Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 3 March – avoiding the swamp

Posted by Matt | March 5, 2024 | 3 comments so far

A group of moles at Gibbet Hill
Ranmore is a swamp at this point in time. We found out how swampy last Tuesday night…

By now, everyone knows we’ve had weeks of rain; it’s come to define the first part of 2024. The result is lots and lots of mud.

If you were in the business of mud – and the Muddymoles can hardly claim otherwise – you’d not rely soley on rainfall to ensure industrial levels of Surrey’s fabled Bastard Glue Mud™ No. You’d throw in near continual logging activity since the autumn using huge machinery to make sure you had an adequate supply.

Over winter we’ve seen first the Dearly Beloved climb, then the Tanners climb and large parts of Sheepleas succumb to forestry work. This carnage has been accompanied by deep, wide ruts from the logging machinery that are now filled with standing water and a liquid slurry of mud that is essentially unrideable.

Last Tuesday saw us stumble into a wasteland of devastated trees near the start of Secret Probation and the North Downs Way.

In the dark and with no recognisable landmarks to guide us we plugged along through axle deep ruts and 4 metre long puddles filled with watery clay before admitting defeat.

A combination of hike-a-bike and bush-whacking left Tony, Lloyd and myself with boots that looked like they’d been dipped in Ice Magic as we traversed seemingly bottomless ruts before hacking across to the Drover’s Road.

All that to say… Sunday needed a drier route!

Lee's Stooge rigid hardtail

This seemed a perfect chance for our winter fallback; a 20 mile loop round Hindhead and Thursley.

Meeting at Thursley cricket ground were 9 riders – Lloyd, Elliot, MarkC, Reece, JR, Karlos, a lesser-spotted Lee, JamesW and myself. All of us keen to get out on the bikes after another week of rain and keen to avoid any more mud.

Pine tress at Axe Lake

Our route is by now quite familiar. First we head up to Hindhead which is a 3 mile climb to Gibbet Hill and then along to the look out over the Punchbowl. I quickly realised I had over-dressed as the climb warmed me up in short order despite the frost at the start of the ride. My legs took a bit longer, feeling worse after a few static days than from riding all week as usual.

At Gibbet Hill we could look down on mist and cloud in the hollows toward Dunsfold but after passing the look out to circle the Punchbowl we were soon dropping back down to the sandy heathland.

Along the way we got thoroughly rattled over Highcombe Heath and then the long valley descent to the Thursley Road. It was rattly enough on my hardtail but I can only imagine how Lloyd and Lee suffered on their rigid bikes, first by matted roots and then the loose chunky rocks in the long gulleys.

Eventually we crossed over to Rushmore where conditions we relatively benign although we needed to revise our normal route to avoid sections closed off for military exercises.

Elliot at Axe Lake

Reflections on the water at Axe Lake

From this point on my brakes – marginal when we started – reached critical wear rates. The rear was basically gone and the front… was heading that way too. Accompanied by the rumble of worn rear hub bearings, my Pace scraped its way round for the rest of the ride. Fortunately a Thursley loop is not hard on the brakes so long as you are judicious.

As ever, it was all a means to an end; the end being bacon rolls at the Great Pond. Or rather, it was a mid-way pause but I think you know what I mean.

Our fortifying snack was accompanied by talk of opera visits followed by thoughts on Korean cinema before settling on the Japanese film Tampopo. This was… not the conversation I expected but very welcome for its depth and variety!

Karl splashes across

Back on the bike, I was limping the Pace home. It wasn’t a big problem but the sound of bike parts wearing out is never pleasant. Along the way we waded across a large bike swallowing ford, so big I’ve seen four wheel drive cars founder.

We picked a way around before heading on toward Hankley Common and the Atlantic wall. Soon after we plunged down off the ridge over fire blackened terrain that needed sharp eyes to avoid the many coke can sized stumps that waited to send you flying. It was more off road than I envisaged with the level of braking I had remaining.

The final few miles are always hard on this circuit.

The route is sandy and steadily uphill back the Thursley cricket ground and exactly the conditions in which Lloyd and his Trek Farley fat bike excel. The rest of us were strung out in his wake; JR and Elliot were happy enough, I was working hard to hang on while the rest of the field were shelled out the back. Brutal.

But, all told, exactly the morning’s ride we hoped for. The bikes were mucky but nowhere near as bad as a morning closer to home would have been and I think everyone enjoys the change of scenery. The conversation was the bonus on top!

Filed under Rides in March 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 3 March – avoiding the swamp’

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

  1. Andre Peers says:

    Sounds like a great ride, do you have a map you can share?
    Ps rode in and around Pewley Downs to Shere and it was as muddy as you suspected!

  2. Tony says:

    Hi. Tony

    Just shows how hard it is to spot an e-bike. 6th photo down Karl is on his new eMTB.

    And so will all of us ….eventually!

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