Category Archives: England

The Long Mynd

Trail centre: Natural – Shropshire.

Grade: Red

Length: Various, as there are bridleways criss-crossing the hill.  Our route was 38.9km (24.2 miles) and took in a lot of the best parts.

Start point: We started from a campsite just outside Church Stretton (441900; 52.503, -2.825).  There are car parks closer to the hill if not camping, for example the one at 445944 which we passed through on our route.

Description: The Long Mynd has plenty of excellent riding – so much so that it gets included in books on mountain biking in Wales.  Indeed it has a feeling very similar to the Brecon Beacons and Clwyds, and is thought to have a bit of a Welsh name (‘Mynd’ is thought to be a corruption of ‘mynydd’, which means ‘mountain’ in Welsh).  We did a three up, three down route (ie. three climbs and three descents) to try to take in some of the best bits.

We did this ride quite a while ago, so my memories of it are a little hazy.  I’ll offer what I can based on what I remember, and update it when I get the chance to ride it again.

We approached the hill through Church Stretton on roads, finally making our way into a car park at the foot of Carding Mill Valley, where it became clear that there was a cycling event going on.  Three hundred riders were coming down the track that we wanted to climb, which made it an interesting one.  Nonetheless we slogged up it, taking a bridleway that doubles back towards the approach road, and loops round the side of the hill.  It is worth noting that the bridleways shown on the map do not seem to quite match the ones on the ground, so some of the route is on what appear to be footpaths – but when you reach them are signed as bridleways.  Some fun bits of riding eventually lead to a long climb up onto the top of the hill and a track that leads into the top of Carding Mill Valley and our first descent.  A long, fast and fun descent made more interesting by drainage channels and the ascending event riders brought us back down to the car park at the foot of the valley, at which point we turned right and made our way onto the road that winds back up onto the mountain.

This was a slog, starting very steep and seeming to go one for a long time, before eventually coming out on the top of the ridge, where we bore left and headed along the spine of the mountain to pick up another misrepresented bridleway back down.  Again, plenty of fun high moorland riding and a descent that sweeps around the side of the hills over grass and packed mud.

We got back onto the roads for a bit and headed round top the right to skirt the bottom of the hill and pick up a track that would eventually lead us up to the gliding club at the end of the hill, where ill defined tracks took us up to the top of Minton Batch, a name that should be immediately familiar to anyone looking for some awesome natural riding.  Minton Batch is without a doubt the highlight of a ride that is already full of rewarding riding.  A singletrack bridleway runs straight down the valley floor from the top of the hill to the bottom, with enough interest to make it a fun ride and to require some skill to ride it well, but at the same time not being so challenging that it breaks up the riding for a bad mountain biker.  A packed mud surface with the occasional natural feature make it fast, largely smooth, and a lot of fun.

Good stuff:  All three descents, but the diamond is the final run down Minton Batch.  Much of the rest of the riding is excellent as well, particularly the first section around the hill from Carding Mill Valley car park.

Difficult stuff: Not too much.  The road climb is a little gruelling, and three significant climbs in a ride saps your energy quite badly, but it’s more than made up for by the rest of the riding.

Verdict: Outstanding.  Worth riding purely for Minton Batch (it’s quite possible to do shorter loops to take this in), but equally there’s a huge amount of great riding to be had.

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Filed under England, Natural, Red, Shropshire, Trail centres, Trail grades, Trails

Cannop Ponds cycle centre

Whereabouts: Forest of Dean, South West England

Where specifically: On the B4234 somewhere between Coleford and Cinderford.  It’s well signed, and easy enough to find from the A4136.

Trails: Verderers (blue) and Freeminers (red), and also a green graded Family ride.  Lots of other cycleable tracks too, detailed on a downloadable map of the forest.  Downhill lines as well.

Why should I go there? The two main cross country mountain biking routes are excellently designed and great fun though not terribly challenging, and the family ride is well worth doing, although it’s more about cruising through a beautiful forest than it is about thrilling excitement.  The centre is lively and generally busy.  Occasional races and events are held here too.  It’s also been developing the field of four-wheeled mountain biking, and is one of the few places you can hire a four wheeler.

Facilities: Toilets, showers, cafe, and an excellent on site bike shop and workshop that can cater for all sorts of issues.  Last time I was there they sold me a single bolt to fix an issue I was having.  Bike hire too.

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Filed under England, Forest of Dean, Trail centres

Family Trail

Trail centre: Forest of Dean

Grade: Green

Length: 17.5km (11miles)

Start point: Cannop Ponds cycle centre, Forest of Dean.  Head for the mid-point between Coleford and Cinderford and follow signs.  The centre is on the B4234, North of the B4226.

Description: Sweeping and gentle ride round the Forest of Dean.  Surface is entirely on broad tracks and gradient is gentle for the whole ride.  Short apparently blue graded sections flank the trail at times, but rather than being at all challenging they instead just provide a brief respite if you find the gentle smooth tracks monotonous.  Links can also take you into the towns and villages around the route.  Nothing about the route really constitutes mountain biking, although attempting it on a proper road bike may not be wise.

Good stuff: Excellent for families, very gentle ride that feels satisfying due to the amount of the forest seen from it.

Difficult stuff: Nothing.  Some of the short blue sections may require you to pedal.

Verdict: Excellent gentle ride.

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Filed under England, Forest of Dean, Green, Trail centres, Trail grades, Trails

Freeminers Trail

Trail centre: Forest of Dean

Grade: Red

Length: 4.5km (7.25miles)

Start point: Cannop Ponds cycle centre, Forest of Dean.  Head for the mid-point between Coleford and Cinderford and follow signs.  The centre is on the B4234, North of the B4226.

Description: Beautifully designed but short trail.  Makes a great ride when combined with the Verderers trail.

Good stuff: Excellent and beautifully designed singletrack trail.  Very fun and achievable ride.

Difficult stuff: Not much at all, though the initial dropout that takes a moment to stare blankly at when you ride it cold.  Climbs are tiring at times.  Some bits and pieces of tricky surface.

Verdict: Great, fun, rideable and brilliantly designed.

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Verderers Trail

Trail centre: Forest of Dean

Grade: Blue

Length: 11.3km (7miles)

Start point: Cannop Ponds cycle centre, Forest of Dean.  Head for the mid-point between Coleford and Cinderford and follow signs.  The centre is on the B4234, North of the B4226.

Description: Beautifully designed blue trail in the Forest of Dean.  Like the best manmade blue trails, it’s flowing, smooth, fast, and built with a healthy and hearty slice of fun and excellently rideable jumps and berms.  Particularly great ride when combined with the Freeminers trail.

Good stuff: Excellent and beautifully designed singletrack trail.  Very fun and achievable ride.

Difficult stuff: Not much at all.  Climbs are tiring at times.

Verdict: Great, fun, rideable and brilliantly designed.

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Filed under Blue, England, Forest of Dean, Trail centres, Trail grades, Trails