Riding in Surrey Hills

Being based a little South of London we usually head over to Wales for our Mountain Bike kicks – Wales being the nearest mountains we can find to the Metropolis, unless there is a mysterious mountain range that has remained off our radar that you think we should try…

One of our group kept telling us about Surrey Hills where there was supposed to be some great riding a lot closer to home, with a little scepticism we decided to go over there and find out just how great it was.

Happy crew waving for the camera, except one who is ordering pizza

As I said earlier one of our group had been there before and the loose idea was to thread together some of the popular trails and a few hidden gems, take in a cake stop at Peaslake and then head back home for mid afternoon, everything sounded cool and dandy and just over an hour’s drive away, perfect.

We arrived at the car park at Holmbury Hill, which really is off the beaten track, but once you find it you know you are in the right place as there are bikes and biker’s cars all over the place. There are no facilities there to speak of, just some errrrrr fragrant bushes, so do not expect too much in the way of comfort or refreshments.

A fire road climb on the peculiarly sandy soil that this part of Surrey is blessed with had us at a misty summit with lookout point come monument that gave commanding, if foggy, views of the surrounding countryside. The climb was steady to easy giving a nice warm up to our morning’s riding, very pleasant.

The first named trail is known locally as “Yoghurt Pots” we believe because of the unique consistency of the mud there that looks a bit like…. Yoghurt. Although I would suggest probably does not taste like the delightful, tangy dairy product that we know and love. The trail itself is quite fun, a kind of singletrack, brown, dairy coated roller coaster with some berms and off camber twists with a few rolling jumpy bits. Enough to put a smile on your face and want to go round and do it again although the family walking back up the trail probably would not have thanked us for that.

A bit of looping around had us over at “Barry Knows Best”, arguably the best known trail in the area, I am sure the locals know many more but this is the one we had heard the most about. The trail is thoughtfully carved out of the hillside and really makes the most out of the gradient and terrain. It gradually builds speed through a series of rolling jumps into a series of switchbacks with a nice natural flow to it that delivers a good combination of grins and thrills that leaves you wanting more. Fortunately there is a straight, fire road route back to the top which means you can session the trail until your heart is content, getting quicker and quicker on the descent as your feel and familiarity with the trail builds, a lot of fun.

From here it was a spin along to the excellent shop come deli in Peaslake where they do excellent cheese straws, piping hot, ideal for a mid ride snack. It gets very busy here with bikers and locals, but there is a nice vibe about the place with some eye candy in the form of exotic bikes to look at. Suitably refreshed it is a steady road climb back up to Barry Knows Best again or onto some of the other delights that are found in these parts.

From here it was a bit of a blur, some local, inside knowledge had us at some pretty gnarly downhill stuff (looked like a cliff) very short but a pretty intense, gravity assisted run to the bottom, as Buzz Lightyear would say “not so much flying, more falling with style”. One of our group had an over the bars moment and a bang on the head which unfortunately was not captured on film, so it was off for a bit more “insider” singletrack and then back up for another faster run at “Yoghurt Pots”.

With grins from ear to ear and the whole place starting to get a bit crowded it was suggested that we have one final descent down “Telegraph Road” to the carpark. This we were promised would be fun and fast, if not thrilling but would be quick way back to the van and a suitable end to the morning’s fun. Telegraph Road is imaginatively named after the Telegraph poles that line the trail down through the woods. The trail itself rolls steadily down slope on singletrack that gradually builds speed. Technically there is nothing there to speak of, there are some small steps that you can jump off as you go down at speed carrying as much air and dust as you can muster and you are spat out all too soon back into the now very full car park.

So the verdict? Well worth the trip, not a total adrenalin fest, but we were not expecting that, some fun trails, within spitting distance of London, a great place to hone your skills and session trails in preparation for more ambitious stuff. Will we we back? You can bet our stockbroker’s bonus on it.

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