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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.
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|Buy your choice of routes or chapters to read online, on your mobile device or to download as a PDF to print or read.||Browse Routes|
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.
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|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|
For the enthusiastic mountain biker the North Downs is nirvana in the Home Counties! 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. The North Downs are criss-crossed by hundreds of kilometres of well-maintained byways and bridleways that are accessible to mountain bikers and which can be mixed and matched into almost infinitely variable route combinations. The adventurous mountain biker will not be short of options in this corner of the country.
Mountain bikers are attracted to the area in their droves from the southeast of England and beyond. Partly this is because of its proximity to London, but mostly it is due to the riding terrain. From chalk and flint bridleways to loose sand tracks and sinuous forest singletrack; rough, tough climbs to seemingly endless rattling descents; the dry and dusty to the wet and muddy, the North Downs are packed with variety.
The narrow spine of the Hog’s Back between Farnham and Guildford forms the western extremity of the North Downs, which encompasses the ancient chalk downlands, heathlands, pasture and woodlands of Surrey and Kent, while the iconic cliffs of the English Channel coast between Folkestone and Deal terminate the ridge in the east. The south-facing escarpment of the North Downs is generally very steep while a dip slope descends more gradually to the north. The greatest concentration of quality mountain biking trails is at the western end of the Downs among the Surrey Hills – a true mountain biker’s paradise because of the sheer number and variety of excellent trails, both natural and man-made. The many fine byways, bridleways and country lanes of southeast Kent are less well-known as a mountain biking destination, but are in fact something of a hidden gem – partly because so many riders are drawn to the glamorous trails of the Surrey Hills and the South Downs.
As well as the extensive network of well-maintained byways and bridleways criss-crossing the North Downs, there are also many purpose-built mountain bike trails in the Surrey Hills area in particular. Many of the tracks and trails traverse chalk and sandstone downland, which is generally well-drained and provides superlative mountain biking conditions for much of the year. However, the North Downs is also a diverse landscape comprising a variety of terrain, including woodland, pasture and heathland. These ancient downlands comprise two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) – the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs – some of Britain’s most iconic and best-loved landscapes.
The North Downs contains many hundreds of kilometres of public rights of way, including the 246km (153-mile) North Downs Way National Trail (NDW). The Greensand Way (GW) is another long-distance path that traverses part of the North Downs area; much of it is also comprised of bridleways and byways, hence it also makes regular appearances in this guidebook. Many of these rights of way – including sections of the NDW – are accessible to and very popular with horse riders and mountain bikers as well as walkers.