Forest, Desert and Lakes: world tour in 3 hours!
Too long a ride for a blow-by-blow ride report, so here are some incidents from the day. Look out for the deliberate general knowledge mistake and PM me in the usual way. The answer and results in a few days. Please do not refer to the mistake in replies tot he thread.
I’, riding through the forest on new tracks. The “authorities” have apparently used a mini bull dozer to make a scar through the forest, and then built it up with ballast. The health and safety people have filled in the deeper hollows and smoothed the steeper bumps - then the leisure and recreation people have added new hollows and bumps, so the track bears little relationship to the terrain to either side. Crazy people!
Riding up a gentle hill on one of the older tracks, there is a deep hole with a puddle at the bottom. All other puddles I have met today have been shallow, so I apply the inductive principle and ride confidently into the puddle, only for the wheel to sink up to the hub. I UPD, landing in the slimy mud on the far side of the puddle and turn round to see the seat almost completely submerged.
Riding along the raised railway track bed. The tracks were removed years ago, and the bed has subsided into a series of dips, with each of the dips forming a puddle after heavy rain. Knowing from experience that some of these puddles are very deep indeed, I am cautious. Some of the puddles reach right to the edge of the track, and gorse and brambles overhang the edges of the puddles. I adopt a strategy of riding the curved edge of each puddle as fast as I can, leaning in away from the thorns, “Wall of Death” style. The only difference is that if I fall, death will be by drowning!
Sitting in the shade and resting. I hear a noise above me in the chestnut tree. Then I hear something hitting the ground. After a few moments, I realise a squirrel is up there, nibbling through the stalks and dropping the acorns to the ground so it can bury them later.
I take a different route from usual and find myself climbing a long gravel and sand hill. From the top, there is a long gradual descent. At the bottom is an earthen bank with a smooth “saddle”. Just before it is a muddy puddle. It looks ridable. I hit the puddle fast, lose momentum, and then stall on the bank and UPD. Just as well: when I walk the last few feet to the top of the bank, I see that the other side drops into a steep sided ditch full of dirty water and rubbish!
Back on the concrete, on the land of a disused colliery, I see a track I’ve never seen before. In the distance is a hill with what looks like an aerial mast at the top. It’s a hard climb on rutted tracks, with the last bit bumpy, gravelly and slippery, but I make it. It may be the hardest climb I’ve ever done “in one” and when I reach the top I give an animal roar of achievement and spontaneously lift my uni above my head and brandish it like a trophy.
I sit at the top of the hill for a while until I realise I am starting to burn in the early autumn sun. The descent looks like one of those that is easy to ride but dramatic to watch, and I can see that a 4X4 is parked in the field opposite, with the farmer apparently watching me. I set off rather too fast, and it becomes one of those descents that is dramatic to ride and funny to watch. But I make it down in one.
A bit later, illegally crossing some wasteland belonging to the old colliery, I see to chavs with their distinctive jogging bottoms, baseball caps and all-weather hoods, skinny physiques and skulking gait. They are carrying something. They see me. One of them says something to his friend and they duck down almost out of sight and then I hear a car door. An engine starts and a blue VW Polo wheelspins away. Obviously these chavs were up to no good, and thought I was a security guard on unicycle patrol!
Riding across another part of the colliery yard, graffiti everywhere, buildings smashed, narrow gauge tracks half buried, weeds growing everywhere. Those chavs’ dads, uncles or grandparents probably worked here. Now it’s slowly being destroyed. I see a Land Rover and it looks like there’s a real security guard. I wonder what to say if he challenges me. How about, “I’m researching a biography of Michael Hesseltine”? That should go down well in Mansfield.
I ride onto the desert: acres of sand and dried mud, slowly being overgrown by silver birch sapplings. I hear catcalls from a group of youths in a Suzuki 4X4. A bit later, I meet a bunch of kids and I stop for a chat. they’re pleasant enough, and ask some sensible questions, but spoil it when I UPD shortly after leaving them and they laugh derisively.
High up on the spoil heap where the ground is hard, grey and rutted. The sun is hotter than I thought and I feel exposed like a bug on a table. I make may way over to a small stand of silver birches, sit in their shade and drink from my Camelbak, and eat a Snickers. The birch leaves are just turning golden, and a few have fallen.
Even higher, on a raised sandy area, where youths with dirt bikes shout inane comments. I find a route down, crunching and sliding on gravel and sand, then find myself in beatutiful open woodland: beech, chestnut and oak trees on a golden carpet of leaf mulch, with no undergrowth. The trails winds gently down the slope and the sun shines through the leafy canopy. This is England at its best.
I come out near to a lake I’ve never seen before. After the recent rains, it has spread over the path. I duck between trees and a low branch catches in the vent of my helmet. My momentum carries me forward, but the helmet stays where it is, and I nearly hang myself with the strap. Nasty.
I meet the bunch of kids again. More derisive laughter. Determined not to UPD this time, I ride a storming ascent of a sand, gravel and rutted mud path until I’m way out of sight and earshot. Then my way is blocked by a massive flood. I find my way through the trees at the side, and come back out near the youths with the dirt bikes.
Back in the forest, on my last reserves of energy. All this climbing, all the sand and gravel, and I’m not as fit as I used to be. I UPD unnecessarily, and take the opportunity for a break. I drain my Camelback dry, then eat my reserve Snickers. Looking up through the trees, I see a buzzard soaring overhead.
A group of mountainbikers pass. The first asks if I’m OK because I’ve stopped. The second spoils this moment of cameraderie by asking where my other wheel is.
Very tired now, and only 300 metres from the car, I have to pass a field full of basking idiots. One gets up on his elbow and says, not for my amusement, but for the edification of his fellows, “Do you know you’ve lost a wheel?” My patience is stretched thin. “The first time I heard that was 20 years ago,” I say, with some asperity. His response combines indignation and sheepishness in more or less equal measure.