for ‘just one more go’. If we did that often enough we might actually improve!

Moving on from there we continued through the maze of trails, all of them proving to be highly entertaining. It’s the sort of place that I know I’ll never fully map in my head and as this is my first visit and I was feeling rougher by the minute I can’t say with any certainty where, what or when I rode anything!

What I do know is we reached the Labyrinth and it is fair to say it earns it’s name. There has been a lot of hard work put into this, we rode it twice and were surprised at how well the berms draw you through the deep forest. It’s not very technical as such but it is very rewarding as you get more familiar with it. There’s sudden short climbs as well as the trail loops back and forth obscurely through the trees. You catch glimpses of riders you know are a good minute ahead of you but it takes a while to realise the trail has doubled them back on themselves until you too find yourself doing the same.

After the first run we bumped into Jim and the guys from Sussex-MTB who recognised us presumably from this site. Always strange when that happens but also welcome and it was good to catch our breath with them briefly. Sorry I didn’t chat for longer but for reasons explained earlier, I was just starting on my nose-dive to ignominy by then!

We looped round to try the Labyrinth again which took us up a sharp fireroad climb that I could have done without. This time round we disappeared down a highly entertaining jump area which a man of more skill than I may have dispatched with an air of easy nonchalance. I dispatched it with the air of a pensioner in Tescos but I could see the appeal!

After that we headed back toward the car park, covering what to me were feeling like miles of potential accidents as my concentration and energy rapidly ebbed away. I just wanted to be home by that stage.

But that’s not a criticism of Swinley, just my poor alcohol management. We’ll be back regularly from now on I’m sure as the journey itself proved simple, parking easy and the trails highly rewarding. Swinley more than lived up to my expectations and seems to offer plenty for everyone.

Filed under Rides in April 2009


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 11 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 12 April – Swinley Forest’

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  1. DaveW says:

    I’m glad you all enjoyed the delights of Swinley as I am quite a fan of the place. I was gutted at not being able to join you, but unfortunately was coming down with another cold. I expect you will be going again soon though, now you have the bug – certainly for me it doesn’t take much longer to get to than Peaslake would. It is quite a maze though, even if you are not suffering as Matt was. I’m sure part of the reason I keep wanting to go back is to make sure I don’t forget how to find the bits I found the previous time!

  2. Nick Easynow says:

    I noticed you were looking gradualy paler as the morning wore on.

    Im looking forwards to the next time we go there.

    Are there any more pics? 🙂

  3. Dave says:

    There are some photo’s on the way plus if you click the link under the photo there are a few more on minibloke’s Flickr page. I cut a video last night that is on Vimeo but I’m not very happy with the quality so need to play around a bit yet.

  4. Andy says:

    I was gutted to miss out, but thought my fitness might hold everyone back. After reading the report I might have been ok. Anyone fancy a repeat soon?

  5. Colin says:

    I’ve got my annual pass for Swinley already – its such an awesome place to ride.

    Sorry for you guys who were suffering, but that just gives a better excuse to get back there soon.

    Many thanks to Anthony who very kindly provided us with some ego-fodder in the form of his pics-some great shots.

  6. Matt says:

    Andy, no need for fitness worries! It was hard work but fun, you’re welcome to join us next time – just keep an eye out on the site.

    As Colin says, we’ve got a good excuse to return anyway…

  7. Andrew says:


    Good to see you in Cycleworks this morning.

    Hope the fettling job you were getting kitted up for for goes well.

    We would love to join you on another trip to Swinleys. I am sure I speak for Graham and Nick too and will mention it to them on tomorrow’s ride. I am surprised we haven’t bumped into the moles on the trails recently as when I started riding with G&N we seemed to see you most Sundays.

    We have wanted to go back to Swinley for a while but don’t really have the confidence that we could find our way around. That was what I meant by my comment about riding the Labrynth all day. That would probably have been all we could do although even then it would still be fun (although I would probably have got fed up of the fireroad climb back up to the start). I certainly didn’t mean any disparagement of your guiding on our last trip (realised it might have come out wrong after I had left the shop) which given your unfamiliarity with the area was very impressive and made for a very enjoyable day and welcome change from Ranmore. I spend most of my riding following Graham and Nick’s directions and even after riding the Surrey Hills for 6 months struggle to find my way when I am on my own during the week.

    Also enjoyed the pictures – Graham was especially pleased to see himself in good jumping form with both wheels off the ground in the jumping gulley. Just a shame your headcam didn’t capture his off.

    Anyway hope to see you soon and I’ll tell Nick to expect to hear from Jem – or to mention it himself.

  8. Dave says:

    Hi Andy,

    I didn’t think you meant it like that! So no problem there. Looks like Sunday 2nd August for Swinley. Have asked Jem to talk to Nick.


  9. Andrew says:


    Graham and Nick were keen when I mentioned Swinley to them on yesterday’s ride to Newlands Corner.

    Slight problem on my side though. On yesterday’s ride I had what Nick referred to as a “tankslapper” coming down the fast chalky track from the North Downs Way to cross the road to skirt the bottom field at Newlands. Still not exactly sure what a tankslapper is or if I had one but I did hit the deck at speed rather hard after losing the back wheel on a wet chalky section. The result of which is that after climbing up to the cafe and having the half time cup of tea, taking as flat a route back to Effingham as we could and a trip to Epsom General A&E I have broken my arm and will be in plaster for a month so won’t be able to join you.

    I am gutted having just invested in a new bike and having attained a decent level of fitness – much improved from the shabby performance on Holmbury Hill back in Jan/Feb when I had just started riding and first met the moles in what must still rank as some of the worst riding conditions I have experienced.

    I suppose it could have been worse, its a clean break and isn’t a collarbone or a compound fracture. Once I have been to the fracture clinic and got my proper cast fitted (A&E just gave me a temporary hold it together until the experts look at it job) I am hoping to be able to at least get on the exercise bike or the treadmill to avoid losing too much fitness while I am out of action MTB wise.



  10. Dave says:

    Hi Andy,

    Jem text me yesterday bout your incident. What a bummer! As you say it could have been a lot worse but it’s still a big disappointment.

    Hope it all mends properly and speedily.

  11. Muddymoles says:

    Looking back – 9 for 2009

    A look back at the highlights of Matt’s MTB’ing 2009 and a summary of his stats.

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