Less than a decade before his death in 1953, the hard-drinking poet Dylan Thomas wrote ‘Fern Hill’, which begins:
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs,
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb,
Golden in the heydays of his eyes…
It’s about how all the normal stuff from childhood seems amazing when you remember it as an adult and about how as adults we tend not to look at the world with the same wide–eyed amazement that we used to.
From Dirt Issue 120 – February 2012
Words by Rod Fountain. Photos by Grant Robinson.
Dylan Thomas had his problems, as we all do. Unlike us he didn’t have an all–terrain bike to take his mind off things, which is a shame because he was Welsh and wasn’t too far from some lovely spots. Whenever I find myself living through what feels like good times I think of ‘Fern Hill’ and wonder: ‘is this really as good as I’m going to think it was in years to come?’ The memories of the summer 2011 ‘Surrey Hills Sessions’, the last of which was in late October, are still fresh, but they will never be as rad as the actual experience of them. I choked on dust, saw no rain, met new riding buddies and was introduced to hidden trails that meant for the first time in a decade of summers I didn’t need to visit Thomas’ homeland in search of the all–day epic.
With mercifully few exceptions the trails that cover the four Surrey Hills have been nudged into existence using only what’s in the forest and scooped into some interesting shapes here and there. But there was always something missing come banana time. By summer 2009 though, the warm, fuzzy feeling of a trail centre, a surf–spot or lunchtime in a ski–resort began to creep in and there is one very simple reason for this: a tiny, tumble–down shack of a bike shop called Pedal and Spoke, owned by Howard Wagstaff. A ride through the Surrey Hills takes you around, through or above lots of villages with their pretty village greens, local shop and smashing pubs. But only the village of Peaslake adds a Santa Cruz dealer, virtually limitless free parking and the entry/exit points to the best trails on Pitch, Holmbury and Winterfold Hills.>>