Here comes my 11-year-old, a blur of movement through the trees, standing up on his pedals, legs braced, fingers hovering over the brakes, face etched with concentration. I record him shooting past on my phone.
There is a mecca for mountain biking with an international reputation only about 10 miles from Maidenhead, on the south side of Bracknell. Guessed it?
A Crown Estate woodland area of about a thousand hectares (2,500 acres) of mostly mature pine trees with 15 miles (24 km) of marked trails.
There is a car park at The Look Out where you will also find a picnic area, café, Discovery Centre for children, adventure playground as well as the Go Ape high ropes course and Forest Segway.
The main signpost outside the Discovery Centre points west for the start of the mountain biking.
There are three trail types:
Green is a one mile (1.25km) introductory trail running south-east
Blue is for intermediates of moderate ability running in a loop roughly south and back to the start - 6.25 miles (10.1 km) of numbered trails (1-18) with a mixture of climbs, descents, banked corners, jumps and plenty of minor hazards, like tree stumps and roots to keep you on your toes. You stop for a drink and the rumble of traffic is only a distant background sound to the birdsong of chiffchaffs and the like. Squirrels keep an eye on you from the higher branches. Once I came face to face with a young roe deer that turned and bolted away through the tall bracken.
Red is a more demanding, difficult trail of eight miles (13km) requiring some experience and certainly a bicycle with suspension. It starts near the Lower Star Post and snakes in loops west and east. Like the Blue, the trail is a ribbon of compacted hardcore of sand, gravel and flint with numbered sections. There are some big jumps and steeper descents- buyer beware!
There is something for everyone and even for those without any gear, bicycles and helmets can be hired from the Bike Hub. The tentative could start on the Green and then try the Blue. The network of forest rides and tracks are good for walking (dogs on leads are welcome), jogging and cycling. I would say it’s a must try, it’s Her Majesty’s pleasure. And it’s free to use the trails.
Need To Know:
The Look Out is located South of Bracknell off the A322 on Nine Mile Ride, RG12 7QW, OS map grid reference SX 881 662.
Parking at The Look Out costs £2.00 for four hours, £4.00 all day.
Bring cycle helmet, water bottle, trainers with firm soles, snacks, pump and tool pump. Take a photo of the map at the start of the trail to help you navigate.
For hire: Bike Hub (go to swinleybikehub.com or call 01344-360-229)
For mountain bikes from entry level to expert, go to Sam’s Bikes shop in the Moss End Garden Centre in Warfield (phone 01344-360-922)
The cost for using the trails? It is free. Gratis. Thank you, Crown Estate.