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Off-roading revisited……

CIMG9836

Roadies celebrate their mileages and other related stats. Off-roaders, on the other hand, will celebrate wonderful remote landscapes and the technical stats of their routes (boulder and tree trunk hopping, riding tyre-width ridges with precipitous drops on both sides……etc). Today I re-visited some off-roading (but not the technical stuff) after a long absence. I’ve probably become self-obsessed with riding the miles, and lost touch with the sheer pleasure of riding the bridleways and byways that criss-cross our landscape.

Hartham Street

Hartham Street

Ancient rural communities left there mark by handing down an intricate network of packhorse tracks and drover’s roads. Some of these eventually became arterial routes, others remained as dirt tracks across fields and through forests that linked small communities. Those that are now designated as bridleways and byways

Red=Byway, Yellow=Footpath

Red=Byway, Yellow=Footpath

are rights of way to cyclists. But to share these routes with horses and off-road vehicles is very much a mixed blessing. Even full suspension will not iron out the discomfort of the deeply pitted surface from horse hooves, nor the water-filled ruts left by 4x4s. The only hint of suspension on my 25 year old Raleigh is the Girvin Flex-stem on the handlebars, which is an inadequate gesture in the right direction……..CIMG9835

However, the purpose-built track around Grafham Water is ideal for the ‘hard-nosed and hard-tailed’ bikeCIMG9840

and on the way round you might come across anomalies like this 160 ft crane jibCIMG9838

which turned out to be a mobile bungee-jumping outfit

I was staggered to discover that each jump will charge £60 to your plastic card which, at a rough guess, will work out at about £20 per second of free-fall………The 10 minutes I hung around, there was not a single taker. I wonder why?

But then I headed off along a bridleway, which eventually tapered into a byway called Hartham Street….not a street, of course, but a deeply pitted and rutted track that was almost unrideable. But some sacrifices are worth making if they lead you through something that poets might describe as bucolic bliss.CIMG9845

And when I reached the top of the wold overlooking my own village, this was the view that greeted me as the sun was dropping over the horizon.