Words: Tom Scott
On Sunday 15 March, the crème de la crème of MBS met up at Steven Dunn’s house for a ride in the South Chilterns; Tom Scott, Graham Burgess, Gary Lee, Paul Allum, Martin Lowe, Tim Benge, Stew & Steven Dunn.
We were all forewarned; this was going to be a ‘proper’ MTB ride; approx 32 miles and 3000 feet of climbing and those stats were not far out. Although the weather forecast was light showers and windy it did in fact stay dry and was mostly calm. Even better, the ground had dried out but Steven was quick to point out that also had to do with his carefully selected route that avoided the (very) muddy valley sections.
If you read the previous Chiltern Ride Report it went something like this; up, down, up, down etc etc and guess what? It was the same again. This part of the Chilterns does not do flat bits; you are either climbing or descending; these rolling hills give you a full on work out you but there are many rewards to be gained.
We set off and almost immediately we were on the loamy stuff, the Chiltern trail just happens to run behind the houses in Steven’s road, and then we climbed out of Marlow Bottom via some local woods. We could see that these would be fun to come down and this was to occur again later; we were going to do some sections both ways. Steady climbs that make such great descents and at the same time not feel in the slightest bit familiar.
I recognised the start but that was to soon change; Steven stated that while he wanted to avoid the excessively muddy valleys he also wanted to avoid much of what Gary Palmer and I had been shown in September. He was not wrong.
After descending a steep rocky descent we then had to climb up the other side through the woods and I think with only about 3 miles completed a few riders were wondering what they had let themselves in for; up/down/up/down/up = WTF !!! As we warmed up, and things started to get relatively easier, it became a lot more interesting. Next up was a sweet little woodland section called Adders Wood as it is an adder reserve (yes, really) and then down the wonderful Nun’s Gully, a rocky rooty steep descent with chalk gulleys that goes past an old nunnery.
After riding through Turville we left the road for a long off road climb up to North End. So that they could go at their own pace; mountain goats Graham and Gary were told to wait for us at the top. It a lovely scenic but quite energy sapping climb and we regrouped at the top. Unfortunately although they had time tea had not been brewed. Maybe Graham and Gary should do the decent thing and get some Kelly kettles? 😉 😉
Then Steven says; see those woods over there? There are two woodland valleys, no roads and they eventually meet up with the Oxfordshire Way (that I rode with him and Gary Palmer back in September). Singletrack heaven, our eyes light up and then he casually says, we will do that another day … and a little later we did not mind.
Up next, the Wormsley Estate (owned by the Getty family) and one of Steven’s favourites; a long, long gradual woodland ST descent that reminds us, as if we needed reminding, why we ride a MTB. Wonderful stuff. We are in a valley, we can hear bleating and then see the lambs feeding off their mothers and all we can see is hills. Hmm, climbing ahead. Steven points out that there are six trails into this valley and the route choices he has to make every time he comes here (ba$tard, LOL) and he opts to take us back up to North End. This is a steep and quite technical climb, as usual the 2Gs are sent ahead and the rest follow where we are greeted by a small group of roe deer crossing the path as we reach the top.
Now back down the earlier climb, OMG what a wonderful descent, get it wrong and there is a six foot drop onto the main road, Steven says it is easier at night because you cannot see the road, then back to Turville and it is time to climb to Frieth. This is the toughest climb of the day and Steven very generously allows us to take the narrow road up encouraging us by saying this is buying two wonderful woodland ST trails. He was not wrong, these two trails each traverse a hill, flow and have various roots and stumps to overcome, some of it is even ‘off piste’. These ST runs bring us out at our tea & cake stop in Hambleden.23 miles down, 10 to go.
Hambleden is in a valley – the only way is up. A woodland ST climb and then Steven briefly takes us on a minor road to get us to Danesfield access to Marlow Common. I have been here before but as I was pleased to find this was new. Marlow Common is just full of great singletrack that work both ways and Steven just takes us through a sample of the area. A lot of fun but most of our legs are now getting tired and it has been a full on day, riding ST can be hard work mentally as well as physically.
After yet another; ‘well there is loads that way and that way but we will go this way’ comment from Steven we set off to return to his home and our cars. Rather than the woodland ST that we climbed earlier Steven took us down Cardiac Hill (as the locals call it) he thinks it might a 25% climb and I am not arguing with that, so we were glad to go down it. One more climb and then we descended through the woods that started the ride which brought our big grins in all of us and was a great way to end the ride.
As we got back to Steven’s house I think it is fair to say that most of us were knackered but we had smiling faces and felt we had just had a great day out on our MTBs. Even better; all the bikes were clean and no-one had any muddy clothing. “When are we coming back” was a frequently asked question.