Riding along the top of Colley Hill today looking toward Box Hill, Dorking and Leith Hill beyond, Lee commented that this really was our domain. I knew what he meant, this really is what we ride but for a brief moment I was reminded of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle!
For those without a clue to what I’m talking about, this was a popular children’s cartoon back in the day. It started with Tarzan giving a voiceover saying ‘the jungle is full of beauty… and danger!. Well, that’s about the sum of the North Downs too I guess.
Now there’s an introduction! Actually, today danger levels were low unless you count a fraught descent off Colley Hill which had plenty of opportunity to dump you unceremoniously on your bum. It was a moment calling for a great deal of finesse on the brakes and some careful reading of the trail ahead.
Leaving from Bookham more or less on time we had Lee trying out his revived singlespeed with carbon forks, DaveC on his singlespeed 29er, Paul, Joe, Erick, Barrie and me, also on my singlespeed with an XC ride in mind. In fact, it was to be almost exactly my commute to work which I have to admit passed much more enjoyably with the company of the others.
First off we slogged up Alsation, part of a three and a half mile climb (give or take) which takes you from the River Mole at Leatherhead to the Headley car park. It’s hard work and quite a climb; in fact the whole run to Reigate is steadily uphill, and is now getting increasingly muddy as November wears on. A few short weeks ago I was buzzing along on dry dusty trails, now the mud is here with the constant need to quick steering corrections.
Once at Headley we ran round the back via some really muddy sections to the North Downs Way, picking it up near the Pfizer building. The next section is full of short, sharp ups and downs which really tests the legs before you eventually arrive up on Colley Hill. After an easy roll across the tops, it was soon time for that Colley Hill descent that really tested our skills.
Safely down, we crossed the Reigate Hill Road and ran across to Wray Lane where we were soon in Gatton Park. Our run round the perimeter soon had us turning uphill again for the long slog up to the tea rooms. This is an arduous climb and the singlespeeders were soon settled into a rhythm that balanced the little traction available over the wet roots with the need to just keep moving.
Steadily I caught Barrie and Dave and have to apologise to inadvertently having Barrie off on a particularly tight section of roots where I was focussed on the one line I could see that would let my Inbred move forward. Really Barrie, I am sorry!
The reward for our efforts was a warm drink and bacon and egg rolls for some, Eccles cakes for others at the Reigate tea room. After that we were on our way again back to Colley Hill where Lee made the comments I opened this report with. It was a fine view across the Hills, it’s not often you can view them in one go and a fair amount of the Weald as well.
Our path next took us across Walton Heath golf course which was unusually busy with golfers today. Strange men in odd clothing who have spent a fortune on their equipment. Where’s the fun in that?! Oh, yes I see your point! Anyway, we put that behind us and splashed and slid through the mud and puddles to Walton where we were soon retracing our steps to Headley.
The long muddy climb to the car park was eventually behind us and we parted from a racy looking Barrie who was off on his tarmac-based way to Ashtead as he had a deadline to be back for. We turned instead to Secret Singletrack which is finally starting to reappear through the Headley bracken. I was chased by Dave at a good old lick – great fun!
Moving on the Tyrells Wood the final descent of the day was the golf course run folowed by Alsation, freshly cleared of the obstructing tree from the other day. Alsation was hugely fast, I managed to leap the trackway by quite a margin and kept my speed up all the way even if I was quite worried about the zero levels of braking traction available on the wet leaves. Easy to move fast, impossible to stop quickly so I’m worried my behaviour was a little irresponsible.
But all were down safely and after parting from Joe and Paul we had only the long traipse back up to Bookham ahead of us. In all we notched 24 miles which was a good XC distance with the added bonus of an on-time, if not especially early return home. We were delayed a bit at the car park with trying to waylay a frightened lost dog, with Lee and myself having to eventually leave Erick and Dave to it. Hopefuly the owners turned up.
All in all, a tremendous ride, light on technical stuff but big on exercise.