Now correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t the UK been the driest on record this year with some areas hardly getting a drop of rain for nearly four months? Well that area is mine…and whilst it hasn’t exactly been a drought…for the most part all of the riding tracks and trails are bone dry…even those deep in the forests where I tend to spend a lot of my time these days.
Now I know I’m on limited time with the forest trails at the moment because as soon as they’re wet then they’ll turn into a rutted mess. So I do my part and tend to stick to byways or open field tracks during the winter and early Spring, then return back to the trees in late Spring where upon I’ll not be leaving much of a trace of my passage.
So today whilst out riding more ridges and valley tracks in the forests, I decided to try one last trail that I had spotted on my way home. I knew it led into a large private estate but I was convinced that the first part was open access…so I took the plunge and headed uphill along the rocky trail whilst dodging the huge tree roots that crossed my path as I went.
All was well, all was fine until I got to a dead end and was confronted with a tall security gate to the estate which meant I had to double back. No dramas, I thought…I’ll just head back to the last intersection of trails and take the other one.
I must mention that in this particular forest I had come across a lot of forestry work and many thick logs and branches had been left lying across the trails, so it meant frequently getting off the bike and moving them clear so that I could pass. Yes…I know I keep saying I must buy a folding saw and carry it with me!
On a very narrow section with lots of low hanging branches, it became quite a task to keep the bike going and also find a flat spot to park it up with the need to clear the path. I could feel myself being taken over by the sheer will to get the job done and reach the end…but that also meant I was using a lot of energy and getting very hot and sticky in the process. Not a good look for any prospective onlooking admirers..if ever there were any?
After finally reaching the crossroad of trails again, I knew that a few hundred yards away I would find an easy exit out of the woods, but I decided to try another route that would hopefully allow me to exit on the other side, thus extending my pleasure…well that turned out to be a big mistake.
As I progressed along the tracks, I started to encounter a few boggy patches and deep ruts. Although they were about 2 feet wide, they were also a couple of feet deep too…which meant once I was in them with the heavy lump of a bike…I was stuck in them until the end or a flat spot would allow me to cross over.
The further I tracked along, the wetter it became, the more overgrown it was and the more occasions I had to get off the bike to clear branches and even manhandle the bike in and out of the deep ruts, and the bogs that sank the bike up to the pegs. Suffice to say…the engine was revved with conviction and the knobbly tyres eventually did their business too.
By this time the bike was covered in crud, as was I up to my thighs…but I was still in the thick of it. After seemingly getting stuck for about the umpteenth time, I eventually got to a place which I could not pass and the trail had all but disappeared too. Thankfully the rut was slightly shallower at this point, so I managed to turn the bike around and begin to head back…but not before having a good walk around to see if there was a possibility of riding around it as I was only about a 100m away from the edge of the forest.
The return leg was pretty much the same…more boggy ruts, more branches to clear and a lot more manhandling of the beast so that I could navigate my way out of this jungle hell. At one stage I was knee deep in a bog trying to clear branches…and I must have disturbed something because I was attacked by a plague of flies and insects which were unfashionably large but at least they didn’t bite. Probably felt sorry for me!
Eventually I made it back to the crossroads, completely shattered, out of breath and thankful that I had managed to keep it together and had been able to reduce myself from a sticky situation.
So what’s the moral of the story? Well I’m sure there are hundreds…however wherever you’re riding you sometimes have those nagging doubts which tell you to turn around even when the way is clear. I had many of those moments today but I was also determined to see how far the trail would go before I was forced to turn back. But I really do need to carry a folding saw…that’s for sure but at least the bike didn’t get dropped and it ended up being a good workout too. No gym for me then!