Last weekend the weather was great so Paul and myself went over to Hamsterley Forest in County Durham with some friends (Lisa, Richard and Ged). This is one of our favourate haunts with a little bit of everything. The trails are well maintained and off great variety from wide gentle river side paths to serious down hill single track.
Our route took up us over a variety of terrains. We started on what was described as a black run... we believe this was categorized a long time ago and we would have only called it a red or possibly even a blue. It climbed steadily through the forest to an excellent single down hill track that I would love to say we cleared first time... we all dabbed at least once! Not that we cared so much as we were having so much fun.
The route from there took us on to an old landrover track and across the river. This is where the thick clay of the area showed it's face. We all had slides goes down the track with most of us succeeding in clearing that section. The up was a totally different story! We struggled to gain purchase on the rockly slippery surface and ended up walking the first 50m until it leveled off a bit.
The main mountain bike track at that point disappeared off across a newly planted area with some "north shore" style obstacles on it and some very technical boulders, but with it being damp we decide to bypass that area. We carried on to the next single track area which was an absolutely fantastic high speed run through the forest.
Next was the long assent up to the "down hill" area on the other side of the valley. This area is very popular with the mountain bikers and you find many there using the drop off service there. We did not use that! We had a 500m assent up a rather slimy cart track. I succeeded in clearing this with much encouragement from the mountain and downhill bike riders.
We had a stop at the top to have a good chat with a large group of mountain bikers who wanted to have a go on the unicycles and see what it was all about. One of the guys actually succeeded in getting 10m! it was only later he admitted his actually owned a unicycle too.
We took the red run down from the top which is absolutely idea for unicycles. It is flowing and fast with the odd obstacle to make it interesting. None of us cleared it, but again we all had great fun and if it was such an assent back up to the top we would have gone back for a second go!
Heading back to the car park from here included 3 excellent down hill single tracks that in the summer would be fast and sweeping. At the end of the season when it had been raining were slippy and hard riding. Certainly not to be missed but very different from the open well managed down hill course.
The final section through the forest turned in to a race for us with it's sweeping curves and almost flat ground. Paul on his 26" with 135 cranks was invincible on this section.
After a quick removing of muddy gear we snuck off to the cafe for our coffee and cake. Both of which were superb! the cafe was decorated for Halloween with draping things from the ceiling and black cobweb table cloths... all fun. The only poor thing about the cafe was that the service was a little slow.
All in all a fantastic day out.
If you want to know more about the forest or the riding there are many websites available. Here is the Forestry Commission site and information on cycling on the Hamsterley Trailblazers site.