Sharki’s Rides

No real classification for this type of thing but a nice opportunity to share some of local legend and all round nice bloke Shane ‘Sharki’ Austin’s more epic rides around the South West.


20th July 2011

A long weekend:

It all began last Tues when i received an e-mail asking for help…

I’ve gained a reputation for leading riders around the hills now for several years and i was tracked down via the mountain bike forum Singletrackworld (STW).

I’d been spending a few weeks chilling out/working and riding in Devon and Cornwall and the thought of returning to the Tox for a few days riding was a no brainer for me. “Of Course i’ll guide”. i replied.

The visitors were travelling over from Kent and would be staying in a B&B in Holford. I arranged to meet them at around 2/3pm and go from there, so i’d loaded up the panniers and tied my tent to the rack and jumped on a train back to Taunton. Arriving fairly early into Town i stopped off atย Six Cycles for a chat, grabbed a little food and then met a friend for lunch. He kindly gave me a lift to Fyne court where i wished to pop in and say “Hi” to the rangers and the AONB team they weren’t in. So off i rode towards Holford, i had plenty of time and after a cuppa and slice of cake in ‘Pines cafe’, i decided to take the off-road route to Holford, which i’d never done before with a loaded bike.

Up to Lydeard hill i rode, across to triscombe then along the drove. Ok, so which way down i pondered..Given the extra 20 odd pound hanging over my rear wheel, i picked the smoothest route down and that’s from Black hill all the way down into Holford, a very short and quick route down and for you’re information, a horror of a way out..

I’ll not dither on the greetings and meetings of strangers in a carpark, for i met them online and the whole scenario may appear to sway towards some other form of getting dirty in the hills, so to the riding.

Day one: a simple introduction to the Quantocks, my way..
From Holford we followed Holford combe to the junction of frog and ladies combe and took the BW to the left cutting up under the lower flank of Danesborough hill fort, this is a favoured route for me as opposed to riding up ladies combe, it’s scenic and gives me a little descent to the top of ladies.. As the trail steps out into the open, it gets loose and scrabbly which i remember once being a challenge for me to ride, i seem to have got a better rider..near the top of the loose section, there’s a little trail cutting off to the right, i take them along this rejoining the top of the tree line traversing the side of the hill fort. Following this to the end a junction gives two options, left to the top, right down to the top of ladies combe. Right it is then, then right again at the next junction, i really should look left instead of just slinging the bike round the corner using the bank as a berm.
This brought us to a clearing where we entered the gap in the bank and dropped down to the coach road and then to a personal favourite of mine, Bincombe.
A simple advisory was issued and i suggested they held onto the train for maximum fun, it’s easy to drop into a ditch and miss out on the constant changes of direction on this most natural of trails. After several minutes of grinning we regrouped and i welcomed to the Quantocks, as this for me it what it’s all about, smiles per miles.

Descent one over we climbed up to Walfords Gibbett and followed the road to the great bear. The singletrack on the corner of sandy beds carpark, took us to dead womans ditch where we crossed the road taking the gas line back towards higher hare knap.

Before the knap, there’s a cheeky drop into the tree line on the north side of frog combe, which we rode and once again my group were treated to the flowing delights of the tox. What goes down must go back up and for that my best way up is a short sharp one. At the bottom of Frog, go left and over the stream crossing, right in front of you, you’ll see a trail heading upwards. Yup, that’s the way. I call it horizon, because pretty much that’s all you’ll see for the next 3/4 mile, well you’ll see a few false summits..As you break from the tree line the trail heads up and crosses the big grassy descent into Holford, we head west wards a little follow a faint line down to the higher hare knap traverse..Now it’s down time again so i take them on a trail dropping into a lovely right hand bermed corner joining somerton combe, just lovely..

Up now and ladies edge is the way now, a slow steady energy saving paced climb to the top and rest…..

The lads had done a little research and Smith’s was mentioned Don’t mind if i do, so up to beacon hill, then down at a furious pace, Again ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d like to point out here that i’m now in my element. Behind me are 4 very capable riders all on bikes with between 5.5 inches and 6.5 inches of travel at both ends. Me, i’m on a steel T with 5 inches of insurance up front and local knowledge. The feeling of being pushed close to the limit so others can get their kicks and the responsibility of care taking visitors is a difficult one to balance and control, luckily it’s not beyond my experience so no harm and maximum smiles was the order of the day.

It’s about now that they’ve been riding for a time duration the same as all their usual rides, anything else was beyond the norm.Luckily for them all they needed to do was climb out from smiths, back along the ridge and follow yours truly down Slaughter house. It was at the end of this trail that i knew or sure all was well with the ride. The next 5 minutes were spent with the lads recalling that trail and how amazing it was. Splendid stuff.

They were almost spend though, so the quickest and funnest route back into Holfold?

Fun equals speed, playing and perhaps a little more downwards action..As we were in the bottom of the combe i wanted just a little more height to drop back into the carpark, via the rock slab. We sessioned the rooty climb above the ford and launched off the raised embankment, ridng along behaving nothing like the age we were.. There’s a little climb to the right that brings us to a clearing, left at the top and down a fast grassy descent to a gate. Through the gate and picking up speed quickly over the rolling bed rock, past the house and straight on into the trees, scrubbing off loads of speed to inspect the run out for cars..

All clear, so off i roll and one by one, they follow me down..

Off to the pub for a well earned pint or two..In fact it turned into 6 or 7 as well as a 3 course meal, my payment for a few hours fun…Just two more days left then…

Back with day 2 later on today. Ride free.

This is quite good, Sharki’s guide to Mountain biking in the South West

MTB Southwest…now that’s quite an area, where does it start and end?
I’d say it starts in Bristol and ends quite obviously at lands end, not going any further East that a line from Brizzle to Dorcester..

So whats good in this little corner of our lush green island?
Starting in Bristol, there’s Ashton court and Leigh woods, AC has it’s new trails finished while the LW trails are still being built, there a bit of natural stuff too. For DH, Still woods is the place to go.

Weston has jumps in the woods there and a little natural riding, but for the better trail riding you need to get to the mendips, BW’s all over the dips and a few built DH runs in Rowberrow, winter riding here gets a bit slick and sticky.
Cadbury to the North has trails which hold up better in the winter i hear.

Into the south of our boundry and we’re on the edge of Puddletown, which with local knowledge can provide a few hours worth of good riding. If you like DH, there’s UK bike park near Shillingstone to the East with a pump track to play on.

North of Yeovil you can enjoy some riding on Ham Hill and that’s about all, till you come Further north to the Quantocks which needs little introduction. Then south of Taunton are the Blackdown hills. An easy way marked trail is the Herepath, but there are mtb trails in Orhard portman woods and a few up above at neroche and in other section of the hills, but not much as most locals just make use of the Q’s.

South of Dunster is Croydon Hill, i little used mtb area but there is some actual way marked cycle trail up there, for some easy non to technical riding.

Exmoor is next up, with alot of the best riding in the north east region around horner, Dunkery, and selworthy, Dunster and Porlock.
With some pleasant circulars over by simonsbath. It’s really an area i need to get over to for some intense exploring.

Now where? Lets go south again,just SE of Exeter to Woodbury common, mind the dog eggs and horse muck and there’s a good few hours of riding to have round there, following local knowledge is once again best..

Now were getting into some really fun stuff, South of Exeter, Haldon hill. With green, blue or red trails there’s a bit for all levels of rider. And if the red is a bit too smooth, look out for the many cheeky trails to be found off the blue..
Need even more Gnarr and like to fly, then there’s a bit of well built DH with plenty of berms and gaps. Where you might ask…Well that’ll be telling ๐Ÿ˜‰ I just pass it by in awe before dropping down St Andrews lane to Kenn.

Time to get amongst the lumpy stuff and mess about in Lustleigh cleave,West of Bovey Tracey, i usually take in trails up to and around hound tor and bowermans nose, over to water and yarner. Expect rocks roots, rocks and big rocks, not big ring friendly round these parts and you’ll be needing all your riding skills and some to be able to fully enjoy it here.
East Dartmoor now with it’s big grassy climbs and lumpy granite boulders to navigate, Scenic and special, but with limited legal riding.
Around Princetown is a little easier to find legal fun trails, start at Prince town and find a way over to sheeps tor and burrator res.

Gawton and chipshop near Tavistock for DH trails, Kit hill and grenofen for general off road riding..and i think okeriders still built and ride stuff near Okehampton.

Down in Plymouth Cann woods is the mtb area with easier riding up through the plym valley.

Now into Cornwall and there’s stuff there too either Bodmin which i cannot comment on, or further down to the Carnon Valley and it’s many linking trails arounf old minning works. Follow the cycleway from Devoran to Portreath and explore trails around twelve heads and goon gumpas, better still call in toย after a pint next door and ask for route and advice..
I’m sure there’s places i’ve missed out, clearly i need to get on my bike more ๐Ÿ˜‰

There’s so much moor to the SW than just cider, pasties and cream teas..

Enjoy and ride free..