Although snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses traditionally herald the beginning of spring, these days they more often start flowering when it is still thoroughly winter. The Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is a real spring flower - when it is out you know that for certain it is really spring. At first glance you might mistake it for a dandelion, but the bracts running attractively up the flower stem are quite distinctive. The past couple of weeks the woods have been full of the sounds of finches, woodpeckers, greats tits and blackbirds all calling out establishing their territories, but now that the Coltsfoot is flowering I know that spring has really started. And what is that to do with mountain biking? Simply that if I was not out in the woods on my bike I would not have seen the Coltsfoot flowering, nor seen the trees coming into bud, nor heard the green woodpecker 'laughing' as it swooped between the trees.
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In the last few weeks the Quadenoord estate, which owns a lot of land in the Renkumse Beekdaal, just to the east of Wageningen, has put up a load of new signs forbidding mountain biking. The signs (on the left below) don't actually say that it is forbidden, just that only walking is allowed and that for "all" other activities access is forbidden. So jogging, horse riding and photography are presumably also not allowed. That is a great shame as in the more remote parts of the estate there are some nice tracks, where I have been happily riding for more than ten years and outside the summer holidays you never see a soul. The estate has also refused access to its land for organised mountain bike tours in recent years.
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The sign on the right is what you see in much of the rest of that valley in land owned by the national forestry service. It does not mention cycling or mountain biking at all, just that you can walk with your dog on a lead and that motorized vehicles are not allowed. It also says you can see their website for more information, but I could not find anything there about access for mountain biking. It would of course be nice if the sign gave some clarity, especially as I hear rumours of fines, but not if that led to even more land being closed to cyclists.Add a comment
On Tuesday, the local club organised its traditional after-Christmas winter tour, which was as usual a resounding success. Many hundreds of happy participants, blue skies and enough mud on the ground to make it a proper mountain bike event combined together very nicely (see here for an account in Dutch). I was helping put out the arrows to mark the route. Setting them out is not so bad, but collecting them afterwards is like a rather intense interval training, with a couple of hundred meters sprint to the next arrow, stop, bend down, pull it out of the ground, start off again leapfrogging past your partner and on to the next one and repeat until our ten kilometre stretch was completed. So I arrived back home quite weary and hungrily ate everything with a high energy content that I could see.
Yesterday it was a different story.
The blue skies were replaced with a dense mysterious mist percolating through the Scots pines and the crowds of mountain bikers were replaced with just my neighbour and myself. And that was about it. Not counting the bits within a hundred meters of a car park or view point, I think we saw one other mountain biker. And a squirrel. For a change we did not set off from home but first drove to Planken Wambuis and then rode off in the direction of Mossel. There is definitely a wilder feel to the woods there with a more developed understory and some wide open spaces across the moors - not that we could see the open spaces through the fog. But that just enhanced the feeling of remoteness and added to the atmosphere.
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I don't know if it was the freezing weather, or the time of the year, or what, but there were an awful lot of buzzards around this morning. One of them even flew along in front of us for a good 500m, following the twists and turns of the track. But it was the amazing weather, with crisp white frost and sunshine filtering through golden leaves that really made it. Perfect.
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The autumn colours are quite spectacular at the moment, with yellow birch, orange-brown oaks and bright orange-red American Oaks (or Red Oaks as the Americans call it) looking amazing, especially with the morning mist filtering through the trees and the sunlight through the dewdrops. Even the Molinia grass (purple moor-grass, the tall grass you see in the photo below) has a seasonal orange tint to it. For some reason, Molinia has done really well this year, with clumps growing to a meter high or so in places, looking quite magnificent — almost as magnificent as the group of mountain bikers below.
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Over six hundred mountain bikers turned out for this year's Veluwe Challenge and even though the weather was better than some previous years, it was still quite a challenge, or at least it was for me. I did the 50 km route, which was a bit over 60 km by the time I'd cycled from home, and by the time I got back home I was quite exhausted. In the beginning, despite my average speed being higher than my usual, I was clearly holding back my fellow club-mate and it was only after his shoulder somehow got entangled with a fence as he passed it that I could feel less guilty for holding him back. The (literal) high point of the route was the Goudsberg. That is an area of very steep slopes made of loose sand which was especially challenging. I must admit I was not so pleased with my performance there, I've (just) managed to get up all the slopes there before and this time I had to get off and push several times. Mostly that was because the cyclists in front of me stopped, but not every time. I guess my rhythm was broken by those stops. Still, I guess it is not much of a challenge if you can succeed every time. Anyway, it was a good ride, with impeccable organisation by WV Ede and the usual friendly atmosphere of such events.
Photo © 2016 Harald Kouseband OypoAdd a comment