A Day Out With The TRF

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Having no knowledge of the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) and being constantly told “there is nowhere to ride off road in Co Durham”, I decided to contact the Northumbria TRF to find out more.

After a few e-mails, an invite to join them on a day out soon followed and I was more than happy to accept. The morning of the ride out arrived.  The forecast had said snow overnight, but there was no sign of it when I fired up my CRF 250 in freezing temperatures.  Flask of coffee in back pack, winter gloves and thermals on, I set off to Edmondsley to meet the Northumbria’s TRF Rights of Way Officer Tony Whitehead.
By the time I had arrived at the meeting point there was a good covering of snow and in the distance I saw Tony on his “P” reg Honda CRM 250.  Well it could have been anybody, but I figured there would only be one other fool out on a bike in this weather, so I stopped and introduced myself.  

“This will make it interesting” he said; making reference to the snow, “we’d better get a move on, just follow me” and without further ado we were off, me  following on as instructed. The snow was getting thicker, and the road conditions were getting worse and I was considering stopping when we turned off the main road into a country lane eventually coming to a stop at a “T” junction on the Craghead to Burnhope Rd.  Tony stopped at the junction and pointed to a small gap in the hedge, “That’s a byway and there’s another one down there” and at that he crossed the road and disappeared through the gap in the hedge.
We had been on the main road for no more than 10 minutes and now we were riding “off road” on a legal byway, no tarmac in sight just snow, ruts and plenty of glorious mud!  This first lane was about one mile in length and brought us out on the B6313, South Stanley, we then rode to Tantobie and turned off the A692 on another by-way to Lintz Green.

Back onto the main road for a few miles to Hamsterley where we meet Steve, Nick and Paul, also members of the TRF.  Tony and I stopped for a short time for introductions, a quick sip of coffee and a chance to get some feeling back in our hands, and then it was off again.  A Honda CRM 250, KTM 450, KTM 200, YZ250 and CRF 250 off for a day’s “green laneing”:  Little did I know what was in store for me! It wasn’t long before we were off road again from Medomsley to the B6309 near Leadgate; ruts, snow, rocks and of course mud and it was all was perfectly legal. On this stretch we came to our first of many gates, the first rider stopped opened the gate for the second rider who held it allowing everyone else to ride through without stopping.  This system happened on every gate and it is done to maximise riding time for all riders and also guarantees the gate is always closed, it’s simple and it works.

Back on to the road again through Delves Lane and Knitsley Mill towards Castleside.  At Horsley Hope we joined another legal off road route having just been beaten to it by a group of 4 x 4 enthusiasts who had visibly left their mark.  By this point I was getting the feeling back in my hands and as we progressed through the “trenches” left by the 4 x 4’s … the cold was the last thing on my mind!  We were on this stretch for some considerable time, negotiating everything from peat bogs to snow drifts and by the time we had got to the end at Redgate Bank, Wolsingham we only had one faller!  

Another short section of road through Wolsingham then it was off to Doctor’s Gate across the moor to Hamsterley Forest. This section was even more demanding as there were sections of steep rocky descents and flooded fords to cross.  When we got to the bottom, I foolishly said “I’m glad we were coming down!” only to be told “we’ll be going up it on the way back!

Passing folks pushing mountain bikes up a long slippery incline, we finally stopped at the top for a well deserved breather, a drink and a chat about where we had been, just as well really as I was completely lost and my life was now in the hands of the TRF!
We were surrounded by dozens of mountain bikes out enjoying the down hill facilities in Hamsterley Forest and to my pleasure not one person had a negative comment to make about our presence.  Respect for each others pastime was evident and it was a pleasure to see. Anyway back onto the bikes to Wolsingham the way we came in time for lunch followed by our homeward journey returning along our earlier route.

The scenery was fantastic and we weren’t the only ones enjoying it, passing several walkers and families out enjoying the snow, on every occasion we slowed and gave them the respect we would expect.  In return every single walker acknowledged us with a wave and a thank-you.  The last challenge of the day fell to Tony and Steve who had to use all of their cattle herding skills. Two calves had escaped from their field and were running loose on the Byway. The two lads worked like a well oiled machine eventually securing the calves back in their field….well done fellas!

One last stop to say our goodbyes and it was back to clean my bike and to get into some clean dry clothes and then get home to soak in a hot bath! I’m still buzzing about the fantastic day out I had with the TRF. The dedication, passion, skill, and respect they have is a credit to the them and any preconceived thoughts about the TRF being out of touch cliquey and more about politics than riding is completely wrong , if off road riding is your thing then give them a shout  you’ll not be disappointed!

The Teesside branch of the TRF hold a monthly meeting every 3rd Tuesday of the month at The Ranch House, Thoraldby Farm, Nr Stokesley.

The following Sundays are dedicated as introduction days. Riders of all abilities are welcome to go out for the day free of charge to get a feel for a typical days trail riding.

To arrange a ride out follow this T.R.F link : www.trf.org.uk/    -   then click on “Groups” and look for the Teesside group.

The Northumbria branch hold their meetings on the 1st Wednesday of the month. To find out more follow the link as above and look for the Northumbria group.

At less than £1.00 per week the T.R.F really is the best way to enjoy your bike and keep on the right side of the law!! (Annual fee £40.00)

PC Gary Ward Durham Motorcycle Section

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