It's been around a year now that we have had the pleasure of broadening our cycling adventures into the world of gravel/muck/cyclocross, whatever you would like to call it. We've been trying to search around for local gravel and it's been a bit hit and miss. So we asked around for some guidance and thankfully Harry (@harrymac03) is a bit of an expert with knowing the trails around Surrey. Granted it has been influenced from another source I believe, GIRO cafe in Esher who often organise some Belgian style rides into the muck of the heaths and woodlands of Surrey. Well, I thought I'd give it a go and this is what I found...
NITP Ride Breakdown:
0-5miles: Starting off at Hampton Court (one of the nicest backdrops to begin a ride in this area), head towards Esher through Imber Court, the road is usually quieter and if you fancy a quick warm up before hitting the woodlands, you can bear right before the train station to take the short climb up past Sandown but it will spit you out in the high street. This means you will have to roll down to Littleworth Common where your first experience of the trails begins. Around here, you'll get a lot of walkers and dogs so best to hold back to be safe. Have a crack at the segment though if you find yourself the lone rider.
Segment Challenge #1: Littleworth Common, 0.8km.
5-10miles: You kriss-kross (a throwback mention to the 90's twins!) a lot over the A3 but you're blessed with a mixture of gravel and muck. I rode this in Autumn but as I write this after our first bout of snow, there's bound to be more sludge so be wary. Fields aplenty and the countryside (if you want to call it that because you've only really just crossed the county border) are a welcomed companion. You're eventually spat out into Chessington where you've got a main section of road to deal with. You will snake through a housing estate and when you're presented with a oval shaped roundabout, try not to miss your turning like we did. You're looking for a side entry to Horton Country Park and it's from here you'll start to head West across the top of Surrey.
Segment Challenge #2: Horton Country Park, 1.8km
10-15miles: Now and then, the paths might become a little busier as you near car parks and if we had known, Ashtead Common hides a Roman villa so if you're on a historic hunt, this could be a point to explore a little more. The route itself has some undulating parts which you don't really take any notice of but if there was a climb in this route, the drag of Prince's Covert might burn the legs a little. Three quarters of a mile and at a shallow average of 2.5%, on gravel though, it'll raise the heart rate a little. Try and knock Harry off his perch on this one!
Polka Dot Challenge #1: Prince's Covert, 1.2km, 5.9% max
15-20miles: One of the surprising views I came across was from the look out point by Oxshott Heath. A war memorial sits next to what can only be described as a huge sand bowl. Honestly at times, I didn't have a clue where I was apart from little glimpses of roads I recognised as I crossed them but the most confusing section for me was leaving this place. I ended up making my own paths through the holly bushes thankfully finding the main trail.
Esher Common is the next woodland to come across and you come in from the South. You're greeted with leaves, muck, gravel and sand from the offset! Those infamous electric pylons that you see Portsmouth Rd on your road bike stand tall over you as you navigate the exposed tree roots and loose rocks. I never this realised how big this common was, paths intertwined everywhere. We had to come back on ourselves a few times and some gullies gave us a few frights. Your last piece of woodland to explore is through West End Common which is next to Garson's Farm so on a sunny afternoon, would be a perfect place to end the ride with some strawberry picking.
Otherwise, head back up to Sandown and to Hampton Court for a cuppa or a quick blast around the trails in the lovely but often busy Bushy Park. Another option would be to follow the Thames path back into London but it will involve a lot of dodging as this part of the river is usually very very busy. But for gravel/trail runs go, it was really enjoyable and that was only a brief introduction to the off-road routes that Surrey has to offer!
Segment Challenge #3: Sandy Lane to Roller Coaster, 0.9km