Mountain Biking on the North Downs
This guidebook covers 21 routes across the North Downs, an area boasting some of south east England's finest trails. Included is a 59km MTB route on the Downs Link which joins the North Downs to the South Downs at Shoreham-by-Sea. Rides are graded for difficulty, and illustrated with OS map extracts and height profiles.
Seasonsthe North Downs are excellent for mountain biking all year round, though from late autumn to late spring some trails can be extremely muddy and claggy; popular trails are much busier during summer, especially at weekends
CentresGuildford, Peaslake, Abinger, Dorking, Reigate, Redhill, Bearsted, Wrotham, Ightam, Chartham, Chilham, Ashford, Elham, Temple Ewell
Difficultyroutes are intended for mountain bikers with some experience and a reasonable degree of fitness; routes are graded 'moderate', 'hard' and 'very hard' with 'difficult' or 'technical' sections indicated; the profusion of tree roots, jumps and flinty tracks make full-suspension bikes a serious consideration; body armour and full face helmets may be advisable for 'downhilling' enthusiasts
Must Seeexcellent woodland singletrack in the Surrey Hills; numerous challenging climbs and exhilarating descents on the North Downs' steep southern escarpment; stimulating routes on chalk, sand and earth trails criss-crossing the beautiful rolling, wooded downland of Surrey and Kent; picturesque villages, great country pubs and fine countryside at every turn
The North Downs offer superb mountain biking all year round. Some of the finest off-road trails to be found anywhere in the country are available in abundance amid the green, rolling chalk and sandstone hills and along the steep, wooded escarpments that comprise some of England's loveliest countryside.
Straddling two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs – the North Downs are criss-crossed by hundreds of kilometres of well-maintained byways and bridleways, which can be easily mixed and matched to create almost endless route combinations. The area's excellent trails cover sinuous woodland singletrack, punishing steep climbs, seemingly endless rattling descents and hugely enjoyable rollercoaster rides along the Downs' spine.
The 20 circular routes in this guidebook are day, half-day and shorter mtb rides along the length and breadth of the Downs. It also features a 59km route on the long-distance Downs Link, which joins the North Downs to the South Downs and leads on to the coast at Shoreham-by-Sea. From Farnham in the west to Dover in the east, the North Downs terrain is a mixture of chalk and sandstone downland, which is generally well-drained and provides superlative conditions for much of the year.
Divided into seven chapters – routes around Guildford, Dorking, Reigate and Redhill, Maidstone and the Medway Valley, Ashford, Canterbury and Elham and Temple Ewell – the circular routes range from 18.5km to 47.5km, and each provides data including distance, difficulty, time and off-road percentage. The sheer number and variety of the North Downs' excellent trails make it a playground for mountain bikers, who will never be short of options here.
- 20 mountain bike routes right across the region, including two AONBs
- the 59km Downs Link, which joins the North Downs to the South Downs and the coast at Shoreham-by-Sea
- routes graded by distance, difficulty, time and how much they go off road
- practical information on gear, preparation, safety and accommodation and bike shops in the area
About the routes in this guide
Getting there and getting around
When to go
Tools and maintenance
Rights of way and other users
Using this guide
Routes around Guildford
Route 1 Puttenham Common loop
Route 2 St Martha’s Hill–Abinger loop
Routes around Dorking
Route 3 Hackhurst Downs–Polesden Lacey loop
Route 4 Gomshall–Westhumble loop
Route 5 Leith Hill and Holmbury Hill loop
Route 6 Surrey Hills Grand Traverse
Routes around Reigate and Redhill
Route 7 Oxted and Bletchingley loop
Route 8 Box Hill–Banstead Heath loop
Route 9 Warlingham–Biggin Hill loop
Routes around Maidstone and the Medway Valley
Route 10 Oldbury Hill and Mereworth Woods
Route 11 Meopham–Wrotham loop
Route 12 Bearsted, Detling Hill and Blue Bell Hill
Routes around Ashford
Route 13 Bilsington and Faggs Wood loop
Route 14 Wye Downs loop
Routes around Canterbury
Route 15 Chartham Downs loop
Route 16 Chilham and King’s Wood loop
Route 17 Rough Common–Blean Wood loop
Routes around Elham and Temple Ewell
Route 18 Elham Valley loop
Route 19 Alkham–Barham Downs loop
Route 20 Temple Ewell loop
The Downs Link
Appendix A: Camping and accommodation
Appendix B: Bike shops/bike hire/bike mechanics
Appendix C: Useful contacts
Ordnance Survey provide map coverage of the North Downs in 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scales (see www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/leisure).
The most up to date 1:50,000 scale Ordnance Survey mapping is used for the routes in this guidebook. At the time of going to press, the information on the maps included in this guide was accurate. A note of caution: the status of some rights of way may be changed over time. Most often – although not always – cyclists have been granted greater access rights with footpaths and other rights of way being ‘upgraded’ to permissive bridleways. Older copies of maps may contain information that is at odds with what is included here.
Roughly half of the 250km NDW National Trail is currently off-limits to bikes. However, at the beginning of 2013 the NDW National Trail’s Steering Group commissioned a survey to assess which parts of the trail and nearby rights of way that are currently off-limits could be made accessible.
Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer series
137 Ashford, Headcorn, Chilham & Wye
138 Dover, Folkestone & Hythe
145 Guildford & Farnham
146 Dorking, Box Hill and Reigate
147 Sevenoaks & Tonbridge
148 Maidstone & The Medway Towns
149 Sittingbourne & Faversham
150 Canterbury & The Isle of Thanet
Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger series
178 Thames Estuary, Rochester & Southend-on-Sea
179 Canterbury, East Kent, Dover & Margate
186 Aldershot & Guildford, Camberley & Haslemere
187 Dorking & Reigate, Crawley & Horsham
188 Maidstone & The Weald of Kent
189 Ashford & Romney Marsh, Rye & Folkestone
Harvey Maps publish two lightweight, waterproof 1:40,000 single sheet maps showing the whole of the NDW: North Downs Way (East) and North Downs Way (West): www.harveymaps.co.uk.
Digital Ordnance Survey mapping of the region is available from sources including www.memory-map.co.uk and www.anquet.co.uk.
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The North Downs is a paradise for mountain bikers, with a vast area of bridleways and tracks. Many people use Garmins and the like for routefinding these days but this book offers so much more, with practical advice and extra information, as well as OS map extracts.
Cycle, November 2015
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Since moving to Scotland from the south of England in 2006, Peter has developed a passion for the Hebrides. He lives at Rhenigidale on the Isle of Harris with his wife, Fiona and their Labradors, Dougal and Mara.View Articles and Books by Peter Edwards