Operation Q

As if I hadn’t had enough two-wheeled action this summer, two-fifths of the Feral Marmot Collective decided to make the most of the Bank Holiday weekend and head down to the Quantocks for a little old-school cross-country action.

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Van Team Six on the road…

So we loaded up Debbie the Doblo, and made our way southeast. TOP TIP: Avoid the M5 around Bristol on the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend… After a good few (too many) hours, we arrived at the excellent Moorhouse Farm campsite in Holford and set up base camp for the weekend.

A pub breakfast on Saturday morning saw us fuelled and ready for action. I had, however, neglected to tell Tris just how steep some of the climbs out of the bottom of the combes are, and we were reduced to pushing (I’m sure Tris did it just to be polite in deference to my ageing legs…). Once at Bicknoller Post though, we turned our attention downwards, and to the descent along Weacombe Combe. Smith’s Combe gets all the publicity, but I have to say I prefer Weacombe. Fast and open, Weacombe Combe also doesn’t have the impossible climb out of it that its more famous cousin does (more on that later…).

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The smiles hide the pain…

A quick spin along the Great Track following the climb up Beacon Hill took us to Frog Combe (now renamed Dead Sheep Ditch), and the infamous rocky gulley leading to the flat-out fun of Holford Combe and a whole lot of stream crossings. Honestly, if there’s a terrestrial way to have more fun and keep your clothes on, I haven’t found it.

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Face-pulling not pictured…

Sunday saw us climbing (again) up from Holford, this time to hit Smith’s Combe. It’s one of those trails that you can’t call yourself a UK mountain biker until you’ve ridden it, so we had to pop Tris’ cherry. First though, we bagged the trig point at the top of Beacon Hill, where we met a one-armed rider who had just casually ridden over from Glastonbury, before turning round and heading home. As you do. Maximum respect for that guy!

The descent into Smiths saw kamikaze sheep (maybe they’d seen their mate over in Frog), numpty descending (by me), and wet feet (again, me…). I cannot stress how much I loathe the climb back out of Smiths Combe. It makes me question whether the descent is worth it. I’m beginning to lean towards not.

One thing that struck both Tris and I was just how friendly people are around this neck of the woods (including the joker who, on my last visit quipped “Welcome to Bicknoller” when I arrived sweaty and exhausted into the Holford car park having misread the map. Git.) Every walker we encountered gave us a cheery “Morning!” with absolutely no hint of antagonism over our use of shared-use paths and tracks. Why can’t all areas by like this?OPQ-7601.JPG

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