*** For some reason this didn’t publish in December. As the weather is crap now, it seemed as good a time as any to show it or anyway, and it gets it off my draft list***
When coal mining took off in Kent in the early 20th century, it is reported that some miners walked hundreds of miles from the north of England and south Wales.
These men were looking to scratch out a living for themselves and their families in the newly opened mines, having been blacklisted for union activities in their home collieries, making them unemployable in towns where the pit was the only source of work.
This morning, a hundred years on, I – a Yorkshireman, moving to Kent, married to a girl from Welsh mining stock – took advantage on the legacy of these hardy souls, with a pastime more usually associated with God’s own county or the mountains and valleys of Wales.
Fowlmead Country Park was built on the site of the former Betteshanger colliery, near my new home town of Deal in Kent.
It now provides facilities for cycling (leisure, road, and mountain biking – can you tell where I’m going with this?), running, orienteering, geocaching, archery, walking, bushcraft and fossil-collecting.
As I’m on leave from old job before starting new one, and having my mountain bike down here now, it would have been rude not to try check out the 11km of blue/red trails on offer.
Now, 1 December, after a few days of rain, probably wouldn’t be my first choice of test date for a new trail, but without a time machine at my disposal, I didn’t have a great deal of choice.
The park is just over 2 miles from where I’m currently staying (still waiting for house to get sorted) so it took all of 10 mins to negotiate local traffic and get to the trail head.
Now, despite what people down here think, Kent is pretty flat, so I wasn’t expecting any white knuckle descents, or lung-busting climbs, but as these would be my local trails, I was hoping for something a bit cheeky and fun.
I can’t lie, they’re nor Swinley or the Surrey Hills, but – given what they’re working with – they’ve done a grand job.
There’s sections of open dashes, twisty woodland trails, a couple of OK climbs, and a lot of mud. There are signs warning that the red trails are only for advanced riders, but even in crap conditions, with my lack of riding in last year or so, I never even got close to being out of my comfort zone.
There was some great sliding in the mud, so much so I even started practising front wheel skids for first time!
With a bit more fitness, and better knowledge of the twists and turns, I should be able to lower the lap times, and maybe – just maybe – think about entering a race next winter!
UPDATE: Since writing this and for some reason forgetting to publish it, the riding has become non-existent. Finally moved into new house with all the faffing jobs that involves, kids need playing with, new job makes for long days, and MTB needs a shock and fork service but LBS won’t touch Rock Shox or Fox.
So, I’m missing out on the trails in drier conditions, as well as losing the opportunity to explore further afield. It turns out my house is almost exactly on the boundary between two OS Explorer maps. I’ve had them both taking up whole floor looking for interesting-looking bits with tight contour lines to have some two-wheeled fun with but have yet to tick any off my list.
If anyone wants to give me an Orange 5 so I can be both more active and massively over biked for around here, get in touch.