On Wednesday afternoon it was time for another ride accompanied by my faithful trail buddy. This time I parked at Pedalabikeaway with the intention of doing another circuit of the Verderers’ Trail. However, it was not to be.
We set off from the car park and had only gone a couple of hundred yards into our journey I realised that although I’d set my usual smartphone apps running I had not managed to start my GoPro recording properly. A quick stop on the fire road to rectify that and we were off again.
Branching off the fire road and onto the bumpy rocky trail leading to where we last joined the Verderers’ I decided to follow the dog’s lead and turned onto the Freeminers’ Trail, following the red arrow waymarker number 81. A mixed-weather day, it had been sunny and hot during the morning, only to sleet as we left home to go riding. For this reason, although it was only a very light rain by the time we were underway, both my four-legged friend and I had our rain coats on.
I soon discovered how much more demanding this level of trail is compared to the blue route that I’m more used to. Although this first section of the trail was essentially a kind of zig zag slowly up the side of the hill, with the odd rock garden thrown in for fun, the surface being far more rooty and bumpy than the Verderers’ made it much harder on my ageing knees!
The track itself was also noticeably narrower in many places, the singletrack proving pretty challenging especially on hillsides where the roots threatened to see my rear wheel slide off the edge every now and then! After a while we were heading finally back down the hillside but this was a false dawn as soon the trail got even steeper going uphill than before.
Eventually we reached the higher elevation fire road at waymarker 85 before almost immediately turning back down the side of hill at waymarker 86. This lead the pair of us back down to the level that we had started at and, indeed, we were soon back onto the bumpy rocky path that we’d been on prior to joining the Freeminers’.
We then turned onto the Verderers’ at waymarker 42. With this trail and this particular section being more familiar we were both able to pick up some speed. OK, I was able to – the dog had been coming back to find out what had happened to me quite frequently whilst tackling the uphill Freeminers’ section earlier!
Back out onto the fire road I was intending to resume the Verderers’ and follow it all the way back to Pedalabikeaway. So it was that we turned back onto the Verderers’ but after the first couple of bends the dog had other ideas again and I followed her detour which took us – possibly heading in wrong direction (?) – to a skills section on the Freeminers’ waymarked 90 at which point we did a quick about-turn and, having skipped past the jumps (I wimped out!) then emerged back onto fire road and, deciding to stick with it, crossed over to waymarker 91.
I later realised in retrospect that we’d clearly taken the wrong turning and almost certainly went in the wrong direction as some minutes later we emerged to find waymarker 117 pointing back down the track that we had just exited. Oops! Not to worry, we carried on across the path to waymarker 106 to traverse another tricky hillside, once again slipping on the narrow rooty track with knees grumbling and dog wondering what was taking so long.
It was on this section that I realised that somehow the quick release on my front wheel had come undone so it was a good job that I didn’t have the fitness to go faster as may I have lost the wheel and come something of a cropper!
Once on the other side of hill we followed the red arrow to uphill to the next section of the trail waymarked 111 going down the hill in the general direction, I thought, of New Road. This pretty quickly became a faster moving section for me, much to the obvious delight of my buddy. Back onto the fire road and then section 114 with more downhill meaning another quick-moving section challenging me, at times, to stay on the bike with numerous jumps and the roots along the rather narrow single track threatening to derail me.
I was then surprised to find myself arriving back at the waymarker numbered 117. We followed this section back almost as far as the fire road that we’d been at earlier and then took correct route, which was once again very rooty but thankfully a noticeably wider section of the trail.
We were soon through sections 92 and 93 with some nice rock garden segments (and a possible wrong turn again?) before arriving at the gradual ascent up to north shore section that we had first attempted a few weeks ago which then took us across the wooden bridge and a rock garden before coming back out onto the fire road.
Finally we were on the last section of the Freeminers’, leading around behind the Vallets Wood Highways Depot and Pedalabikeaway’s hire building to the car park and for some much needed refreshment and a cool down outside the café, since the earlier rain had given way to hot sunshine once more!
I thought about calling this blog post “Freeminers’ Trail Remixed”, as we’d seemingly done various sections in the wrong order and some of them in reverse. However, in truth if the route was to be compared to a record it would not resemble a 12″ remix so much as a shortened 7″ edit played at 33⅓ rpm! I think I need to stick to the Verderers’ and unmarked trails of the same difficulty until I’m and bit fitter and more confident in my ability in the saddle until attempting the Freeminers’ again. Still, it was certainly an adventure!
The app stats were closer to each other than normal for this ride, oddly enough. Endomondo had 7.09 miles taking a total time of 88 minutes. Strava, by comparison gave 7.00 miles in 88 minutes and lastly ViewRanger came in with 6.58 miles taking 88 minutes. So all three of the times match this time, but with up to half a mile difference in distance covered. Hey ho!…