Two Trail Centres, One Very Hot Day

Last weekend, Owen and I found ourselves with a free afternoon. Usually, we would have ridden Perry’s Trail at Cannock Chase, but it is closed for the Commonwealth Games. Instead, we went to the trails at Snibston Colliery and then called in at Hicks Lodge on the way back. Owen and I have got history with Snibston Colliery, we tried riding there in April last year, but I had a mechanical issue with my bike, then we also tried to ride there earlier this year, but the trails were closed due to storm damage. On the drive up I was wondering what could possibly go wrong this time… Did I mention that it was a very warm day, although “only” an amber extreme heat warning.

After a McLunch-stop, we got to Snibston Colliery Park, which is a really nice park in itself, the trails were open and both bikes were working – result! Due to the heat, we decided to get straight onto the trails, skipping both the small pumptrack by the car park and the skills area at the top of the hill. I had been told that the part of the trail around the skills area, that Owen and I rode on our initial visit, was the “only good bit”, so I had low expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be almost all smooth singletrack trails. It also felt like there was more descending than climbing, even though it was a loop trail! Owen rode really well, and before long we found ourselves on the final section of trail, where Owen had his only wobble of the ride – failing to anticipate a steel hairpin climb, he found himself in the wrong gear and tumbled over backwards. But he was quick to get back on his bike and carry on. Owen was keen to ride the skills loop again, so we rode back up the hill, sessioned the skills loop (where the photo above was taken) and re-rode the last swoopy section, stopping to take some more photos, as I had brought my new camera along for the ride. Owen also successfully negotiated the tricky hairpin which had caught him out on our first pass through. Even though it was hot and the playground was in full sun, Owen had to have a quick play on the diggers in the gravel pit, whilst I loaded up the van for round two.

Our ride around Snibston Colliery Park was “only” five kilometres, but rather than riding another lap, Owen wanted to call in at Hicks Lodge, which was on our route home anyway – albeit with a short detour to show Owen the house where I lived from 1985 to 1989. Snibston Colliery Park had been quiet on each of our previous visits, so I was not surprised to see an empty car park there, however, I was surprised to see Hicks Lodge with only three cars in the car park! Especially as it is an ideal place to ride on a hot day – the trails are mostly in the trees and the trail is fairly flat, with no big climbs. Owen has ridden at Hicks Lodge a lot, so knows his way around, and shot off into the distance as soon as we were on the trail – it is great seeing him ride so confidently. Other than doing a second loop of our favourite section (with a photo stop), we just did a fast lap of the blue trail – we only saw three other riders! I think the 30ºc heat may have had something to do with that, but also now that Owen is riding faster we get overtaken less. On the way home, we stopped for some well-earned McFlurries to cool ourselves down. Despite the heat, it was one of the best days on the bike I have had this year and I am looking forward to some more riding with Owen over the summer holidays.

Trip to Buxton to see Martyn Ashton’s Bike Party

Martyn Ashton is a legend of mountain biking, so when I heard that he would be giving a talk about his career I had to go. My friend Partho was keen to join me, and as the talk was at Buxton, in the Peak District, we decided to make a day of it. As we were not taking bikes, it meant that we could take my MR2 Roadster for the drive – so of course we went via the country roads.

Enroute, we stopped at The Roaches, a rocky area between Leek and Buxton, for some photograhy. We had a rough plan of walking up to Doxsey Pool, which is allegedy bottomless and inhabited by a mermaid. However, the directions we were following were somewhat vague, and we parked in the wrong place, so walked up Hen Cloud instead. It was really windy at the top, but the view was good. Even if the light was not great for photography. It was good to break up the drive, and we both want to return another time and ideallly do the walk we orginally planned and hopefully with better light!

On the drive in to Buxton we passed Flash, where I remembered stopping on a breakfast drive a few years ago. We had some time to kill in Buxton before our dinner reservation, so took a stroll around the Pavilion Gardens and past the Crescent and spa – it seemed like a nice town worth going back to. We had a great Mexican dinner at The Lone Star.

Martyn’s talk was great – the first half covered the moment up to his lifechanging accident in 2013 – I remember reading Mountain Bike UK magazine in the late nineties, and Martyn was always in it, so it was good to head some stories from that first golden era of mountain biking. It ended with Road Bike Party – including a viewing of the film, for those in the audience without a six year old child who regularly asks to watch it! Martyn shared a lot of still photos, which I always prefer to videos, but the one I found the most powerful was that split second before his accident, the bike about to hit the bar he was landing on. The second half of the show covered his long recovery and the second-half of his career, and the rise of adaptive mountain biking – a truely inspriational story.

After the talk, it was time for the long drive back to Coventry, however I love roof-down drives on a warm summers evening and I had one of my best drives in ages, on mostly empty roads. It was a late night, but well worth it!