Ride Report: The Hidden Valley, 31 May 09

3 06 2009

A “Classic Ride” on the South Downs was what Lisa and Rick promised us for the end of May ride and frankly, as most of us have been sampling the mountain biking in a lot of different areas of the British Isles over the last month, it was a great opportunity to get back to some of the fab trails closer to home.

hidden valley 4

Clear blue skies and the hottest day of the year so far brought out a good number of the regulars and few new faces (hi to Mark, Gavin, Philip, Fran and Mrs Ming! ) . The heat was obviously getting to a few riders as a couple of longer bikes (and indeed another bike that was, ahem, unsuitably heavy) were prepared at the start. So, Tandems one and two ready, Ming’s DH “Beast” prepped, suntan cream liberally applied, we headed off long the South Downs Way towards the radio towers.


Firle Beacon car park, on the top of Downs is always a good place to start a ride from as the first major trail you hit, regardless of the direction you take, is a downhill. Today was no exception as we all followed Ming and Chadders hidden valley 7as they sped off down Itford Hill towards Southease. Rich, Donna, Rick and Lisa were taking it a bit easier, well, maybe a little bit fast… on their fully rigid Tandems. Heading over the road bridge, across the railway crossing and then over the River Ouse before we were treated to an impromptu demonstration of some “bike aerobics” from stokers Lisa and Donna. An off-road climb up towards Telscombe served as the belated warm-up proper before a fast down and up on the road through the village then heading north west along the wide trail towards Highdole Hill. (bike aerobics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9462794@N08/3581790107/in/set-72157619055480792/)


A fast (very fast) downhill and short climb with one narrow tight trail and a few hidden ruts dotted with massive flints was then taken at speeds varying from Silly: Chadders, Ming and myself,  Fast: most of the group, Careful: the Tandems. No casualties in this case with the exception of Ming’s flat rear tyre (which didn’t really slow him down until he hit the climb) and Lisa and Rick’s tandem shedding its chain at the bottom of the descent (the first of many occasions today). A food and repair stop was obviously in order.


hidden valley 5Repairs completed and all riders suitably fed, we headed north towards Castle Hill via the “Hidden Valley” actually Standean Bottom. Lisa and Rick pointed out a good stop for some wild camping in the valley following their first trip last year with ‘Satan’ their new BOB trailer. hidden valley 2It does look like a great place to camp out but I’m not sure many people realise the slightly eventful history of the place: in this valley used to be the small village of Balsdean which was evacuated and used by the military during the Second World War before being bulldozed and left as clear farmland. I only mention this as ‘someone’ didn’t believe me when I explained this during the ride! Snaking along the valley bottom in the blazing sunshine we then headed to the next climb: another steep, sharp open track. Newbie Fran decided to show us all the way up (or was that, “show us all up”?)  and led a train of gasping, hot, bikers to the top of the hill and the start of the return trail (ED: is Fran going to give Helen a run for her money in the ‘ringer’ stakes?). Another brief stop at the top for Tangfastics :-); and a quick lesson in the local fauna (ticks, eek!), and then off on the fast open but steep in places decent descent of the South Downs Way, back towards Southease.


A quick diversion at the railway crossing allowed Ming, Chadders and Lego to find an alternative “Steps of doom” (ED: The Steps of Choo Choo?) ride as the rest of us sensibly took the role of spectators. The final part of the ride was the now legendary long climb from Southease, back up Itford Hill along the South Downs Way towards the car park. In the early afternoon heat it was a real slog but everyone managed to reach the last gate before the radio masts. Another regroup, a quick breather stop, or in Lisa’s case, a brief lie down after acting as Ricks valiant stoker on a slightly-too-higher-geared tandem, and then it was a final fast run back to the car park and the now legendary Muddy@rse  post-ride coffee and cake.


So a Classic Ride was promised, and a classic Muddy@rse ride of great trails, fantastic weather and good company it was. If this is how the summer is going to be then roll on the next ride! Big thanks to Lisa and Rick for Organising…. Guy

Big thanks from Rick and Lisa to everyone who dashed ahead and held open gates and brought cakes…you know who you are and it’s always appreciated 🙂   See you on a ride soon, there are so many I can’t be @rsed to list them all, but if you’ve joined the forum you’ll have had an email, so we’ll hopefully be seeing you soon.  Lisa




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