This Issue: Clwydian Hills, North Wales and Hexham Lane, County Durham
Words and photos: Mike Beddows
65 – Clwydian Hills, North Wales
This is one of the closest groups of lanes to my house, being 35 miles away, which shows how poor the opportunity is for green laning in North Cheshire! That said, in about an hour I can be in the Peak District or North Wales, so it’s not all bad.
These two lanes that start a few miles outside of Mold, North Wales, are fantastic. There’s nothing overly difficult so they can be attempted by novice riders.
Maybe give the 7-8a and 7-8c section a miss, as these are steep downhill sections, and 1a-2 on the map is the harder of the options to start the trails.
So, if you are a novice avoid these and you will have a great time.
The views as you ride along the Clwydian Hills are fantastic and it’s well worth scheduling a brew stop along the way (take your own as there isn’t a café on the route).
There are a few other lanes in the area, but nothing that will take more than a couple of hours to ride, forming a loop, and none of them are too difficult. It’s far better spending the extra 30 minutes or so and heading down to Llangollen where the bulk of the North Wales trails are.
However, these are close to the A55 link road through North Wales, so if you are passing it’s worth the detour to sample what’s on offer. As you head south through North Wales, there are more lanes to be experienced, just grab an OS map and start looking and formulating a route.
Both lanes will take approximately 40 minutes to complete, but take your time and enjoy the scenery along the way.
1A – 2
This is the best way to start this trail. It starts as a driveway of sorts as it leads to a house, but as you near the property, you will see the trail heads straight ahead just to the side of the building’s boundary.
It’s basically a footpath (really a byway) that’s just wide enough to get a bike along. It’s single track between trees and bushes and the going can be pretty muddy and slippery. You soon reach a farm access track and turn right, and then left.
1B – 2
From the main road, it’s signposted as a byway, but the trail doesn’t actually start until you pass the house (near point two). I prefer starting the trail from point 1a.
This section starts as a very (in the wet!) muddy, slippery farm access track that gets a lot of farm traffic, which is evident by the deep ruts left by tractors. Once past the last farm gate, the trail turns into a stony ascent following a straight line to the top of the hill.
The trail here is wide enough for four-wheel drive traffic and you have plenty of scope to pick a good line and dodge any rocks along the way. If you are confident, you can get a real pace on here as you bounce and jump off rocks along the way. Continue to the gate at the top.
Turn right (left just leads to tarmac) and the going is fairly easy. You are now following a well-compacted farmer’s track.
It’s not difficult, but there could be a few shallow puddles after rain. Pass through a gate and continue. This trail ends when you reach the tarmac road.
Tarmac section along a single car width road to next trail.
It’s a 180-degree tight turn to access the next part of the route. It is easier to pass the trail and turn around on the corner where there is space. The trail starts as a narrow tree-lined climb and can be muddy in parts. Nothing difficult though. Continue round the right-hand bend to the gate.
The trail becomes easier now. You follow a single car-width trail halfway up the Clwydian Hills that winds its way around the contours of the hillside.
The views to the valley to the left are amazing. There are several decent places to stop along the way to take in the scenery.
For the more energetic out there, it’s a good walk to the top for views stretching out across North Wales and to the sea to the north.
There are a few gates along this section, and for the most part, the trail is along a hard-compact base, so it will not prove too difficult for average trail riders.
There are a few ruts, but nothing too major or anything to really worry about. At the gate at point seven, you now have a choice as there are three routes leading off the hill.
This is my favourite way down the hillside, but probably not of use if you want to head north! There are several gates on your way down, so if you don’t like them, don’t come this way.
This is the most technical part of the lane and it’s pretty steep and there are a lot of rocks.
As you pass the house on the right slow down. You need to turn left just after it. The lane isn’t signposted, and straight on is private land (I know, I’ve missed the left-hand turn in the past).
Head down the lane to the left, through a farm courtyard and follow their driveway to the tarmac where the lane ends.
Proceed past the entrance to the house, through a gate and into a farmer’s field. Head steeply downhill, take care as this route doesn’t appear to be used much towards the top and the grass will be slippery, especially in the wet. You will end up heading down a sunken lane to the tarmac road at the bottom.
66 – Oxen Law and Hexham Lane, County Durham
These are two fantastic lanes situated in the northeast of England, not too far from the glittery lights of Newcastle. Both lanes run from north to south and are only a mile and a half apart.
Whilst Oxen Law is open to all traffic, Hexham Lane is not. In the past, it had suffered damage due to four-wheel-drive vehicles.
The TRF managed to save this lane and it is now open to motorbikes only. It’s a fantastic lane, and credit has to be given to the TRF for fighting for our right to ride it.
Stick to the track and try not to roost any soft ground, and I’m sure this lane will be open for many years to come.
The riding is fantastic along moorland tracks, and in parts, you feel like you are riding over open fields with very little track to be seen.
Start by riding along a single-track tarmac road until you pass the houses. Once the tarmac ends the gravel starts. Proceed until you reach the first gate. You will see the trail heading uphill after the gate.
After the gate, the trail on the hill is pretty messed up. When I passed, there were lots of gravel mounds, so I expect this section to be graded fairly soon. The trail is muddy and slippery, and obviously well used by recreational vehicles. After the worn section, the trail is hard-compact with lots of loose stone.
This soon gives way to a moorland track consisting of two tracks with shallow ruts and a large grass section in the middle. Keep heading towards the trees in the distance. As you get closer, the trail becomes a lot rockier, so enjoy yourself as you bounce over them.
Go through the gate, and continue straight on. You are now crossing a footpath on the map. Immediately there is another gate. Once through, you are now on the moors. This is a typical moorland track. Fairly deep ruts which have a hard, rocky base. In the middle, there’s the normal motorbike rut.
There are plenty of puddles in the ruts, and several that span the entire trail. These are no more than knee-deep at their worst, just make sure you stick to the rut otherwise you will get cross rutted and be off.
The deeper ruts soon level out and the going becomes a lot faster over a pretty compact trail with a few loose stones. This doesn’t last long until you get to a wide, grassy, muddy section with plenty of ruts. Continue to the tarmac at the end.
This marks the start of Hexham Lane. Head through the gate and bear left, heading across the field. You’ll see a sign saying no cars and you’ll notice that there are no ruts, just a straight route across the field towards the next gate (head towards the trees in the distance. After the next gate, the trail becomes more defined with shallow grassy ruts.
As you pass the trees on your right the trail becomes a lot more like a typical moorland track (you are on Wolsingham North Moor). It’s about a car-width wide, with banks and heather along the tops.
Head through the next gate and a graded track joins from the right. Keep going left. The graded track turns to the right, this is where you need to leave it and proceed left. Do not continue down the graded track any further.
Back onto a grassy trail now. Go through the next gate and veer to the right, following the wall. Do not go straight on! The track becomes defined after a hundred metres or so. Keep heading towards the trees in the distance and through another gate. The going can be slippery along this entire section.
Keep riding on, with the wall on your right. You are still heading for the trees in the distance. The track is rutted in places, but these are shallow, and there’s occasional muddy sections, but for the most part you are riding on grass. So, expect it to be slippery in the wet.
At the wood continue through the gate and keep heading straight with the woodland on your right. There’s no real track now and you’re simply riding over virgin grass. This the benefit of riding a lane where four-wheel-drive access is restricted.
Through the next gate and you are back into a proper moorland with long grass on either side. Follow the defined track. More single track now, following a rut which is muddy and with some puddles.
The track soon becomes very rutted with plenty of old four-wheel-drive scars. As you near the top, the track becomes more stone based and it’s easy riding the shallow ruts with a solid base.
The view to the right is great and it’s worth stopping to appreciate it. Head through the next gate and continue down the trail to the gate at the end and it’s all tarmac from here.