LEE WALTERS ORT - AT BASKERVILLE HALL

Fancy some great riding and enduro training at a top all-amenities site… and at an affordable price? Lee Walters has probably the finest enduro school venue that you’ve never heard about... Until Rust Sports clued you in of course...

We didn’t find, nor hear, the hound at Baskerville Hall. But given the excited rev of enduro motors echoing around the valley, the feared beast of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s epic tale probably thought it itself was being haunted!

Baskerville Hall is an imposing 19th century pile, today a hotel, conference centre… and an enduro training venue! But the owners claim that this is the original Baskerville Hall, inspiration for Doyle’s novel on account the author stayed here as guest of then owner, Thomas Mynors Baskerville. They report the hound was in fact a local (Welsh) legend that Doyle adapted for his novel, while for the purposes of fiction he relocated the hall to Devon, so as to spare his Welsh friends a future beset by visiting Sherlock Holmes fans. Of course, with a hotel to run, the current owners would more than welcome such fans..!

Whether that’s true or not - and we’re inclined to believe the owners - this a great house and, sitting as it does in 130 acres within the Wye Valley (itself a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), it’s a miracle that we’re riding enduro bikes here at all. Or perhaps that should be ‘mystery’ more than ‘miracle’, to tip a hat to Sherlock Holmes. But perhaps it’s not a mystery given that Lee Walters, who runs the training days here, is careful with his use of the land. It’s hard not to cause at least SOME damage, but you can prevent nuisance. And, of course, the training days do generate income - the hotel accommodation is very reasonably priced and so most participants stay at the hall. It’s the win-win scenario that so few understand.

A Knight Visits

On this occasion David Knight MBE was chief instructor for a two-day training camp. You’d therefore expect more than the handful of pupils who turned-out, but we suspect that billing something as ‘extreme enduro training’ has a polarising effect - a minority will jump at the chance, the majority shy away. Perhaps in the future Walters will drop the word ‘extreme’ from the title - it’s sure to pay him to do so.

And so (with Lee Edmondson and Lee Walters alongside Knighter) the instructor-to-pupil ratio was fabulously modest, not quite one-to-one, but pretty close. The only problem for the students was emulating the amazing skills of the mighty Knight. Sure you can watch, he can explain, but in not being world champions it sure isn’t easy to copy. Not that this was a deterrent - Knight and Co gave their pupils every encouragement, while at the same time ensuring the training environment was always relaxed.

Walters explained that the programme for the two days was, as you’d expect, would start easy and get progressively harder. We could see by the afternoon of the second day that making things progressively harder eventually made for some pretty weary riders, but by all accounts (see their own comments in the boxout)  the effort was worthwhile, and they’d all come on a good measure.

The Enchanted Forest

The woods above the hall are a little piece of enduro heaven. Not too big, not too small, but with such spectacular banks and hills, not to mention a choice of rock-bed streams to climb or descend, this was enduro manna. In this, its summer condition, it was virtually all do-able, with the exception of the extreme banks and stream sections that Knighter uncovered. No student could follow, but to watch Knighter pushing himself to his very limit was a treat in itself. He enticed Walters to try one bank, and while Walters - with a little more run-up than Knight - made it up, it was definitely ‘sketchy’. Knight then had Edmondson try a rocky stream ascent. This was probably SSDT-grade and when ‘Stan’ finally made it out, with plenty of additional pulling and pushing from the ‘crowd’, he declared it one of the hardest routes he’d ever tried on a bike. As Knight added, in these woods were challenges tougher than any he’d seen in recent years in the EWC!

For the mortals among us, away from what we could call the black runs, there was plenty to test yourself on. If roots (and especially roots on hills) are your own personal ‘Moriarty’, then you can confront your nemesis here. In fact there’ so much technical riding - not so much fast stuff - that it’s a delight. And with Walters’ tutoring style being receptive to the clients (rather than dictatorial) you can identify your weaknesses and work on them. Besides if you’re going to attempt to scale a 12-foot sheer bank then it’s always best to have three catchers there to save you if it goes a bit wrong.

‘The woods we have here are very good,’ says Walters. ‘The lower half is typical Welsh enduro going, the top is extreme stuff, like Tong [the Yorkshire enduro venue]. Even if it rains here it’s good as it drains well. And with the training, it’s not just riding around, it’s about showing them, explaining, then helping them get over the fear factor. It’s important to relax people.’

How Green is Your Valley?

If Lee Walters’ Off Road Training has a unique selling point, it’s this venue. You can’t escape the beauty of the valley, the imposing stately manner of the house, nor the top quality of the riding given what is quite a modest acreage.

The hall itself offers the full range of accommodation types, from dormitories - great for a bunch of blokes - through to proper en-suite hotel rooms. A bed in the dorm, together with breakfast is a mere ver reasonable, but if even that’s a stretch then you’re welcome to pitch a tent, for a small fee, with full use of the indoor swimming pool and showers.

‘The hall really adds to the experience,’ reckons Walters. ‘Many people arrive the night before, and when they arrive they don’t know anybody. But one or two pints down and a bit of meal - one or two bring their wives as there’s plenty for them here and around to enjoy - then they start making friends. And this makes the days’ training much more fun. You can drive into the carpark here at the start of a weekend and you don’t jump back in your car or van until you’re ready to go home. So you can have a drink. There’s a restaurant here, bar meals, and it’s not at all expensive. We’re very lucky, the hall is something special…’

Indeed, it is. And we suspect you’d gathered that from this piece. After all, it’s elementary, dear reader… 

How it Rates

We asked a couple of paying guests to air their views…

John Bennett (Left)

‘Having David Knight here has been brilliant. David is a great chap, very approachable, he’s made it a great weekend, day and night. I’ve learnt a lot of new techniques.

‘We had dinner with David too, because we’re all here together, and all night he was full of stories - a pleasure to be around. I’m his new best friend!

‘And if you don’t think you can learn off David Knight - well, I don’t know... I’ve been racing all my life and I’m still learning. You never stop learning. Everything evolves, so there are always new techniques, keep up or be left behind!’

Tony Nother (with son Cole)

‘This is our first training school, it’s been very good. To get tuition from David Knight is just priceless. He just shows you things you’ve been doing wrong the last 16 years and things that’ll make you a bit smoother.

‘I’ve learnt better cornering technique - I was definitely too fast coming in and then losing time in the corner and coming out. The other thing is to load up the suspension more to get over obstacles, rather than just smashing into things.

‘And this is a beautiful place to come to. We’ve stayed two nights. It’s comfortable, the food’s good, the beer was nice - what more can you say? And it seems safe here for leaving your bike overnight. We’re parked in a nice car park behind a barrier, behind a hedge, well away from the road.

‘I’d definitely recommend it - I’m going to book my son Cole in for some one-to-one with Lee in the near future.’

 

 

Ride Like a Girl

We first met Emily Davey two seasons ago at the Spanish EWC. In the company of her friend Fionn Griffiths (also an enduro rider, but also a world class downhill mountain biker) she was scoping out the EWC scene. The following weekend they both rode the Portuguese EWC, only to DNF in what were some very severe conditions.

What we didn’t know then was Emily had only been riding enduro for two years. What Emily didn’t know then was inside of a year she’d be struck by breast cancer.

Meeting Emily again at Lee Walters’ training days was to find a woman the other side of a major life-changing year, but still living with the after-effects. Following surgery Emily had endured five months of chemotherapy, a month-and-a-half of daily radiotherapy, and now she’s in the early months of a FIVE-YEAR programme of hormone therapy. The doctors said they’d actually be happier if she made that a ten-year programme! As Emily explained, it doesn’t help that the hormone therapy messes with your system, causing stress and anxiety. And there’s that constant fear, she says, like when you’ve had three tyres puncture on your car - you can’t help but be paranoid about the fourth... But if anybody at Baskerville Hall was to be the happiest rider to be there, sharing two days with Knighter, it was Emily.

A mother of two, her eldest is 19 (yeah, we did a double take on that too), she’s now on a mission to ride the Romaniacs in 2014.

‘I’ve decided to do the Romaniacs because even after what I’ve been through you never know what might come. When I did the EWC I thought “why not”. I had the opportunity, I reasoned that you never know what’s around the corner, so do it while you can - never imagining that this is exactly what did happen. The doctors could do a mammogram next year and say to me they’re really sorry it’s back again. So I’m doing it now.

‘The ‘ride like a girl’ thing came about when, in the middle of chemotherapy, I was starting to lose the plot. I thought, “right I need to do something really silly” - so I decided on a lap of the Tough One. I phoned Steve Ireland and asked and he said yes, donating the entry fee to the Marie Curie fund for cancer care. And then people were asking if they could make donations too, thinking I was riding for charity. I wasn’t, I was just I doing it for myself, but I figured I couldn’t say no, so I set up ‘ride like a girl’ with a Just Giving webpage and we raised £500!’

And Emily actually completed two laps of the Tough One - she can certainly ride. She says she loves the buzz and freedom of riding, even when midway through a grueling chemo treatment.

‘And now LR Designs www.lr-designs.co.uk have got behind me with logos and merchandise like barpads - with part of the proceeds going to Marie Curie - and I’m doing my bit to raise awareness, not just for breast cancer but all cancers, and I’m raising what I can for the Marie Curie Cancer Care. It’s amazing the support I’ve received since this has happened, the personal messages from people who have also experienced cancer. And there’s the support of people like quad champion Paul Winrow who’s covered his bike with the ‘Ride Like a Girl’ graphics to raise money for the charity.’

Emily is now being trained by Lee Walters and with the best part of a year until the next Romaniacs - and seeing her determination - there’s every reason to believe she’ll be there.

LEE WALTERS OFF ROAD TRAINING

Web: www.leewaltersoffroadtrainingschool.co.uk

Telephone: 01639 721834 or 07903 474661

Costs:

Enduro training starts at £85pppd (with a minimum of six riders)

One-to-one training starts at £140 for 1 day (£280 for two days)

Playdays are £35 per person per day

Lee also offers rally riding tuition plus trail riding options.

Baskerville Hall, Hay on Wye, Powys, HR3 5LE

www.baskervillehall.co.uk

Dormitory: £25pppn (breakfast included, towels not included)

Multishare rooms: (Min 4 people) £34pppn

Regular B&B: from £38pppn

Camping: £6pppn (includes use of indoor swimming pool and showers) 

Copyright © 2017 Rust Sports Ltd. All rights reserved.

This site uses cookies

This site utilizes cookies to personalize content, analyze traffic, and assist with promotional and marketing efforts. You consent to cookies if you continue to use this site or you may opt out here.