Today was a good day for a ride. Mild (about 17°), very dry and with the summer vegetation, just, just starting to die back a little. We started later than usual due to my wife needing to drop relatives at the airport so for the first time in ages we met at Bockett’s at 9:00.
Joining me today was Colin, Arron, Joe, Paul, DaveC, Barrie and Philip. We headed off toward Leith Hill but it wasn’t long before our plans went sadly awry. The hares in the group raced off leaving Colin, Arron and myself heading down the Admirals track. Despite not seeing any sign of the rest of the group we just assumed they were setting a fast pace and thought we’d catch them when they stopped.
Big mistake. They had turned off to skirt Wiggly Wood while we thought Polesden and Yew Trees was on the cards. It wasn’t until we’d missed a couple of our usual ‘catch-our-breath-and-chat stops’ that it dawned they must have taken a different route. By that time Arron, on his first ride, was wondering what he’d got himself into! I’d already told him we do more chatting than riding!
Fortunately Colin was feeling the effects of giving blood late last week and offered to show Arron a more truncated route while I parted from them to try and catch them at the top of Macpherson’s where we knew the others were definitely heading. Thanks Colin, much appreciated and I hope you had a decent ride too.
By the time I’d cranked up to Ranmore and buzzed along the tarmac to MacPherson’s I was thinking I was miles behind the others. Hurried phone calls drew a blank with patchy service levels so I decided to press on down the descent. Great fun, my first time in that direction and it’s a lot more enjoyable than climbing up it. After that I headed toward Milton Court and past the Unum offices knowing Dave and Joe were planning a new-to-me route up onto Leith.
Things continued vaguely. I crossed the A25 and followed the bridleway signs upwards, working my way past the fishing lake at Old Bury Hill House and following a bridleway as it ducked under a footbridge that seemed to connect one part of a garden to another. With the track so well signposted I thought I had a reasonable chance of catching the forward group so long as they stuck to form and stopped to rest occasionally. So I guess I was pushing along at a decent lick.
The bridlepath took me through Chadhurst Farm where a corpulent gent in a Mercedes sports car pointed me up the slog past the barns to the road. Good thing too as I wasn’t sure where I was or where to go. At the top, having killed myself climbing the hill I was damned if I was going to follow the road (Logmore Lane) back down so I turned south east to follow the road some more.
Just as it reached Coldharbour Lane (I since found out) I found a trackway heading westward so decided on that which resulted in more confusion. I passed a few jumps and doubles by the side of the road which looked as though they’d been unused for a while and then reached Collickmoor Farm. I ended up walking a footpath round it and up into the High Field wood (part of Squire’s Great Wood) before finally faffing around another footpath which brought me out onto Wolvens Lane.
I still wasn’t sure where I was until I reached the signs for Summer Lightning. Civilisation at last! By now I didn’t have many options except to head for the Tower hoping to meet Dave, Barrie, Philip, Joe and Paul there. But that didn’t stop me taking in the bombholes on the way to a brief look at Deliverance and bumping into (Chris?) I think who’d lost his DoMTB ride group! Must have been a day for it.
Pausing at Deliverance for us both to make rescue calls I was pretty pleased to find my riding buddies emerging from the same section of trail I’d just followed! So I must have been ahead of them the whole time. And Chris made contact with Rich and crew so all in all a good outcome for both of us. Saying goodbye we headed off to the Tower.
Joe seems to know these woods pretty well so as we followed the track up from the cricket ground he took us down quite a drop off into a kind of mini-Abba Zabba, complete with it’s own tree turn. I missed that bit but only Barrie, Joe, myself and Paul tried the drop off which tested my nerves a bit.
More noodlage followed before we came out by the foot of the Tower climb. Much pain ensued as I climbed the hill but it was tea and cakes all round at the top as we sheltered from the gusty wind.
Suitably refueled we turned back down Personal Hygiene with Dave and Joe keen to try some of the fun and sketchy descents over in Waterden Wood. First though we all took a try at Deliverance (bar Philip, playing himself in gently after a few weeks out). I picked a careful line down from the right, over the big step and was pleased to feel reasonably under control all the way.
Onto Waggledance, one of my favourite ‘manufactured’ trails and then back down toward Coldharbour via the Waggledance return leg. Short and sweet this is, I haven’t been this way for a long time but loved the jumps! Either my bikes have improved since I last rode down there or I have. OK, I do have quite a nice bike but it felt in it’s element today.
Into Waterden Wood then and we had more fun riding some completely new to me trails including a massive drop in (and down) chute that was way more scary to look at than to ride which led into a big area of bombholes. Unfortunately Paul came off heavily and at first we thought we’d be needing the emergency services. Once he’d got his breath back from a big tumble off an undercut ledge he was fine to continue. It could have been me but fortunately I’d followed Joe’s line down!
We had one last descent which was loose and very sketchy but very amusing even though I had to pause at one point. The surface was deep, sandy, ashy soil which gave no grip at all. At least it was soft and you could just surf down it!
By now time was pressing on. We headed back and down Wolvens Lane before Joe once again took charge and led us off into the trees and along some sandy and rubbley trails to eventually finish in Westcott village next to the Nirvana shop.
We knew we still had to get over Ranmore though so I suggested we try the Landrover Descent after splitting from Paul and Joe. Thanks for theguiding Joe and hope those ribs are OK Paul.
Knowing Landrover was unrideable I was quite prepared to push up it but when we reached the bottom another option presented itself by climbing the chalky descent we call Scouting for Boys. This is rideable and fair play to Barrie for proving as much. I struggled with tiring legs and had to stop three times while Dave and Philip took to walking for a short while.
At least the pain of the climb meant we only had one short slog up from Yew Trees ahead of us. We flew down toward Polesden before digging in for this last effort, all of us grateful that it didn’t go on any longer than it did, except perhaps Barrie who seemed to be getting into his stride.
As I reached home I had 26.5 miles on the clock. I just slung the bike in the garage and walked away, glad to be back and very happy with the way the ride turned out. At one point I thought I was going to be flying solo to Leith and back but instead we discovered new trails and I ended up riding some interesting lumpy stuff.
All in all a good day to be riding. And I think us losing riders has to be a first…?