Posted by: Ian | February 12, 2012

Herepaths

After my turbo session yesterday I felt lethargic today and couldn’t decide whether or not to have a ride. In the end I decided to take out my Amazon Rohloff for the first time this year. Last year during the winter of extensive snow and ice I fitted the Amazon with fat (35mm) knobbly tires so that I could get outside whatever the weather. Today, I liked the idea of a slower, comfortable ride.

My aim was simply to do a short circuit taking in some roads that I might be reluctant to tackle on a road bike. Up the hill above Marsh I came across steep stretches of pockmarked road covered in ice and farm crap. The Amazon sailed over them a treat. A few miles later I came to the Staple Hill car park. I knew that there were some paths through the woods and turned in to check whether there was bridleway as well as the footpaths. There was, and although for the little way ahead that I could see it was white with snow and ice, I decided to see where it led.

While a hardcore mountain biker would find it tame, the combination of ice, rocks and down slope made parts of it a challenge for me.

It was fantastic. Where there weren’t simultaneous ice, rocks and downhill it was wide-grin fun. I’m sure that if I did a lot of cycling like this a carbon fork with no front suspension would be vulnerable to the continual impact but the Amazon is otherwise a serviceable mountain bike. On this terrain, it’s great to have the Rohloff hub’s slow gearing that you can change in 14 even steps under full load. The frame, saddle (a Charge Spoon) and wheels are all comfy, the brakes have good clearance, and the wide flat bar and upright position make it easy to read the path ahead. I was only off road for a few miles but it was exhilarating.

There were occasional signs that told me I was following a/the “herepath”. Back home, I checked it out on the internet and found that this is a word dating from Anglo-Saxon times – the 9th century. The herepaths were superior roads prepared as a defensive resource for the wars against Viking invaders. They found wider civilian and trade service and are now known, according to a local website, as “people’s paths”. However, the military connotation is evident in that “here” meant “armed host” and is preserved in terms such as here+burh = a burh (defended site) with a garrison, which became “harbour”.

Around Staple Hill and Castle Naroche there are many miles of herepaths that have been mapped and signposted for walkers and off-road cyclists. I’ll be trying out more of them.

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Responses

  1. Thanks. The ideal temperature is probably just a few degrees warmer than it was on Sunday – so that the mud is cold enough to be solid, but not actually icy. I’m almost always on a road bike so wouldn’t even think about trying out paths like this. But now that I’ve found this little cluster I’m sure I’ll explore them more.

  2. Beautiful road, looks very cold though. Interesting history about the road as well. Cheers.


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