Approximately 35 miles southwest of Telford, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, lies Hopton Woods. On our approach the autumnal sun rises and we wind around narrow roads of the Shropshire countryside, leaving us in awe of the picture postcard views that greet us at every turn. The sat nav pinging into life again as the shape of a castle ruin appears in our view; have we arrived? We pass the 12th century castle ruins and head further on a short distance, trusting in the sat nav, and see a forestry commission sign on our left. The lane opens up into a long driveway, like that of a stately home. At the end, we find a small carpark, we’ve arrived early and pick our spot. I imagine on busy days it harder to get parked – at a push there is space for 30 or so cars. No trail centre cafe here, so trail snacks, drinks and an empty bladder are a must. One bonus though – the parking is free, yep no signs or machine in sight.
Hopton Woods MTB trails aren’t anything like your traditional trail centre, in fact they are nothing like anything I’ve ridden before. Hopton is steeped with history and is well known in the MTB world and UK DH race scene.
Both the blue graded warm up loop and red qualifier start from the car park and we warmed up with a quick blast around this route. Legs ready and already smiling we were all in agreement that a little bit of trail was well worth checking out. We kept it rolling and headed back past the car park towards where we arrived, now bustling with people, we threw a few cheeky skids and positioned ourselves around the trail map. A quick check of watches and a nosey round our bikes before leaving the car park, we dropped into the Pearce Cycles built XC route – 12.6km of almost natural but nurtured trail awaited us. Whoops and hollers in our mini train cried out as the sun still rising burnt off the last of the morning mist.
These trails started with an awesome descent; Dave Pearce’s legendary trail was giving us the goods right off the bat, but we knew deep down a climb awaited us and boy did it. A little bit excited we probably started off a little keen. Yes the climbs are long and hard mostly fire roads, but you are rewarded with some good descents, fast and flowy, with a little bit of tech thrown in for good measure. We stopped for a while on an intersection of one of the DH tracks and lapped a few corners whilst we all chatted and took on water.
Quick time check and we realised our ride time was diminishing and we may have to cut our ride time a little short. Maps checked and plan in place we again found our self staring down one of the infamous DH tracks. Could Hopton get any better? Well yes! Big, fast, flowing berms caught you and the wet leaves were pushed out of the way to give us some grippy, confidence inspiring hard pack feel from the bike. Suddenly, the trees become a bit tighter and its all change, as natural off-camber sections and roots get your concentration levels up to the max. We are at the bottom, but damn sending it down there kind of took us a bit off track – Yep! We’re lost. Shortcuts are good if you know where your going, so we fire up the maps again!
If you have never been to Hopton, you must, but unlike us, make sure you got a full day to enjoy all what it has to offer. Normal trail bikes will feel at home here, 120mm travel will be more than enough for the XC route.
Also Pearce Cycles, founders of Hopton, offer uplift days amongst their race calendar so be sure to check them out, we know we will.