I’ve cycled through Delamere Forest on the Ashton Road from Hatchmere on at least four Audax occasions. Once on the St Asaph 200km permanent, and three times on the Llanfair 400km event. The road gently undulates through woodland, in which there is a lot of parking beside the road and a great many people walking dogs or cycling along the trails. When my wife booked us a forest holiday in Delamere, I didn’t immediately put the two together.
Off season, the middle of January: the cabins were a lot more affordable for us. I took my 5 year old mountain bike, which hasn’t seen much gnarly off-road action as I usually only ride it along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal towpath.
The forest holiday cabins are on the northern edge of Delamere Forest, and all the information about walks and cycling routes suggest that the Visitor Centre is the place to base yourself and find out more. However, the Visitor Centre is on the southern edge of the forest and quite a long walk for those who don’t have a bicycle. Over the course of three days, in mild and sunny weather, I had time to explore the trails and roads nearby – and to grab a few VeloViewer Explorer Tiles as well.
Visitor centre staff told me that mid-week January was the best time to be visiting as the trails were deserted. I certainly felt free to explore without really seeing anyone else on a bicycle. There are two main routes:
- The “white route” is fire-road wide, and with a white gravel surface. The large 29″ wheels of my MTB rolled comfortably over these routes, and apart from taking it easy near dog-walkers and parents-with-kiddies-walking-to-their-own-Brownian-motion-map, it was extremely easy to cycle.
- The “blue route” is single-track, with grey gravel stones. It weaves back and forth between trees, meandering up and down the easy woodland slopes. There are low and easy berms to keep a bit of speed through corners, and some camel bumps that could just be rolled over if the idea of jumping is too scary. There are hairpins both up and downhill.
In addition to the white and blue signposted routes, the forest is a web of criss-crossed muddy paths through the trees, where riders have created their own unsignposted single-track. It made a refreshing holiday break to be riding relaxing and gentle routes of fairly short distance. I tended to loop around the lake a couple of times and often repeated sections of blue route when they were fun.
I needed this holiday. During this time, we experienced a break in the train of winter storms that had rolled in from the Atlantic since the beginning of the year, it felt like being in a calm moment: as though God had cupped divine hands around our family time together, and marked the holiday as a series of holy-days. We found peace for three days and I found a new rhythm to prayer and Pilates each morning, something that I’ve managed to continue since returning to parish ministry. What I haven’t been able to bring back is the hot-tub. Wow: that felt like the frothy icing on the holy-day-cake. I took fifteen minutes in the pre-dawn, and again under the clear cold night sky… letting my muscles unwind in the force of the massage jets.
Sunrise in the hot tub.
Night sky in the forest