Updated: Jan 30
You can see my YouTube of this ride here
What we saying about Thetford Forest for mountain biking? Well, for a trail centre in a non-mountainous region, it’s pretty damn good actually!
Being in the area for other reasons, I wanted to fit in a mountain bike sesh. After searching online, I settled on Thetford Forest as it was the only trail centre that was ‘on my way’ to Attleborough.
The High Lodge trail centre is further off the A11 than I thought it would be, and it has a very long (surfaced) drive, before you get to the parking area.
I’d left a chilly and overcast Cambridge at around 1pm, arriving at the trail centre just before 2pm, and what a result, it was brilliant blue skies and pretty damn hot!
I wondered why there was so many marshals guiding cars to the parking areas, turns out that night there was to be a Kasabian concert, so it was pretty busy.
Each car park has a name, so you can easily find it again, should there be a concert when you are there, I parked in the Hedgehog car park. Possibly when there’s not a function on, you just park around the visitor centre car parks.
It’s really well organised, with the driveway being a one-way system. I had no hold-ups in or out, and it was very busy with the concert traffic still arriving.
The parking fees are well organised as well, which means you have to pay! They run a number plate recognition system, and you pay in pay-points outside the visitor centre when you’re ready to go, then just drive out, no tickets or barriers. It’s a little more expensive than other forest car parks, usually you pay around £7 for a day. My three and a bit hours cost £9.50. I suppose for how well organised it is, and for how well the trails are presented, it’s not bad for an afternoon’s entertainment! I’m thinking it’s similar to Whinlatter which has NPR and cost more than ‘usual’ forest parking.
Some locals told me that you could park for free at Brandon Country Park, not sure where that is in relation to the trail centre, but worth looking into if you’re planning on going.
Anyway, the trails, there’s a green, blue, red and black. I rode the Red, named Lime Burner, which is a 10 mile loop. I didn’t want to cycle the whole loop, especially in the heat of that day. Luckily at the trail head a young lad said he’d show me a short loop that he used, which included a really nice little bermy bit through the trees.
You can find a full description of the trails here
For a relatively flat trail, it’s pretty good fun, especially the bermy section. Unfortunately, it took me five goes to actually get a proper run at it. The first time I came upon a family, bimbling along, with no intentions of moving over, and it wasn’t possible to get by without disturbing them. I walked back to the start of the section, waiting five minutes then going again, only to catch them again within minutes. I know we all have to learn, but they could have been on the blue or green trail, in fact they could have just stood still they were going that slow! I walked back to the start again, then a bloody gravel roady bike man went on the trail, I left it five minutes, but caught him pretty quickly, so walked back to the start again……..a short way into my fourth run my bloody chain came off, so I walked back to the start again, and finally got a good quick run in! Was it worth it? Yep, I really enjoyed it, and I hate pedalling!!
At the end of this bermy section, you can go straight on, which was still quite fun, I did that once, and did a bit of a loop. But the rest of the time I turned left at the end of that section and I think left again to get back to the start of the bermy section. I got around four quick runs in, I wanted to do more but needed to get going.
There’s a few little jumps in the bermy section as well. It’s pedalling all the way though, pretty much flat not uphill, except a small section of a slight incline at near the end.
The trails are really well marked, I didn’t get to any junctions and not know where to go. And a quick return to the trail centre is marked at most main junctions as well. So, I guess that’s where the money goes!
Not only was it more fun than I was expecting, it was a whole lot prettier than I expected too. I don’t think it was just the beautifully sunny day, it was just really well presented, and was just a pleasure to sit and rest now and again.
I lost one of my gloves on a fire road, it’s black and white, if you find it, send it to me will ya!! The same guy that said he had seen it, also told me that it’s best to ride in the evening during the week, if you want less people around.
There’s good facilities; toilets, a café, bike hire etc. I didn’t use them, I’d made tea and some food on my camping stove to save costs. So can’t comment on them but they were all busy, so guess they must have been good!
There’s walking trails, running trails, kids nature trails, sled dog trails, all sorts, even motorbike trails! But note, drones are not permitted at all. See the full list of activities here
There’s also a pump track, it’s reasonably small, but it’s a really good run.
The forestry commission have done a fab job!
Get down there if you’re out in the wilds of Norfolk (or Suffolk) I believe the forest is in Suffolk, even though the town of Thetford is in Norfolk??!!
I’ll certainly ride there again!