Sunday 18th

Those present for the final Sunday ride of 2016:

Fiona McGarry
Gemma Lynch
Claire McRae
Andrew Tweddle
Peter Whitworth
David Edgar - photos c/o David
Terry Kirkup

The Sad Old One had spent an hour or two plotting this new route the previous evening, hoping to create a nice cross-country loop around the area just to the west of Davy’s domicile at High Spen.
Hopefully that would mean if Terry lost his way he’d be rescued by the young’un and all would be well, as if it had been planned that way.

A lovely, flat calm morning awaited the compact group as first Fiona, Peter and Andy met up with Terry at ASDA and piled their gear and bikes into the van before cruising over to the Dark Side at Lintzford to meet up with Claire and Gemma, but where was David? We sat there and waited for 5 minutes. Then 10. Still no Davy! “All he has to do is freewheel down that hill” quipped TK pointing up the tree line aside Chopwell Wood. It got to almost 9:50, a good 15 minutes beyond the agreed meeting time so we took an Executive decision to head on up to Blackhall Mill and either see if he was there or just bu@@er off and forget about him. As we pulled into the picnic area, there he was sat waiting. Just as well it wasn’t pittling down!

We still couldn’t get started after we were ready to roll though, because our unsuspecting saviour was having trouble getting any gears on his Norco, the outer cable being eased out of the lever each time it changed up a gear. We messed with it a while and poured some water on the jockey wheels which at least got him underway. But he immediately warned that my chosen route was a little on the impassable side last time he tried it – great!

As it turned out that initial foray onto singletrack was very pleasant, unexpectedly firm under the wheels and no problem at all to ride. It was also quite a nice route and got even better when it turned downward. First slight hitch came when Terry directed everyone the wrong way after the first quarter mile or so, but that was quickly corrected by Davy and moments later we were enjoying a splendid riverside romp along more skinny stuff which took us out into Blackhall Mill Village where we crossed the road bridge and continued to follow the river on the opposite bank. Forest time.

There were two ways to go at the fork but the plan was to tackle the north side first and return later on the south. Time for our first serious climb, and not only was it well ramped upwards but the surface was inches thick, claggy, yellow mud thanks to forestry work currently going on. That was really hard work and at the top we again had to give the Norco a drink to free off the jockey wheels, and there was a clothing removal session at the same spot (not at all exciting) as it was anything but cool on the bikes by now.

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Terry led off on the forest fireroad until after a short while he spotted an offshoot with visible signs of a bike tyre running through it. “Whaddya reckon?” he enquired of our local expert. “Well, we should go straight on really” he replied before speeding off to check what was beyond the next bend. On his return we sort-of-agreed that the direction of this enticing looking track wouldn’t hurt the inevitable outcome much, so off we bopped, again finding plenty of enjoyable singletrack with enough tree roots and broken branches to keep us alert. This little detour was well worth it as it sure didn’t affect the overall plan, and a few minutes later we stuck in another one for good measure before Davy again corrected my direction of travel to get us back on track. You can see from the GPS trace that I was in fact spot on with my estimate of our expected exit point (lucky boy!). 

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After another short mud-plugging session we’d reached the end of the forest bridle path and there was just a slightly boggy section to negotiate above Whittonstall Quarry before we emerged onto the tarmac of Lead Lane chased by a few motorbikes, and a quick map check before swooping downhill in search of the next off-road section. We’d be back here to do the same downhill road section again exactly an hour later.

A fairly rough, steepish uphill drag faced us now but most of it was rideable after the first slope and again we were in pretty nice terrain for biking as the track narrowed. Davy remembered our previous trip here while I couldn’t, at least not immediately, then the odd landmark triggered a few recollections. I have to admit I may have mistaken a few footpaths for bridleways today but I wasn’t the only one – plenty of horses hoof evidence on show making the going even harder in places…

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Another pleasant jaunt through the trees, this part being fairly level around the contours of the nearest hill before a nice bit of rough downhill took us back to firebreak. It was here that all but three of us had to be called back from the planned climb up towards Hedley on the Hill after the ride planners discussed the value, or lack of value, of a long, steep climb followed by a pointless road section and decided to chop off the final triangle of the planned route. We stopped a few minutes later for snacks in weak sunshine at 12:10pm.

Farm track took us out to Lead Lane again for the second time, but at the foot of the hill we turned left this time on a great section of level skinny, made only slightly dodgy by the barbed wire alongside our left elbows. Care needed here when the speed rose a bit behind Davy. We enjoyed the next mile in the trees, stopping only for me to dump the Trek in the river to clear the rear derailleur and finally emerging at Ebchester where our Tim Burdett came a cropper right at the end of the singletrack last time we were here in January 2013.

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All that was left now was the decision whether or not to risk either the A694 back to the cars or the field crossing close to farms. We chose the road, but back on it Davy suggested we climb a bit further (heave, a decent climb this one!) and jump onto the Derwent Walk instead. That made the end of the ride much better than expected, and we even got a treat with a super little singletrack trail through the trees back to the finish. I must say how very pleasant all the pedestrians we encountered were in this neck of the woods, quite unusual. And I'd better say Well Done Claire, as she hadn't ridden for a month or so and some of today's climbs hurt a bit!

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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.

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