Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Trail Building - Sunday 24th May 2009

We were a little short on the ground this Sunday - mainly because everyone was over on Stile Cop with Racers Guild. Still, we only need one or two to make a difference.

The old Section 8 is now no longer part of Follow The Dog. Since the trees were felled some years ago and new section 8 was built, this short section never really held the appeal of the rest of the trail. The trail will be there to be used for a while but it won't be maintained any longer.

We also started digging a link on another section to create a new start... watch this space for previews.

Phase II continues at a fair old pace! Nearly all the sections have been planned and are ready to be dug! Hugh Clixby will be back very soon to carry on where he finished.

Talking of digging - The next Big Build Day is on June the 7th - Don't forget to come along for a day of trail building a barbecue and prizes!


The Year of the Rat Highlights

2008 was a really exciting year in the world of Chase Trails including being part of two pretty major events and getting to build a new bridge...

A bridge over troubled waters
The causeway area had been getting increasingly busy for while now so the decision was made to build a new bridge across the stream and boggy ground and FtD off the causeway. The bridge design was a bit different from the boardwalk on section 7 so it was really interesting to help build. The main difference was the bearers and stringers were both made from large trees and the decking from waney edge larch boards.

We had a little help from the FC who used a tractor winch to help move some of the logs into position. The rest we moved with ropes, pulleys and manpower. Everything went really well except when you forgot how soft the ground was and your foot disappeared and the constant attention from the local insects.

Martin used his chainsaw to cut the logs and notches. Much debate was had over whether to tidy up the sides of the deck or leave it looking rustic, in the end I think we went for half and half! It would be a while before the bridge was finally opened but it was worth the wait.

Chase Trails at the APF
September saw Chase Trails enjoying the Indian summer as we featured at the 2008 APF international Forestry Exhibition. This event is basically a forestry trade show but also featured loads of displays of interest to the general public (mountain biking, lumberjack sports, chain saw carving etc). Chase Trails were there to show land managers the potential for diversity on their land and to put on a mountain biking display.

The Chase Trails stand comprised of a 150m singletrack test trail for public use and a north shore style display trail including a see saw, ladder drop, wall ride and double. The xc guys built most of this stuff even though we knew we lacked the skill to ride it. Aaron came along to help build the wall ride although we had to confiscate his ball of string and make him use more conventional construction techniques.

Giant had kindly supplied us with a selection of brand new 2009 Anthem’s for the weekend and members of the general public were able to ride these round the singletrack test trail (using the old and new starts to section 11). Everyone seemed to enjoy this but riding a lightweight xc race bike was a little different to what most people were use to. We also had to disappoint a few people who wanted an to take an Anthem off the ladder drop!

The display trail was intended to be ridden during 4 daily sessions by Chase Trails volunteers. This was too extreme for most the xc guys (except Alex, Dale & Stu) so we drafted into the Racers Guild crew, Aaron, Harry, Rich and co. Everyone enjoyed the trail so much that barely a minute of each of the 3 days went by without someone riding the trail. A bunch of tired but happy riders left the stand each day working out how more time could be taken off work to come back the following day and ride it some more.

We finished the weekend drinking beer and having a BBQ, unfortunately we forgot how quickly it gets dark in September and ended up eating and dismantling the stand in the dark (at least we couldn’t see the burnt bits). We had great fun over the weekend basically chilling out in the sun and riding bikes, I wonder if anyone remembers who won the Chase Trails ‘race’…

Beat Steve Peat
November saw Downhill legend Steve Peat come to Cannock for a special Racers Guild charity event. The event was billed ‘Beat Steve Peat’ and aimed to raise money for the Stephen Murray Foundation by people being sponsored to race against Peaty. It took people a while to get their heads round the concept but once they did it took off and ended up raising over £5,000. Peaty brought along a few mates as well, including Josh Bryceland.

The plan was to keep the day as close to a normal RG as possible, even though some world beating riders were in attendance Harry had organised extra car parking (getting in was easy, getting out more interesting but nobody get stuck), marshals lined the course and there were spectators everywhere. Harry is always the most enthusiastic and entertaining RG starter and was given the honour of sending Peaty on his way. Steve maintained his reputation as being a great down to earth and instantly likeable guy and in case anyone doubted it watching him ride was very special. [The way he sailed over the last jump was very inspiring!]

All in all, the year of the Rat was great for Chasetrails - but the year of the Ox looks set to be very exciting!

The Story of Chase Trails So Far...

In 1999, following a visit to the dedicated mountain bike trails in Afan forest, Wales, Gary Galpin approached the Forestry Commission at Birches Valley to explore the possibility of building similar trails at Cannock Chase. Nothing happened for two years until Gary hooked up with Stuart Tite via an Internet forum to explore Stuart’s idea to develop a 1/4 mile circuit at Stile Cop.

By now the Forestry Commission and Swinnerton Cycles were looking at building an ambitious 30 mile loop. However, they didn’t have the skill or knowledge to do this, let alone the resources. As a result, when Gary and Stuart approached the Forestry Commission again, they were welcomed with open arms and a three way partnership was formed.

Gary and Stuart named themselves Chase Trails and the partnership set about working on the loop. However, it soon became apparent that a 30 mile loop was far too ambitious, and Chase Trails persuaded the other to let them focus on a shorter circuit of about 7 miles. Whilst planning the route, they would sometimes just follow Zak, Gary’s Jack Russell, and so Follow the Dog was born.

Things really kicked off with the first ‘Big Build Day’ in February 2003 when 60 people turned out to work in the trees above Fairoak Pools, and by mid afternoon the whole section has been ‘dug off’. Significant progress was also made with the introduction of Bob and his digger. Bob’s 40 years’ experience of working on the Chase was to prove invaluable when he was tasked with constructing the trail across the clear felled section above the Pools, despite having to learn all about mountain bike trail design.

Volunteer numbers were not to stay at anywhere near the level of the first Big Build, and progress over the following months almost ground to a halt as often no one turned up to help. Determined to succeed, Chase Trails persevered and soon developed a core group of volunteers who turn up week in, week out to build and maintain the trails. As a result, and almost against the odds, Follow the Dog was opened in March 2005.

Encouraged by the success of Follow the Dog discussions soon started about ‘Phase 2’, another 7 mile loop of more physically and technically challenging trail. After two years of planning the project took a huge step forward in 2008 after a £200,000 funding boost.

The injection of funding meant progress on ‘Phase 2’ would be significantly quicker than with Follow the Dog. Building began at the end of 2008 as contractor Hugh Clixby arrived on site and began construction of the first of the machine built sections.

Chase Trails hand built several sections of trail and added finishing touches to others. The number of bananas eaten by volunteers during its construction was to give ‘The Monkey Trail’ its new name. The trail was opened in April 2010 by Olympian Oil Beckinsale and has received great reviews from both riders and press alike.


Welcome to the new Trail Building Blog of Chase Trails.

Here we will let you know what we got up to at the last trailbuilding session and give you sneak previews about what is on its way!

Enjoy the rambles!