Guest blog written by Aaron Clark
The Wharfedale is always a great day out and such a relaxing and rewarding ride. Set in the Canterbury foothills 45 minutes from Christchurch, it is the most accessible Beech forest singletrack in Canterbury.
It can be attacked in many ways – there is the View Hill Carpark to saddle mission (and return), or you can ride through to the Wharfedale Hut & back, or even right through into the beautiful Lees Valley. This year, the crew did things a bit more differently and rode the track backwards. We dropped cars near the lime works ford and drove around to the start of Lees Valley Road near Ashley Gorge.
It’s a 20km cruise on the bikes into Lees Valley and the Ashley River from here, and the eight of us took the chance to have a good yarn as we warmed our legs up on the two long climbs. Once across the Ashley Bridge you ride for about a kilometre to the signposted start of the Townshend Track on your left. Take time to take in the views of the mountains and the big country in the Valley!
The Townshend Track is pretty flat with a few creek crossings, and slowly you pedal into the valleys, and the native bush starts to flank you. Once you get to the site of where the Townshend Huts used to be, the Wharfedale Track begins! Straight away you are into Beech forest singletrack, with the magic "cornflakes" (beech leaves) are sprinkled across the track. The smell of the honeydew on the trees is refreshing and inviting. The track gently winds along slightly uphill here, and after a couple of km you come to the site of the venerable Wharfedale Hut. It’s always worth a visit and a compulsory group photo before escaping the sandflies and heading onwards (take insect repellent!). The track starts to climb more from here as you work your way up to the Wharfedale Saddle from the north side. T5 Contracting and the North Canterbury Cycling Club have been very active in here, and with DOC’s blessing they have made what was a washed out, rutted and marginal track into a back country work of art that is totally rideable, safe and built to last. The track is riding the best I have seen it in 20 years. Thanks guys and girls!
At the saddle we all found somewhere to lean our bikes and catch a bite to eat. There is a nice wee clearing here with plenty of logs to rest on while hungry stomachs are kept happy.
The riding starts to get more entertaining from here, with gravity helping out to make things more enjoyable. There are still a few wee climbs, but every time you are rewarded with more gravity assisted technical singletrack to shred along. There are now plenty of waterbars, creeks and rooty goodness to test your skills on. The track gets better all the time, with the last couple of kms to the View Hill Carpark able to be enjoyed in full "Enduro mode" – but be hyper aware of other track users on the corners.
We rode down from the carpark to where our cars were parked at the last gate where two well-stocked chillybins awaited to quench our thirst. You simply can’t beat the first beer after a good singletrack session with good riding mates!