Just recently it seems many of my rides have been blighted by bridleways that look interesting on the map but are actually really dull, or ones that have disappeared under an impenetrable mass of brambles, nettles and other overgrowth. The North Dorset Downs seems particularly bad in this respect. On the map it looks fantastic, lots of access land criss-crossed with bridleways and more contour lines than you can shake a stick at; on the ground, however, it’s just bridleways around field edges or totally blocked tracks between hedges.
Thankfully this appears to have abated, due to giving up on the explore-new-places idea that has resulted in more than a few rubbish rides. Tuesday evening involved a wonderful ride around the Mendips and Cheddar Gorge on the 29er; some fantastic singletrack and not an overgrown track in sight. Very enjoyable indeed.
To continue the theme Saturday involved another trip to the Quantocks on the muni, which can always be depended on to provide top-notch trails all year round, and this time didn’t disappoint.
My visit was mainly prompted by an article in MBR magazine I noticed before last weekend’s Manchester to Blackpool ride. The article mentioned a trail I hadn’t seen or heard of before; I thought I’d been everywhere there was to go on the Quantocks, so had to go investigate.
After the compulsory attempt at my personal Everest - I didn’t do very well, probably due to having not ridden as much as normal just recently, and being unused to the muni - I headed over to the area in question. As is the normal way of things I found the bottom of a trail that snaked upwards into the woods. (Why is it always this way? Why can’t I ever find the top of a trail first, rather than having to trudge up from the bottom each time?) The trail wound its way up through dense forest and emerged on a track I’d ridden several times, but never noticed the hole in the trees I had just popped out of. After a quick breather I turned around and headed back into the darkness for the trip back down.
It was fantastic! The first section was a really tight, narrow trail winding around the trees, dipping down into a gully and out the other side a few times to add some fun little drops and steep bits. The trail popped out at the junction I started from at just the right angle to reveal a similar hole in the trees on the other side; again, a junction I’d ridden over many times but never seen the trail I took now.
This bit of trail started out more open that the first, and could accurately be described as “swoopy” while retaining the high quota of rooty bits that trails in this part of the Quantocks require. As it curved around the hill the corners got tighter and the ground rougher until it joined a section of singletrack known as “The Chimney”; a very steep and narrow gully that frankly scares the pants off me. One of these days I’ll ride it and crash horribly; but until then I’ll enjoy the feeling of sucessfully getting to the bottom without any person / tree interface experiments.
After that even the most overgrown trail or most boring field edge couldn’t have wiped the grin off. It was amazing to think that despite having ridden all over the Quantocks many times, here was over half a mile of fantastic singletrack that I never knew about until then, even after riding past both ends and across the middle several times.
It was nice to be back on the muni, after only one short ride since the BMW ages ago. You forget how big the tyre is after feeling every bump on the 29er; the soft “coosh” as it folds its way over roots and bumps without moving the rest of the unicycle, and the buzz of the tyre as the tread flings the occasional bit of trail detritus into the air, giving passers by a short sharp shower of sheep, erm, poo.