Dark and White Summer Series 2014

Stodge is back! well fingers crossed.

I started mountain bike orienteering with Dark & White Summer series events in the Peak District back in 2006/7, I still remember my first event, my new bike’s front brake failed on a decent and the climb back up to Teggs Nose showed me I wasn’t used to proper hills, but I loved it.
I managed 3 of this years summer series on consecutive Wednesday nights in June and July.
Week 1 was from a new venue on the outskirts of Southern Sheffield and used the hilly area down to Chesterfield including Ramsley Moor. I took it very easy, coming in early and not biting off more than I could chew, loving just being out. I did find it hard getting back into navigating on an OS map again, overshooting a track on the way to my first control and misreading the faintly printed contours on the next resulting in some route choice muppetry and extra climb.
Still it was great to finish in one piece with fantastic views and of course great to natter to friends I’ve not seen for the best part of 3 years.
Week 2 was from another new location for me – the highest village in England – Flash! Just south of Buxton – firstly a quick plug for the Flash Stores – top cake and pasty’s! http://www.maccinfo.com/Flash/
DSC_2075I was a little braver on this event, which took me on lots of terrain I knew between Flash and Macc Forest and some I didn’t to the south. I ended up having to work really hard on the climb back up to Flash, finishing just inside the 2 hour time limit. My back had to endure some pretty rough tracks though which worried me a little but it seemed to cope OK. The views on the drive home were simply gorgeous and I vowed the following week to do something I had been meaning to do for years – drive my spitfire to and from the next event.

So Week 3 saw me zooming up from Ashbourne over the Peaks in my old 1977 spitfire with the Whyte E5 tied on the back, in the late morning sunshine. After parking in New Mills and a quick shuttle into Manchester for a business meeting it was over to Hayfield for the last round of the summer series. Filled with confidence after the first two rounds and no real issues with my back I put in a bit more effort and loved every minute of being back working reasonably hard on climbs, trying to pick clever route-choices and hooning it down narrow lanes, enjoying the hedge-rush at 60kph. I finished a little early keeping the red mist at bay and not trying to go for one last control and then enjoyed a fantastic drive back over the Peak District in the setting sun.
Thanks to Dark and White for a great welcome back – cant wait for the night events later this year and of course the 3 hour winter series. http://www.darkandwhite.co.uk/


DSC_2079-001  DSC_2067-001 DSC_2060-001


Forest of Bowland, Gisburn and the Hornby Rd

DSC_1620At the last minute this spring bank holiday weekend, we found ourselves looking for something to do, somewhere in the mountains or on the coast, an active 3 days, but where? After an evening of searching we eventually found 3 beds in a Youth Hostel in Slaidburn, in the heart of the Forest of Bowland. Its an area we have not been to before, always drawn by its more famous cousins, the Yorkshire Dales, the Pennines or the Lake District http://www.forestofbowland.com/.

The Youth Hostel http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/slaidburn is basic and fairly old school but warm with great showers and an open fire, a proper youth hostel!  Or first morning was just up the road at Gisburn forest when there are a number of MTB routes, graded for difficulty Blue, Red and Black. The red route riding was fairly tough at times and certainly on the darker side of red. The riding though is only half the story with fantastic long views to the moors beyond and great ribbons of singletrack following streams with carpets of bluebells and other wild flowers.DSC_1715




There is a recently opened visitor hub at Gisburn and the Forest Den Cafe at the Stephen Park Centre, is a  great teashop too! http://www.stephenparkcentre.com/forest-den-cafe/

We spent the afternoon down in Clitheroe, mooching around the castle, and having a dip in the pool before returning to Slaidburn to eat in the excellent pub opposite the YHA, the Hark to Bounty http://www.harktobounty.co.uk/

The next day we ventured over to walk up & over Ingleborough from ChapelLe Dale down into Horton in Ribblesdale before coming back to Slaidburn to soak up the atmosphere of the end of the village May Queen festival, bathed in sunshire.

DSC_1725  DSC_1734  DSC_1730

On the last day our plan was to ride as a family up over the middle of the Forest of Bowland on the Hornby Road, an ancient packhorse track and Roman road. It starts just out of Slaidburn and finishes over in Wray, usefully near a great teashop, Bridgehouse Farm. http://www.bridgehousefarm.co.uk/

The ride up out of Slaidburn is pretty steep, on the road and eventually on the track. Amazingly Holly (now 11) managed nearly all the climb on her 24 inch Isla Bike. Only the roughness of the track defeated her, and again and again she got back on and managed to get up bits I am sure many adults would be off and pushing on… a proud dad.

Once the climb is out of the way and you pass the watershed the track slowly descends  for miles and treats you to amazing views all the way, firstly across the moorland of Bowland and then far reaching out to the 3 peaks of the Dales, Whernside, Ingleborough  and Pen-y-Ghent.

There is one brutal road climb just before the drop down into Wray, but its soon over and the cake in Bridge House Farm more than makes up for it.

A very beautiful area, few tourists and great riding.





Mansty Woods

DSC_1579Walton Chasers held its first competition on an area never before orienteer’d on this weekend – a rare occasion nowadays in the UK. Its’ a small forest called Mansty Wood, recently back under private management after years as a FC leasehold woodland.

As I knew it was flast (flat and fast) I decided to bite the bullet and enter the Blue course (2nd longest behind Brown in the colour coded structure) rather than green and try and jog a bit more and walk a bit less and see how it went.
I started a little eagerly enjoying the bluebells underfoot and the complex ditch networks in otherwise fairly vague terrain. After 7 or so controls my hip started to complain so I backed off and walked a little more and ran a little less. The area was much better than the map would suggest and I know many people struggled and made costly mistakes.

A Pilates session in the evening got rid of any post race niggles so I seem definitely on the mend!


Hay Bike Fest – MBO Score


The organisers of Hay Bike Fest’s MBO score asked me to give some advice on timing, there was also a kids MTBO being run at the outdoor centre which the event started from so I took Holly down too. Unfortunately the terrible weather put a dampener on the whole festival but the riding was fantastic. I just went out for a two hour pootle, my back not being yet up for a 3.5 hour hillfest.

More details of Hay Bike Festival at http://www.haycycling.org/


JK 2014

Sprint and day 2 maps below. Had a really good ‘run’ on Merthyr Common, just losing some time on number 14, not concentrating.


Head and bar camera footage on the news!

The Bornholm TV2 news item with my head and bar camera footage is now online – not sure how long it will be available.

MTBO camp starts at 4 mins.


MTBO CAMP – Micro Hoke

The last day of MTBO camp is a non competitive ultra long event, similar in style to a British trailquest but with fixed order and free order sections. On offer was a 75km a 50km and a 35km route together with a nano Hoke option for the ‘cool kids’ class.
My 35km route started with a free order section which I took in a daft order as I was confused about which fixed order control I was to take next. I eventually realised what I was doing and found myself at the back of a long crocodile as we climbed up into the centre of the island. I tried to be clever picking a complicated route avoiding extra climb yo get ahead. It nearly worked but as I got closer to the control my tracks turned horrible and I spent a while taking part in the local farming and forestry industry. We then had a series of controls on the coast, beautiful riding but the map really wasnt up to competitive riding. I didnt find the second last control and rather than thrashing around trying again I headed for home finishing after 3 hours, an hour longer tham anything I have ridden for two and a half years and my back was just starting to stiffen up.
I was glad in the end I had cut it short, just as I was getting changed a storm blew in, soaking most of the riders on the 50 and 75km routes.


MTBO Camp Cup – Middle Race 2

IMG_20140414_210828The last formal race of the MTBO Camp Cup 2014 was another middle race, again on classic Baltic sand dune forest terrain. Our start was adjacent to the event centre at Hasle smokehouses. Fragrant herring smoke wafted about us as we queued up ready to get going.

I messed up number one by riding to the last control first (deliberately as I misread the number), I didn’t lose much time as it was on the way but could have picked a faster route choice. After that other than perhaps a few suspect route choices where I could have saved a few 10s of seconds and a missed track at number 4, I rode really well, enjoying the single tracks and dense path network not making any mistakes.

IMG_20140414_211028I didn’t see any results until after dinner, just before the prize giving as I was attending the event advisors course for a rules update ahead of my role at next year’s European Championships. I was thrilled to see I had won the day’s race, securing an overall win in men’s short, a little strange given I was riding elite 3 years ago but really feel it’s a massive step forwards in my recovery since may back problems started in 2011.
I am returning home with some great Bornholm produce, mostly alcoholic!

With just the Hoke (ultra long) tomorrow the MTBO camp for this year is now nearly over. I’ve had a fantastic time, caught up with lots of old friends and really enjoyed seeing Bornholm.