Its that time again. Another 100km ride to do for May. I’d originally planned to do it yesterday but postponed it a day due to the high winds. As lockdown restrictions have been eased a bit, I felt a bit more comfortable venturing further afield this month. Deciding what to do and where to go though was a bit of a chin scratcher.
I haven’t been on my best bike since last months bearing debacle. In fact the wheels are still off it in bits. I’ve serviced the front wheel but the rear wheel was worse than first thought. Two freehub bearings had gone too, so all 4 in the back wheel need doing which should be sorted soon. I haven’t missed the bike to be honest. I’ve been faithfully riding my Ribble CGR with 38mm cross tyres everywhere. I like the comfort. The lack of speed and distance isn’t a problem as I’m just counting time. 90 min rides in the week before work are a decent ride.
Today’s ride, I suppose, was inevitable in the end. I have a bike that can ride offroad, no best bike available so it had to be a trip to be offroad so a ride to the Wyre Forest and back BUT with as much climbing and offroad as I could muster. A detailed look at my Ordnance Survey maps (online, I have a subscription, its great for finding ‘legal’ trails) coupled with Google Earth, my trail knowledge, I already have, plus an interest in trying some new ones I figured out a route using roads as transitions really, keeping the tarmac to a minimum. I decided not to plot a route as some of the offroad bits are a pain so I just memorised what I could. Shit or bust.
OS maps online are great on my 42″ monitor!
I got up at 6.45am to be on the road for 7.30am. My kit was already out (organised!) so I demolished a bowl of granola & muesli with a banana and followed that with a couple of pancakes and maple syrup. I tried instant coffee for speed but only drank half as I’ve spoilt myself with ground coffee for most of lockdown so now I’m a bit of snob. Didn’t like it. Too bitter.
I got out the door on time and it was cool and fresh. My choice of short sleeves, shorts and lightweight gilet were spot on as I got a sweat on quickly climbing to the top of the Lickeys. After blowing the cobwebs out, I jumped onto the first offroad section, a well-used bridleway that drops off Beacon Hill and pops out over the A38 at Rubery. Bumpy and rocky, it was an omen for the rest of the ride. Here I had a choice to jump straight onto the Waseleys through an annoying kissing gate or venture a few hundred metres further down the road and pick up a bridleway. I chose the latter. A long gravel track (leads to posh houses) kicks up before a gate and then the trail carries on up and over the hill before another gate and a steep drop down the edge of a field, another gate and then a great little open track to two more gates before I could crack on gate-free. FFS too many unnecessary gates!
I have no idea why there are so many gates and stiles on our paths. I get it where livestock is about but when there isn’t and there never will be, why? They’re annoying for everyone that uses them. It must be a right pain mounting and dismounting horses.
Gates done I was back on the bridleway I’d revisited this week after about 25 years. Yes, that long! It had a very loose, rocky section which is much safer riding uphill than down. It pops out over the M5 on some innocuous bridge and then its tarmac again.
I rode past the council recycling centre. It was just before 8am and drivers were queuing to go in already. I’m not going to criticise them as at least they’re not responsible for the increase in fly-tipping I’ve seen. Its everywhere. Disgusting.
A fast drop down Quantry Lane before a right and another steep drop onto Shut Mill Lane to start climbing again, destination Clent. I’d decided on a Walton Hill traverse first via the ‘Waltonberg’. A stupid name coined by some local sportive because its supposed to be cobbled. Its not, far from it. It has a short section of rounded bricks that I’d agree are cobblesque, the rest is just broken bricks and concrete or dirt. Its very uneven and kicks up steeply at the top to about 20% and then you get off the track and onto the Clent gravel and its well worn paths. Past the trig point I dropped down to the car park safely as it was still early and very quiet.
The next hill was Four Stones but I decided I wouldn’t climb to the top, instead I’d kind of go round. I entered through the Nimmings car park and picked up the lower bridleway. This was new and a great view over to Stourbridge albeit you couldn’t see the town, only beyond it.
The trail didn’t climb much and then dropped quite steeply for a long way. It felt like it was going right round the other side, where I wanted to be, but just kept dropping down. A decent climb I’d noted for another time. I didn’t really know where I was exactly so I just followed my nose and bingo! I’d popped out on a footpath to the entrance of Hagley Hall. I’d been wanting to try and find this and try it for months. It cut out a chunk of tarmac too which was a bonus.
I hopped across the lights on A456 and rode down towards Stourbridge, only about half a mile and picked up a path I’d found when I used to live round there a few years ago. Its officially a bridleway or a couple of interconnecting bridleways which are just light gravel and pass between gardens and houses. Its a great cut through.
I popped out on Worcester Lane and crossed the road to continue on the bridleway which crosses a bridge over the railway. BIG houses round here. A very affluent area. Shame I lowered the tone with sweaty me on my dirty bike. After another couple of interconnecting paths and cul-de-sacs I was now on another local find. More gravel but the width of a road to start with and then it narrows and gets really sandy and squirmy. The sand skills got tested a couple of times with the wheels kicking out.
I popped out onto another short section of tarmac, crossed the main Stourbridge to Kiddy road and I was back on single track skirting the back of a housing estate through the trees. The trail split into two parallel ones which I didn’t remember from riding it before. At the end there is another road and you cross and your back offroad again within yards on the Roman Road (I assume its called that because its straight!) squirming through sand. Its a popular, wide route used by cyclists, walkers and runners behind another housing estate and is a decent length too. About half way you can turn left and pick up another wide, gravel track which I know is used by vehicles. My memories of this one was it used to be full of moon crater sized pot holes so it was nice to see a lot had been filled in. At the end I was glad of a bit of tarmac to give the hands and wrists a rest.
As I pushed on up the drag though I noticed my bike had started to creak. I new instantly what it was. My dropouts had come a fraction loose. Its happened before so I’ve bought some threadlock for the bolts to prevent it. Ironically it was delivered yesterday and I couldn’t be arsed to sort it so I had to stop and tighten them up a touch. I carried on creak free and crossed the A449 and dropped down to the canal, destination Stourport-on-Severn.
I love canals because they’re so green and quiet. This one is a good one because the surface is decent and has very few locks on it so you can get some speed up. It was quiet except the odd walker or runner. My discrete bell is a revelation for where people have to get out of your way. A quick couple of pings, they respect the warning, stand aside, I say thank you, everyone is happy.
I’d never ridden beyond Wolverley before. I was pleasantly surprised. It was nice, wide and fast. I expected Kidderminster to be all built up and busy but you simply crossed a bridge and dropped down under a road bridge and you were done. Everything has been built around the canal, its pretty untouched. I carried on to Stourport. I’d remembered I needed to get off at a bridge before the old railway bridge but I went too far and jumped off the canal into a Lidl car park! I knew where I was though and jumped back on the Stourport to Kiddy road and picked up my route past my old cycling haunt of Stourport Sports Club. Home of Wyre Forest CC and their cycle track. I’ve coughed up a few lungs racing on there in years past.
At Burlish Top, mentally noted to turn off, I found the car park but no signs for the cycle route to Bewdley. There were 3 ways to go. I asked a couple of bemused women who pointed out the main route so I chanced that and then a cyclist passed me and I knew I was on the right route. It climbs gradually and I passed him but on the drop the route splits. There appears to be an official tarmac path and an ‘unofficial’ offroad path carved out by bikers. I initially stayed on the tarmac. Mr MTB came blazing past on the other track and me being mr competitive tried to chase but followed and took myself off onto the his unofficial track which was a ‘test’ lets say. The tracks rejoined at the bottom and I crossed the road and began the road ride into Bewdley town finally catching and dropping him on the climb up the high street.
As you ride by the River Severn you can see the road surface scored by the flood defences moved under the pressure of the river during the floods earlier this year
The climb out of Bewdley town is a bit of a slog. Following the National Cycle Route takes you up and around the houses (literally) before you drop down into the Wyre Forest. You pick up an old disused railway line which is well surfaced initially and then you get a nice gravel trail. There were some MTB groups about. No social-distancing though which was annoying to see. I’d decided to do a loop round the forest so I turned off and headed up to the visitors centre. Just nice wide fire road. There was nobody about and it felt great been lost in the wilderness for a bit.
There were people milling about around the car park at the visitors centre but not as busy as I expected it to be. Nothing was open. I read the centre signs to pick up the route back out and descended past a few families out walking until I got to the disused railway line again. Straight over, down and left for a little detour I’d noted to try but god it was rough. Clearly used a lot by horse riders it had been chewed up and was now dry and rock hard. A couple of times I thought about turning back but I kept going and eventually it turned back on itself as the loop I memorised did and thankfully picked up a ‘normal’ gravel fire road back down to the NCN then a real slog up and out of the valley but halfway I had to stop again to tighten my dropouts. Threadlock now top of my list when the bike gets cleaned.Finally over the top and down into Buttonoak, still on the NCN I descended down towards the River Severn at Arley. I stopped for a pic of the Severn Valley Railway station. Just looking at it is a step back in time. I took a pic off the bridge as I crossed the river. Its difficult to envisage the river as high as it was earlier this year when it was so badly flooded.
Unfortunately there was no time to stop at the Arley tearooms so I had to climb the tasty but short 1 in 6 climb out of the village then a right onto another gate-entry bridleway destination Eymore Woods. After a nice gentle singletrack climb the trail opened up into a field destroyed by tractor tyres. The descent into the woods was, lets say, knarly. At the bottom there was a bridge with someone on so I dived through the stream instead and climbed back up into the woods and out by the entrance to Trimpley Reservoir.
The climb now back up to the top of Trimpley was a grovel. Longer and harder than I expected. At the top it called on my memory to pick up the next bridleway which dropped down to Franche. It was quite rough and reall drew on my arms and hands which were beginning to complain. I felt good back on the roads to Wolverley where I picked up the canal back towards Stourbridge. It was later and a bit busier but my bell was on hand to warn fellow towpathers I was approaching.
At Caunsall I had a brainwave. I was originally going all the way back to Stourbridge but remembered a bridleway I could do if I jumped off the canal so I did. Crossed the A449. Chased a roadie uphill who I’m sure looked back and sped up when he saw me coming and then jumped onto the random bridleway I’d remembered. Initially fine. It was singletrack and I met a couple walking their dog who, despite the bell and advising them they didn’t have to stop and step aside, looked a bit annoyed but didn’t say anything. I carried on and passed an MTBer blasting the trail the other way. Good luck! Passed a couple of horse riders and finally dropped out onto some road. After half a mile I picked up the same sandy bridleways and gravel paths between the houses I used on the way out.
I was 80km in now and the body was feeling it. I could just ride home and tick off the miles but for some daft reason decided to go back up Clent. I opted for Adams Hill which is pretty steep. The legs were hurting so I just slapped it in 2nd gear and tapped it out. Firstly up the road and then onto the Clent gravel. I didn’t climb to the top but dropped off the side but a young teenage a girl watched me get to the top of the steepest bit and commented ‘…god your muscular!’ Haha. Made me chuckle. Off the hill, I was going to do Walton Hill but the car park was absolutely rammed so I decided to avid the crowds and crack on to the 25%er Winwood Heath Lane. A first gear trudge, I was tapping it out again and then a roadie passed me on his gleaming Giant TCR. Bar Steward!
The wheels were beginning to fall off now so I looked at the Garmin and decided I only needed to do the Waseleys and I was done, I could go home after that.I tip toed up and over but decided the bridleway was the best way down and it was. Empty. Climbing done I just took the shortest way home down the shared path by the A38 and rolled in just over 5hrs after I left.
Like this blog. It was a bit of an epic. If you’re here. Respect. Thank you for reading.