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It was difficult to register what I was seeing. This was one of, if not the most impressive and extensive set of trails I had ever visited.”

Flapjack; the perfect snack. It's tasty, keeps well and is an excellent source of energy. I was getting ready for another road trip. This time round I was driving, the focus was on skateparks, Alex had promised to shoot footage on the JLC camera and we were leaving early.

Photos of Milan Olivier-Recknagel taken by Alex Crump

Day one

I woke at 6am, got ready and packed the car before picking up JLC local, Alex. Despite previously working a morning paper round during school days and a cleaning job before college, I hate early mornings. I'm really bad at them, usually in an almost semi-conscious state until around 2pm. However it was great being two and a half hours away from home with a bike at a perfect set of trails by 10am!

Alex told me that he had wanted to visit Bar End trails for years since he had first caught a glimpse of the spot through a computer screen. While I ruled out the possibility of riding trails since it had rained relentlessly throughout the previous week, the spot was on our way and I was intrigued so we made a stop.

It was difficult to register what I was seeing. This was one of, if not the most impressive and extensive set of trails I had ever visited. As well as numerous lines branching off deep into the forest, there was a bowl with hips and a volcano, and a set with hips connected by a vertical berm that led into an opening of a 270' berm that came out over the entrance before continuing. Madness. Expertly sculptured madness protected from the elements under blankets of tarpaulin and carpet. 

Thanks in part to the covers and the canopy of the forest, the trails were rideable. We were apprehensive to ride as no locals were present (it was a Thursday morning), but with a spade in hand we decided to have a short session on one of the lines, so we cleared the jumps from leaves and smoothed out some of the bomb holes after removing a thin layer of damp clay. 

I had never hit trails blind before (Milford doesn't count). I rely on watching others and hearing feedback before dropping in. However Alex had just recovered from an injury, and I had recently been a trails trip, so after working out the run-in I hit the first - a steep opposite hip. First attempt felt good so after a couple of runs I removed the covers from the remaining jumps in the line. After some runs of the set we recorded some footage and shot some photos, before concealing our tyre marks and ensuring the jumps were how we found them. 

Stoked on an unexpected trails session we were back on the rode to Horsham to check out the newly renovated skatepark that looked exceptional in photos. More skateparks need to be like this. Each section fitted well together so the park had a lot of flow. With a large stretch of the dreaded M25 to contend with, we left after a good session to our accommodation for the night, arranged through Alex's housemate. When we finally arrived an hour late due to traffic we were greeted by a warm welcome and a hearty meal in a posh suburban house. 

After a shower we made our way to the tube station and took the line to Trafalgar Square where we were meeting Alex's other Uni housemate. Unfortunately though there were conflicting interests in the group. While Alex's friends were set on a night out drinking into the morning, we simply wanted a relaxed drink before a night of sleep after our first exhausting day to set ourselves up for the next. I decided to keep a clear head so after one pint I stuck to water. We moved on from a Wetherspoon's to a Murphie's bar, a clear favourite among middle-aged men and suits. After 12am I realised that we wouldn't be leaving any time soon, and if I drank any more water I would drown. In an effort to hide my exasperation I accepted rounds of shots. It finally became clear to our hosts after 2am that we no longer wanted to be out, let alone go to a club, so we made it to a bus stop after wondering around in the rain in search for the right one. What followed was an extensive wait, an even longer bus journey and a lengthy walk back where we got in around 3 or 4am. I had been awake for 22 hours and had a long day ahead. I was not overly pleased.

A local kid told us that BMX legend Chase Hawk had ridden here a week ago”

Day Two

We tried to catch up on some sleep in the morning but naturally woke at 8. Feeling better after a strong coffee and a Wetherspoon large fry-up, we stocked up on energy drinks and said bye to Simon. I drove down the M25 as fast as possible, only slowing for speed cameras, in a bid to conserve as much of the remaining day as possible.

Rolling out of the car park towards Horsham skatepark I knew it was going to take a substantial amount of effort to ride. Alex looked in a similar state. It wasn't until after a lengthy warm up session, a lot of Lucozade, and mid-way through filming that I felt good again and able to do some smooth runs. We left at 3pm, with another skatepark to ride ten miles east.

Crawley bowl was one of the first bowls we had ridden, and it showed. However it was incredibly fun to pump around with an over vert bowl corner and a 9ft steep quarter. We sessioned it for a while and worked out a couple of lines. A local kid told us that BMX legend Chase Hawk had ridden here week ago, which must have been astonishing to watch. After recording some bowl clips I decided to try some 360s over the box, which due to the odd roll-in was difficult enough to clear jumping straight. It went well enough to record before it was time to drive to our next destination.

At 9pm we reached the Hunting Lodge hotel, a half price special in the middle of no-where that I booked the night before the trip. Despite my twin bed request being ignored, the hunting paintings and comfortable room made up for the cosy sleeping arrangement.

12 September 2011


Day three

In the morning we had no idea where we were staying that night. All we had was a plan to visit a newly built indoor park in Hemel Hempstead the next day before returning home. After a lavish breakfast we went on a computer hunt to formulate a plan. We weren't in luck. The hotel no longer had computers, our phones were five years too old to use Wi-fi and the only Internet cafe in town had closed down. We made the short drive to our next spot regardless with the hope of conceiving a solution later in the day. 

It was 11.45, and we were in a queue for a skatepark that wasn't yet open... Forty minutes later we were finally through the doors of Adrenaline Alley, Corby. I rode straight into the main box area and got to grips with the section. Riding in heat indoors with no ventilation is strenuous. Every few runs I had to have a ten minute break to cool off slightly. The only time you really cooled down was when you went outdoors. We sessioned different areas of the park. Alex rode his first spine and volcano, and I found a nice bowl wall ride section to play in. I put together a run worth filming composed of wall rides, a toboggan air and a three fakie. After filming Alex in a different area we had some lunch, still unsure about the night ahead.

For a while I was taken by surprise at people's northern accents, until I remembered we were two hours up the M1. Back in the main box section, I tried putting together some solid runs, which was difficult as I was having trouble airing the end large steep quarter without landing near the bottom of it. After a 360 session with another MTB'er I asked Alex to get the video camera out.

It was 7pm and we still didn't know where we were going to spend the night. On the plus side we had found a computer. Unfortunately it was locked to the skatepark's website so we couldn't search for cheap accommodation. We concluded that as we didn't want to pester Alex's Uni housemate again, or ring Ben two hours away in Hampshire who I had only met the week before where I stayed for three nights, our only option was to drive home. While our plan had changed from another day of riding to staying at Corby until closing then driving through the night after three full days of riding and sleep deprivation, we were content. We had ridden in four exceptional places, including a set of trails, and despite our fatigue we wanted to keep riding that evening.

There was a line in the box section that I wanted to try: hitting the step-up backwards into the quarter, which cut out the long pedalling section following the volcano after dropping in. During the first couple of runs I landed the step-down to flat, but then I was more consistent and it felt better not pedalling before the quarter. During this time Alex had the bowl in a separate area to himself and mastered opposite hips and progressed with airs. We left the park at 9pm on a high.Part of me couldn't believe I was about to drive for hours in the state I was in. Loud music kept me awake until the M5 services south of Birmingham where I enjoyed a Chicken Legend meal with coffee and a free Mcflurry. Driving slow to save on fuel, we eventually got back to Exeter where I dropped off Alex, drove home and went to bed at 3am.


Thanks to Alex’s housemate and family for their hospitality.

Alex Crump

It was 7pm and we still didn't know where we were going to spend the night.”