So there I was, laying in bed at 3.30am, agonising over the route for Saturday's undoubted mudfest. If we go here we hit this swamp, if we go there we've got to cope with that bit of bog. I begin to wonder if the blokes who regularly ride the Rock Garden at Coedy ever have this problem. Nevertheless, I come up with a plan.
"What do you reckon Wend?", I asked, thinking that as I'd woken her unfolding the map, I might as well ask her opinion. "I reckon that if you shine that torch in my eyes one more time you'll have to clean it before you use it again, now go to sleep" she replies.
I put away the map, the phone and the laptop, turned off the lamp and wisely, did what I was told.
As we rode up, the gathering in the car park was looking a bit thinner on the ground than usual but it didn't end up that way and by the time we'd collected some stragglers together there was Dawn, Fiona, Kaff, Helen, Sze, Old Sid, Roy, Ollie, Omar, James, Rob, Alan, Barry, Richie, Jeroen, Simon, Cullen, new rider Hannah and Myself, all awaiting the arrival of Tommy. While we waited and as a warm up we decided to do the loop of Pole Hill and the golf course trail, collecting Tommy on the way through.
Having not been there in a while I had the idea to get up to High Beech via West Essex
and the trails up to The Owl. Big mistake. Cullen made it to the steps taking a cheeky grass route up the side of the bog. Omi done well until it started wheel spinning like a true Mexican boy racer in an underpowered Central American VW Beetle.
We lost half the group on route and believe me they were the lucky ones.
We arrived at the Met Police Air Support unit, shattered after 3 miles. Where are the helicopters when you need them!
The whole trail was a swamp and Pepper Alley looked like it had been churned up by a herd of wildebeest.
We regrouped at High Beech loos and after a brief stop for a flat and now joined by Elliott, we headed out to Wake Arms via the Double Logs. At the Woodcutters we followed the bridle to The Avenue and onto the path down to the gates into Copped Hall. After wrestling with the rhododendron we hit the boggy trail down into the deer tunnel which despite all the mud was great fun. We followed the trail down to the stile and then turning left exited the estate via the path up to the cottages on Horsehoe Hill at Upshire.
Back over the M25 we rode the road through Woodridden Farm and onto the trail back towards High Beech via Big View and Mecca. The big downhill was next, which due to some tree felling had changed its route, although we still made it through the bomb hole and the double dips. It's such a great trail but the climb back up is a killer.
We made it to Bradley's for our lunch stop and a quick puncture repair for me. Lunch over, we rode down to The Robin Hood and dropped downhill to the bridge over the stream and on towards Loughton Brook. After riding the steps at Staples Pond we climbed up to Strawberry Ponds and followed the great trail down to ENR.
From there the only way back that's not mainly bridle path is through The Swamp so following Simon we head in and most of us, luckily, make it through, but slowly.
Rather than the usual trail into the back of Connught we ride up to Grimstons Oak and around the pond onto a new piece of trail that takes us down through the stream below Roy's Crossing and eventually up through The Graveyard to the car park.
Roy and Sze both get the jet washes going and after a quick clean up we head off to The SH for a well deserved debrief with the Canal Cruisers.
After a dodgy start it turned into another great ride. Next stop Swinley!