Lost and found

By Ryan Mckee...

Well, I always moan about having to endure a 10 mile journey to my closest trails, so I thought I would dust off the trusty OS map and see what I could discover. I sketched out a rough route over breakfast, prepped the bike and ventured off into the (relative) unknown...

It took all my determination to get out of the door, it had been threatening to rain for the past few hours and I am highly allergic to rain! However, I am glad I did, stumbling across some hidden trails that I shall definitely be re-visiting in the near future.

Westbury Map

So with the OS in my pocket and “Don’t worry be happy” on repeat I trudged along the 1/2 mile section of road to reach The Bell Inn where the trail begins.

Line of BeechesThere is a path that extends from the pub and joins the local woods, where most of the ‘local youths’ can be found on any given evening. After sliding along the tunnel-like dirt track, the trail opened up, with several directional options I chose to to head up-hill towards the Chalk Quarry. Due to large amounts of precipitation that seemed to have been falling for the past 7 days I was pleasantly surprised (and slightly perplexed) to find bone dry, dusty trails beneath the relative shelter of the trees above. Perhaps these new trails have a micro-climate all of their own?

My mind was soon drawn to other things as the track became narrow, rocky and very steep. This is exactly what I was hoping I would find. The climb continued for several punishing minutes, reaching a clearing at the top gave me a perfect excuse to have a much needed drink and check the map.

After confirming that I wasn’t lost (yet) I continued along the ridge line, scoping out lots potential tracks off the steep slope to the left. After eyeing up one particular track I decided to give it ago, it wasn't in the route plan but the whole idea of this outing was exploration. I am glad I did. berms, jumps, off-camber, high speed, Heaven. I Got a bit over excited and ended up heading towards a particularly large tree, however my head was acting as an effective break so no damage, only pride!

A short, steep push up and I was back en-route.

Clalk quarryI then emerged onto a gravel double track path which ran parallel to the Westbury Chalk Quarry. This is quite a sight, seeing such a large space of the Earth missing seemed like quite a shame when you consider the rolling landscape that Westbury is nestled in. Another road section followed, stretching from the White Horse to Eddington, where the next trail was located.

This is where things began to unravel somewhat, I had accidentally ended up on a footpath, which lead in the opposite direction to the bridleway I was originally aiming for. There was a steep, grass track climb to reach the the summit. It was at this point I had realised I was more than likely in the wrong place. There were several hints:

  • It could be the lack of any visible tracks
  • It could be the gunfire which echoed across the plains
  • Or it could be the large “Military Firing Range KEEP OUT!” and red flags whistling in the high winds that swept across the vast space before me

Firing rangeWhatever the reason, I now had to rely on orienteering skills which I hadn’t used since completing Duke of Edinburgh 5 years previously. They were shoddy, At best. However, Technology soon came to the rescue as for some strange reason i had WiFi connectivity? Taking this as some kind of gift from the gods, I pulled out my phone and plotted a some points. I had no choice but to trust the directions it was giving me, as time was not on my side (I had to be in work within 90 minutes). For the first time ever, it took me to the destination i wanted to reach! This meant I was securely back on ground i could ride over without running the risk of finding an unexploded land mine or becoming a training exercise target.

All was well, I put my foot down mindful that the clock was ticking, re tracing my footsteps and revisiting the trails I had found only hours previously. They were fast and loose, and definitely made the steep climbs and risk of being “neutralized” by the T.A worth it. It was quite an adventure, I can no longer moan that nothing exciting ever happens, and to top it off I made it to work on time. Bonus.

Comments (2)

  1. Paul


    Those are the trails I rode before I joined BCC – they are fun if a little tricky with the wet and the chalk!

    Let me know if you are going that way again, there’s loads more you have possibly not yet found, and also Erlestoke just a few miles on again.

  2. Ryan Mckee (Post author)

    I went up again earlier and it had changed so much from the day before! a little bit of rain had made it hellish, fell off, got a puncture and the camera ran out of battery…

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