After a winter spent dreaming of dusty trails, Trail Unknown started the 2018 summer season off with a guided weekend linking some of the best natural trails the UK has to offer in the hilly heaven of Devon that is Exmoor National Park.
The idea of Trail Unknown is to find an amazingly beautiful area in the UK such as a national park or area of outstanding natural beauty, where we know there is a mysterious maze of magnificent single track. We put on a professional local guide who knows how to link the most talked about and least talked about tracks in the area. We get a load of awesome riders to join us who are supposedly customers but feel like mates, provide lunch from local produce and enjoy a full weekend of the best riding ever with not a worry in sight. We even throw in a cheeky uplift from a local farmer sometimes. For 50 squidders a day, you can't go wrong.
It all began on Friday morning, meeting in the quaint English town of Porlock. Now if you've never been there, you must think of mega old pubs, colourful tea houses, little cottages, sea views, friendly old people who make delicious cheese and cider, deer, the second highest point in the south of England, soo many trails, and dreamy combes. A combe 'is a short valley or hollow on a hillside or coastline, especially in Southern England.' Exmoor is full of magical combes that twist and turn with the hill, where the ancient woodland is epic and the ground is just like the best ground ever to ride, so loose and yet with so much grip. Oh baby, it's all about the combes..
The riding in Exmoor is such a treat and blessed by over 500 meters of altitude at the legendary Dunkery Becon. From there you have a huge selection of sweeping trails from the open moorland that take you all the way down to sea level, through many a combe and sometimes with a few cheeky stream crossings that are always a fun challenge.
With no set path to any of our trips (it's in the name - Trail Unknown), we ride something for everyone. The beauty of natural style riding is that you ride the tracks at whatever speed you like, however playfully you like and it will always put a big muddy smile on your face.
After a morning enjoying the hills, what more could you want than to turn up to a serene spot with lunch laid out ready for you? Because that's the kind of service you get with Trail Unknown. Cake and all.
Where else could you finish the weekend but at the tea house for some scones, clotted cream and jam. A massive thank you to Dan French for a fantastic weekend of tasty trail selection, to Mark Brewer at Exmoor MTB Uplifts, to Joey Millward at Millward Media for the pics and videos, and to everyone who came and made it one of the best Trail Unknown weekends so far. If you'd like to join us on our next trip, see our dates below.
We've got plenty more weekend trips coming up in 2018 to Exmoor, Dartmoor, the Peak District, Quantock Hills, with more dates and places always being added as requested. Our next trips are:
Peak District 28 - 29 July
Quantock Hills 5 - 6 August
Dear the mountain biking gods, thank you for saving 2017's best weather for Trail Unknown's second guided mountain bike adventure in Exmoor National Park! With dusty trails, stunning sunsets, lots of wonderfully cooked local food, it made for the perfect weekend adventure. For this trip we set up the bell tents at Spark Hayes camp site in Porlock for its awesome sea views, beautiful sunrises over the hills of Selworthy in the mornings and quick access down to the water to watch the sun setting in the evenings.
All nine of us met on Friday night at our camp site to enjoy Spanish cooked sausages from the local farm shop and the spectacular starry night skies of Exmoor around the fire. We had also managed to get our hands on a box of local cider. Now normally this is a dangerous quest, but after knocking on the front door of the 'brewery' and being greeted cautiously by the owner we managed to talk him into giving us a 10L box of his 2017 award winning medium cider, Gun Dog Millionaire. The next morning we had a delightful breakfast of fresh pastries, whortleberry jam, bacon and egg baps, porridge and cereals. Shame it was a climb out from the campsite...
We were lucky enough to spend the morning riding some of the steep and loamy tracks off the side of Porlock Hill, featuring track names such as Deer Alley and Friday Night Downhill. These natural flowing tracks took us through ancient woodland and were full of spots to take in the stunning views out to the sea. A big shout out to local shredder Luke, without a local in Exmoor you are as lost as a goat on a boat.
We rode a beautiful path across the marsh lands, followed by a staggeringly direct route (sorry everybody) up to the top of Selworthy where Hugo and Chef Brad had set up a perfect lunch spot as a reward for the climb. The lunch featured local cave aged cheese (they wouldn't tell us where this cave was), local chutneys, ham from the butcher, among other treats such as caramel waffles mmm.
Saturday was concluded by a golden sunset enjoyed at the seas edge, a spiced sweet potato and five bean curry complete with mango chutney, poppadoms, sour cream and naan breads cooked over the fire. Everyone slept well that evening under the star lit skies.
After another blissful breakfast, the group set off to the top of the Moors where we enjoyed trails that ran alongside the purple heather coating the hills. We dropped down into Hawkcoombe down a track which sweeps down the valley and into a magical forest where the trail runs next to a peaceful river. I had the pleasure of following and listening to the whoops of a very excited Jay down this trail, our first female mountain biker and ebiker on a Trail Unknown trip!
We finished on Sunday afternoon with a selection of scones, clotted cream and local jams and a closing ceremony where everybody was awarded a Trail Unknown tshirt for titles such as most photographic, best crash and most flare shorts... Thank you to Mark, Richard, Joe, Jay, Luke and Chef Brad for making our second Trail Unknown weekend another fantastic adventure.
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Hugo and I just ran our FIRST guided mountain bike weekend in Exmoor and it totally rocked! We had a group of nine mountain bikers trialing 'The Exmoor Adventure', a two day two night adventure that included local mountain bike guiding, our own South African chef + all meals included, glamping in our mega bell tents, slacklining, wild swimming, twinkly stars and serene sunsets! Read on to hear all about it..
If you get really excited reading this article and are interested in a guided mountain bike trip for you as an individual or as a group of friends, you can get in contact with us on 07597719507 or email@example.com
Prep Day 1: Thursday – Building Trail Unknown Island & The Ridge Line of Doom
We spent Thursday afternoon showing Rich Wilford (owner of MTB Beds) why we love Exmoor and the scenic mountain bike tracks that flow dramatically along the sea edge.
Prep Day 2: Friday – Trail Unknown Island becomes an actual island & the first night of the trip!
We’d been warned this would be a wet day but we were so excited for our first customers to arrive in the evening that nothing could dampen our spirits. In the morning we did the biggest supermarket shop I've ever done (though I do recall the Shopland weekly shops were similar sized trolley mountains) and spent the afternoon making all of the final preparations to our awesome camp site – fairy lights, colourful rugs, bunting from Hugos mum, blankets, Alpkit beds, tea candle chandeliers, we had it all! Hugo and I were both so stoked showing each other all of the different unique and crazy cutlery sets we picked up from charity shops and car boot sales all over the country, rating them like they were top trumps.
The rain did not stop thundering down all day! Our wooden bridge with the cute little stream was now submerged under raging rapids and being smashed by giant logs!! There was a mix of concern and excitement to see whether this little bridge could hold the force of nature! Then the campsite owner came down and we egged him on to boldly park his mega pickup truck on the submerged bridge to anchor it down. The campsite was suddenly full of experts in fluid dynamics and civil engineering!
As if it was all an entertaining plan, the rain eased off at a perfect 5pm, the river starting flowing normally and our first customers began to show their happy faces. Brad, our merry South African chef for the weekend cooked up a BBQ bonanza and we all settled down around the fire and under the twinkling stars ready for the weekend of adventure ahead of us.
Saturday – The Exmoor Adventure Day 1
One by one, people woke up to a beautiful morning of golden sunshine and the smell of bacon and egg baps with fresh ground coffee in the air. Hugo, Brad and I had made sure we were first up and laid out the breakfast banquet with fresh croissants, muffins, fruit, cereals, tea, coffee and orange juice.
Tom, our local guide for the weekend turned up at 9am and everyone set off by a relaxed 9.30am for the mornings ride with Hugo, finishing down by the sea at Porlock Weir. We also provided tonnes of fruit and snacks for everyone to fill their ride bags. Brad and I stayed back to pack away breakfast, bring some order to the campsite, get lunch ready and fit in a peaceful hour of slacklining.
After a solid 3 hours of morning riding everyone came back happy to find lunch laid out with fresh baguettes, hams, cheeses, coleslaw, potato salad, fruits, crisps, tea and coffee. The group relaxed for an hour before heading out for the afternoon ride, this time joined by Brad and I while Hugo tidied up. Tom took us on a right adventure, flowing over the moors and down through hidden combes filled with majestic forests that one would never find without the knowledge of a local expert. The afternoons ride finished with a natural slide down into the river, perfect for refreshing the muscles and mind.
For Saturday's evening meal, Brad cooked up a storm with round after round of deeply flavoured sweetcorn, aubergine, courgette, peppers, chicken wings, burgers, sausages, garlic bread and even a couple of camembert wheels melted on the BBQ for dipping into. My mouth is watering as I type!
After dinner, Peter bundled us all into his family 4x4 and drove all nine of us off-road to the top of the Moors, complete with Zootropolis on the DVD screens, to watch the sunset over the sea with a few cold beers. We finished the evening off around a roaring fire and Trail Unknown gratefully received a lot of positive feedback for the day’s events.
Sunday – The Exmoor Adventure Day 2
Again we woke early and set breakfast out the same as the day before. Hugo and I stayed back to start packing everything down and met everyone else at midday, driving to the top of the hill in the van armed with all the lunches ready to meet the group out on the trail.
We finished the weekend off around 5pm on Sunday with plenty of time for everyone to get their bits together and get home. The trip was a huge success and Peter, the only chap on the trip who wasn’t already a friend of ours before the trip, said he’d had such a good time he’d like to book a Trail Unknown weekend for him and his friends to Wales in Spring 2018! A huge thank you to Brad our talented chef, to everyone who came and enjoyed the trip and to Dan, Ben and Tom at Exmoor Adventures for all helping us make our adventure a success!
If you are interested in a guided mountain bike trip for you as an individual or as a group of friends, you can get in contact on 07597719507 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hugo and Tom are trail hunting fanatics, travelling around the UK to find the best and most beautiful wild riding locations for their mountain bikes. We write about our findings and provide professionally guided mountain bike trips to our favourite spots. We're also big believers in outdoor education for children.