There has been much discussion on this site concerning sartorial elegance this week, and this ride also had a sartorial theme which did not really make itself known until part way through the ride.
Assembling at the usual meeting point of the Esso Garage were myself and work colleague Rohloff Tim, Colin, James Pro, Keith, Trevor, Adam and his mate Chris; with Paul M even making it before the off.
Following recent disasters out Ranmore way, we decided Box Hill was a suitable destination this evening, with James fancying himself for the bridleway climb. I had in mind that we could start with the Alsation climb followed by the likes of Chain Breaker, High Ashurst climb (now that I ‘own’ it), then China Pig etc.
Keith & I were doing our best ‘old codgers’ impression as we debated the best way of getting there, when Colin pitched up and told us he really fancied a ‘cheeky route’ called Druids’ Grove via the saw mill. Keith & I recognized a man with a definite plan, and promptly shut up and followed him.
Following a route that took us across the Admirals Track and past the top of Wiggly Wood, then a number of steep climbs that sorted the men from the boys (i.e. left me gasping at the back), we found ourselves at the saw mill in Norbury Park.
Here it became apparent that we had 2 distinct groups on this ride, but it was nothing to do with pace or ability. Tim, James, Trevor & Keith were sporting red riding tops; Colin, Chris, Adam and Paul in black (mainly) riding tops. As you might expect, D’Andy here was the only one attired differently in a brown & green Race Face number (btw – the minging shorts arrived this morning, causing much mirth in the Dandy household).
Sadly (or is that fortunately) we have no photos of this attempt at group colour coordination, and having decided against a game of 4 a side with me as the umpire, we pressed on.
After a few false starts, Colin eventually found the way to Druids’ Grove, and what a cracking little trail it proved to be. Narrow, rooty and off-camber, it was certainly a challenge which saw a few of us sliding into the undergrowth on the downhill side of the trail.
Unfortunately it then involves a very steep climb with lots of pushing for us mere mortals, though apparently at the front Adam cleaned the climb. Particularly impressive was a large root step that Adam said needed a bit of speed to get over. The problem with it was that it was at the top of a very steep 30 foot climb, where our speed would have been at a slow crawl if we weren’t already off and pushing.
We were again rewarded with some more off-camber, rooty singletrack descending, however; before circling round under the side of the hill and back parallel to the A24 at Mickleham. Our consensus was ‘great trail’, but we need to cut a few switchbacks in to link the two DH halves together and avoid the ‘straight up’ push (for most of us, except Adam!).
Maybe some cheeky, nocturnal footpath remodeling is required? We’ll have to take some dogs with us as cover, though the gardening tools may give the game away.
After a short road ride through Mickleham and past Juniper Hall, it was time for the Box Hill challenge. I have to confess I didn’t record the times, but there were quite a few of us in the 8-9 minutes band, and no doubt someone will tell us what time Adam and Chris managed. I lost sight of them after about 100 metres, as they sped off hotly pursued by James.
Further up the hill I was passed by Trevor, Paul and Colin, but I managed to keep these three in sight as I came in just under the 9 minute mark. After a pause for recuperation we headed towards China Pig for what is always a fun descent in these dry summer evenings.
Lights were becoming necessary here to pick out all the detail as darkness descended early in the shadows of the hills and trees. Following the short road section back to Juniper Hall, we headed up and along Stane Street before descending on Alsation.
Here I managed to get a fair bit of height across the second road, giving Paul a bit of a shock as I clattered back down just a few feet behind him. At the bottom of Alsation we said goodbye to Paul who headed back to Dorking, while we headed back towards Leatherhead and Bookham.
Saying our good-nights to Colin and Trevor in Leatherhead, the remaining dirty half-dozen headed back via Bocketts Farm. Adam, Chris and James sprinted out the final climb back up to the Admirals Track, with Keith gamely hanging on to show there was life in at least some members of Team Port ‘n Stilton.
I couldn’t tell you how that uphill sprint worked out, as Tim and I convinced ourselves that at this stage it was essential for post-ride recuperation to gently spin out the last 5 minutes. A refreshing pint of Shere Drop in The Anchor with James further enhanced that recuperation.
Another excellent evening ride in fine summer conditions, with a new ‘cheeky’ trail to add to our repertoire. Time to get the gardening gloves on, Colin!