Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 2 August – Swinley, oooff!!

Posted by Matt | August 2, 2009 | 28 comments so far

Air Ambulance at Swinley
It all started so well. Sunny skies after days of rain, 16 riders and Swinley singletrack to play in.

You can see where this is going can’t you?

Well, actually, although we were responsible for bringing out the Air Ambulance, it wasn’t required. Near the end of the morning session Tony was unlucky enough to get caught out by the big drop off at the end of the Labyrinth and broke his collarbone. That was almost immediately after our very own Stig had taco-ed his wheel on his Specialized Pitch and broke a rib in the process. It was one of those rides…

But back to the beginning. Swinley, sun and sixteen riders, including three new-to-us riders. Here goes, ‘Stig’ (you know who you are), DaveC, Keith, Jez, Jem, DaveW, Barrie, waterproof Paul, Lee, James, Paul (DaveW’s mate?), Ian, Philip, Tony plus another who’s name I forget (I’m hopeless, apologies!) and myself left the Look Out car park on the look out for some sweet singletrack.

It wasn’t long before the large group were stretched out along the trail, contending with quite a bit of vegetation that narrowed the tracks considerably. We climbed up and were soon into the decent stuff, starting with a little hoppy jump that I cleared fine and then picking up Stickler (with the wooden bridge near the end) trail which was a nice warm up. Despite all the recent rain the surface was dry and grippy but things were very humid. Wisely, Paul had left his waterproof at home.

After that we did Tank Traps with a few of us circling round for a second go. I just couldn’t seem to find the right line, nearly over-cooking it a couple of times as I steered too fast round the sweeping banks and found my weight completely in the wrong position. I’ve been down these runs feeling great but today was a halting affair for me.

As it was for the rest of us in the sense that 16 riders take some organising! We kept stopping and making sure everyone was with us and managed not to lose anyone thanks to DaveC’s sheperding. I just sat in the group and followed everyone else!

After Tank Traps we went somewhere else. Then, somewhere else after that. I know Seagull was involved at one point and plenty of other trails too, with the Corkscrew being a bit of a highlight. Once again, my line was wayward, in fact at one point completely wrong and off-piste but it’s a fun play area. Barrie managed to photograph me looking semi-pro, how he did it I do not know but he is in the creative industries.

Matt on the Corkscrew

More jumping was on the menu in the bombhole area with DaveC catching plenty of photos while I kept my riding consistent by trying to jump over things with my weight in the wrong place. More than once today I got away with it.

Moving on, we reached the jump gulley area where we watched one guy stack comprehensively off the side of the gulley, proving his full-face investment was the right one. We bumped into him later and he was fine but I class him as rather fortunate too!

My bumbling attempts down the gulley did at least result in me clearing the double at the end a couple of times, once with the back wheel landing just on the apex of the second hump and once when I got it spot on. Speed is your friend.

By now lunchtime was approaching. We said goodbye to Keith who was suffering a bit with his knee and also to Paul? (not sure) who had commitments back in the real world. The rest of us headed toward the Labyrinth.

At the top the leading pack hared away with Tony and Jem up front leading the group round the floaty, ashy berms at the top before disappearing down the trail at a rate of knots. The rest of us followed in our own fashion only to come across a badly shaken Stig pretty soon after who somehow had got some air off a kicker and ploughed heavily into the ground.

Five inches of front travel disappeared in no time, only to be suplemented by a deforming wheel which ended it’s life taco-d beyond use. Barrie forced it back into a semblance of round but it’s safe to say the rim has reached the end of it’s useful life. Stig was very lucky not to have addressed any of the trees with a random part of his body; nonetheless, clearly shaken and bloody he retired hurt. As it transpired later, with a broken rib for his efforts. Ouch, but a narrow escape.

But more was to come. Tony had disappeared off down the trail and after a brief discussion at the crossroads I followed with DaveC behind. By the time I’d reached the end of the Labyrinth I found Tony’s bike lying on the ground and Tony standing slightly away from it with a pale look on his face and craddling his right forearm. After a moment I could see more ashy dust down the right side of his face too and asked if he was OK.

It turned out that Tony’s riding mojo, which had every last drop wrung from it as he blasted down the trail had deserted him just when it was needed. A swift over-the-bars episode ended with Tony nursing a broken collarbone. It looked painful and probably isn’t the first injury suffered at that spot. The abrupt run out really is out of keeping with the rest of the trail and could do with some redesign work I feel.

An increasingly wibbly Tony was fortunately attended to by a female mountain biker (leave it Lee!) who turned out to be a very competent first-aider. Several other riders with other groups also offered assistance which we’re very grateful for but Tony was soon needing to sit down, and then lie down as shock, sugar dips and the pain kicked in.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group set about organising an ambulance. This is not as easy as it sounds and causes confusion since Swinley seems to be on the Surrey/Berkshire borders. The emergency service can’t accept GPS data to locate you so when you’re stuck in the woods it becomes difficult to explain where you are.

Eventually, with the help of a local rider a group set off to rendezvous with the paramedic who excelled himself with a 13 minute forced march to get to Tony with a heavy back pack. It helps if you’re an ex-squaddie but hats off to him! Another local group (headed by Simon who co-incidentally had showed us round on our first Swinley visit) also got in touch with the Swinley Ranger.

It seems the correct form at Swinley, which isn’t necessarily obvious, is to contact the Ranger who will then co-ordinate the emergency services to avoid the confusion over whether it’s Surrey or Berkshire services that attend. Meanwhile, much to Tony’s embarrassment, an Air Ambulance arrived and set down at the top of the Labyrinth. It wasn’t needed, which frankly was good news.

Tony makes the call home

Tony, although in pain, was in the walking wounded category as I was when I managed the same thing last year. The helicopter looked like fun but I wouldn’t want to properly need it and I don’t suppose anyone else would either. Tony, after making ‘the call’ to Debs, was driven by the Ranger to the normal Ambulance which had parked up several minutes drive away, after which the Ranger met us at the Go-Ape area with Tony’s bike. She was great and her help is hugely appreciated.

So really, that was game over with the time having ticked by quite a bit during all that. We had a bite to eat in the Cafe, then it was time to return home with me driving Tony’s car. Fortunately he didn’t keep his keys in his right hand pocket which saved someone the unwanted task of rummaging for them!

Tony was later confirmed with a broken collarbone after an X-ray at Frimley hospital. Get well soon Tony, hopefully you’ll be back with us sooner than you think. Apologies to all whose name I’ve mistakenly garbled but it’s a bit late for me this evening, and thanks hugely for everyone who took the trouble to stop and assist today.

Filed under Rides in August 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 28 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 2 August – Swinley, oooff!!’

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  1. Dave says:

    Good write up Matt, even if it wasn’t all good on the day…

    Two unedited videos on VIMEO, plus 3 short ones on Flickr. One on Vimeo is on Labyrinth so you can see how fast it was!

    Paramedic’s name was Phil and I’d like to add what a decent chap he was having to march that huge distance.

    Second Vimeo video is of me following Barrie round the corkscrew.

    The missing rider was called Paul but I’m not sure if DaveW’s mate was Paul…..

  2. KC says:

    Tony, sorry to hear about the fall and I hope that you recover soon.

    Swinley is a real challenge and after being out for a few weeks it certainly found out my lack of fitness as well as the need for better technique.

    Great area and one I shall return to again soon.

  3. DaveW says:

    2 broken bones in a day – sh*7. I hope you both recover quickly – you will be missed in the meantime.

    (BTW my orange Orange mate is Andy, not Paul).

    See you soon people.

  4. ian says:

    Crikey, what an event filled morning that was…!

    I hope you both make swift recoveries

    and many thanks to Colin and Dave for their guiding skills and showing us what swinley has to offer

    ps – tony, can i borrow your TREK for the next few weeks…

  5. Neillp says:

    Bloody Hell I was gonna come out with you lot but changed my mind at the last minute. Hope Tony and the stig feel better soon!

  6. Easynow Nick says:

    Shit. I just found this update while catching up with the world from sunny sissinghurst.

    Wow. Every time I go there I think that drop at the Labyrinth exit is going to catch someone out. As Matt says, its out of keeping with the rest of the trail and if you dont know whats there it comes up with no warning. And there isnt even a Roadiedendron bush there.

    Im wincing just thinking about your collarbone Tony. Heal soon dude.

    And Stig, was that the same tabletop that claimed you last time? Ive broken a rib before… You have my total sympathy.

    I dont know whos christened you the stig, but you know thats going to stick 🙂

    Btw, I may have something for you when I come back from Holiday. Ill email you when I get back from my retreat. (Oh the mystery and suspense…)

    Get well both of you. Hope both your bikes are not too badly damaged.

    Take it easy both of you.

  7. Paul says:

    When I first read this I did a double take on the post date as I couldn’t believe it was the same ride..!!!

    What a terrible end to such a great morning… I hope you both make a swift recovery and they sort out the end of Labyrinth before there are more casualties.

    Thanks for extending a warm welcome to a stranger. I’ll keep an eye on Upcoming and try and hooking up with you guys again sometime soon.

    Paul (the Stumpjumper rider)

  8. The Stig says:

    Thanks to all for your sympathy. It wasn’t the tabletops, just a nose heavy landing on the long run that saw the front hoop literally implode underneath me.

    How i missed hitting a tree is beyond me and thankfully I managed to roll my wrist and face out of the way before impact. My elbow did the rib damage.

    Unlike the seat bending episode, I will be pushing Spesh on this one. The Pitch is supposed to have freeride leanings so why fit a front rim made from Curly Wurlys !!

    Look forward to the mysterious ‘thing’ Nick

  9. Paul says:

    Tony & Stig demonstrating that not only can they ride like demons, but they are part human too!

    Don’t be too hard on yourselves guys, you are both highly inspirational riders.

    Take care, be patient and you’ll be back on the trails before you know it!

  10. Easynow Nick says:

    Haha 🙂

    Nice ninja edit 🙂

  11. Muddymoles says:

    A few random thoughts

    Matt’s going to be busy over the next few weeks – here’s a round-up of what’s on the agenda.

  12. SimonN says:

    Hi guys, hope everyone heals ok, this is Simon the local (!) who was at the labyryth incident with you, you’ll all be happy to know that we were at Swinley yesterday and they have smoothed out that sudden drop off at the end so it is a nice slope now, easily rideable, so hopefully no more surprises for Swinley guests!

    Glad you guys enjoyed yourself despite the off piste activities, we are off to Afan in Wales next Monday, I took a tumble yesterday; nothing broken, just a very angry looking set of grazes on my shin and elbow 🙁 hopefully might even give me an excuse for being unfit in Afan!

    see you guys soon,


  13. SimonN says:


    just watched the vimeo of the labyrinth from the ill fated run..

    at the 10second point take that fork left rather than the hairpin right, it is a great little run of sweeping turns and banking etc, that is our preferred route.. 🙂 obviously it comes out at the same multi-junction at the bottom…


    PS The labyrinth is also Nicknamed “The Wife” as it goes on and on and on….. (and will smack you down if you are not giving it enough respect!)

  14. Dave says:

    Hi Simon,

    Thanks for the info, I’ve done Labyrinth about 5 times but only taken 1 different route so I’ll certainly give that one a go next time we are over there!

  15. tony says:

    Hi Dave

    Just looked at the Vimeo video of the Labyrinth. Looks great, it was all going so well…….


  16. 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.

  17. sean sonica says:

    This is a comprehensive blog, and though all riding is great it is somewhat disturbing to read that you summoned an air ambulance for what is a relatively minor injury (you only require painkillers and a sling); these things cost a mint to get off the ground! The photo clearly shows Tony on his feet and presumably able to walk out! I’ve had to do it before and I’m not alone on this one, in fact one mate recently got himself down the freeride track at Leogang with a shattered CB on his bike… The trails at Swinley are sporadically maintained by local riders as well as BOB/Gorrick and we continually have our trails flattened by the landowner primarily because of injured inexperienced riders trying to sue them for what is after all, their own silly fault! Many hard hours of winter construction were recently destroyed because of an incident of this kind. I hope this doesn’t relate to your friend Tony? Sadly, litigation is ruining opportunities for a whole heap of riding spots and volunteers have built the stuff that we all get so much fun out of, so please consider some of the wider issues before making that call.

  18. Dave says:

    Hi Sean,

    I want to pull you up on a few points here as I find the tone of your post somewhat accusational and hostile.

    No one “summoned” the air ambulance. A call was put through to 999 after Tony virtually collapsed and the injury was discussed and described as a “suspected broken collarbone”. There was certainly no way he was going to walk out of there at that point.

    Secondly there was no hint of litigation from us, it is accepted that everyone rides at their own level and within their limits.

    I suggest if you want to do something constructive about the litigation society then you use your vote wisely in the coming election rather than ranting on site and accusing people you have scant knowledge about.

  19. Matt says:

    Thanks for your comment Sean.

    I’m not going to enter into a debate about this but:

    a) We’re not inexperienced riders

    b) Accidents happen and are sometimes silly in hindsight

    c) We are not doctors and did not make the call – but the ranger/warden did what was felt necessary – as it happens, Tony was driven out and we tried to say the Air Ambulance was not needed

    d) It’s a long walk from the Labyrinth…

    e) We appreciate everyone’s efforts to build the trails we love – some of us have helped closer to home and are happy to support Gorrick’s efforts.

  20. tony says:

    Hi Sean

    The main reason that the air ambulance came was that I was concussed – which may not come over clearly in the article (the wife reads this!) and the 999 services were most concerned about this. I was soon much better and personally told the air ambulance that I didn’t need them. They were fine with this and had no worries about turning up for a false alarm.

    The rest of your post is very strange. I’ve been riding mountain bikes and road bikes for over 20yrs and sort of know what I’m doing. What happened to me was simply an accident and nothing more. The thought of suing the venue never came into my head and the very implication from your post that I might have done this and ruined things for other bikers is deeply insulting. I accept that mountain biking has its risks and get on with it.

    Email us personally and we’ll tell you the full details.

  21. adam says:

    I’m at a loss as to how someone would find walking a difficulty after sustaining a broken collar bone.

    I’ve managed the same walk with a broken shoulder blade, and I know of a fair few others who have gone further with similar injurys.

    I think the problem is when the rangers/ambulance services are called in for what is infact a relatively minor injury, this then starts to get the land owners into a panic about legal action etc. and any trails which may be deemed unsuitable for inexperienced riders are flattened rather than being left for the enjoyement of more experienced riders looking to progress their skills.

    It is also extremely frustrating to spend hours building good trails only to have them torn down, this has happened time and time again normally due too inexperienced riders injuring themselves on jumps/drops etc that are way above there skill level.

    As Sean says I think it is worth pausing and taking stock of how serious things actually are before making that call.

  22. Matt says:

    Okay Adam, I appreciate your views and Sean’s.


    Point the gun elsewhere please.

    We’re not culpable for anything you are describing; in fact I don’t recognise it at all. The land is privately owned and people are not at liberty to build whatever, wherever. The landowner would be quite within their rights to take action in that case. Regards the legal intricacies of your situation, I can’t comment but I guess that is the baseline.

    If you want to create trails then open a mature dialogue with the Land Owner rather than criticising us or anyone else.

    As for riding stuff beyond people’s skill level, again look elsewhere. We’re not riding Gods and don’t pretend to be – it was an accident pure and simple.

    Personally when I see an ambulance (Air Ambulance or otherwise) my response is to hope the injured party is going to be OK, not to think they’re probably wasting people’s time.

    Let’s draw a line under this discussion. It seems like your telling us:

    a) we’re crap

    b) we should stick to fireroads

    c) stay away from Swinley

    That’s not a dialogue I’m prepared to enter into – look further and you’ll see we don’t criticise others, we have a good relationship with other local riding groups and I hope we provide an interesting website for others to enjoy.

  23. Dave says:


    Sounds like you guys are carrying a lot of anger over having your trails bulldozed.

    That is regretable but nothing to do with the article or any of our riders.

  24. tony says:

    Sean and Adam

    I completely disagree with what you have said. I crashed (my own fault) and was on my own. When I came round and people got to me I had severve disturbance to my vision (everything was flickering monochrome and swirls) and my balance was non-existant. There was no way I was walking out of Swinley. It wasn’t the collarbone that was causing this. Hence the 999 call.

    Where I crashed hasn’t been changed and we in no way think that the crash was the trail builders fault.

    To be honest I still love Swinley and apart from that one accident I find it fairly easy compared to Welsh / Scottish trail centres or parts of the North Downs that we ride.

    However – this should be clear – what happened to me has nothing to do with your trails being destroyed.

  25. sean sonica says:

    I stand by my former comments. The emergency services are for emergencies! From the photographic evidence this clearly was not one, but thanks for the revealing comments not stated in your review. The example that I gave regarding the repercussions of litigious behavior has obviously hit several nerves.

    Firstly; Tony, accidents are accidents; we all have ‘em and I didn’t accuse you of taking legal action, I sincerely hoped it wasn’t the case.

    Secondly; general. We all want the same thing, somewhere to ride. All the Crown Estate want to do is farm trees, but they’re very nervous about dealing with the legalities of allowing the public onto their plantation. So stuff like taking our litter home, acting responsibly and generally not causing a fuss, or more importantly, additional expense (hiring diggers etc.) for CE is the way forward. The great thing about Swinley is the trails that allow a variety of disciplines and abilities to push their boundaries, a lot of those trails dating way back before the ‘Lookout’ became a blot on the landscape, with the exception of some of the singletrack, would simply not exist if it weren’t for adventurous builders.

    The essence of what we do as riders is to push our respective comfort zones, so my reference to inexperienced riders refers to biting off a bit more than we can chew, and we all do it, a lot, if were dedicated. Inevitably, you must break some eggs to make an omelet. Clearly, some lightening up is required in reference to the defensive comments above, it’s not a p!55ing contest or about how you measure up; it’s you and the track, and consequently your progression – more flow, faster, bigger, etc.

    That’s why it’s so disappointing when a loss of amenity like loosing your next nemesis of a trail, or an injury, conspire to prevent ones progression!

  26. Matt says:

    Thanks Sean, we appreciate your perspective. This issue will be something that every rider has to deal with in their local area at some time.

    It’s our good fortune in the UK that land owners enable us to venture onto their land; but it comes with responsibilities. Unauthorised trails are the biggest issue they face since they are the ones responsible; it’s the same for the Hurtwood Trust and land owners in the Surrey Hills.

    A poorly planned and executed trail is dangerous, not because it’s beyond rider’s skills (although it is sometimes) but because it can be unexpected. Witness the vandalism to BKB on Holmbury this weekend.

    So, let’s not argue. I know many of these trails start out a ‘guerilla’ tracks. We visit trails outside our area, as many riders visit the Surrey Hills. By definition we’re less familiar with Swinley nuances than locals but we won’t stop going there.

    Nor will we shy away from calling emergency services if we feel we need them – Tony had a knock on the head sufficient to crack his crash helmet and none of us are medical doctors. None of the (unrelated) riders alongside us, or the kind girl who treated Tony prior to the warden arriving felt there was any problem with calling 999.

    It’s not so long ago either that Natasha Richardson died after a head injury, so no apologies there.

    If you want to walk for an hour with a broken shoulder that’s fine. Everyone’s different and if you want I’ll come and put glass in your shoes to make it harder.

    That’s meant as a joke BTW!

    Seriously, not interested in arguing…

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