Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 6 March – Swinley fun

Posted by Matt | March 6, 2011 | 9 comments so far

My goodness this has been a long time coming! Some how, shamefully, I don’t think I managed a trip to Swinley in all of last year despite the moles making the odd excursion. Bad timing and bad luck I guess.

This time things worked out a little better and in the company of 14 other moles we had a mass exodus to the famous Berkshire forest. It proved well worth the effort.

DaveW tries the high line on the Swinley jump gulley

I’m not sure why we don’t get over this way more often. OK, so the winter months play havoc with the trails in general but at least Swinley (along with parts of Leith and Holmbury Hills) drain well due to their sandy surface. We were probably quite lucky as D’Andy reported it being heavy going when he tried it on Monday night but since then we’ve had no rain and a drying wind which has helped enormously.

Meeting at the Lookout car park at 8:30 were DaveC, Jem, MarkT, Colin, Lee, JohnR, Jez, DaveW, Big Al, KevS, BiketechMark (bro-less for this weekend), Nick, D’Andy, StevenD and myself, making 15 in all. Usually this is a recipe for mechanicals and niggles but today was charmed I think. Along with a few others I was worried my lack of layers was just too optimistic since it was decidedly cold first thing.

StevenD had offered to show us round his version of Swinley and since it’s always nice to see how other people string routes together we were all happy to defer to him. Plus I haven’t a clue round the place! And his mother-in-law had thoughtfully provided bread pudding so how could we resist?!

As soon as we set out from the Lookout it was clear the surface was going to be perfect for riding. No need to wash bikes today as the sandy surface – admittedly wet in places – was giving up loads of grip. I’d love to say exactly where we went but will concentrate on the bits I know. There’s probably a lot we rode which should have names but don’t.

First off we were into some familiar contouring trails, straight into singletrack right away. It was to stay pretty much like this the whole ride so Steven did a great job. With the MudXs on my Five I found loads of grip even though the surface was just damp underneath the loam with all the roots being pretty grippy.

Soon we headed down our first descent, wide and whoopy, letting you pick whatever line you fancied really. After some cracking singletrack we soon pitched up at Tank Traps which was riding very sweetly – if you weren’t out on the bike then you missed a lovely Spring day. Maybe it’s the new wheels, maybe it’s the tyres, maybe it’s the recent miles I’ve been doing but I felt just great on the trails.

Colin gets some Swinley air

Boosted by that bit of fun it was off to the jump gulley for some early play while the yoof riders were still in bed. Having not been down here for a long time I took it easy but got just enough air to suit me and soon got into the flow of clearing the easy double at the end – easy if you go right of course.

DaveW always likes to have a go down here and scare the rest of us and so it proved. After trying the left hand drops successfully he turned his attention to what is becoming his nemesis, the right hand drop. Fair play for doing it at all in my mind, but as I was returning to the start all I heard of his attempt was the sound of a bike breaking expensively, or so it seemed, followed by an ‘ooooh!’ from everyone else.

Fortunately Dave got the stack style balance about right by making it look worse than it was, but it’s certain he’s got more bruises than the rest of us tonight. Ouch! At least the bike was unharmed.

We pressed on with the Labyrinth ultimately our target after plenty more great singletrack, all sharp uphills and swoopy descents. Briefly we paused while DaveW – remorselessly undaunted – successfully took in a large jump on a steep downhill section, but the pace was good and flowing.

At the Labyrinth complex we tried a couple of things I don’t normally do, first Deerstalker, which was electric fast and huge fun stringing all those open sweeping bends together, then it was an early exit and back up the sharp climb to take in Deerstalker 2.

Another awesome trail, slidey slidey at the top, then opening into more fast berms with tabletops here and there thrown in. One of the last times I was here Tony broke his collarbone and Colin pringled his front wheel (as well as bending a seatpost in the past too) so the Labyrinth needs a lot of respect. Trees are a feature of the place!

At the central crossroads we headed straight over this time into the Labyrinth proper. I’d forgotten what a great piece of noodly uphill this section has, giving you a decent workout if you’re in the mood while still providing plenty of downhill enjoyment. I really felt able to put in some decent effort today.

After all that fun we headed round via Seagull (I think) toward the Corkscrew area. Jem and MarkT decided to bail a bit earlier than the rest of us as the pace increased around Seagull, I was caning it in places which almost had me stacking into an inconvenient tree. With the sun starting to shine I was really enjoying myself.

Despite D’andy’s ambivalence we passed Pip’s f@!%ing seat a couple of times as we found ourselves at the bombhole play area before moving on to Corkscrew. By now I think we were all starting to feel the ride in our legs as for most of us it seemed like a pogo-stick too far. To be fair it’s not in the best condition at the moment but it all felt rather disjointed.

All that remained was retrace our steps in a few places and head back to the Lookout for tea and cakes, making the most of the fact that Swinley singletrack rides well in both directions – and that you can make it up as you go along – to find entertainment in the ride right through to the end.

All in all a fantastic Spring blast in fine weather – we even had sunshine – over some brilliant trails. I loved every bit of the 14 miles we notched today and from the look on everyone’s faces, I wasn’t alone. It was great to finally meet Steven and his mother-in-law’s bread pudding but it was equally nice to see a few faces who haven’t been out with us (for one reason or another) for a long time.

Filed under Rides in March 2011


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 9 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 6 March – Swinley fun’

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  1. John R says:

    It was a fantastic day and conditions on the sandy healthland were starting to dry to the point where I couldn’t really answer the question “What do you think of the Mud Xs, John?”

    As it’s barely 30mins drive from Bookham, we shouldn’t leave it long before we go back again.

    Plenty more pics available on Flickr:

  2. StevenD says:

    Great write up Matt, the fun really comes over to anyone reading this ride report. Highlights, apart from being in the company of such a good bunch of people; Seagull is bedding in well – Gorrick have done a great job, and I cannot wait for Stickler to open again and Deerstalker 1 (or 2?) where you take a right turn at the top – many thanks to DaveW for encouraging that route, I am adding that to my permanent ‘must do’ list, plus as you state – no need to get the Mobi out.

    It looks like it is going to be fairly dry all week so I may venture out again next Saturday. I think I will do a pure exploration run, go the opposite way round and seek out new trails – there is another way that comes out near Pip’s & Dandy’s f*#%ing bench that Dandy probably missed, LOL.

  3. DaveW says:

    It was a good fun ride – great to take a different route around, as I always seem to follow some variation on Warren’s route.

    I hope you all appreciated my demonstrations of how not to do drops and jumps! Surprisingly I have no bruises whatsoever after that front wheel wash out on landing in the gulley. I was far from on form, but also extremely lucky!

  4. Jem says:

    Thanks Steven for leading the way.

    The conditions were really sweet, plenty of grip on those burms.
    I enjoyed the ride, but was knackered yesterday evening.

    I have posted a few videos on flicker of the jump gulley, not brilliant. My photos were not worth uploading.

    Hope to see you soon.

  5. Markymark says:

    What a blast! Everyone was stoked right from the beginning. After the recent mud-fests of our usual haunt this was a well timed hack around what Berkshire has to offer, and it didn’t disappoint. The blending of Scots Pine tree stock with peat and sand base made for a real treat of well-drained conditions.

    Bro Gary knows the area very well and is a well-seasoned ‘local’ so there’s another option when we need a ‘party-leader’ to mix it up a bit.

  6. Big Al says:

    Thanks Steven,
    Great ride. I really enjoyed it.
    Cheers Alan

  7. Ray k says:

    Reading your report and commets reminds me why I think of Swindley as BLIND TERROR !Maybe I should try it in daylight. My alternitive ride took Paul and I from bocketts to newlands via ranmore. Picking up the northdowns way at beggars lane. I contimued from Newlands to the downs link at st marthers which I followed south through Cranleigh toSlinfold on the A29. I turned round and came home via godalming the wey navigation to weybridge and the thames parh to hamptoncourt. I don’t know the mileage but I was in the saddle for eight hours most of which were sunny and enjoyable. The cool head breeze from Guildford to Hampton ct was trying aong with being attacked by a dog inOxshott. But the fantastic weather and bacon sandwich at Newlands cafe made for a hard but enjoyable endurance ride

  8. Dandy says:

    Blimey Ray, that was a day and a half! Makes our efforts at Swinley pale in comparison.

    Swinley was, as ever, great fun though. Favourites were the Deerstalker & Baby-something (apparently I was in error when referring to it as ‘Babymaker’); plus, of course, the Jump Gulley. Respect, D-Dub

    • stevend says:

      Dandy, if you mean the run with the large tabletop then that is Babymaker. Left to Right the first three runs are Deerstalker (1&2 or 2&1) and then Babymaker. There are another two runs but IMO nowhere near as much fun.

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