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North Downs, Surrey

Wow! what a great place to ride, and so close to London!  We usually go from Newlands Corner, which is on the North Downs Way.  However, it does get muddy around here, and there is a mother of a climb to finish with as the car park is at the top of the hill!  But there are some nice tracks off the top of the North Downs, especially if you get over towards Ranmore.  The best riding is not actually on the North Downs, but centred around the three main hills of the area, Pitch Hill, Holmbury Hill and Leith Hill. Maybe its because I know it so well, but the ND's are one of my favorite places to ride.

  • Pitch Hill

Pitch has a lot of technical climbs and downhills, but much is out of bounds as private land.  A good place to start from can be found if you drive south through Shere and carry on up the hill.  Go over the railway line on the main road and after about 3miles you'll come to a car park just before the road drops down the other side of the hills.  If you park here, you can climb up to the top of Pitch Hill quite easily (illegal - footpath) or go past the first quarry (bridleway) to an opening where you can climb up (steep) and then go right (singletrack towards the top of Pitch Hill or left (steep dropoffy type DH now very worn).

  • Holmbury Hill

Holmbury has some excellent singletrack and bombholes - try and find the lovely single track that drops into about 5 or 6 bombholes near the top of the hill - superb!  If your a mad downhiller - try Widowmaker - it's easy to find - just ride straight off the steep side of the hill, you'll soon realise why it's called this! 

Another track that I really like is what's known as Telegraph road.  It's a mile long singletrack route that runs under the pylons, from the 5 ways cross roads in the middle of the Holmbury area and runs, after a while, downhill to bring you out at the Youth Hostel.  Don't climb up this way, you're likely to come across somebody coming fast the other way!  This isn't a downhiller's track but more a cross country rider's downhill (ie you have to pedal!)

Another good track requires you to climb up from Peaslake, on the road (or on the Bridleway that runs alongside (good tracks downhill to your right as you climb) you come to a carpark.  In the North East corner of the carpark is a big bit of rock and a track behind it.  If you go through here, and down, it will bring you out on a firetrack.  Go along the firetrack for about 300 yards and you'll see a track on your right.  This is a lovely whoopy bit of singletrack that doesn't get much use (can be boggy in winter).  Go along this until after about 5-10 whoops you get to a T junction.  If you turn right, there is a short drop downhill, back to a firetrack.  But turn left, the track is a wide singletrack which goes slightly downhill.  Just after (about 100yards) the first right turn there is a small (need to look hard) track off to the left.  This is a really nice Slalomy type bit of singletrack that goes down through the woods.  It's pretty new, I guess someone has made it - not me, but thanks who ever did!  Great track to rip it up on!!

  • Leith Hill

Leith Hill is where all the walkers hang out so it can get busy - especially near the Tower where you can get food and tea, with some nice views.  The downhills around here are really good and fast if you head past the farm toward Holmbury; rocky, fast and technical if you head toward Friday Street; and long blasts if you head toward Westcott.

For rides around these areas try the following:

Other good places in the area are Boxhill, Ranmore and around:

  • Boxhill

Boxhill has some nice fast bridleway descents and some monster climbs but beware of the whole area near the top, millions of walkers and some of them can get a bit agitated!  I like the downhill that goes from the restaurant car park (on the corner of the main road, 1/2 mile from the look out point, opposite the caravan park).  This takes you steeply down to a garden centre on the A25, where you must ride back along the road.  Be careful in the wet, this downhill has claimed me and many of my friends as it can get real slippy.

  • Ranmore Common

Ranmore is also good.  Just avoid when it's wet as it can be really muddy.   From Boxhill, climb up the North Downs Way, past the vinyard (it says it's footpath but it's a four wheel drive track).  You can then ride along the ridge (good views of the valley and Leith Hill from the park on the left) or head down opposite the church towards the Youth Hostel area (really good fast swoppy downhills).  Another good track is the one that heads down back towards West Humble.  From the top of the climb I just mentioned, go straight down the road, as if you were heading downhill.   On the corner, just before it goes steep downhill, turn right.  Follow the whoopdy track straight on until you come to a main track.  Take a slight left (not hard left) and the track is signposted as a bridleway.  It's quite steep down (with barbed wire on the left - care) and brings you out at the open farm.  Ride down to Ryka's for a cup of tea (if you dare!)

For rides around these areas try the following:

NH, 1990-9

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Trying to worry Air Traffic Control... (failing)

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Secret Singletrack on the North Downs

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On top of Holmbury Hill

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Leith Hill Tower - good for a cuppa and sarni's

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Doug jumping - Holmbury Hill

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Singletrack, North Downs

Devil's Punch Bowl

The Devil's Punch Bowl is a little further from London than the rest of the North Downs, and is on the Hampshire/Surrey borders.   This is a good place to ride if you don't have a car though, as you can ride straight from Haselmere station.  Haselmere is situated in a bit of a dip though, so you have to climb to get out of the place!  If you head up towards the punchbowl there are some nice sandy tracks that go through the woods making for good all weather riding.   You can also head over towards Ludshot Common (really dry all year round).   If you go to the Punchbowl, make sure you go into the transport caff, have a cuppa and sign their petition - the National Trust is trying to shut them down to put a tearoom there - bad idea, millions of OAP will really spoil a beauty spot like this!!

STOP PRESSThey've shut the caff!!  I can't believe it.  God knows what's going to become of the area, all they have to do now is extend the A3 to 3 lanes right through the punchbowl and the whole place will have been ruined.  This is truely a black day.

We always joke that when we've finished a ride here we've actually finished at a much higher elevation than we started!  It just seams like you're climbing all day, with no downhill!  Don't let this put you off though as it's clearly not true!  I think it just seams that way because the downhills are short and quite fast, so you don't get time to really savour them and before you know it you're climbing again.  

As I've said already, this is a good place to go for a winter ride as it is really well draining.

In recent years a lot of new singletrack has been opened up here, especially "downhill" orientated stuff.  I use the term "downhill" loosely as there is a bit of a lack of elevation drop and gnarlyness around these parts.  This doesn't mean that the trails aren't technical, there are some nice vertical drop ins and some sketchy corners that have caught me out a few times at speed!  (fotunately sandy soil = soft landing)

NH 1993-9, 2000

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There's no devil's, no punch and no bowl's either, but it 's home to some good winter riding

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