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West Dorset Mountain Bikers

2012 Biking Weekend

This years weekend away was organised by Dick & Deb (The Double D's). After many weekends away exploring many many options they decided on North Somerset and specifically Shipham which is a few miles north west of Cheddar, famous for its Gorge and well .... Cheese.

The Penscott Inn was the chosen pub/hotel and a fine choice it was too.


MTB'ing or walking were: Gary & Janet, Ian & Veronica, Ed & Jan, Dick & Deb, Paul & Liz, Rod, Steve, Sue, Carolyn - in total 14 souls. It would have been more but Derek, Jo, Gordon, Colin, Trish and Rod all pulled out with varying degree's of good reason. But wait, Rod re-entered at the last moment causing Steve some discomfort (oh er missus!) as he now had his traditional room mate again and he knows all about Rod's habits!





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Unusually everyone, except Veronica who was awaiting the dog sitter, arrived at lunchtime ready for food, drink and the afternoon's ride. The weather forecast was not good all weekend, more like wet and windy October rather than flaming June! So expectations for the rides and track conditions were low. After the hearty sandwiches and pints of Buttcombe ale or the very cloudy Thatchers cider we got ready for the off. The usual fettling session took place in the pub car park to fine tune the bikes and bodies.


GB missed the photo call as he was still fettling his bike, Ian was behind the camera and Ed was fiddling about with (in) his car.


Unlike last years ride this one got off to a good start, only 200 yards and we were off road, another 25 yards and Jan was off her bike, over the handlebars and into the hedge. She lay still for sometime as help arrived, but it should be noted she caused a major blockage on the trail which no one could pass.


Ed eventually dragged himself over to his stricken wife and after some comforting words, "what are you doing down there, c'mon get up and stop lazing about!". Jan got back on her feet and was all smiles again albeit with a very battered hip (must run the family!). Oh well that's the Golden Peddle sorted then, or so we thought.


Where's Ed?

Still on the floor, still no Ed!


All smiles again

Bloody hell she only fell over, don't make a crisis out of a (small) drama, says Ed!

With Jan recovered we got moving again, a nice descent to start the ride down a wet, muddy, slippery and very lumpy trail, just how some of us like it.


At the bottom with the weather taking a change for the better, no rain and getting warmer, some jackets and leggings were shed (see left).


On the same section of track Ian spotted this rather forlorn Range Rover which was just waiting to crush the idiot who thought that straw bales would make excellent axle stands!


At the top on Lyncombe Hill Jan discovered she had a puncture which Ed had to repair, not something he does these days as he runs tubeless tyres. However he set about the task looking like he actually knew what he was doing to a chorus of all the usual advice from those looking on.





So a crash and a puncture in the first couple of miles, GB phones William Hill ...................

"Can I have a fiver on Mrs Summers to win the Golden Peddle award please?"

"Of course you can sir, she's currently at 20 to 1"

Thinks ..... they don't know about the crash and puncture!

"Make that a tenner will you"

"Of course sir, thank you very much sir"

Thinks ..... that voice that sounded suspiciously like Deb!

To be continued .........................


With a new tube in place we continued on towards Sandford Batch and after a few country lanes we joined National Cycle Route 26 (the same one that runs thru Dorchester!) on a dismantled railway line. Where the road joins NCR 26 is a very smelly sewage works and with the wind behind us the smell was with us for some distance!


Paul points out the improving weather

Ed attempts fixing his wife's puncture with expert (!)
advice from Dick and Rod

Jan surveys the mess her husband has walked off and left her with!

Liz waiting to get going again

Paul has had enough of taking the p*ss out of Ed and has a nap instead.


Jan shows off her newly acquired grazes and bruises





After following the trail for a couple of miles we crossed the very busy A370 and then the River Yeo (photo right) at Congresbury. A mile or so further up the trail we reached the railway station at Yatton which apparently served very nice coffee and cake (wot no beer!!!!!!!!). (Un)fortunately the station cafe was closed (shame!) and after much discussion it was decided to go back the way we come and go to a pub in Dinghurst or maybe that was the plan all along! So back we went up the trail across the Yeo and A370 again! (photos below).




The Crown Inn is a great old fashioned country pub, very similar to The Square & Compass at Worth Matravers. Very dark inside, 8 real ales and as many ciders all served straight from the barrel. We sat in the garden, where Mr Summers took up residence in the comfy chair in the Gazebo, and had a very nice couple of pints. After quenching our thirst we did the quick climb up the eastern side of Lyncombe Hill, wouldn't have been a proper pub stop without a climb afterwards!


Above Left - Dick & Deb emerge from the bushes (toilet?) at the Crown Inn


Above Centre - Group shot in the Gazebo at the Crown Inn


Above Right - On the way back to Shipham Ed takes another look at the dodgeily parked Range Rover


Left - A moments silence at the spot where Jan crashed a couple of hours earlier


Right - Deb walks the very dangerous spot where Jan crashed


Jan and a few others didn't fancy going back up the trail where she had crashed and went back via the road, while the rest of us climbed the rocky trail pausing only for a minutes silence at the step in the trail now to be forever known as 'Jan's Folly'. Back at the Penscott Inn we retired to the bar for pre dinner beers and cider. After washing off the days mud, sweat and beers we again returned to the bar and thence to the dinning room exclusively reserved for our use, they obviously didn't want us mixing with the rest of their guests!


An excellent and reasonably priced 3 course meal was had by all washed down with copious amounts of wine, beer and Katy Rose cider. In between courses Mr Sumby arranged a game of charades with some of the most obscure answers I have ever seen. It looked like he had randomly picked out words from a dictionary. Anyway good fun was had by all including Jamie the waiter who joined in the festivities.



On a sad note there was a minor contretemps at the end of the evening which required that some people were sent to bed early with no night cap! This partly involved the invention by Mr Hine of a totally non-existent organisation called the MBWC (The Mountain Biking Weekend Committee), apparently this also has sub-committees for Entertainment (sub-sub-committee - Ian's Games), Routes, Awards Criteria and Walking (sub-sub-committee - Shopping).


Bloody hell Rod we will be having Rules, Articles of Association, Constitutions and other such business bullsh*t paraphernalia next, we would need a solicitor to look after the affairs .......... oh now I get it, I can see where this is going!


Following night caps back in the bar we retired to bed for some rest before the next days more demanding ride.


Friday's Route Map - 16 miles and 894ft of climb




At 08:30 passing thru the bar to the breakfast room we came across a couple of chaps already with pints of beer and cider. They were having a swift couple before going off shooting, hopefully no where near where we were going! With last nights contretemps nearly forgotten and everyone friends again we had breakfast and headed outside to re-fettle the bikes before Saturday's ride. There were lots of squeaks, creaks and rattles, some of which came from the bikes which were covered in dried mud from Friday's ride. Before we set off there was the usual photo call. This time GB made it, but Janet managed to miss him out of all bar one photo, at which point he had given up looking a the camera anyway. Janet and Veronica waved us goodbye as they were heading off to Bath for the day in a warm dry car.


Steve, Ed, Liz, Paul, Ian, Sue, Jan, Carolyn, Dick, Deb, Rod

Steve, Ed, Liz, Paul, Ian, Sue, Jan, Carolyn, Dick, Deb, Rod, Gary


From the pub we quickly got off road and onto a woodland path at which point we stopped to let a lady riding a horse pass by. Strange but true, she knew Ed from a training course that they had done together! We followed the Mendip Way thru Rowberrow Warren and out of the woods on to Black Down. Nice tracks, stony wet and slippery, a good downhill across the stream then a grind up the hill. Once out of the woods and on to the open moor (Black Down) the wind was fierce and heading straight in to it south west was not easy.


Above left - Dick speeds thru the stream

Above centre - Sue has a wobble leaving the stream

Above right - Deb going thru the stream

Left & Right - a walk for some up the hill

Above left/centre/right - Liz has a 'moment' on the rutted tracks before Paul and Ed help her out

Left/Right - Jan and Liz whizzing across Black Down




At the end of the woods GB discovered a slow puncture which, by its very nature, was slowly getting worse. A quick pump will maybe do the trick, of course it didn't. Out on the open moorland track Steve barged Jan out of his way and knocked her down (Golden Peddle surely now secured in both hands by Mrs S.!). Ed of course is nowhere to be seen to help out his ailing wife, Steve pushes on with brief "sorry" as he disappears up the track.


Starting the descent to Tynings Farm GB's deflating back tyre is all over the place on the gnarly track and he stopped to change the tube in the shelter of the farm buildings. A new tube and quick re-inflate with his compressed air pump and we are ready for the descent into Cheddar.


Ed, GB and Ian did this descent in 2006 and knew is was long and hairy (insert your own jokes here) with accidents and big grins guaranteed. Saddles dropped we set off down and sure enough we were soon spread out along the track as people took vastly differing degrees of bravery (stupidity) and speed down the hill.


The track was full of large wet slippery stones again, this time with the added bonus of deep ruts, fallen branches and small drop offs. GB, Steve, Rod and Liz were soon at the bottom and waiting for some time before others started to arrive and tell tales of the happenings above. Paul had gone over the handle bars, but landed safely and was laughing about it. There then came news of a demented Pheasant which was attacking people further up the trail. I am not suggesting anyone was exaggerating, but it did sound like a Pheasant 'on the edge', armed, dangerous and not afraid to use its frightening array of weapons. Eventually we re-grouped at the bottom of the track and began looking for the final section into Cheddar. After aimlessly wandering around several fields and being repeatedly stung by nettles we decided that someone had re-designated the bridleway as a footpath and so we followed that route down to the road and the centre of Cheddar.


Above left - Carolyn at Tynings Farm

Above centre - GB whizzing down the track to Cheddar

Above right - Ed takes a wrong turn into the trees

Left - Liz whizzing down the track to Cheddar

Right - Dick takes a more sedate and careful pace

Below left - Paul still smiling after his fall

Below centre - Carolyn and Jan escorted by the 'gun toting' Pheasant

Below right - Armed and Dangerous the Pheasant escapes into the woods to wait in ambush for its next victim

















We weaved thru the traffic in the centre of Cheddar and started the long twisting road climb up the gorge. Luckily the traffic was light and we made good progress on the steady gradient. Once clear of the tourist shops and posters the gorge is a spectacular sight and there is something to see around every bend, that is if you are not avoiding oncoming cars cutting the corners on the wrong side of the road! As with any long climb we were soon strung out over the 1.5 miles ascent. We stopped at Black Rock to re-group as here we were to split into two groups. GB, Ed. Ian, Steve, Rod and Liz were going up a steep embankment and then descending back into Cheddar on what was, according to the Double D's, a 'very hairy' downhill track. Dick, Deb, Jan, Sue, Carolyn and Paul were going on to the top of the gorge by road and were planning to meet us at Carscliff Farm on the West Mendip Way.


The steep embankment thru the woods was very steep indeed and it was time to carry the bikes on our backs (memories of the Lakes in 2010), which we did to the top of the climb some 300 feet above the road. From there it was time to drop the saddles again for what looked like a hair raising descent. The views were fantastic with the gorge to our right, the somerset levels to Weston-Super-Mare in front of us and the Mendip hills stretching away to our left. Ed pointed out Carscliff Farm away to our left, which seemed much higher than our current position and to which we would have to climb back up once the descent was completed. We really didn't need to know that, but Ed felt that he should share it with us. Something else he shared was his almost total lack of front brakes! Having had a severely sticking front brake for the last couple of rides, he now had none at all. Not something you need when looking down a very steep rocky descent.


We started the descent which soon became a mixture of slipping, bouncing, avoiding and sometimes hitting very large rocks. There were many get off and walk moments, 'discretion being the better part of valour'. Using the back brakes was a waste of time as you carried on at the same speed with the rear wheel trying to overtake the front wheel and using the front brakes just put you in danger of going over the handle bars. The sides of the ruts were so slippery that you couldn't ride them and had to get down into the bottom of the ruts and just hope you didn't hit any of the larger boulders. Somehow we made it to the end of the track without any accidents and the grins were more relief than anything else. At this point we found a high watch tower (click to find out about the watch tower) and immediately decided the we should climb up to the top to admire the views and take photos (see below). Back on the bikes and another short section of an even gnarlier and very narrow track and we were down at the road to Bradley Cross, the start of our climb back up onto the Mendip's.


Gary & Ed take in the view while others drop their saddles

Cheddar Reservoir and Brent Knoll (the small lump in the middle, no not Steve!)

The Gorge

A get off and walk moment

Halfway down, Liz is still grinning

The stairs to the top of the watch tower

At the top

billy no mates!


On the way up to Carscliff Farm Ed kept mentioning a gate where we taken photos 6 years earlier, but to be honest Ian and myself couldn't remember it. However once we got there I did remember Ian having a mechanical problem at this very gate (see photo right - 10 September 2006) and Liz at the gate in 2012, it still isn't hung straight.



We passed above the farm to the point where we should have been meeting the others, but the time spent in sight seeing and climbing meant that we were way past the hour we said we would be there. So following some fresh looking cycle tracks we headed off on the route to the pub at Priddy. After crossing the road above Draycott the cycle tracks stopped and we deduced, correctly as it turned out, that the others had taken the road to Priddy. We stayed with the track and after a ball breaking climb across several fields we emerged onto the road near Westbury Beacon. From here it was a fast road ride to The New Inn at Priddy, just one small detour as we all sped past the hidden turning that went to Priddy.


The others had arrived as we guessed via the road route about 30 minutes before us. I assume without mishap as nothing was mentioned during lunch. Another nice selection of real ales and ciders awaited us as well as some very nice food. However the service was somewhat delayed as the lady behind the bar was on her own and trying to serve beer, wait table and take food orders all at the same time. I thought women could multi-task, apparently not this one! Actually given the circumstances she did extremely well.


Dick had a major problem with his bike as a couple of screws had come loose and fallen out of his chain rings (c'mon own up, who said Dick's got a screw loose!). However Ian had a look and cobbled together a fix which would enable Dick to ride back to Shipham (photo left).


Fed and watered (beer'ed) we headed out on a nice easy country lane route (NCR 26 again) back towards Shipham, it couldn't last though. After about 3 miles we came to Charterhouse and again the group split. Carolyn, Paul and Jan went west on a country lane back thru Tyning's Farm to Shipham. This turned out to be perfect for Paul as it went past the camp site where he and Liz were staying saving him the 2 mile trip from the Penscott Inn.


The rest of us headed up to the twin aerials on Black Down. Here we came across lots of runners doing the Mendip Mashup race (click to see their website). As the track became narrower, muddier and with many large pools of water it became increasingly difficult to ride and avoid the runners going in the opposite direction. Eventually we came out on to the top of the moor and here riding became impossible as the track was far to boggy. There was a debate about the route and it turned out that the planned one was a footpath not a bridleway. So hiking again, we crossed the moor on a bridleway until we were able to ride again at which point the very strong wind brought in lashings of ...... Ginger Beer, don't be silly it was rain! We dashed the last few hundred yards into the relative shelter of the woods where we stopped for a few minutes. As the rain showed no signs of abating we headed off down the woodland tracks back the way we had come in the morning, The descent was fast and fun with a short climb at the end back into the centre of Shipham.


With perfect timing Janet and Veronica pulled into the car park after their shopping trip to Bath. With wet gear and bikes stowed in the cars and with most folk being extremely wet and muddy, everyone went to get cleaned up and ready for the evening.


Saturday's Route Map - 23 miles 3987ft of climbing

The blue route was the main one, the pink routes being taken as short cuts by some of the group



Saturday Evening

As folk gradually came down to the bar there was a very brisk trade in beer and wine and we sat around telling ever increasingly tall tales of the days events. With dinner ordered we again went to our private dining room to eat drink and be merry. Unfortunately Mr & Mrs Sumby had to leave before dinner as their 17 year old cat had been run over and they needed to be back in Weymouth.


Pre Dinner drinks

That well known Somerset cocktail - Buttcombe & Broccoli

More Pre Dinner drinks


Without Ian's games to play during intervals in between courses we had the awards instead.


Wine Bottle Holder - presented by last years winner Carolyn -

And the winner is ...... Actually I can't remember and Ed didn't take any photos! I think it was Dick, but can't remember why?


The Golden Helmet - presented by last years winner Dick -

And the winner is ....... Paul for supporting his wife and letting her go off and play with the big boys while he peddles with the ladies (at least that's what I think I heard!)


Paul gets congratulations from a very supportive Liz


The Golden Peddle - presented by Deb on behalf of last years winner Mike -

And the winner is ........ Jan Summers, no, what its not Jan, what, have we moved into an alternate universe!! Actually its Gary! Mainly for being nice to Debbie, opening gates, making sure those at rear don't get lost and some 'no handed' cycling up hills. Jan was a nailed on certainty, she crashed, had a puncture that she didn't fix, got knocked off of her bike by Steve and probably did other things that she kept quiet about! So Deb really does work for William Hill!



It would seem this years awards were a bit more 'caring & sharing' than usual, next year we will have a new award for 'care in the community'.



With nothing organised for Sunday and many folk needing to get back home, everyone said they goodbyes after breakfast and wound their separate ways back to Dorset. An even larger shooting party than Saturday's were in the bar quaffing pints of ale and cider before going off in their cars to take pot shots at the local wildlife.


Jan & Ed were going to a wickerwork establishment and funnily enough their 'itinerant child' (Rod) didn't want to go with them, so over breakfast they tried to find him a lift. Eventually Steve relented and took his 'roomie' home. Steve also gave Jan & Ed lots of information about the wickerwork place that he found via the interwebby on his phone, however he didn't mention one slightly vital piece of info, i.e. they were closed on Sundays! They found this out later in the morning and had a pleasant walk up and around Brent Knoll instead.


Gary & Janet headed to Weston-Super-Mare for a long stroll along the prom and then onto Wells for a walk around town and a visit to the cathedral, well worth a detour if you are in the area.


A bit of artistic photography for a change

Wells Cathedral

Great coffee shop here, expensive, but very nice food



Of others there are no tells to tell or photos to look at, but they all got home safely and without incident as far as I am aware.



Many Thanks from all of us to Dick & Deb for all their hard work in making the weekend a great success.


Many Thanks to Ian for taking all the biking photos and Ed fo those taken in the evening


"Chapeau" to Liz for riding with the big boys, keeping well up with the pace and doing all the hairy down hills (but next year ..... bring some food for the ride!)


By a unanimous vote the 2013 trip will be organised by Sue & Carolyn, at the time of writing Lymington and the Isle Of Wight seem a likely venue sometime in June. Expect exceptional organisation, kit inspections, fines for lateness and incredible feats of map reading, oh and I expect Sue will contribute something as well!


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