Urban Explorer

I wasn’t going to write this ride up but because I’m bored today and it was a bit different I thought perhaps I should.

With a weekend to myself, Sally at work and no boy, it would have been rude not to get a decent ride in, especially while we’re blessed with sunshine and its 20degs+

Chores and lunch done I headed out early PM and decided to do something a bit different. I rode up and over the Lickeys like I would a commute. Time to the top was on-par so the fitness was still there. I dropped down an empty Fiery Hill Rd (usually choked with parked cars for Barnt Green station). Today I decided to ride in towards Brum on the canal for a change. Being so sunny it was a gamble as the towpath could be busy. I jumped on at Bittel and immediately met the first group of cyclists and walkers. I carefully navigated past as best I could and cracked on. I used to ride this section to Hopwood quite a lot when I had my shop and my cross bike. Flat and fast. I’d normally jump off by the pub and hop across the A441 into the lanes but today I was heading straight on for something new. I’d never ridden past the A441 before. Its only a short section that ends at the start of Wast Hill Tunnel but great fun and nice to be in a bit of shade too.

I always think canal tunnels look spooky

I climbed away from the canal and now into the Hawkesley estate to find the other side of the tunnel. I lost my bearings, been a while and instead found myself riding across it over a bridge. I popped out of the estate and picked it up on Lifford Lane. The towpath quite wide here so armed with my trusty bell and plenty of space to pass this section was a breeze.

At Cotteridge you cross the canal and the path narrows a fair bit next to the train line. It was busy in places but the bell was welcomed and everyone shared and distanced themselves appropriately without fuss which was nice.

the canal was lovely and quiet in places

At Selly Oak I exited the canal and rode up to the Triangle Retail Park. One of the single worst pieces of shit road you can do. Bikes are effectively excluded by design so I stayed on the path and ambled over the A38 and down to the start of the Bourn Brook Way on some of the shittiest infrastructure. Just paint on a pavement, riding under and around signs. Woeful. Thankfully only a few yards of it though.

I was interested to try the Bourn Brook Way, a (newish I think!) dedicated path that meanders out towards Woodgate Valley Country Park. I entered through a big, kissing gate kind of setup which is wide enough to cycle but probably enough to prevent motorbikes I assume its there for. The path looks new with bright white, fine gravel to keep you focussed as you fly through the bends and twists on the path. Great fun. There were plenty of walkers and cyclists but my bell did a great job and I had no issues with anyone. All very cordial and appropriate. I’ve never been to Woodgate Valley Country Park before. Its one of those council run green spaces in the middle of a heavily built up area which serves as an escape I guess for the locals. The path eventually split and the gravel became a kind of harder resin/gravel type surface so I stayed on that as it looked newer. I remember the map just telling me to just keep going on the path. With meadows around and paths going off in other directions, eventually I saw a sign for the urban farm thats there so I knew I was in the park and as quick as you could blink, the path ended and the park was done.

a bit of urban Strada Bianche

Now I had to find some hidden trails I’d originally seen by the side of the M5 while driving but interrogating Google Maps meant I had to find a road, a side road off that and basically cycle between some houses. I lost my bearings a bit when I came out of the park so I zoomed out on my Garmin and managed to find where I was supposed to go. Into the housing estate, right past some houses and this tiny little grass trail was out of sight in the corner next to the residents car park. I rode round a blind, very dry and bumpy path, through a hedge and then it opened up into a big wide field with well worn paths criss-crossing. I headed straight across, each field joined by a narrow gap. I came upon the M5 where I’d seen them hidden behind the houses. No doubt a popular dog walkers spot. The OS Map shows 1 or 2 official footpaths but nothing like this. I popped onto a bridge over the M5 and texted Sally to see if she could see me on the motorway cam (she can in her job). No response so I carried on and popped out of an inconspicuous gap in a hedge right by Frankley Services. I stopped on the bridge where the camera is, texted again. Nothing, must be busy so I dropped down Illey Lane to Hunnington.

Now it was a long slog up to Romsley then upto Walton Hill. I decided to take the bridleway which is nice and wide from the car park. It pops out at one end of the hill and you ride up to the Trig point. Quick pic done, I didn’t stick around.

Walton Hill, the clouds were rolling in now

I descended back to the car park on the steeper side which is always a test as its quite dry and bumpy at the moment. Thankfully not many walkers were about considering how many cars were parked in the (closed!) car park.

I crossed St Kenelms pass and jumped onto the bridleway which meanders around the side of the hill while it drops away below. You gain elevation by riding on a pretty level path. Cool really. I got to the junction where you turn right and climb very sharply to Four Stones but I decided to carry on and do a bit of exploring before I looped back round and upto the top.

Clent has more than you think

Clent done now it was time to get down and head back. I got back to the Nimmings cafe and car park which was obviously closed but the lane outside was carmageddon. Quite ridiculous to be honest and quite annoying.

I rode back over to and through Walton Hill car park and dropped back down Shut Mill Lane and climbed up Winwood Heath Lane with its sea of bluebells and 25% pitch again. Easy on 30/32. Its a sight that a camera does no justice to because it lacks the perspective.

Climb done. I jumped across to Waseley Hills Country Park now for some more offroad. You probably get the best views here as its more open on the top. One of the gates was shut which spoiled a free run to the other side but I can’t complain, I think its only a footpath anyway.

As you pop out of the South Car Park you turn right and cross the A38, you’re offroad again climbing the bridleway to Beacon Hill. The weather had cooled quite a bit now as the sun had gone in and I was watching my clock thinking 2.5hrs was enough. I popped out onto the road climb of Beacon Hill. I descended down round the hairpin bend and then jumped back offroad climbing up to the top of the Lickeys. I was getting a lot off offroad in today!

I meandered through some random trees and trails and picked up a track that runs parallel to Monument Lane to the junction with the Old Birmingham Road. I was a 5 min descent from home but I felt ok so I decided to cross and do a loop around Bromsgrove to get 3hrs in. So Twatling Rd and all the way to Blackwell before a loop around town via Finstall, through town, Sidemoor and Barnsley Hall.

A solid 3hrs which my neck, shoulders and forearms were complaining about afterwards. Great fun to do something different for a change though.


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