It wasn’t my fault, honest! Last night we headed out for our regular Wednesday night ride, mindful of the heavy rain we’ve had recently. Nobody expected it to be mud free but last night proved to be some of the muddiest conditions we’ve had for some time. The Moles got properly muddy for a change!
I tried to pick a route that was on firmer ground but it was inevitable that mud would feature somewhere. We (Colin, Lee, Tony, Jem, DaveP and myself) headed up to Ranmore first via the back of Polesdon, going under the wooden bridge and up Yew Trees. There was a noticeable reluctance from everyone to lead the way down here so I stepped forward (difficult to do on a bike). It wasn’t until I’d jumped the drainage gully and was racing down the slope that it started to occur to me I had no idea what I was riding into! It must be 7 weeks since we passed this way.
Chalk and water don’t mix and I had a short moment of panic until it was behind me and we were heading up the stiff climb. It never gets any easier. The flinty track from there up to Ranmore also proved to be anything but. Logging traffic must have been out in force over the past weeks and the trail was covered with thick, draggy goo which didn’t bode well. This section was supposed to be one of the mud free ones.
With rain in the air, a thick mist started to fall. I thought at first it was my glasses steaming up but things didn’t improve with them off, our lights reflecting back off the fog and making it difficult to navigate. We arrived on Ranmore with me thinking I still had a third of the trail to cover—much to my relief—and then missed the turnoff to Badger Run so had to carry on to the car park where the ambulance picked me up after my collarbone injury.
From there it was onto Collarbone (the trail). We knew this was going to be muddy but oh. my. God!! A slippy, slidey mess of slick roots and heavy clay it was all we could do to stay upright, not helped by near impenetrable fog. This section still gives me the wibbles from my accident, even going in the other direction and at half speed.
After that, the chalky White Down descent beckoned and I think everyone was starting to feel quite twitchy at the prospect. I don’t think we’ve ever come down there more carefully and our caution was well merited. Super slick chalk, gulleys and water run off had created an accident waiting to happen but fortunately we all reached the bottom with only the odd slide to trouble us. It wasn’t a time for heroics.
Now, I have to admit I have something of a reputation for making hopelessly optimistic statements and once again I managed to jump the gun somewhat. All I said was ‘let’s head for firmer ground’, with the intention of crossing the big field and picking up the farm track to Westcot. Unfortunately, that big field had just been heavily ploughed and then rained on with the result that our efforts to ride it quickly veered wildly (almost as wildly as our bikes) toward hysterical!
By now the rain was setting in for the duration as we headed over to the trackway climb up to Ranmore again. We all settled into a steady and reasonably fast pace with the result that although it wasn’t painless, at least it was dispatched as quickly as possible. Meeting Jem and DaveP’s mates near Ranmore Church, Colin, Lee and myself indulged in a spot of nostalgic musing which I won’t go into. Suffice to say what happens on a ride, stays on a ride!
It obviously flustered Lee as he made a hash of the Denbies descent, stacking it into the trees halfway down. Luckily, as with White Down we were travelling much slower than usual so there was no harm done but it’s not the place I’d like to wipeout on in normal circumstances.
Denbies Vinyard was freezing as usual, several degrees colder than Ranmore and with cold rain blowing right in our faces. Deciding that it was time to head back we spun down to Norbury Park, our legs starting to feel the impact of all that mud mashing. Climbing through Norbury, we even stuck to the road all the way up to the sawmill and parted company near the crossroads at Bockett’s, Jem and Tony heading up the hill with DaveP, Lee and myself going round the big field. Colin still had a bit of singletrack in him as he headed off through Bockett’s toward Leatherhead. Another highly enjoyable ride was over.
So it leaves us with a problem for the weekend. There’s mud everywhere and even a relatively firm route like tonight proved to be shocking in places. If the weather stays dry things might improve for the weekend although I can imagine that creating even stickier conditions. Guess we’ll have to wait and see ’til then.