Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 18 January – Holmbury and Pitch Hill

Posted by Matt | January 18, 2009 | 8 comments so far

Matt on Barry Knows Best
Let’s do the summary first. It seems GPS systems still have a way to go. And you can see pictures of our Holmbury and Pitch Hill ride on Flickr.

Today’s ride took Toby, Dave, Jem, Andy, Lee and myself over Holmbury and Pitch Hills, starting from Holmbury at 9:00. We started with the intention of following Colin’s Bikely route in an attempt to cover some of the best bits of Holmbury and Pitch Hills. The trouble is, without Colin and his hard won local knowledge, we struggled.

Relying almost entirely on the GPS (both Dave and Lee had the route loaded to theirs), we had the fallback of Lee and myself and our hazy memory of what trail is where. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and was a reminder that it’s all very well following someone around these parts but if you’re just in Lemming mode and not paying attention on the bits in between, it’s not enough.

But that wasn’t to say it was a bad ride. In fact, we had a blast thanks to Toby stepping in and linking up a few trails. We still covered Reservoir Dogs (frustratingly missing Surfa Rosa on the climb up), Barry Knows Best, Christmas Pud, Two Headed Dog and plenty of others. It’s just it wasn’t quite in the order we planned.

Barrys was wet and slippery after last night’s rain, a foretaste of the peaty mess in parts of Pitch. We wandered around on Pitch for a bit trying to decipher the GPS but struggled even to decide if we were following it in the right direction. Shameful really!

But once we got past the Quarry and into the meat of things (thanks to some advice from riders we met) we started to find the kinds of trails we were looking for and grabbed plenty of photos along the way thanks to Lee’s camera. Things started to improve after the long roll in near one of the car parks, then we headed over to Two Headed Dog and dared ourselves down it. It was the right thing to do as it proved pretty straightforward although we took the easier of the two options.

Next it was on through Winterfold, by then we’d thoroughly abandoned the GPS idea, deciding you need the technology plus some local knowledge to get the best out of it. Probably it would have served as a useful reminder for the various trails in that circumstance.

Toby started to take us down some cheeky little trails which we may possibly be able to find again – who knows?! There was the odd tumble, and I had a good few near tumbles, at one point I was left clutching a silver birch looking down a fifteen foot drop and thinking about letting the bike go. Lee was close behind about to lunge for my Camelbak but I managed to stop myself and claw my way back onto the trail.

Andy and Matt at the Bombholes on Pitch Hill

We visited the Bombholes, they were a bit gloopy at the bottom, not too bad but enough to slow you down and give the bike a wobble so that it was hard to keep momentum through them. With some of us never having seen them before it was a good chance for a playaround, then it was off through the trees again.

After some more trails that were new to me, Christmas Pud came and went with a sense of disappointment as the trails were pretty wet and it was hard to find a rythmn. I bottled ClawHammer, coming up on the jump too close behind Jem which distracted me somewhat. After a bit we entered what I call the Ewok run through the trees with the pine needle carpet but Toby led us off down a tricky switchback section that was a real tester. My classic Inbred was starting to feel a bit XC for me with old Hope Minis and just 100mm of travel up front but it didn’t let me down.

By now I had no idea where we were but we certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore. More trails came and went interspersed with sharp climbs before eventually we arrived back at Peaslake via a tramp past Lockhurstlatch Farm and a massive house with an equally massive clock in the garden! That got my guilt gland seeping as I saw the time and realised it couldn’t possibly be only 11:00!

Dave tries the roll in near Car Park No.2 at Peaslake

Up above Car Park No.2 near Peaslake on the Walking Bottom side we dallied with the idea of rolling down the huge drop into the car park, Andy successfully did it but Dave took three increasingly twitchy attempts before we all quietly decided to just roll down the road. Highly amusing and Dave certainly got close to going over the edge, just not with his bike under him. Too wet and slippery for his liking or for him to line up his approach sufficiently.

By now my guilt gland was twitching big time, so leaving the others to enjoy cheese straws and tea at the Peaslake Stores, Lee and I pressed ahead. We made short work of Radnor Road and kept the pace up all the way to the lookout with legs and lungs burning before picking up Yoghurt Pots for the start of our return to the car park.

My legs were truly exhausted down Yoghurt Pots but we made it all the way in one go. The top section seems to be bedding in nicely but other parts seem to be showing wear. Finally we came out the end and picked up Telegraph Road for the final run.

Even here it was hard going and we were huffing and puffing along. Considering Head for the Hills had their demo day today I didn’t see as many riders as I was expecting although I’m sure I passed a couple of Gary Fisher Roscoes on one of the climbs on the Holmbury side – they couldn’t have come from anywhere else? Anyway, we enjoyed a quiet and unimpeded run back down Telegraph, the final steppy section saw us upping the pace again before we dived through the trees and eventually finished the ride with the tricky switchback and steep run into the car park.

So overall, another great ride. 15 miles in that kind of terrain is pretty decent, the fitness levels are coming back all the time judging by how I didn’t crash out this afternoon (thank-you, my cappuccino maker!) and even though it was looking dodgy at points in the ride it all came together in the end.

Thanks to Toby for his steerage, I hope everyone managed to get back safely after we left them. It’s certainly made me realise I need to familiarise myself much more with the trails over Pitch way, it’s not that I don’t know them I just have spent too much time relying on mates. Now I’m starting to get an idea of the terrain and with Colin and Toby’s help it should improve.

We’ll be over again soon I’m sure.

Filed under Rides in January 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 8 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 18 January – Holmbury and Pitch Hill’

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  1. Lee says:

    After initial feelings of frustration at the GPS output, yesterday turned out to be really fun. It was fun because it was different. It was fun because we had plenty of laughs and no one got hurt. It was fun because I was getting out my comfort zone in parts. As highlighted though it does go to show that you reap what you sow.

    The DOMTB site this morning goes to prove the Demo Day attracted plenty of interest, but the beauty of Pitch and Holmbury is you often feel you’ve got the place to yourself.

    How were the cheese straws, anyone?

  2. Andy C says:

    Excellent ride, excellent write up. Especially the bit that makes me sound like the gung-ho downhill daredevil. Those who were on the ride know the truth!

    Gave the cheese straws a miss, but the choccie cake and the flapjacks were a big hit.

  3. Dave says:

    I went for the standard flapjack, always a winner and very good value as well.

    Reading Matt’s write up I think I want to distance myself from some of his views and statements.

    The GPS worked pretty well in my opinion considering that neither of us had tried following a track rather than simply recording it. The track was generally pretty accurate and Colin’s GPS held the satellites pretty well.

    I did note that having the GPS on the handlebars led to too much movement and it would be better on the top tube. Personally I was very happy with the ride but I accept that peoples individual expectation of what the ride should have been were different.

    I certainly want to get back there in drier conditions. I couldn’t move for much of the afternoon because of lower back pain which the ride had made worse but not caused.

  4. Colin says:

    Glad you say that Dave, because I used the same route on Sunday last week when taking out my bro-in-law and didn’t have a problem following it.

    There is a slight issue when converting a recorded trail to a gpx track file in that there is a bit of ‘smoothing’ you can’t avoid and this can be important in the surrey hills, where the entrance to Surfer Rosa isn’t far from part of Res Dogs so the smoothing effect can lead to confusion.

    Next stop Swinley eh?

  5. Matt says:

    Haha! well there’s no doubt the route is recorded accurately and I know this route is a good one as I’ve ridden all the constituent parts myself. Being able to efficiently follow the GPS alone is the point I was making and is not meant to be an attack on the principal of using GPSs or Colin’s route, which I know is an excellent ride.

    I think it remains true that without the local experience to spot the start of key trails it is difficult, as yesterday’s effort showed very clearly (we took the fireroad up from the car park and missed Surfer Rosa on Holmbury for a start). Colin’s SatMap also has mapping information to help which the Garmins lacked and once doubt sets in it’s hard to recover.

    Plus, not having ridden Pitch for six months meant I wasn’t able to contribute much apart from ‘it’s round here somewhere…’

    But still, a great ride on testing trails and we’ll do this route again of that you can be sure.

  6. mike61 says:

    Sounds like a fun day and the route sounds very similar to one of our regular runs.

    It seems that everytime we go to Surrey Hills we meet someone who directs us to a new trail, must be the same folks you bumped into.


  7. Tony says:

    Thank god Dandy that you didn’t get a chance to ride the the Carrera “jeans” cycling kit.


  8. Dandy says:

    LOL – I remeber that outfit. Quite fancied it at the time, but was forbidden to buy it by the missus who implied I would look like a posing tosser.

    Roll on 15 years and now she doesn’t care so I get to wear what I like and at last can look like a posing tosser 😉

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