Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Monkeying Around

Thursday nights during the summer have traditionally been ‘trail planning’ nights but with the amount of planning we have needed to do for ‘Phase 2’ this has expanded to Tuesday nights as well. Last night Andrew and myself were ‘monkeying around’ planning out the trail for our next Big Build Day. There were a surprising large number of riders up there given the heavy rain during the day. Apologies to anyone who was distracted by my monkey noises, I think I may have contributed to at least two ‘incidents’!

Lacking foresight we normally decide to call it a night when it starts to go dark. Without lights this can often cause the ride home to be ‘eventful’. Last night, once out of the trees it was still reasonably light and the ride home passed without incident. We’ll be up there again on Thursday so try not to be disturbed if you hear monkey noises echoing around in the trees.


Monday, 29 June 2009

Trail Building - Sunday 28th June

More Mystery - The finishing touches to the trail surfacing were completed to Section M on Phase II today. All that needs doing now is the woodwork!

A big thanks to the four riders who interupted their ride for a few minutes to cart a couple of barrows of surfacing today. I didn't get the names of the first two gents (many apologies) as my brain wasn't in gear, but Clive and Daniel were a little surprised by my Paparazzi style photography ... thank you all for your time gents, i hope to see you all at the big build day!

Alex broke the whacker plate - but nothing a quick bodge won't fix until we get some spare parts.

We had a couple of cheeky riders on the trail - but they helped build it and weren't going to do much damage ;) - and it was all in the name of trail testing - Charlotte's shiny new Trek looked just the ticket for the trail and Dave's GT is now more bling than a Rap stars' dentistry!

While everyone was busy, i took a little walk to another section of Phase II to check it out...

We've promised proper black sections on Phase II - and we have got proper black sections - i reckon they may even be more Black than some of the Black sections at Welsh and Scottish trail centres! The downs are going to be so worth the climbs!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Big Build Day - 12th July

We need you!!

The more people we get, the more we can build - and the quicker we can open the trail!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Follow The Diversion

Today Martin and myself helped Andy from the FC close sections 6 & 7 and put a diversion in place (we’ll do anything for a free lunch!). Both sections are closed for scheduled maintenance and upgrade works which will be carried out over the next few weeks. As we’ll be re-surfacing parts of these sections it is really important that nobody rides them as this will cost us time, money and delay the reopening of the trail. If you see anyone ignoring the signs and fencing feel free to have a polite word pointing out the error of their ways!

The diversion starts just before the new boardwalk, runs along the heritage trail, turns left though the ford and end at the bottom of the fireroad climb. It’s all signed and there is even a map at the start of the diversion. The diversion is on shared tracks so please be considerate of user users especially when it is busy at weekends.


Trail Building 21st June 2009 - Wrong turns and changing minds.

Rob wanted us to show up early today as he wanted to share some things with us ... when i arrived i was faced with a small stage that had been cobbled together using some old trail sign posts and four chairs set out in a line facing the stage ... Now we all know Rob is a little excentric (and we love him for that) but was this going a little too far?! Fortunatley our fears were put to rest when he pulled out a piece of paper and started to explain some points from a meeting he had with the Forestry Commission - thank the god of Cannock Chase!

Dave, Petra, Charlotte and Jessica ('The Clan') arrived closely followed by Jez, Frank and Steph. We loaded up the trailer with tools and headed over to where we were working last week. On the way, Martin turned right instead of left, but that didn't matter - it meant more time riding in the landy off road! At the top, Alex was waiting with the post knocker - how he got his car up there is a mystery - mind you Alex somehow gets himself into all sorts of places!

Some of us trimmed and tweaked the trail to make it good and some wheeled a few barrows to build up the surface in places. We all had the pleasure of knocking some posts into the ground for some technical woodwork that is going in. With Mum and Dad watching with amusement, Charlotte and Jessica attempted to lift the post knocker - but struggled somewhat!

Jay arrived eventually! He certainly made up for the time he missed in effort and looked like he'd used up what energy reserves he had left from his ride in the morning.

We debated over how to handle a tiny little detail - a small gulley - not the biggest thing in the world but important to get right or it could eat the trail away! Last week we opted on a couple of planks and brought the materials with us to do that, but after a little influence from Andy today, we chose to install a step instead. Once the step was installed and the surfacing tweaked, we questioned our decision ... but then came up with a solution! It was nearly 2pm so we will leave it for next time. One more week on this section and we should be ready to install the timber work construction!

By the time we had unloaded the trailer, our energy levels were a little low - but we had the draw of a post building ride! Rob loaded up on Jelly Babies and then Jez, Rob and myself set off - the plan being that we would ride FtD and do a bit of exploring for an alteration to Follow The Dog (not telling you where yet!). After a few Bramble scrapes and nettle stings, some random ups and downs, the odd comedic dismount by Jez and riding what we had already ridden, we finished off with a sweet run back to Birches Valley, although we managed to lose Rob ... he changed his mind and turned right instead of left!
Fab Day!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

New Birches Valley Trail Header

I popped over to Swinnertons yesterday, I know they are closed on Wednesdays, but I always forget. Anyway, as I arrived I saw that the Forrestry Commission were just finishing putting up the new Trail Header outside the shop. I had seen the plans and the unassembled bits of timber but this was the first time I had seen it properly.

I think it looks good. It looked huge on the plans but looks about right in place. When the timber has weathered it will look more natural. It definitely looks better than the banners it replaced and artificial type of Trail Header … like the giant forks at CyB. [but we are biased! - Ed]


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Trail Building - Sunday 14th June 2009

More Phase II action today saw some finishing work on the singletrack from the first Big Build Day. The section entrance was built and surfaced using lots of wheel barrow loads!

In complete contrast to last week, the sun was out but we all ended up a bit soggy - this time with sweat!

Thanks to Jez and Jay who joined the usual rabble!

Some minor maintenace on Follow the Dog also took place, resolving some drainage issues that had developed from all the rain in the week.

Next week will see more work on the same section with some foundations for wood work being installed.


Big [Little] Build Day 4 - Sunday 7th June - Soggy but good!

Big Build Day 4 started for the organisers with an early 9am start in the yard. Everything was going just like any other build day until Stu arrived ... and so did the rain! Apparently it had been forecast but I had optimistically avoided any negative reports. Anyway we donned our waterproofs and loaded up the trailer. Martin and Andrew then left for the build site while Stu and myself headed round to the shop to great the hordes of volunteers. Ok so we weren’t expecting thousands but we were expecting to see somebody! After a while we found ourselves a volunteer and then another so things were looking better but not great. A call was put in to the catering department to advise them that numbers may be a little lower than normal! Communication with Andrew and Martin revealed that they also had ‘a’ volunteer so it looked like we had a Little Build Day at least.

By the time we arrived on site the single volunteer had swelled to a good handful and they had already been briefed and started work on the trail. The combination of torrential rain and poor ground conditions make the digging pretty hard going but chatting to Lynsey kept my enthusiasm high and we had to hit some good surface at some point, didn’t we? Well no, it looks like we were digging though old mining spoil meaning that at least part of this trail will need additional surfacing to be imported. As I squelched my way along the trail to check everyone was alright things didn’t seem much better until suddenly I hit solid ground and looked down to see the familiar sight of orangey-brown cannock gravel and those much loved shiny pebbles.

Just as moral was starting to flag, Dale and Sharon arrived which could only mean it was lunchtime. Dale’s bad back had pre-empted a change from our normal BBQ to a spread of sandwiched and cakes. This was a really nice change and tasted great. As always we fired the generator up to ‘run the kettle’! Lunchtime also saw our ‘free prize draw’. The odds of winning were pretty high this time and the prizes were great (exclusive Chase Trails grips & headtube badges plus T Shirts). Dave’s daughters Jessica and Charlotte drew the tickets and surprise surprise Dave’s ticket came out first (fix I hear you say, fix!)

After lunch the weather improved and the sun even shone for a few minutes. We continued to build trail and dig out the inevitable tree stumps (I think Dave should have won a prize for the stump he extracted, hold on, he did!). The gravely conditions continued only interrupted by the occasional lump of coal, a reminder of Cannock's mining past. By late afternoon we called it a day, collected up the tools, ate what was left of the food and headed back to the yard.

We may not have had thousands of volunteers but it was quality and not quantity. We got loads done despite the weather and it turned out to be a really enjoyable day. Thanks to everyone who braved the conditions to come and help.


The next Big Build day is on July 12th, but don't forget we meet up every Sunday at 10am outside Swinnertons Cycle Centre.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Trail Building - Sunday 31st May 2009

What a fabulaous day!

The sun was shining on us today. We had a good turn out too and got a few key things done - all while not having worked too hard!

We've replaced the rails on the log roll at the end of Section 8 as part of the continued maintenance of Follow the Dog. The new rails are much more slimline and over time will fade from the fresh timber look they currently have to something more appealing.

We also filled in the link on section 11 - It just needs a few weeks to bed in with some rain and warm weather, we should be able to open it very soon.

Over on the Phase II site, some trees were cleared ready for the return of Clixby's this week.

Next week is Build Build Day - Expect Prizes, Barbeque and lots of fab trail built!
10 am outside Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre at Birches Valley, Sunday 7th June. Bring yourself, be ready to work outside in the weather conditions on the day - we'll supply the tools and the burgers!