Tuesday, 2 February 2016

More Explorations on Hometown Turf

It was MX practice at Frocester for Steve so I grabbed the chance for another mini adventure, riding from the track to Mums on Pigeon Sense.  No map, no Garmin, just following a vague homing instinct and seeing what I could find.

First though, there was the big ol' climb up Frocester Hill.  Great views across to the Severn Estuary made gaining height even more worthwhile. 

A narrow footpath dropping off the side of the road was just visible, barely used by the look of it. Figuring it was worth an explore, I dropped in the steep entrance and followed it through the bracken. Sure enough it was a good, natural feeling, single track descent, in need of a bramble trim, but steep enough to be fun, with a couple of corners.  The lower section ran over some common land and finished opposite a vaguely recognisable bridleway.

The footpath had been fun, but of course this also meant a significant drop in elevation, and an increase in mud.  To be honest, it wasn't all unrideable, the first section of double track and surprisingly much of the field crossing was fine, and pretty, even with clouds hanging over Cam and Coaley.

The snowdrops were out everywhere.  It was impossible to resist taking photos.

Without really noticing any gain in elevation, I made it to the top of the field easily enough, but then the mud began.  The bridleway passes back into the woods and there was a stretch of probably 200 meters that was just impossible to climb, hub deep gloop formed from the steep banks funneling run-off into the trail.

There was no rush though, no time pressure and no need to be anywhere else, so I carried on to see what would happen.  Sure enough, the trail began to change and I found a wonderful off-shoot that ran parallel to a fence, continuing for a fair time.  Dry, pedalable and with great views the whole length.  Why is is so special to be right on the horizon of a woodland, trapped in, but seeing escape?

This is a bit of a naughty photo.  That gorgeous piece of singletrack?  Well, yes, that's it - about 10 meters in length linking one muddy forest road to another.  The muddy forest road did, however, lead to another follow-the-fenceline trail, topped with savage barbed wire for extra excitement.  Even better was the surprise to find it finished on a juncture with main Uley Bury bridleway, just in time to fly down the steps at the bottom and try not to scare the walkers.

Following on from visiting Eyam, the Plague Village on Saturday, I thought it appropriate to grab a shot of Smallpox Hill whilst passing.  It's actually a pretty place when viewed from a distance, but with a horrid past of isolation of victims and suffering. Thankfully Edward Jenner lived just up the road in Berkeley so we no longer need to see people die of such a painful virus.

Hoping to ride a fast, albeit quite flat bridleway found last year I headed round the lane.  To find, erm, not fast.  In fact, I didn't even persist on this one.  Definitely a trail for dry weather.

Resisting the temptation (just) to ride down the steps of the war memorial, I headed up through Cam Hopton, knowing there were footpaths running over the river and heading into the council estates of Everlands and Kingshill.  No cycling signs are meaningless here, bikes obviously pass though. There are much bigger things the council should be worrying about.  Let the kids ride where they like and have fun! As when they are riding, they aren't up to other activities, far worse.

Urban singletrack

Urban northshore

This area of three storey blocks, steps and strange wall-lined footpaths is regularly in one of my reoccurring dreams.  I have no idea why, I guess something happened there as a child but my mind has blanked it out, although the dreams are never nightmares.  Who knows.  I do know it was exceptionally surreal to revisit it after so many years.  It must be 25 years since I have been here.

Eventually I headed back to mums, but made a last minute decision to investigate another strange little footpath I knew as a child.  After pushing through the metal barrier at the top, I found myself in a hidden passageway between the two main roads.  High walls, open grassland, into high fences with 90 degree blind corners and then suddenly, back into reality.  I wonder how many folks actually use this path?  It's pretty claustrophobic, but brilliant all the same.