No, I’m not a Bob Dylan fan either. But things are certainly going to change in my mountain biking life. This morning started dry but was scheduled to get wetter later so I took the decision to get out early. Just a quick ride around Healey Nab because I knew it would be all rideable.
A notice concerning “sudden larch death”, a fungal disease, has been posted before the final climb to the top.
I rode around the back of the hill and climbed to the trail head. The ground was wet but not too unpleasant. I nodded at a few other riders, a dad and 2 lads, before my first descent. I took it fairly easy, braking gently and keeping it as smooth as possible to avoid provoking slides. The wheels were still slithering in places and I kept it sensible. After the section of 9 jumps I slinked along the bottom section, keeping it cautious. I started to climb, turning onto the long straight and ahead of me was something game changing.
The first small section of tree felling has begun.
It immediately struck me when I saw the sign ahead and the state of the ground that the hill and trails would be transformed by the tree felling. The stumps are being torn from the ground, destroying everything.
From higher up the trail it looked like no mans land on the Western Front circa 1916.
The work is scheduled to take 6 weeks but it now looks as if in that time the trails will be inaccessible. It won’t just be a question of riding around a few felled trees. All the man made, well surfaced trails will be churned up and even if they are repaired they will never be the same again. My target to ride the whole red graded trail in sub 11 minutes is not going to be possible. It’s one of only 2 targets I’ve set myself for the year so I’ve had to think of something to replace it. I’ll do Great Hill again, trying to beat last years thrilling time of 22 minutes 19 seconds, which was just a single second quicker than another Strava user had accomplished. It’s a good target for me to try and I honestly think my fitness is better this year than it was 12 months ago.
I completed the lap by walking round the cordoned off section and chatted to the riders who were at the trail head again. The guy pointed something out that I hadn’t noticed. It’s not just the larch trees that are affected, most of the oak trees have already died. They’re still standing but clearly no longer alive.
After a second lap I climbed by a different route. It’s always been hard in dry weather so my target was really just to get as far as I could. I battled hard and for the steepest few yards was giving my all. I made it! I rode down the red route climb, possibly for the last time, rounded the taped off part and left the hill. It’s a sad time for me. I must have ridden Healey Nab 1,000 times in the last 27 years but will have to stay away for at least the next 6 weeks.
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