Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 25 February – Harrier jump jets at Charlwood

Posted by Matt | February 26, 2024 | 3 comments so far

Crank arm maintenance after the pub
Friday night saw more faffage on our night ride, which meant I had no MTB to ride for Sunday!

What can I say? When crankarms fail, they tend to continue failing. Friday night saw a half completed ride to Coldharbour as a low gnarr, don’t stress the MTB sort of ride after lots of rain.

It didn’t work. Stress on the Pace meant by the time we got onto Wolverns Lane my crankarm fell off for the second ride in a week! I tightened it up as tight as I dared pre-ride too.

So we tried the patented alternative pre-load stress of having Tony stand on my crankarm while I attempted to tighten it up – not an easy task with a small multitool and a foot in the way (nice boots btw!).

We had just reached the Rookery climb, so switched to Plan B; head down the Rookery back to Westcott and then on to the pub. Except it fell off again at Mickleham and again after leaving the pub so Tony pretty much pushed me all the way back to Leatherhead!

Which meant come Sunday… no MTB and most likely, no ride. I chatted to MarkJ about a Brockham loop on the tarmac instead when MarkC said ‘how about we try and find those Harriers out near Charlwood?’ So a plan was formed.

A plan that involved gravel bikes, a suggestion of a 33 mile route and even some actual gravel.

Sunday ‘gravel’ instead

The only part of the plan that survived contact with reality was we were on gravel bikes. While a small group of Moles headed off to Leith Hill in search of mud, Markj, MarkC and myself found it in a field near Tanhouse Farm much later on.

First, at my suggestion we reversed the original route plan to get the hills out of the way sooner rather than later. We headed out to Dorking and then on to Wotton before riding up Sheephouse Lane to Friday Street.

As has become an early season theme, and in common with my other bikes, my gravel bike was playing up.

Friday Street

It was shifting badly, the chain jumping off the lower jockey wheel despite the chain being new, the jockey wheels being new and the front chainset being new.

It meant slogging up Sheephouse Lane was a bit of a worry (it hits 20% gradient in places). There were the other punchy climbs up to Holmbury when I just wasn’t confident putting too much torque through the system.

Eventually though we passed Heartworks coffee some time before the off-road Moles arrived and headed down to Forest Green, then on to Ockley, Capel and the rolling roads to Newdigate. Blessedly, the roads were pretty empty but it’s been a while since I’ve ridden this way.

At Newdigate, all centre of gravity is toward Tanhouse Farm where we stopped with many other roadies for coffee and cake under the cover of the barn. Very nice too, but we still had miles to go and we hadn’t reached the Harriers yet.

It’s gravel, but not as we know it

The next section straight out of Tanhouse was Dukes Road toward Charlwood. Billed as ‘gravel’ by our route planner, it quickly deteriorated from crushed stone to mud and then an emphatic ‘Keep out’ sign. We of course ignored this but found only a muddy waymarked footpath the other side and a bridlepath heading exactly opposite to where we needed to go.

We took the footpath and squelched past some barns before riding onward until progress was foot only. In part, the surface was unrideable, but mainly the signage was very much of the ‘stick to the path or face consequences’ variety. Tedious.

Eventually our country walk got us back to civilisation (or at least tarmac) and within 50 yards we passed the other end of Dukes Road. I think in hindsight we should have pressed on past the barns, but it was a far from welcoming environment. We were entitled to be there – a public footpath and separately a bridleway attested to that.

Matt and a Sea harrier at Charlwood

Harrier jump jets in Charlwood

Within a mile or two we reached the object of our mission, the Hawker Harrier airframes parked at the end of Glovers Road and slowly sinking into the field. As to their history; I have no idea. MarkJ said they were Sea Harriers but that’s as much as I know. They are in a pretty sorry state but if someone fancies a retirement project, now’s the time to learn some aircraft engineering!

It was a surreal experience, and just across the fields you could hear the commercial jets winding up their engines for take off (or possibly clearing water off the runway – the tarmac we encountered was unrelentingly wet all day even if we dodged any actual rain).

Harrier jump jets on Glovers Road in Charlwood

My Garmin was reading a suspiciously high mileage for a ’33 mile loop’ until it transpired the route ended at Pixham Lane in Dorking and MarkJ and I had an extra 15 miles to get to and from…

There was nothing for it but to press on. Up Norwood Hill.

I did try and make a case for Stan Hill, then Blakes Lane and up to Leigh from there but our route planner was firm on this point. So a winch up Norwood Hill at least yielded the long descent after, punctuated by sharp rises nearer to Leigh.

Hawker harrier behind a hedge

Limping home

I could sense MarkJ’s enthusiasm levels waning from that point onward, which he made clear as we neared Dorking from the south and the climb up Tilehurst Lane. Most emphatic and vociferous he was, but Mr-33-miles was unmoved.

Parting from MarkC at Pixham, that left MarkJ and myself to ride home at a steady pace. In all, I finished with 47.5 miles on the clock and was feeling the effects on my dodgy neck but soon revived over the course of the afternoon. In fact I was pleased to get the miles in having ridden very little last week until Friday and the roads south of Dorking were relatively quiet.

Thanks to MarkC for his route planning, I’m pleased we reversed the direction but his suggestion of riding to Charlwood on the tenuous premise of seeing rotting fighter jets was compelling.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself but now have to hit the interwebs looking for a new crankset for the Pace, new bearings for my Bird Aether 9 and I suspect, a new derailleur for my gravel bike.

Filed under Rides in February 2024


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 3 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 25 February – Harrier jump jets at Charlwood’

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  1. Mark J says:

    Good ride, but I did need a recuperative nap in the afternoon!
    It was only after I got home and looked up the serial numbers of the 3 Harriers that I realised that these are the same two that Elliott put on his Strava a few weeks ago. (Yes logically how many Sea Harriers can there be in Surrey!). Annoyingly if we had walked a bit further up the footpath, there are three Sea King helicopters parked behind the building!
    Hey ho, I might need a few days (or more likely weeks) before I suggest we ride back over to take another look

  2. Elliot says:

    I did look at the route last night and wonder about that footpath. I half thought I must be missing out and should give it a go sometime. Maybe not. There is a vaguely parallel bridleway slightly to the south in somewhat decent condition. I say somewhat because it’s surfaced but usually under water for half the year.

    Think I was more interested in the Sea Kings around the back. They’re worth a look. I’m assuming these all arrived on the back of a truck rather than landing there and then being stripped? There’s some good xc/gravel in the area if you fancied a return in summer.

    • Matt says:

      The footpath option was the wrong one. The RoW I think goes directly past the barns even though the gate says bugger off (looking on the maps, a bridleway at each end heading north and south kind of suggests that users will need to go past the barns to link them).

      Some summer XC/gravel would be nice. Might drive and save the long ride out!

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