Thursday, June 03, 2010

MALVERN HILLS - another sneaky day off:)

Living in Northamptonshire it is always a joy to find somewhere decent to ride off road that is not a major trek. We have Woburn, Cannock and the Chilterns, but it was not until recently I had thought about the Malvern Hills.
Once again it was Singletrack Forum that provided the route - a kind local posted a tracklog file. After our day off to ride the new Cannock loop some weeks ago we had been pondering another break from routine. It was not until the last minute that we opted for Malvern and despite a late start we were parked and ready to roll by the middle of the day.
The Malvern Hills are just south of Worcester and are a high, thin ridge standing in what is otherwise a flat landscape. Our start point was Great Malvern and one the attractions of this area is that you are never far from a pub or Café :-) The area is riddled with paths and bridleways and even on this weekday there were plenty of people out walking.
Initially my GPS let us down and "dangerous" was very patient while I tried to find the initial upwards climb - in the end I gave up and turned to the map for guidance. It was not too long before we were enjoying the first of many stunning views before heading off down some very sweet natural singletrack. Navigation was tricky at times, particularly with such a narrow area and so many choices, but I think we stuck fairly close to the downloaded route. Conditions were very dry and hot, so the surface was lose in places. Some of the climbs were severe and the odd bit of walking was needed.
Despite the temptation we had resisted stopping to refuel until Wynds Point - where there is a choice of pub or café. It is possible to pick up the return route here, but we carried on exploring South along Millennium Hill. The character changed at the Southern extreme with more woodland and the first 'wetness' we had found - there was also a stunning pool in the hillside used by locals for swimming. Must admit I thought we had done the route the wrong way round at this stage because the return leg was a very steep slog on foot that would have been 'fun' the other way round - but when I checked later we were on track.
Our legs were getting quite tired by now, so it was a relief to see that much of the return leg appeared to be at a lower level - this included a brilliant switchback descent where I found the use of rear brake was needed.
With the end not far away the GPS pointed us to a narrow hillside climb, the temptation was to give this a miss as the map showed an easy bridleway route back to the car park. We foolishly went for the climb and soon regretted the choice as it became a steep 'mountain goat' switchback track then an even narrower adverse camber singletrack climb where I decided to examine the hillside undergrowth more closely :-( . Needless to say it was great to get back to the car and reflect on what had been an epic ride on some fabulous trails. Certainly need to go back and explore some more...
As a last minute decision my choice of bike was the Duster - it was the best choice for the climbs without doubt, but worked well overall with no loss of comfort.
Posse: Uphilla: Charge Duster ti. Daahnhilla: Solid hardtail
Mechanicals: None (Well DD found a lose cassette at the end of the day)
Weather: Hot and Sunny