Thursday, 20 February 2020

Younger, Fitter, Faster.

Younger, fitter, faster.

Monday 17th February 2020
Lordstones
Howard.



It is a while since Howard dipped his toes into the (muddy) water of mountain biking, now the three weeks straight, two weeks gay lifestyle of rig work has been put behind him in favour of joining the formicary of the day people. Limited to sharing a mere brace of days off with all the other montofris (Monday to Fridays) is definitely a cruel and unusual punishment. We met at Lordstones, cold and windy, just the usual fifty miles per hour gusts, which have become the norm this month; isobars like contours on a map of the Lake District, creaking trees, flying branches and sneaky Strava PR’s on tailwind sections. It will take more than a tailwind for me to keep up with Howard, his failure to embrace the Terra Trailblazers’ pies and lager ethos means he can shift a bit, although using training and nutrition can only be classed as cheating from our point of view. He might be younger, fitter and faster but he is still unfortunate enough to be employed, paying his dues to life’s biggest time thief.


Pedalling up the same backside as Friday’s ride, we found the elusive track, it turned out Howard had previously ridden it, worth repeating though. A couple of more tracks and we were at Sheepshagger Bank, named years ago from an incident involving a trapped sheep and some inappropriate posing as we freed it from the fence it had tangled itself in. It’s probably just as well there are no photographs. To avoid the mud on the track which passes Cold Moor and Hasty Bank, we continued down Broughton Bank, now ‘improved’ with extra width and extra gravel, the midpoint climb is always forgotten until it appears like a bad dream. Why is it that minds blank out these bits? The Carr Ridge steps came next, beyond even Howard’s capabilities, not helped by buffeting wind and greasy rocks. 


At Round Hill, we turned into the wind for the descent to Medd Crag, usually a brisk cruise down the wide, sandy track, today pedalled all the way as the wind attempted to push us back uphill. Medd Crag to Bilsdale Hall is still a fun descent, steep and lumpy grass, rutted shale, finishing with a muddy double track, mud-splattered we arrived at the gate, a few miles of tarmac ahead of us from this point. 


We rode through Chop Gate, up the Raisdale Road to Beak Hills, then through waterlogged fields, returning to Sheepshagger Bank from where we retraced our outward route, enjoying a last section of enduro track down to the road. The few hundred metres back to Lordstones proved the windiest of the day, a vicious sidewind, blasting up the valley from the south pushed us across the road like curling stones. For a ride where it never actually rained, we had gained enough filth to do a passable impression of eighteenth century mudlarks, fresh from picking through tidal detritus. After a quick change, we went into the cafe only to find KFP (Kentucky Fried Pheasant) wraps are no longer on the menu. Devastating, especially for Howard, who never had the pleasure.


Sunday, 16 February 2020

The Novice Finds Out What OTB Means.

The Novice Finds Out What OTB Means.

Friday 14th February 2020
Lordstones
The Novice



The Novice returns to venture once again into the wilds of North Yorkshire, a land of ironstone and heather, forged by wind and weather, lofty precipices, remote valleys and ancient trails, intrepid cyclists boldly going forth, man against whatever nature can throw at him. Okay, so we were never actually more than a mile away from some sort of civilization at any point but Hollywood has prepared us for what happens to outsiders when they stumble exhausted into rural communities, as soon as we hear a banjo being strummed by an inbred yokel, we’ll be heading in the opposite direction. Today is Valentine’s Day, inspiring this well known poem; 

My bike is red,
Hers is too,
She’s gone to work,
But I’ll be out anyhoo.

Another windy day, to end a week of windy days, all this blow and bluster is playing havoc with my diesel consumption, perhaps taxation for bikes on roof racks is the answer, it’s the usual way of attempting to save the planet from weather-related armageddon, slap a tax on the problem. Global warming is having a day off today anyway, one of those lazy winds that goes straight through you, vital organs chilled like the contents of a serial killer’s freezer. We donned extra layers and headed out of Lordstones’ car park, giving The Novice a false sense of complacency by starting off downhill, on tarmac, close to being pushed off the road by a scourging sidewind as we headed downward. This dubious pleasure didn’t last, it wasn’t long before we were grinding up a gravel fire road on the back side of Cringle Moor, it is Valentine’s Day, a day of love and romance, so jokes about grinding up backsides will not be slipped in. 


We continued climbing until a sheltered trail through some woods was reached, for The Novice, a grand introduction to weaving between trees over a bed of russet-coloured pine needles, swooping downhill on a curving trail, nicely banked on the corners and never too steep; the only drawback being it’s brevity. Too soon we were on another fire road, vying for space with the entire pheasant population of North Yorkshire, obviously all hiding from a shoot somewhere instead of going out to do their duty. 


At the head of the valley, we performed a U turn, different from a ewe turn, which was one of The Ginger One’s specialities before a real woman appeared in his life (he is from Darlington) and headed down the opposite side of the valley, which, although predominantly downhill was directly into the wind. The Novice began to appreciate the energy sapping properties of sodden turf, mud and headwind, never being this exhausted since the time he went to work and found his trainee was having a shift off, where he discovered the four hourly readings sheets don’t fill themselves in. Continuing down the puddle-strewn track to Beak Hills Farm, we went uphill slightly to gain another off road track, accompanied by the sound of the bellicose Jack Russell. The farm recently changed hands and I thought the Jack Russell would move out too but it looks as though the irascible little bastard is part of the fixtures and fittings. The Novice managed this section with aplomb, sailing over the drainage channels which had La Mujerita somersaulting into the heather last week. 


A few miles of tarmac came next, downhill to join the Raisdale Road, followed by some uphill in the direction of Lordstones. The Novice was game for a bit of trail exploration and we spent some time looking for the start of a trail I’d spotted coming down the hillside but it must be a long way up, the search was abandoned in favour of a couple of runs down a narrow bridleway enclosed by young conifers, followed by a short section of enduro track which has berms, jumps and drops for our delectation. Waiting at the bottom, The Novice’s shouts of pleasure/agony/ecstacy* (delete as applicable) could be heard even above the wind, he came round the corner at a respectable speed, concentrating a lot harder than he ever has at work, letting the suspension soak up the lumps and bumps of the trail. Almost at the end, he misjudged a tree stump, or maybe relaxed because he thought it was all over and found out the hard way that OTB stands for OverThe Bars, finishing the trail laid on the grass like a hero in a half shell. It is gladdening to see someone keeping the standards of the Terra Trailblazer’s riding down to their usual level. 






The only injury was to his pride, soon healed by the curative properties of a KFP wrap in Lordstone’s cafe. (Kentucky Fried Pheasant, if you’re wondering).

Saturday, 15 February 2020

A Little One For A Rainy Day.

A Little One For A Rainy Day

Thursday 13th February 2020
Pinchinthorpe
La Mujerita



As weather forecasts go, it wasn’t the most inspiring, 90% chance of rain for most of the day but then again, only light rain and the wind speed has halved, so let’s have a ‘who dares wins’ day and get those bikes out. Me and La Mujerita today, the venue: Guisborough Woods, for the third time this week. La Mujerita not being one for acts of youthful folly on a mountain bike, the chances of a viral video clip such as Monday’s ride with The Youth produced, were pretty remote. Being the romantic sort and it is Valentine's Eve, I lashed out three quid to park in the visitor centre car park, so we could finish our ride at the cafe. Remarkably, the rain stopped as we unloaded the bikes, bonus, although the whole place was wetter than Whitney Houston’s last joint and the wind had teeth, as the saying goes.


Some new wooden sculptures have been placed outside the visitor centre, large representations of what happens to a certain part of a gentleman’s anatomy when he has been wearing padded cycling shorts for a few hours. I was impressed by the wood carvers vision, avant-garde subject matter and obvious knowledge of one of the little discussed aspects of cycling, until La Mujerita pointed out they are actually acorns. 


A couple of miles climbing on slushy fire roads, followed by a short slither up a muddy trail brought us to a nice track across the hillside below the Hanging Stone, this track is undulating with a steep downhill finish, scene of another of The Youth’s unscheduled flights but that’s another story. Like I said earlier, La Mujerita is far too cautious to be involved in any of that type of behaviour, another  illustration of why women live longer than men. More fire road climbing followed, with a couple of ‘interesting’ diversions, took us up to Highcliffe Nab, wearing its winter coat of green moss, there will not be anyone climbing those rock faces for a while. 


Still sticking to the fire roads, we headed down the hill, warily, patches of ice and snow still covering the road surface and kept descending until we reached the bottom track where the BMX jumps used to be. We swerved off into the woods, onto a fairly level track which weaves gently between the trees, where La Mujerita learned everything there is to know about riding over wet roots. According to Professor Google, the slipperiest substance known to man is BAM, a compound of boron, aluminium and magnesium, mixed with a little titanium boride, more than twice as slippery as teflon. If only those scientists had ventured out of their lab and tried riding a mountain bike over wet tree roots, they could have saved themselves a lot of time and money because an awkwardly angled root is going to take your front wheel away like a frog’s tongue snatching a fly out of the air. Soft tyres and technique will go so far but there will always be that one root slicker than a laundry chute in an ice hotel which will catch you out. 


My limited knowledge must have helped in some way because La Mujerita remained bruise-free for the whole ride. The waterfall behind Hutton Village looked particularly picturesque, a consequence of the excessive rain lately and I risked life, limb and wet feet to get a picture. 


Shortly afterward we were back at the visitor centre, sampling the delights of the cafe prior to wielding the bike wash spray gun, washing mud from our bikes. Considering it has been a short ride, the majority of which was on fire roads, the bikes looked as if they had been bog snorkelling. As we loaded the clean bikes back onto the car, the rain returned, bringing a few flakes of snow to join the party. We were warm, dry and finished our ride; double bonus.



Friday, 14 February 2020

As I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud.

As I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud.

Wednesday 12th February 2020
Great Ayton
Alone



Another lone ride for me, The Ginger One  having the misfortune to be attending a mandatory training day at work, eight hours of Powerpoint torture, the sort of tedium which makes counting raindrops on a window appealing (I know because I’ve done it).  The wind is still a bit too brisk to be fun but not enough to prevent me venturing to Guisborough Woods again, this time riding in from Great Ayton. Using the extra miles for training? No, so I could call at the butchers and stock up on delicious concoctions of animal flesh and pastry on the way home. In an attempt to offset the forthcoming pies and pasties, I rode up to Captain Cook’s Monument, the long way round via Kildale, which is a canny amount of climbing for a failed process operator, someone for whom standing up was merely a precursor to coffee and biscuits. 


It was nippy at the Monument, with patches of ice and snow here and there; a couple of photographs later, I was plummeting down the fire road to Gribdale, passing one-time Terra Trailblazer, The Cruncher who was strolling up. Or was he? Despite photographic evidence, he denies walking that route on this day, so we are either into serious doppelganger territory or someone is starting up a Cruncher tribute act. Both are very worrying. 


From the gate at Gribdale, another climb took me onto Newton Moor and across Percy Cross Rigg, from where I descended to Sleddale before climbing again (I know, I’m a machine) across Codhill Heights to reach Guisborough Forest. After a bit of a breather, I threw myself at some of Gizzy’s finest tracks, with all the style and grace of a walrus falling down an iceberg into the sea. Dance like nobody’s watching, sing like nobody’s listening, ride like you have no control of your limbs; my motto for life, although there probably ought to be something about clearing your internet search history too. Who needs to know how much time I spend looking at mountain bike sites? Here’s a true story; many years ago, when the internet first came became a thing - imagine even being old enough to write that sentence - the company, whichever incarnation it was at the time, gave us unlimited internet access, 24 blokes, long boring shifts, the whole online world at our fingertips. The results were entirely predictable, in our naivety we had no idea the usage would be, or even could be, monitored; after a few months the I.T. department sent a report to our manager. “ 23 people spending their shifts looking at hardcore pornography, 1 person looking at mountain bike sites.” What a pervert, mountain bike sites. 


Eventually hunger and tiredness overcame the urge to be muddier and wetter than the average person and I made my way over Roseberry Common back to Great Ayton and the welcoming portal of the butchers, where some of my hard-earned pension found its way into the till in return for meat-based comestibles, some of which didn’t even make it home, finding themselves the ideal accompaniment to the flask of coffee waiting in the car.








Thursday, 13 February 2020

Free From The Tyranny Of The Garmin.

Free from the tyranny of the GPS

Monday 10th February 
Pinchinthorpe
The Youth




Now here’s a first, forgot the GPS, free from the tyranny of mph and Strava segments, it is surprisingly liberating to amble about the forest like a sloth with knee pads. Happy New Year to The Youth, who finally turns out for a ride, forty one days into 2020, muttering something about a dislocated shoulder. Any excuse to stay on the settee, kids nowadays. Today was the aftermath of Storm Ciara which battered the country over the weekend, although, as usual, it failed to live up to the media scaremongering. Just imagine the Daily Express if we lived in a country that had proper storms, pensioners would be having coronaries just glancing at the front page. Fifty miles per hour gusts of wind have been forecast for the first half of this week, so where better to go riding than a nice,sheltered forest? Some people may disagree with this, convinced trees are being flung about like skittles in a strike, seeking victims to land on like a WWE wrestler pinning an opponent to the canvas. Cows and petrol tankers circling in the sky, carried up by the twister, sounds like an idea for a Hollywood script. I look at it this way, a million trees, two cyclists, similar to the odds of me riding the Red Bull Rampage or one of The Ginger One’s bets coming good. Out on the moors, where the wind is at its strongest, there is much more chance of being blown off track or even off the bike, been there, done that. Let’s face it, the chance of agonising death or critical injury is all part of the fun. Or is that just me? 


We made our way on fire roads through creaking trees, climbing and descending, cherry-picking trails as we went, choosing the least muddy until we reached the top of The Unsuitables. The Youth has never had the pleasure of The Forgotten Path, so we took ourselves down, at one point, a steep slope leads to a wooden bridge over a gully. I rode down the slippery slope, stopping at the bridge to clear fallen branches courtesy of Storm Ciara, it became apparent the wood, wet and muddy, was slicker than a well lubed eel slithering through a bucket of slime. Discretion being the better part of sexagenarianism and all that, I walked across and got the GoPro set up, ready for The Youth to play his part in an upcoming viral video. 


He didn’t disappoint, a double dose of falls, the latter a spectacular Superman as his bike slid sideways into the abyss. Some less treacherous riding took us to the far end of the forest, approaching the concrete road, where we had a ride down some of the ‘one man and his dog’ trails, meeting one man and his dog part of the way down, the trail builder himself. I’m sure he will not mind me telling the world (well, the two or three people who read this rubbish) that he is seventy eight years old, still building, overjoyed that people enjoy riding his trails and he had Max the saluki, who features in so many trail names, with him. We chatted for a while, rode a few of his trails but soon our fun had to end because The Youth still indulges in an arcane practice known as work. 


Work? I can recall it in fleeting fragments, obscure memories like in a dream which disappear on waking. Seriously though, after almost eighteen months of retirement, I keep dreaming that employment still has me in its grasp and I’m rushing about trying to get there for the start of the shift. Maybe it is Imposter Syndrome and I can’t consider myself a proper pensioner until there is wardrobe full of beige clothes in the bedroom and a Hyundai i10 in the garage. A Hyundai i10 specially modified to be only capable of two thirds of the speed limit of whatever road it is driving along, where any gears in advance of third are an optional extra and is usually followed by a procession of motorists sending mental death rays to the front.

Spring is coming...


Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Novice Goes Off-Piste And Other Stories.





Hot-lapping Hamsterley

Wednesday 5th February 2020
Hamsterley
The Breadlad.




A pleasant blast around the Hamsterley Hot Lap, a change from the mud and ordure ordeal North Yorkshire is becoming. We met a first time caller at the start of Poltie’s Last Blast who had been unfortunate enough to follow the red route arrows to reach this point. It would be no understatement to say he was not impressed; at the end of Nitrous, with the five trails done, he was in a more positive frame of mind. Has whoever is in charge of the signage at Hamsterley ever rode their route? No doubt it was a committee, as in, what is the definition of a camel? A horse designed by a committee. Some deviants may achieve a thrill from interminable fire road climbs but normal riders would rather just get to the good stuff with the minimum empty miles. Somebody wants to give their heads a shake.







Earliest Finish Ever

Thursday 6th February 2020
Danby
The Breadlad



Owing to time constraints imposed upon The Breadlad, we had a ride at something approaching the pace of XC racers, obviously pretty poor XC racers, (think thoroughbred stallions compared to seaside donkeys, you don’t need to guess too hard which ones we might be). Rather more hasty than our usual amble about the North Yorkshire countryside, which normally involves a great many N.S.P’s, (natural stopping points), including but not limited to; the bottom of hills, the top of hills, gates, muddy patches, bogs, stiles, fences, ravines, streams, crevasses, caves (or any hole in the ground), dead animals, other cyclists, walkers, photo opportunities, sections of trail which look a bit dodgy, calls of nature (liquid and solid), mid-ride route planning, mechanical adjustments, frozen ponds (the first law of finding something frozen - try and break the ice), fallen trees, parked cars with steamed up windows, (rocking or not rocking). No wonder our rides take so long, luckily the invention of dropper posts has knocked a chunk of time off. And every stop will involve a little light-hearted banter of the sort that used to make the workplace bearable before somebody put fifty pence in the snowflake and set them away in a flurry of moral indignation. 


The weather is again more than pleasant for so early in the year, which used to fill The Pensioner with such foreboding so ingrained was his habit of looking gift horses squarely in the mouth. We pedaled up to Ainthorpe and across Ainthorpe Rigg, taking the technical singletrack (two dabs, one fall) which drops down to New Way, a steep bit of tarmac to be ascended to the start of one of the moor’s finest, the Trough House track, which cuts across the head of Fryupdale with awesome views across the valley. The trail drops, then climbs, never too steeply, the shaded corners veneered with ice today, reminding us it is still winter despite riding coatless, although The Breadlad never needs much excuse to become partially clothed. Apparently he gets too hot, well, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Let’s see how he performs in Spain, he’ll probably just turn up for the rides wearing nothing but a spray of his christmas Lynx Africa and a slathering of factor 30. 


We were soon at the road and heading downhill toward our next section of trail, a muddy double-track which always has a puddle the size of a small tarn at it’s entrance. No different today but we skirted around it. The trail is downhill and as fast as your cajones will allow but watch out for the dog bounding out from some buildings near the bottom, barking a lot and chasing bikes down the trail. It seems friendly but I never hang around to find out for certain. From here, it was tarmac all the way back to Danby, reaching the car park we were amazed to find it was only a little after noon; the main attraction of mountain biking is it wastes a whole day, effectively keeping women, shops and any sort of family responsibility out of sight, out of mind and here we were with a whole afternoon going free. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen too often, I might be expected to mow the lawn myself or something.






The Novice Goes Off-Piste

Friday 7th February 2020
Square Corner
The Novice.



The Novice ventures into the great outdoors, not the outdoors of red tarmac and toucan crossings, toucan crossings, it transpires, are nothing to do with those birds and their massive multi-coloured beaks but a light controlled crossing which cyclists can ride across, as opposed to zebras, puffins and pelicans where they must dismount and walk. Who knows any of this? Only Professor Google and me - and I’ve only known for about 30 seconds. We begin a gentle introduction to the bucolic delights of off-road cycling for another torpid process operator keen to escape the confines of the control room - many have tried, few have succeeded, most realise they prefer pastimes of a less arduous nature, mainly centred on watching other people kick things or throw things. The Novice, however, seems eager to embrace the wilderness, ready to channel his inner Ray Mears and forge a path across the moors, chewing on raw grouse, washed down with his own urine and sawing off injured limbs as necessary. Or maybe not. 


First he had to endure the infamous Square Corner microclimate, windy, cloud covered and bitterly cold while literally a hundred metres away the world basked in sunshine. Bikes were quickly sorted and we were soon heading back down the road into warmth and brightness, we passed Chequers, not the official country residence of the current idiot voted in by a minority of the electorate but the other one, the former droving inn of North Yorkshire. Continuing, we rode up High Lane, passing the sheltered gorse alcoves which are the summer home of Budgie Smuggler Man and his deckchair - too nippy today. Entering the woods above Cod Beck reservoir, we headed downwards on a fire road, an enjoyable excursion which metamorphosed into mire as we rode lower; we powered through the mud like two-wheeled eels, slithering our way to firmer ground. 


The path on the shaded side of the reservoir was still white with hoar frost on the way to the dam, the blue water looking almost mediterranean as we crossed the end of the reservoir, heading for the road. Up to now the ride had been pretty much downhill, The Novice was about to get an acquaintance with the disadvantages of gravity as we headed uphill toward the antennae on top of Beacon Hill. He zipped ahead on the first slope, hoping to lessen the agony by sprinting to the top, soon learning three things, firstly, top is not necessarily the next flat bit you can see ahead, secondly, the actual summit of this hill is a mile and half away and thirdly, it’s a good idea to pace yourself, admire the view, smell the smells, look at the animals. Okay maybe not the smells. It wasn’t too long before the summit came into view and minutes later we were descending the paved bridleway across Scarth Wood Moor, almost a mile of glorious downhill riding, I could hear The Novice whooping and hollering behind me, like a young bullock seeing fields for the first time. 


All good things coming to end and all that, we headed back along the road to Sheepwash into a stiff headwind, continuing beside the reservoir on tarmac prior to turning off and recrossing the dam. Between the dam and High Lane is a steep bank, short but brutal, like some of the lasses in Stockton High Street on a Saturday night. If The Novice were to fail anywhere it would be here but he girded his loins and blasted upward, skipping over slippery rock and weaving around slow-moving walkers, he was panting like a walrus on the verge of orgasm but not one foot was placed on the floor, he even eschewed a breather at the top of the steepest section, preferring to keep going until the crest of the trail and his own apotheosis. We retraced our outward route back to Square Corner, the boy done good, although my suggestion of an extra loop into Silton Woods was firmly and profanely rejected. The spirit of The Pensioner lives on.




Wednesday, 5 February 2020

That's Another One Off The List Until August.

That’s Another Trail Off The List Until August

Monday 3rd February 2020.
Square Corner
The Ginger One.



In contrast to La Mujerita and her sister who need four or five twenty minute phone calls to organise to meet up at the shops round the corner - to have a chat, here is a transcript of me and The Ginger One arranging a day's mountain biking.
"Pedaling tomorrow?"
"Yes. Any ideas?"
"Hawnby cafe from Square Corner?"
"Okay, see you there." Four brief texts and the next day, perfectly coordinated, we are offloading bikes in the bitter wind of the Square Corner microclimate. An old standard route,  planned merely so The Ginger One could indulge in the Hawnby Cafe daily special, which has been the daily special for several years. Rare breed pork and apple burger with homemade chips, an epicurean delicacy to someone from Darlington. We haven't visited Hawnby for quite a while, nothing to do with the food and everything to do with the only way out of the village being up and steeply up at that. Today we also had wind to consider, gusting up to forty odd miles per hour; working on the old, tailwind high, headwind low theory, we began by riding up the Mad Mile, wondering if the next laborious turn of the cranks will be the one which induces sudden death from exploding heart syndrome, post mortem report, “probably caused by excessive anal respiration”. Four hundred and twenty five feet of ascent in the first mile, our lungs were well and truly opened up by the time the cairn at the top swam into vision. 


The pedal along the Drove Road, flatter and wind-assisted went briskly, we even squeezed in a quick extra loop down to Boltby Forest, climbing back up on fire road to rejoin the Drove Road. Mud and slop are the prevailing conditions away from the main tracks, making the path through the fields to the quaintly named Noddle End a different proposition from the summer cruise on sun-baked earth. The steep descent to Peak Scar woods is still steep, chunks of limestone scattered about the path like droppings from a mythical stone-eating beast, moist and slippery, trying to take control of the front wheel and plunge us down the hillside in a blur of arms, legs and emergency ambulances. One of the benefits of riding this route in an anticlockwise direction is we don’t have to ride up Murton Bank with a belly full of daily special, instead we were able to hurtle down into Hawnby as fast as our almost middle-aged bodies would allow. In a few short years, my elderly scrotum will be skimming the water when I sit down to drop the kids off at the pool. Is this what they mean by big balls? And how much faster will it make me go downhill? 




It turns out there is no longer a daily special at Hawnby Cafe, however, the pork and apple burger is still on the menu, so The Ginger One was not denied his gastronomic gratification. Replete, we hoisted ourselves back onto our bikes and began to climb out of Hawnby, not that easy when the least steep option is a two hundred foot climb, and that only takes you to the upper road in Hawnby, leaving us with about six or seven miles back to Square Corner. Predominantly road miles, into a headwind but we had the off-road delight of the Dale Head singletrack to finish the ride, so it was heads down until we could leave the road. 


Our last treat of the day turned out to be like a beautifully packaged parcel, eagerly unwrapped, only to find within, the contents of a well used cat litter tray. The small stretches of firm singletrack were outweighed by the lengthy sections of ankle-deep mud and pedal-catching ruts, the joy added to by the buffeting wind pushing us off course on the narrow trail and the rocks hidden in the overgrown heather. We reached the ruin of Dale Head Farm, decrepit and dilapidated, the farm is not looking too clever either, (boom boom) thankful we only had a short pedal back to the cars. One of those routes that turned out a lot harder than it needed to be and the Dale Head singletrack will be shelved until the next drought.