This issue: Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, and Long Lane / Ladder Hill in the Peak District Words and photos: Mike Beddows
109: DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL, SURREY
This is a fantastic set of lanes right next to the busy A3 in Surrey. I wish I had more time in this area to sample more of the byways that lead off from this route, but a ferry departure was looming so it was a rushed affair for me.
However, I’m glad I took the time to ride this lane, just be aware of the Highland cattle along the way. While they look rather intimidating, they seemed very docile although I was sure to switch off my engine and paddle past slowly while taking plenty of photos. They certainly weren’t in a hurry to move.
This trail is suitable for anyone with some off-road experience under their belt, but there are a few sandy sections which may cause concern for a novice rider.
The trail starts as the tarmac ends. Start by taking the left fork (if you have time, be sure to explore to the right as this is also legal). Proceed past the last house on the left and along a wide track.
Apart from the occasional sandy section, the going is straightforward as you ride a sunken lane between trees overhead. Continue along the lane until you see an obvious sign where the track splits.
You could head left here but my route for this issue of ABR follows the lower track straight on. Cross over a cattle grid. There are a few washouts on this short section so take care as you’ll see stones littering the track. The track splits once more.
Take the right fork here. You will soon meet a trail joining from the left. Go right and join this track. You are now out of the sunken lane and riding through unkept fields on either side. It really is a picturesque area to ride through. The track remains straightforward on a wide trail littered with small rocks and stones.
Before long, I encountered a number of Highland cattle grazing on the trail, which was a fantastic site, but something to be aware of if you have a phobia of cows. There were massive horns on all the beasts. I turned my engine off and slowly paddled the bike around the herd.
The forest now opens up and the views over the wooded hills are fantastic. You start to head slightly downhill and there are more loose stones to contend with, although nothing particularly difficult as the track is wide and it’s easy to pick a decent line. Cross over another cattle grid and the track splits into two. Take the right fork.
The surface now becomes compacted and again the trail is wide, but the going is a lot easier. Pass a track joining from the right, which is not legal, so don’t go exploring down it. Proceed uphill on a broken tarmac base which soon turns into a nice single track tarmac road.
When you get to a point where there are bollards on your right and the trail turns left, you will soon be approaching the next major turn in the track. Head down the tarmac for a few more metres until you see a track heading off to the right, doubling back on itself. Take this right-hand turn.
6-7 Head uphill along an easy trail. At the top, you’ll meet a track joining from the right (again, if you have time, go and explore the additional byways on offer). From here you are on a very popular walking route.
Although it’s now tarmac based, it’s popular with dog walkers. The views off to the right and into the Devil’s Punchbowl are fantastic. Continue to the carpark where this trail comes to an end.
110: LONG LANE / LADDER HILL, PEAK DISTRICT
These are two cracking lanes in the Peak District just north of Buxton that I make a point of riding when I’m in the area. The first is straightforward with one slightly downhill rocky section, and the second starts as a rocky climb followed by a gentler ending.
Like the previous trail, this isn’t suitable for complete beginners, but if you’ve got a few green lanes under your belt, give it a go. I encountered some large puddles spanning the trail on the second lane, but these were not deep, just wide and a little intimidating. It’s nothing to worry about though, just take it steady when riding through the water and keep your head up.
Leave the paved road and head to the gate. Proceed through the left-hand gate (the right one leads into the farm). The first part of the track has a wide solid base which is easy to ride. Continue straight ahead leaving the farm behind. Proceed through the next gate.
You are now riding through a field where the surface deteriorates. There is grass growing in the trail with shallow ruts either side and occasional puddles, but there’s still plenty of grip. As you reach the end of the field, the track improves and it’s is now wide and stony.
Proceed around a right-hand bend and you’ll encounter more rocks.
There are great views over the valley in front. Keep heading down the track while picking the best lines between the fist sizes rocks. Proceed to the gate.
A short tarmac section.
The rocky track heads uphill. It’s fairly wide and shouldn’t prove too problematic. Once you reach the top its worth stopping. The views down to Combs Reservoir below are fantastic.
Continue ahead. The track remains wide and easy going with some occasional rocky sections. The beautiful views over to the right continue. Be aware there was one large puddle covering the trail when I rode it, but at under knee depth, it wasn’t too challenging.
There is no option to go around so proceed slowly through it with care in case there are hidden obstacles. You will eventually start heading downhill and the track becomes rockier. Continue to the paved road and the end of this route.