The full moon and autumnal equinox was fast approaching and with it the chance for a night in a North Yorkshire forest. Fortunately there was no 'Slaughtered Lamb' pub or rumours of werewolves, just a couple of Sussex southerners going feral for the night. Of course, feral is a very subjective term but in our case probably incorrect. It was my first time glamping...
Glamping (glamorous camping) is a growing global phenomenon that combines camping with the luxury and amenities of a home. Glamping is camping in style and comfort.
It was actually in a Camping Pod (http://stoneclosecampsite.co.uk/pods/) at the wonderfully named High Rigg Farm in the middle of Dalby Forest. Guldize, the Druids call it Alban Elfen, or the Autumnal Equinox is normally heralded by storms blowing through from the South West. This one was no exception, it hit during the drive up the M1 from the South to the North with gusto providing a sketchy journey on the motorway. We kept our nerve, ate on the way and finally arrived in North Yorkshire, anxiously scanning the roads to see how much rain they'd had. Bumping along the dirt track to our pod it was all pretty grey, looking to be drouk and we unpacked the car fully expecting our plans for a couple of hours skedaddle on the Mountain Bikes to be ruined.
Then the suns bright face gleamed from the gloaming clouds, the grey mantle broke and flew from her face. We beamed and wriggled into our cycle kit.
As ever, the first sections of a MTB trail centre are a shock to the riding body. Compounded by a 5 hour hammer up the motorway and a-roads from the south. Our stereotypical belief that it must be cold and grim ooop north took a body blow by the end of the first section. We were hot, hot and sticky but the trails were good! Technically challenging riding that encourages you to push your body and skills to the limit. The sections are a blur of attempting to achieve 'flow', that little bit of Awen, Odr or Wod, the furious inspiration where man, machine, time and motion become a singularity. It is a beautiful thing when it occurs and brings a heady rush of internal alchemy; adrenal-endorphins. After the first half hour of sweat and struggle brief flashes of MTB Wod appeared - pushing down on the rear suspension to use the decompression to ping you out of the apex of a berm, an unconscious flick of the hips to slide the back tyre around a corner without the need to brake...
the aim is maximum speed, minimum braking and an even(powered) masterful effort to speed along this man made off road roller coaster.
After an hour and half we took one of the escape routes back to the Forest Road, a nice fire road blast downhill. The forest spat us out on the dark tarmac...
And now we were lost..., in the forest..., with the sun sinking, winking through the trees. Which way does the road go? We started riding in a direction, a 50-50 chance of being the right direction. We saw people..., people on bikes..., people who'd pulled up at our camp site just before we left :) Not wishing to become the feral southerners living wild in the woods we asked for directions. They too were lost, but knew where they'd come from and pointed us in that direction! We promised to send out a search party if they didn't come back. We rode up past the Adderstone, a wonderful large stone outcrop and found the trail that took us straight back to the safety of our Pod.
The Pod had a heater and we set up for our glamorous night. Comfortably sat in chairs under the eaves of the pod with plenty of tea, beer and followed by a Chow Mein supper cooked on the Coleman one-fuel stove. Marvellous! A little bit of music, some cheesy comestibles with a few snifters of cold vodka and a lot of chat. Drafts of drizzle would flow over, causing a slight tightening of the collar, pulling down of the cap and a snuggling into the jumper but not enough to diminish the vigour of being warm & cozy outside. Eventually the clouds went and the the full moon drenched the high rigg with light; a majestic moon, sailing above the cloud kites surfing the wind above us.
After a reasonable sleep, certainly better than any in a tent and on a par with many a hotel, we fuelled ourselves for a decent days riding. It would be easy to say more of the same except each section of trail is different up there in the forest. What was the same was how the forest enveloped us so that in seconds we'd lost our direction, sense of time and space and thus ourselves. Lost in biking... if the Summerlands do exist then Dalby is not far off being the Mountain Biking Summerlands. Brief views over the moorland during fire road traverses would then plunge us into flat out technical red and black runs, all the time not sure what gear to pedal in or what technical challenge would be round the next bend. With whoops and shouts our visceral selves had escaped into the woods on a glorious golden indian summer morning. Just as the intensity and effort were tiring us, it was the last section of swoopy berms and roller coaster humps dropping us back to the cafe. For lunch and a return hammering down the M1.
To some it may seem a lot of driving for a little biking, a ratio of 2:1, but to the MTB'er the intensity of a trail centre compacts 5 times the trail into a short section. To a deep ecology Druid it may seem a lot of petrol and indeed it is but there is a perspective to it; we're not flying to the Alps, or Moab or the North Shore and life is also for living. If we could get the same experience locally we probably would. To the Gewessi what did I learn about the land. I learnt something strange - I'd not been to Yorkshire much before and as I arrived there was a feeling, quickly quashed by my rational mind of excitement. The sort of excitement I only usually get at a homecoming, when I can see the South Downs of Sussex or the curve of St. Mounts Bay in Cornwall. My mum's family come from that part of Yorkshire, my friend has a Yorkshire surname and the spirit of Yorkshire welcomed us like long lost sons. The sun shone when we needed it to, the weather was warm and welcoming and the forest was fantastic. Guldize is the time of harvest, reaping what you have sown. This MTB trip was reaping the fitness we'd gleaned over a summer of riding and making the effort, knowing that this journey was the fruit of our biking labour. The Gold Days are also a time to hoard good memories that can be pored over whilst hunkered down in the dark days of winter. They are the seed of next summer's fuel to ride more, ride hard and to grow old ungraciously fighting for fitness so that next Guldize we can accumulate more good MTB memories.