This Mountain Bike route covers some of the best climbs and descents to be found at Hanchurch Woods. The ride starts on road and then continues on bridleways and fire roads including some tight, narrow singletrack sections. During summer the trails ride very well but can become very muddy during spring, autumn and winter.
Although I will be referring to the woodland as Hanchurch in this article, it’s officially known as Swynnerton Old Park.
We leave Newcastle-Under-Lyme on Whitmore Road and continue for about 2 miles before taking a sharp left down a narrow lane. At the top of the short, but quite steep incline we take a right and head through Butterton village. At the crossroads we take a left and follow the main road for a few hundred yards before joining the bridleway on the right down Whisper Lane. This track is full of potholes so you may want to activate your suspension here.
The trail then takes a sharp right, through a gate and follows the edge of the sports field. As we enter the edge of the woodland there is quite a deep sandy section so you’ll need to keep up a smooth cadence to get through. After the sandy section ends the trail splits off into 2 different directions. For this route we will be taking the left-hand fork and going up a steep climb which includes some large rooty sections.
To get over the initial exposed tree routes will require a sudden burst of power and some good bike handling skills. Immediately after this the terrain is less challenging until we reach another sandy section. This top section of the climb is ride-able in the summer but becomes very difficult to get up in the thick, deep mud during the winter (well done if you make it!).
Once we reach the top the trail changes to a well surfaced gravel track with some nice views across the woodland. We then take the 2nd trail on the right and start the best descent of the ride. The surface of the track is quite loose and pebbly but you can still get up to a good speed!. In this ride we will take a left at a crossroads on the trail, but you could carry on to the bottom and rejoin the route on the fire-road.
In the winter this section of track can be very muddy so you can take the new drier line through the trees. The trail then bends around to the right and descends down to the fire track. We cross straight over the track and continue to descend down a narrow trail. After a few hundred yards we take a sharp left and go through some ferns, the trail kicks up a bit before flattening out. Then there is a really funny little descent down this singletrack as it twists and turns through the bracken.
The singletrack continues as we follow the edge of Hanchurch Woods before taking a right and going up a steep sandy climb. We cross over the fire road and start the long challenging climb back to the top of woods. This climb is very loose and pebbly with gradients of up to 17% in places so it can be hard to get traction from the rear wheel.
At the top of the climb we rejoin the main fire road and head back in the direction we came in. After a few hundred yards we take a right onto a trail and then a left down a very narrow singletrack. This part of the route is quite technical as the track twists and turns through the bracken requiring good balance and timing. After going through a densely wooded section there is quite a nice viewpoint of the surrounding area to appreciate.
The next section gets a little more challenging as the bracken makes it difficult to see the dips and holes in the trail surface. At the end of the section is a bomb hole (large dip) which will require good momentum and balance to make it up the other side. Well done if you managed to ride all of this trail without putting your foot down!.
For the final descent, we take the higher line which twists and turns through the trees and is great fun!. The trail is littered with tree roots and small drop-offs so make sure you have good brakes. We then head back the way we came through the sandy section and along the road. This Mountain Bike route is only a sample of what Hanchurch Woods has to offer as there are many other trails for you to explore.