Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 20 June – Summer Solstice

Posted by Matt | June 20, 2010 | 26 comments so far

An Orange Five at the Summer Solstice sunrise on Holmbury Hill
I suppose the subtitle to this report could also be ‘up with the lark’, except in this case that would be inaccurate. We were miles earlier than that!

Instead, Colin, Mark and myself donned metaphoric (and possibly metaphysical) beards for a spot of druid action at Holmbury.

Now the stereotype of the eccentric Englishman goes without saying, but if we’re going trade off this reputation then sometimes you just have to deliver, in much the same way as our national football team can’t (as if I care).

So it was that having originally suggested the idea of a pre-dawn ride to Holmbury for the solstice sunrise some years previous, Colin actually called my bluff this weekend. I’d not exactly forgotten the idea, but with an ambivalent reaction last time it had been quietly dropped.

Fortunately the idea must have struck a chord with Colin, with the result that an innocuous email titled ‘Solstice’ dropped into my mailbox this week. With Sunday being a day short of the solstice (but close enough) and Fathers’ Day to boot, Colin was sounding the idea of a mega-early ride to catch the sunrise and get back for breakfast. What could be more simple?

Well, simple was probably the word, as in ‘hadn’t thought about this too much’. I quickly agreed to the ride, as did a surprisingly willing Mark but that was as many as could be persuaded from their beds. A quick Google of sunrise times and some crude mental calculations revealed we’d need to leave Bookham at 2:30AM if we wanted to ensure a timely arrival at Holmbury for the 4:43AM sunrise.

So there we were, 2:30AM at Bockett’s Farm for what must be the earliest moles ride ever. Riding through Bookham with a warm flask of coffee (just instant since our supply of caffetiere coffee was exhausted – sooo, middle class!) and a backpack stuffed with an extra fleece to combat the pre-dawn chill at Holmbury, wondering if anyone would turn up at Bockett’s was a nerve-wracking experience.

At the car park, all was empty. I’d passed just the one sign of human activity on the way, a teenage couple making their way home from some party or other. They just stood and stared at the sight of a fully togged up mountain biker with full sus bike, knee pads and helmet light shooting past them!

Within a minute or two my fears were assuaged on seeing a bright light coming up the hill which could only be Colin (who else was it going to be?!), arriving bang on 2:30. A few minutes later, Mark too appeared and we were ready to go.

Rolling gently off into the hills along Admirals Track and up to Yew Trees was such an odd feeling. We knew we weren’t going to see anyone; there was no chance of meeting a dog walker or horse rider, no sign of traffic and just the still, calm night around us. It was warm, it was dry and there we were, just rolling along.

It meant a proper hoon down Yew Trees, followed by a slow plod up the other side as we had plenty of time. Despite the early hour we all felt surprisingly fresh and awake as we made our way to Ranmore.

Pre-dawn sees Mark and Colin chatting on Holmbury Hill

From there it was a fast but not furious spin along to White Down via Badger Run and Collarbone and with plenty of quiet chat about anything that popped into our heads the ground passed quickly beneath our wheels. In a way the small group meant we had no-one to worry about but ourselves as we set a pace that kept us all roughly together.

We even tackled the Abba Zabba complex, though strictly chicken runs only which are always fun anyway. Crossing the road it was into the woods again, once again taking the easier lines but still finishing with a jump over the log at the bottom. By the time we reached the road again though things were starting to smell distinctly cappuccino for me!

My cheap insulated coffee mug had leaked as it was laid almost horizontal through the technical sections, which was a pain. I was to smell of cheap coffee for the rest of the ride and it meant my Holmbury beverage was compromised too. Dang!

Anyway, we pressed on. Into Abinger Roughs, we followed the trail all the way through to Abinger Hammer before diverting from our usual Newlands Route to head up onto the hills again toward Peaslake, using a new trail to me. It gained us height at a steady but manageable pace as behind us the morning sky started to brighten and the smell of honeysuckle and, err, coffee filled the air!

A handful of roads, bridleways and trails brought us into the Holmbury area almost round the back, near the Peaslake end. From there it was a case of drifting through the sandy forest to pick up familiar trails up to the viewpoint, where we arrived at 4:17AM.

Sunrise from the Holmbury Hill cairn on the 2010 Summer Solstice

Up here, for the first time the wind picked up, nothing much but enough to chill us as we quickly lost the heat we’d gained in all that riding. My fleece was disappointingly coffee soaked but Mark fortunately lent me his spare which was a relief. I couldn’t stop shivering as we quickly broke out a simple breakfast.

My idea of coffee and pain au chocolat had to be shelved as my insulated mug had failed the Surrey Hills test and I had to ponce some off Mark again. Then it was just a case of waiting for sunrise.

Mercifully, the sky was clear enough for a decent show, with cloud cover picking up the soft pink, rose and orange light. We were the only ones to see it and what an experience that was, good natured chat interspersed with frequent ‘that makes it all worthwhile sentiments’. We couldn’t help ourselves.

By 5:00AM the hills and a rapidly moving line across the Weald were awash with daylight and we knew we wouldn’t be needing our night lights anymore. At 5:10, some 50 minutes after our arrival it was time for a very cold trio to saddle up and head for home. As a note for D2D? Really, you can’t be too over-dressed for the small hours!

What followed was a magical ride back, being the first to ride Yoghurt Pots and Telegraph at the start of what was likely to be a busy day on the Hills was a real privilege as we motored along, without needing any significant pauses at all. Yoghurt Pots was so dry and so free from other riders even though it was broad daylight that I rode most of it with a big smile on my face. Except the off-camber sand at the top that I always screw up!

Early morning on Raikes Lane, on the Summer Solstice sunrise ride

We took Telegraph all the way down to the Youth Hostel car park, then it was down to the Volunteer to pick up Raikes Lane. Colin insisted we actually stop and take in the view across to the North Downs and it really was worth the effort, with the low sun picking up the amazing texture of the maturing wheat nodding in the fields.

So it continued, now warm again, we found ourselves riding what was to be the best weather of the day, sun in our faces and wide, empty views. Villages passed by so silently that it seemed the Triffids had taken over as Surrey waited for it’s lucky residents to wake up.

By then we were well on our way home, taking cheeky footpaths that we knew we going to be empty for hours still. Eventually, near the top of Ranmore we finally met another human being who we chatted to as he walked his dog. Magical.

From Ranmore we took Dearly Beloved down to Chapel Farm at an unbelievable pace, almost enough to make you laugh out loud as the sweeping bends near the end funnelled us into the chalky gulley down to the road.

Crossing over, a steep and by now painful climb eked out the final altitude back into Bookham via Wiggly Wood. Rolling into the Bockett’s car park around 7:10 was a very satisfied (and if truth be told, a slightly smug) trio of riders who still couldn’t quite believe they had set off at 2AM on the faintest of excuses to see the sun come up over Holmbury.

It was one of those wonderful rides that you knew was a legendary happening even as it unfolded in front of you. Thanks very much to Colin and Mark for contributing in no small part.

I feel proper tired now though!

Additional photos of the Summer Solstice sunrise on Holmbury Hill can be found on Flickr.

Filed under Rides in June 2010


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 26 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 20 June – Summer Solstice’

We love to get comments from our readers - if you've spent a few moments to comment, thank-you.

If you haven't had a chance yet, jump to our comments form if you have something to say.

  1. Dave says:

    Sounds like you guys had an excellent ride.

    AndySub3, Paul, Paul901, MarkW and myself had a little jaunt over to Leith Hill at the normal time.

    We kept up a steady pace taking in the normal route with me on the Spider trying to smack it back into shape after it mis-behaving with Matt on it.

    All was goign well until I encountered “THAT root” up Wolverns Lane just after the first bank climb. BANG, I went down hard on my left elbow and boy did it hurt. Sufficient to make be feel ill and as Paul noticed the colour drain out of my face I opted to lay down by the side of the trail for a few minutes while my body adjusted.

    After a short rest we set off again and motored up to the bombholes. Once past the cricket pitch MarkW got a wheel wrong and landed on his elbow. After a brief few moments where he painted the air blue he was back on the bike and duck us in to the left to show us a nice little pumpy trail! Lots of new trails this week, excellent!

    A brief stop at the tower and then down Personal Hygeine where Andy 901 completed the triple of accidents by not quite making the exit of the left. Again, nothing permanent and we rode on to take in WaggleDance and a very fast Summer Lightning.

    We took in White Down on the way back.

    An excellent ride and apart form a slight graze on teh arm it feels OK!

  2. Jem says:

    Had a look at your photos, where are the pictures of the scantily clad female virgins prancing on top of Holmbury Hill you promised us!!??

    Nice one boys sounded fun. I did think of you early this morning as I was up at 6am up to Sliverstone for Moto GP.

    Good to do something odd once in a while.

    Love and Peace brothers!

  3. Colin says:

    Yep, other than throwing lighted matches down a deeph hole in the road to see if the smell was gas (when I was about 8), this was the most stupid thing I thought I had ever done.

    Having done it, it wasn’t though – well worth it and a really enjoyable [early] morning.

  4. paul901 says:

    Sounds a great ride Matt, Colin and Mark. If you do that again I’ll put some decent coffee together for you that oyu only need to add hot water to.

    The Leith Hill run was an enjoyable ride and a demanding one for me, I managed to ride just about all of it compared with before and noticeable to me now that some of the terrain becomes familiar.

    We must have had a quad of accidents as Personal Hygiene caught me out too. There’s a chicken run on the first part which I happily took but then sat at the top of the 2nd with no option but to go down. I did so with weight off the back and as I hit the flat part I was off the back literally and onto the ground with one foot clipped into the bike in front of me. It banged my stomach and crown jewels. At home I found a bit of stomach bruising.

    I made all but the last few metres of a long climb and was disappointed that it went upwards as it reached a gate as I was totally spent and had to walk that last bit. Then on the run back from Ranmore Road you get that left turn into the tree lined narrow descent and climb up to the road underneath the bridge and I made that first narrow (and whole) climb for the very first time. So, slow but determined and it’s paying off. Thanks to the others as ever for looking out for me. I’m noticing their stops as they wait are getting shorter so that’s a good thing.

    I’ve noticed that if I feel I have to unclip one foot then the bumpy terrain can make it hard to clip the spud back in. I’m wondering if I will be better off with a Time ATAC or other alternative that has more surface area for those times and must ask about it.

    One of us came off pulling wheelies by the way 😉

    BTW Jem re the Solstice ride, I thought the legend was about 3 wise men and a virgin so if the latter didn’t show I suspect it says something about… ah different religion.

  5. Dave says:

    Actually Paul your comment about your SPD reminds me that I did think it looked like your SPD were a bit tight to get out of so I was wondering if they are too tight.

    Us ATAC riders are always in the minority. Mainly because you never find them fitted as standard equipment. Then there’s the arguement that Dave at Cycleworks uses that there is too much free float movement in the clip and no adjustment in the cleat position.

    However, all of that aside I don’t hear SPD users generally worrying about ability to get in and out of cleats so I’d open up the adjust fully and start from there.

  6. Tony says:

    What can I say. Epic!

    It makes my 110miles before lunch seem mundane in comparison.

    I love the pictures too.

    Although Matt shouldn’t this blog have been titled “wake up and smell the coffee??”

  7. DaveW says:

    On the SPD subject, firstly I wouldn’t expect to unclip intentionally over rough stuff. I either commit and have a go, or unplug and walk the bike over the obstacle.

    If you are unclipping accidentally over bumpy terrain, then the trick is to drop your heels more – this is good practice in any case. If you are finding this hard to achieve, perhaps your cleats are too far forward?

    However, with SPDs you also have the luxury of adjustability, as DaveC says. I like mine quite tight (don’t say it Lee), but have never had an issue with staying clipped in during an off.

    Which leads me to wonder if the parts are moving freely enough on your pedals – after cleaning, try soaking with WD40 or similar and see if they work smoother.

    Also consider the alignment of your cleats on your shoes and try and make this consistent with the angle you tend to make with your foot against the crank arm.

    For more radical riding I like my Shimano M647 DX pedals, which have a platform as well as the SPD, providing a larger target for your foot to aim at should you come unclipped at an awkward time. These might suit you, although I’m still not sure that unclipping when things get difficult is a good idea…

    Shimano do several platform/ SPD pedals like this, but I like the composite platform body on the 647s (less likely to cause you damage than the metal platform types and lighter too).

    Review here:

    Crank Brothers also do a platform / clipless pedal. D’andy uses these. I personally don’t like Crank Brothers pedals, as I believe the axle design is flawed, requiring too much maintenance and too many expensive parts to keep them working. Also, they don’t have the tension adjustment that SPDs do and the springs vary in tightness from one pair to the next (even in the same design – I had several pairs of Egg Beaters before giving up on them and moving to the superior Shimano SPDs).

  8. Mark says:

    I hoped he would entitle it “Sun arise, early in the morning” with a clip of Rolf singing the same!

    I can’t beleive I said yes to this, nor can I believe what a fantastic ride it was. Not so sure about Colin’s suggestion we strip naked and huddle together to watch the sun rise, but hey!

    Tony, all I can say is “London to Brighton, my arse!”

  9. DaveW says:

    And on the Summer Solstice sunrise ride – well done chaps. Looks stunning. Rather you than I!

    Having said that, I did do an overnighter with Davebus and Neil from DOAMB once, riding to Leith on the Saturday, doing a night ride, bivy-bagging overnight and riding back on the Sunday. It was great waking up to see the sky and the hills.

    On Sunday I met up with D’andy, Orange Orange Roo (another Andy) and my old schoolfriend John at Leith Hill for a more technical and less XC ride.

    Roo rode deliverance nice and smoothly. On his previous attempt several years ago he stacked it near the top and hurt himself, so it was good to banish that ghost.

    5 minutes later he stacked it on Crooked Furrow, hitting a little stump. Plenty of blood, but he gamely carried on and the wound dried up okay.

    We then met yet another Andy – AndyW aka Ghostrider, who was out with a couple of mates getting an early technical ride in. We joined forces at Coldharbour for a little exploration, tying in a few trails that we each knew into a decent flowing descent, which I must revisit soon before I forget the route.

    We parted from AndyW when they headed back to the carpark in time to be home for Sunday lunch and did a complete run down the trails we had been piecing together. Some of the steep bits are very steep and with the loose surface and steps in places, quite tricky, as John discovered to his cost – thankfully no real harm to person or bike though.

    We did another challenging descent which D’Andy knew and then headed over to Creme Egg, where someone has recently built up the little kicker at the bottom a bit.

    I had a go at launching a nice drop off near Creme Egg which is immediately followed by a jump. I love this! I first tried it a few weeks ago when out riding with Keith. John and D’andy rolled it.

    Next was slidewinder. I got a bit enthusiastic here, launching off a step part way down and suddenly going far to fast and losing control in the dust, but no harm done.

    Next we headed up to the Tower, with D’andy having a dodgy moment taking off on the transition between two of the bomboles, but he stayed on okay.

    After tea and cake at the Tower, Roo headed off whilst D’andy, John and I headed down to Windy Willow via a lovely little trail from the play area. John took a ‘leap of faith’ into the hardest Windy Willow roll in (under the tree), which went very nicely.

    We had a few goes over the jumps at the end of the Windy Willow trail and then I tried to make up a route across to the quary, which was great fun, but didn’t quite get us where I wanted to be. However, we ran into Davebus, Terry and a group of other DOAMB riders, who led us back to the trail I’d been aiming for and down to the road. Here they headed off on their epic route back to Ashtead via Holmbury, whilst we headed back to the cars.

    What a great way to spend Fathers Day morning!

  10. kc says:

    I can’t compete guys! Your posts are too long!

    Put simply, an awesome weekend for the moles and some inspirational reports

  11. bazza says:

    Hey guys

    The druid run sounded great and pics look dramatic, what a sky!, really pi**ed i could not make it.

    Dave sounds like your spider really needs taming as it’s bucking too many people off, rodeo style!…man

  12. Dave says:

    Sometimes a lively ride is the best!

    Managed a slightly longer Reigate Ride with Jem this morning and I had it tamed although I think it is a bike that needs dominating!

    New back wheel was finished this afternoon. Bling!

  13. D'AndyC says:

    Looks like fun all round for a multitude of Moles this week-end.

    I failed to detect any sign of ‘unusual substances’ in the nocturnal Moles’ summer solstice pictures, other than a thermos flask. I thought Colin did look like he was praying in one shot, probably for the naked virgins to arrive. Sadly all he got was Matt & Mark, luckily not naked. Time to try another religion, Col.

    Failed to meet up with the remaining diurnal moles at Leith Hill, sounded like you guys had fun.

    Thanks to Dave W for a fine ride around Redlands/Leith Hill etc. Managed a little ‘air time’, some inadvertently. Went over the bars once, but at a slow speed and landed in a soft cushion of pine needles.

    Hooray for the coniferous woodlands that abound in our slice of cycling heaven. Perhaps Colin was praying for ‘soft landings’?

  14. Colin says:

    D’AndyC, Ive happened across a pic somewhere of you getting air, going over a large rooty drop so it appears over the course of the solstice you have in fact morphed into the freeride god we know has been lurking within. We are not worthy.

    Great pic and obviously your afternoon with Jedi has boosted your mojo. Please feel free to pass on your knowledge

  15. Orange Roo says:

    Wow Matt/Colin/Mark – well envious. It looks and sounds like a great ride, and certainly one to savour.

    I must get two things – a set of lights and a Yahoo account and sign up to the emails! Oh, and a seriously good alarm clock!

    As DaveW and D’Andy alluded to above, we went out for a technical tour and enjoyed a cool but clear morning pushing the boundaries – well pushing mine anyway! I think I must also invest in some armour….

    Thanks DaveW for leading the way.

  16. John R says:

    The photos are fantasic Matt – really atmospheric.

    I am looking forward to Wednesday night – it will be our brightest night ride of the year – with the latest sunset and a forecast of sun and 25C.

  17. D'AndyC says:

    In the pantheon of celestial beings available for answering your earthly desires, don’t come to me for the naked virgins unless you’re prepared to accept sweaty blokes clad in lycra as a substitute.

    Sadly deification is not instantly conferred after an afternoon with the Jedi, though my own personal path to nirvana may have progressed a little.

    I am expecting to return to earth with a considerable bump v soon. Probably tomorrow night, where I expect to hear how you achieved oneness with all that was and is to be.

  18. Cathie says:

    WOW Matt that sounds amazing, can we all come next year?

    I remember when Jill and I did the moonwalk and was reminded of how wonderful it is to see those first daylight hours and coming across people sneaking home. Your pictures are amazing and I was truely envious of your experience

  19. Muddymoles says:

    Ride report: Wednesday 23 June – Pitch and a Pint

    The moles head off to Pitch Hill for some summer classic Pitch and a Pint riding fun

  20. Muddymoles says:

    Ride report: Sunday 27 June – Reformed meat

    A big crash for Barrie on Reformation which is certainly a trail to bite even the most experienced of riders on our way to Newlands Corner

  21. Muddymoles says:

    Ride report: Sunday 22 August – To Holmbury and back

    The moles head off on a long ride to take in Holmbury Hill, including Barry Knows Best, Yoghurt Pots and Telegraph Road in a classic Surrey Hills ride

  22. Related: Ride report: Wednesday 23 June - Pitch and a Pint | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

  23. Related: Ride report: Sunday 27 June - Reformed meat | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

  24. Related: Ride report: Sunday 22 August - To Holmbury and back | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

  25. Related: Summer Solstice at Holmbury; or is that Molestice? | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

  26. Related: Ride report: Friday 21 June - another year, another Molestice | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Leave a comment…

Have your say – we'd love to hear what you think.

If you have something to add, just complete this comment form (we will not publish your email address).

*Required information.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.