The Hamsterley Half Century

The Hamsterley Half Century

Long before Hamsterley Forests trail centre status, people were riding the forest fire roads with the aim of getting fitter, driven by the fact that they thought riding long distances on a mountain bike was cool. I am one of those people, I don’t care about hucking or ladder drops.

People associate trail centres with all weather, man-made trails designed to deliver thrills and satisfy the adrenaline junkies. Hamsterley doesn’t disappoint in this department and it’s well deserved reputation as a centre of excellence for newly built man-made trails and it’s thriving downhill community is well known. What isn’t well publicised are the miles of cross country trails. These can be combined into a long distance endurance ride and are the jewels in Hamsterley's crown.

After several fine days, when I saw the blue sky this morning, I couldn’t resist a ride around my evil creation again…

What is it?

The Hamsterley Half Century is a 50km (31.1 miles) circular route, boasting a lung/leg busting 1300m (4300ft) of climbing (and descending).

It’s a route I devised after a challenge by Ash Scott. Ash needed a good training circuit in preparation for his Transrockies race and made the following stipulations:-

  • It should be 50km.
  • It should stay within the forest boundaries.
  • No sections of trail should be used more than once.
  • It should be an all year circuit.

I’ve been rattling around the forest since the early nineties, helping to organise and run the Network Q car rallies as well as mountain biking (for pleasure). Given my fascination of mapping and knowledge of the forest, it was a challenge I couldn’t turn down !

This route has been known to the regular forum users over the years by different names but the Hamsterley Half Century was the one that seemed to stick. When first designed, it used the forest drive (the Grove Link wasn’t in existence then) but it’d be criminal not to incorporate the Grove Link now.

The Route

This is one of those ‘coming of age’ rides, the ones you discuss over a slab of flapjack in the middle of nowhere, or a pint by a roaring fire : a true test of fitness.

Even with all the best intentions in the world, I didn’t complete the Hamsterley Half Century on todays ride and bailed out at 18 miles (there are plenty of escape routes back to the car). I can make as many excuses as the next man (the ferocious head wind on the slog from The Grove to Neighbour Moor seemed like a good one), but the truth is that languishing indoors all winter has affected my fitness : it’s probably somewhere down the back of the sofa. The last time I completed this ride was a short, cold, wet day in February 2007 (training for our five day Cairngorm epic) : now that was a challenge !

With the challenge re-ignited, I can honestly say that I’ll be back to complete it. Dare you?


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Craig ‘Rifty’ Cummings