I was leading the route this month, and after popular demand I had planned to re-use last years Golden Ball Run route. This was agreed by the rest of the BucksMTB team and the route was recced, however I couldn't let the route be the same as last year so a new start/finish point was used and various new tracks were included to keep those who rode this route last year happy too.
We had a great mixed group for this group ride, guys, girls, experience mountain bikers, newbie's, visitor riders and club members. A group of twenty six is hard to manage so I was lucky to have staff ride leaders Mike and Pollyanna on the team to help me guide everyone round this mini-epic Chiltern Hills route - a big thank you to both of them for their help and support.
After a pre-ride bike and helmet check we headed off initially towards Coombe Hill and Dunsmore to route over towards Chequers. We managed to take in some great singletrack and fast descents around Dunsmore once everyone had recovered from the initial climb from Wendover up towards Dunsmore village itself. From here we took in some of Coombe Hills finest trails and headed towards Chequers connecting up with tracks to take us up the ridge towards Cadsden. Everyone enjoyed the fast technical singletrack trails heading round to the small car park at Cadsden. After a quick regroup we crossed the road and headed off towards Whiteleaf taking in various climbs and some fast trail sections. We deliberately missed using specific trails up to Whiteleaf Cross as to reduce the climbing as this route offered plenty of hard climbs both on the outward and return legs as was.
From the Whiteleaf area we headed out towards Lacey Green to pick up some superb singletrack around RAF Strike Command at Naphill before diving into Bradenham Woods to enjoy some more fast paced fire roads and tight twisty singletrack. Once at Bradenham Manor we took a sharp left and headed further into the dense Woodland to pick up trails down towards the railway line at West Wycombe. These trails are amazing natural singletrack but unfortunately are footpaths, it is impossible to completely link over to the Golden Ball without using at least one footpath, so we behaved, enjoyed the ride but prepared to give way to any walkers, luckily absent today. At various stages of the outbound leg were the first of four punctures!
Once over the railway line we had the final climb up to the Golden Ball where several members of the group final realised what the Golden Ball was and wandered round to check out the Church and Cemetery (Saint Lawrence's Church and Mausoleum). After lunch we headed back down the ridge to stop off at the local petrol station for water and supplies before finding the bridleway back up the Chiltern landscape towards Downley. This climb is horrible, not steep, but just goes on and on for what seems like eternity before finally popping out at Plomer Green Lane Cricket pitch.
After sorting a few (more) punctures and a chain tech fault we left Plomer Green and ventured back into the maze of trails that can be found in Bradenham woods, this time taking in the South side trails instead of the North side trails used on the outbound route. A slight mistake on my part (took the wrong split in the trail) gave us a slight detour, but everyone seemed happy for an extra half a mile of singletrack fun (phew got away with that one!). Once we were back on track we reappeared back at RAF Strike Command at Naphill before shooting along the road to Walters Ash and hanging a right out to Speen and Great Hampden. More singletrack and a couple of short climbs later we were at Hampden House and picked up the exciting singletrack back towards Whiteleaf and Cadsden again.
The final section of the route saw us pick up some of favourite trails back through Cadsden to get us back towards Chequers. After at least twelve punctures throughout the day we were running a good hour or two behind, and with a few tired faces (and legs) we chose to shoot up to Coombe Hill monument on the road before taking in the superb Ridgeway gulley run descent back down to Wendover to pack up for the day.
Back at the car park we totted up the total number of punctures, we got to twelve and possibly could have added another one, or two, or three to the list too...
A big thank you to everyone who attended and made this months group ride another huge success. A superb group and was great to see so many regulars and new faces and to have such a large turn out. Thank you also to the group of guys from Harrold MTB Club who traveled over to join us for the days ride.
We hope to see you all again in June...
Scott | BucksMTB