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Queen Elizabeth Country Park - QECP

Discussion in 'Pictures' started by Greg, Sep 2, 2015.

  1. Greg

    Greg MTB Rider Staff Member

    Managed to get down to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a ride, been planning to head down after riding the South Downs Way which goes through the middle of the park. After reading up online about the QECP mountain bike trails I was a little curious to see why so many people slate it...

    Well, on arriving the first frustration is the lack of clear signage for the routes, the main car park map appears out of date. From the car park the first large sign I came to was a trail grade info board, no map, no clear or route directions. Just behind the board is a Red way marker, I had to look around for the Blue marker that's obscured by the undergrowth far to the right of the board.

    From there the trail marking is fair at best, probably adequate if there were only bike trails here, but the bike trails are criss-crossed by foot paths and horse riding trails. Often the route is obvious from usage and tire marks, other times the completely faded way markers merely indicate you've got to make an decision, go left or go right, or perhaps straight on? Either way was is an adventure I guess...

    Many of the comments online are about the overall quality of the trails, precarious chalk, boggy mud, slippery roots, and so on. Check, check and check! It had been raining heavily the week before my visit so things were about as bad as they could be. The chalk is frightening, especially the big berms that are hewn out of the chalk hill side. The mud is no more or less than to be expected anywhere that you’re riding in woodland. There are a lot of roots, slippery polished, tricky to climb up roots. The off camber root over chalk climbs are the worst, frustrating and even annoying as the rear wheel often spun and I stopped on the spot of what would otherwise have been a challenging but ride able climb (though Racing Ralph’s aren’t especially well known for their wet grip!). There were plenty of skid marks off the trail too where people had bailed out from the lack or grip, myself included. Kudos to the person who had been round earlier in the day on a CX bike!

    Two paragraphs of moaning, sigh. So to be fair QECP is not a trail centre. It's a country park with foot paths, some horse riding trails and some mountain bike trails in the woods. To expect it to be like FoD or Swinley is wrong and will lead to disappointment. The MTB trails at QECP are really just way marked routes through the woods, graded as for guidance to ability and with some features thrown in to mix things up. If you've ever fancied having a go at XC laps races, like the SouthernXC series, but were not sure what to expect, then head to QECP and hit the Red route a couple of times as fast as you can. It's exactly what you'd expect to find, unrefined natural technical riding.

    An important thing to remember is the MTB trials have all been created and are maintained by volunteers. The QECP Collective have done a really good job with what they have. I bet the Red route is a real hoot in the summer when all that chalk is bone dry and extra grippy and the berms can be railed and the course ridden flat out to get the most out of it’s flow. In the dry all those roots wouldn't be such an issue either. It's a really great place to increase your skills; narrow natural trails, tricky rooty loose climbs and entertaining features. It's a step up from just riding in the woods, but it hasn't quite made it to trail centre status yet. Perhaps with some investment and financial backing QECP's MTB trails could be improved some, clear way marking, made all weather friendly, then it would be a really great place to visit and worth the 3 hour round trip.

    Would I visit again? Honestly no if it was just for a few laps of the QECP MTB trails, but it has a bit more to offer. It's a great base for riding out of, cafe, toilets, etc. The South Downs Way runs right through the middle giving easy access to some really great local riding in the surrounding hills and country side, there are many many miles to explore that will have you coming back for more ... that’s unless all you want to do is ride around a trail centre all day...














  2. noodle

    noodle Member

    Looks like a reasonably good ride, albeit with a few caveats to take care. The tracks here are maintained by volunteers also. They do a great job considering they all have full time employment as well! I've joined in to help a couple of times but it's difficult to find a time/day that suits most people.

    One of the things that is quite difficult here it to predict what a track will be like even a few days after it has had some work. You really have to pay attention to the weather over the next week and take an educated guess as lots of that hard work can be undone with a big downpour.

    I'm very jealous that you can see deer on your rides! The deer here are only in very remote areas. You'll usually see a lot of native birds on the local tracks but that's about it.
    Greg likes this.
  3. paulsmith73

    paulsmith73 Member

    I havent been there but it has a bit of a bad name when I've asked people who have. I think your point that it isnt a trail center is important. I bet most people go thinking it will be.
    Greg likes this.

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