SPRING HAS FINALLY SPRUNG AND THE SHORTS ARE OUT….

I love this time of year.  There is still a slight chill in the air but the promise of warm weather to come.  You can feel the sun on your face and you know that today is going to be a good day to ride…

This weekend I visited the Surrey Hills and the ‘playground’ around Leith Hill, Holmbury St Mary & Peaslake. It is a mecca for road cycling and mountain biking and today I am here with my mountain bike – who is now aptly named ‘Frodo’ – WHY Frodo!  because it was the first time he stepped out the shire….

We head out from Cranleigh to the hills by road, its not too far so we leave the car on the drive.  Arriving at the trail, after taking just one wrong turn and taking one of the many fire tracks up into the hills. This first section is home to some interesting sounding single track routes like ‘Yoghurt Pots’ and ‘Barry Knows Best’. I have no idea why they are named thus, but for what it’s worth they are a lot of fun. Check out the YouTube clips available and you can see for yourself.

There are plenty of car parks so you don’t have to rely on parking miles away. They are dotted around the hills each one offering you cycling tracks that link up all the various routes, trails and single track sections.

 

PLANNING A ROUTE

We don’t have a route in mind we are just happy to follow our nose to the top. My husband growing up a stones throw from here is adamant that maps are not required, however the ride leader in me believes that you can never be too careful. So take  my advice if this is your first visit I recommend you head for one of the centres and the local bike shop, Pedal & Spoke in Peaslake to get some local knowledge, they are open all weekend.  Even with map in hand you may also need a few well pointed directions and everyone we spoke to on the route were happy to assist and show us little short cuts through the trails and hints on where the riding is good today.

Just watch out for the signs that separate the cyclists from the walkers, they work well but just make sure you are on the correct route, especially on the ascent/descent from Leith Hill Tower as they criss cross each other.

The trails are absolutely packed, but still plenty of room for everyone to enjoy themselves.  You will encounter horses, walkers, dogs of all shapes and sizes, wild deer and of course that illustrious breed the downhill mountain biker! Everyone was friendly, however it goes along way to be courteous to your fellow man, give way to each other and please slow and even stop and wait for horses and children. Neither take kindly to flying cyclists….

Our destination was the top of Leith Hill to enjoy a cup of tea and the much talked about sausage roll they offer. It was just a shame the mist had not cleared enough to enjoy the view.

At the top you get a 360 view of the area and we were reliably informed that on a clear day you can see the Shard. Today we are not so lucky so we content our selves with the proffered refreshments and get ready to experience the rush of the descent.

Mountain biking is one of those times when you can say ‘its all downhill from here’ and be happy about it….

We make quick work off the first hill and then we have the unexpected climb back through Holmbury St Mary to wind our way home.  It is truly beautiful cycling through these little villages, you get a different sense of a place whilst on the bike.  Off-Road me gives an appreciation for the lay of the land, you feel every lump and bump and you can get a glimpse of the different wildlife in the undergrowth as well as a feel for the seasons as they progress. You just need to slow it down occasionally to really see it.

 

STOOLBALL

You also get to find out interesting facts about a place, just stop and talk to the people around you and be curious.  On our ride this weekend we found a sport that I had never heard about before. By all accounts Stoolball is a game played traditionally by milkmaids in the 1800’s. There is a league and many teams play around the South of England – maybe further afield too.  If you want to find out more there is a Stoolball England site that will tell you all you need to know.  I just enjoyed talking to the ladies practising at the Holmbury St Mary’s Cricket Ground, I would have had a go to if my lunch wasn’t calling.

 

Originally published for Tyres and Trails in April 2016