Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Being the first section of our red grade trails, we deliberated over the possibility of making the section into a sort of “skills area” with low level skinnies, rock steps and other features for riders to hone their skills on. Our plans will have to be approved by the FC but we’ve got a few interesting ideas in the pipeline.
The more observant may have noticed the new sign at the start of “The Stegosaurs”. Erecting this was one of those jobs that we’ve had on the cards for some time.
This Sunday we were back in section 2 to do some detailed planning so proper drawings can be produced for the FC. Armed with one of those digital laser distance measuring thingies, Ian practised his surveying skills whilst Jez held a big measuring stick and Bruce scribbled down the numbers. Martin acted as a banksman asking riders to take care as we were working on the trail. He didn’t have many to warn – something to do it the cold snowy conditions I reckon.
Finally, Chase Trails wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
To get the ball rolling, the trail required taping in more detail and heavier brash shifting so it’s possible to get a feel for the trail. These things always take longer than expected so we only managed to get about two thirds the way along the trail. There are a number of tight twists and turns, up and downs to add to the appeal – certainly better than a long fireroad slog but only time will tell.
More of the same next week to finish the top section and check it flows as we want.
The plan for today was to finish the snagging work on LSN and the larch bridge sections so we can get them signed off ready for opening.
Whilst the rest of our hardy team made extra wide posts for the grading signage IKEA style, Martin, Phil and I trundled off to the Steg with two loaded wheelbarrows. As the recent wet weather had left a slippery slime on the deck, we were going to sprinkle a sand and grit mix on the rocks and causeway bridge to improve grip. Martin swept the deck clear of snow and I spread the mix whilst Phil did the public relations bit and diverted riders around the bridge – sorry for the inconvenience caused.
We returned just in time to find the guys had finished their handiwork – it was time to weave our way around the Christmas tree shoppers and head out to Rainbow Valley.
While Bruce and Martin planted the new extra wide posts at the start on the black section and just before “Oblivion”, the rest of us headed for the end of LSN. We planted a couple of waymarker posts where LSN and the red trail remerge then worked our way along the trail checking for and removing low branches. Entertainment was provided courtesy of Ian keeping himself warm removing a rather stubborn stump in a fall zone.
After completing the snagging work on LSN to our satisfaction, we forewent an afternoon ride and decided to complete the snagging on the larch bridge section. A couple more waymarkers were erected and fall zones cleared on stumps and brash. With frozen fingers and toes, it was definitely time to call it a day!
As we can’t use road salt on the trails for environmental reasons, watch out for icy patches if you’re out riding in the current wintry conditions.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
During the Christmas period we are expecting a high volume of visitors to Birches Valley. The top car park is being used exclusively for Christmas tree sales meaning we have reduced capacity for other forest users using the site.
During busy periods this may mean we do not have enough parking spaces to accommodate everyone.
As a solution we are offering alternative parking at Tackeroo campsite (postcode for satnav purposes WS15 2UA). The alternative parking is free but has very limited facilities.
Sorry for any inconvenience caused.
Christmas at Birches Valley
Christmas at Birches Vallety starts on Sunday 28th November with the grand arrival of Father Christmas and his real reindeer. Christmas trees are on sale daily from the Sunday 28th November until Sunday 19th December. Full details can be found on the Forestry Commission website
Buying a Christmas tree from Birches Valley helps support the Forestry Commission and the recreational facilities they provide.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Sunday saw us stealing, sorry, relocating more rocks from the start of the Stegosaurs. If you’ve been out of the trails recently, you’ll have seen that the root step-up at the end of section 12 had been partly removed. With the number of tyres that have spun out on the root over that last 5 years, it had eventually worn through. Rather than lose the technical challenge, we’d hatched a plan to add something different – enter The Evil Slab!
The recent strong winds had left a fallen tree across the trail and a potentially dangerous “hung” tree in the vicinity, our first task was to set up a diversion and tape off the area for safety. A few tonnes of tree landing on your head is going to do some serious damage. If you out on the trails after high winds and find fallen or hung trees, let the Forestry guys know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll get it sorted.
We’ve also pegged larch logs along the edge of the trail to deter riders from taking short cuts – the slab looks worst than it is to ride.
Whilst we put the finishing touches to the Evil Slab, Martin and Steve headed off to add a rock slab to the top of the log roll at the very end of section 8. You’ll only get to see this if you just ride The Dog – riding the Monkey misses out the part of the trail.
Dave, Jez and myself did a social paced lap of The Dog in the afternoon to inspect and test our handiwork – The Evil Slab should raise a few eyebrows ….
Next weekend should see us doing the snagging work on LSN now the Forestry Commission Engineer has inspected the trail – please join us if you can.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Over the last few months, we’ve been adding black “extreme” grade TTFs (Technical Trail Features) to what was the original Monkey trail. “Le Singe Noir”, as it’s been christened will peel off the existing red grade trail just before the first set of rocks and work its way down the hill before climbing back up to rejoin the red just before the end of the section.
Two weeks ago we finished “The Qualifier” – a rock garden into the tight left hand berm immediately followed by a two foot drop off. It’s a case of if you can ride that feature then you should be able to cope with the rest of the section.
As we’d run out of sensible sized rocks to build the last TTF, this week Dave, Ian and Steve tried their hand at splitting the larger leftovers. With the aid of a SDS drill and chisel followed by careful use of a wedge, the results were very successful.
Nigel and Jez quickly put the split rocks to good use filling a gully with a series of steps.
Whilst all the grafting was going on, Bruce, Phil and myself erected a fence to separate the black from the red trails and Petra finished removing the thick layer of pine needles covering the trail …. it’s been some time since the trail was last ridden in anger.
It shouldn’t be long before the new trail is opened – it’s shortly due a sign off inspection. Other highlights of LSN to look forward to are “The Toboggan Run” and the “Rock Skinny” – we’ll have to name some of the others …. maybe “Oblivion” for the steep rock garden …..
Thursday, 28 October 2010
The crossing now has a one way system in place in order to reduce the risk of users becoming trapped within the crossing when a train comes along the track. Users are asked to dismount from cycles and adhere to all signage. In particular users should use the left hand pedestrian gates when approaching the crossing and cross straight ahead in single file. Users are reminded that the crossing sees up to 68 trains per day, 7 days per week, travelling at speeds of 50 mph, this only gives around 9 seconds warning from when the trains blow their horns.
Users are also asked to be considerate of neighbours by not congregating outside houses and by keeping noise to a minimum especially because there may be young children and dogs present.
The Bike School
The Bike School is a newly established enterprise set up by local guys Adam & Harry offering mountain bike training on Cannock Chase. Harry is a long term supporter of Chase Trails especially our work on the downhill course at Stile Cop. The Bike School is offering Chase Trails members 15% discount off their range of skills courses.
Adam & Harry have both come from the local riding scene and have both done their fair share of building as well as riding especially at Stile Cop. They are good guys with a real enthusiam to share their skills with others. They always put something back by supporting the local bike shop, cafe and by spreading the word about Chase Trails.
Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre
Swinnertons Cycles is a family run bike shop based at the Cannock Chase trailhead at Birches Valley. Run by Mark, Veronica & Jack Swinnerton the shop offers sales, repairs, and bike hire. Swinnertons have been long term supporters of Chase Trails since our establishment back in 2003. They offer discounts and free tea and coffee to members and play a key role in providing the very latest update information about our events and the trails.
Great Haywood Family Dental Practice
Great Haywood Family Dental Practice is small general dental practice in the beautiful village of Great Haywood, only a quick freewheel from the edge of Cannock Chase. Run by Peter Nadin, a long term supporter of Chase Trails, Great Haywood Family Dental Practice offer members of Chase Trails a 10% discount off dental care / treatment.
And if you need any more evidence of Peter's credentials in 2009 he completed a solo 24hr ride at 'Sleepless in the Saddle' raising over £3.5k or the Donna Louise trust, which provides Hospice and respite care for terminally ill children in Staffordshire and Cheshire. A great guy and long term friend of Chase Trails.
Monday, 18 October 2010
Several sections of the Dog had been closed during the APF exhibition and more recently for tree thinning activities. The forestry operations were now over so it was high time to get these sections open again – two of the three had been opened on the Saturday but the final one needed a little more work. Martin dropped Steve and myself off at the end while he drove around to the start - the plan was to meet somewhere in the middle. We moved the brash off the trail and raked off the pine needles – in some places it was difficult to see where the trail went! I think Martin drew the short straw – he had a pile of logs to move as well. The trail now has taken on a different feel – it’s more open and airy – see what you think next time you ride it ....
After collecting up the diversion signs and fencing, we dropped these off at base and then headed over to the top of Lower Cliff for our next job – building a fence to deter the downhillers from making unofficial modifications to the trail. Alex and Phil joined us to assist in the brashing of the “wild” trail whilst we constructed the low fence. Maybe we need to add a few arrows to the fence rail – it seemed surprise a few riders seeing the new addition to the berm.
Having successfully completing our tasks, we return back to base to later find out that the rock crew had decided to forego their afternoon ride to finish their man sized rockery. Taking a small diversion on my way home to have a look, they’ve done a sterling job.
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Dave and me (Jessica, his daughter) walked the trail and cut back any branches that were in the way (save doing right before we open the trail).
We walked back along the trail and helped with the rock feature, Andrew rode the trail again "it was fun" he said but need some more work before it would be ready.
Please do not ride the closed sections
This is a long hard process and we worked until 14:00 hrs and then we packed up.
Thanks for the really great day TRAIL BUILDERS.
Jessica aged 10
Sunday, 3 October 2010
The local wildlife wasn’t so impressed with our demolition work – Sally disturbed a sleeping toad that looked a little grumpy. We did our bit and relocated him out of harm’s way under the bracken.
Just as we were ready to start loading the trailer, the heavens opened! Luckily smart forward planning meant we were able to shelter under a tarpaulin until the downpour subsided. Later we found out that Ian and Peter weren’t so fortunate – Ian looked like a drowned rat when we saw him back at base!
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Talking to various parties and the event organiser, our stand was well received and showed land owners what they could do other than just grow trees.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Liam and new volunteers Simon and Harry dug out the peaty top soil between the dirt jump boxes ready for a good thick layer of surfacing material.
The rest of us completed the North Shore section by joining the existing framework up with the end ramp. We’ve even made provision for a skinny down into our stand area – all we need is to make sure the riders don’t come flying through the back of the gazebo.
Whilst Jez and Martin cut the decking to size, Bruce, Nigel and Steve made a start on screwing it down. We’ve purposely left large gaps – they’re not for a gap jumps but to stop it being ridden before it is ready.
More of the same next Sunday – it’s the last one before the exhibition starts on Thursday 23rd .... now will we get it finished in time?
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Last week, we moved the sky berm that Alex, Bob and Mick have been building onto site and started work on the end of the North Shore.
This Saturday, the DH lads (Alex, Bob, James and Mick) lifted the sky berm into place – it’s over 5’ up in the air! I’m glad it’s these guys that will be riding it.
Sunday saw Phil and new volunteer Joe clearing the area where our gazebo will be – right opposite the burger van I’m told … what more could we want? Alex, Bob and Bruce stayed back at base to build the remaining boxes for the dirt jump whilst the rest of us headed up to the site to continue with the North Shore. A few hours later we had the basic frame work in place when a trailer load of dirt jump boxes turned up. These were manhandled into place to complete our display.
Alex, Bob and Harry wanted to crack on and start decking the sky berm so we left them to it – after all, it was rapidly approaching ride o’clock.
Next weekend, we’ll be building the on and off ramps for the sky berm and start decking the ‘shore. Stop and have a chat if you want to know more.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Sunday, 22 August 2010
With a stake in the ground, well, yellow flag, Alex and myself started marking out where the uprights for the structure were going. We even used a bit of trigonometry to get everything nice and square. As the posts we we’re using were 8 foot long (2.4 metres for the younger readers), we needed our taller members to drive the post knocker and even they had to dig a starter hole to plant the post in! It will be a few years before our junior trail builders will be tall enough …
After returning from their trip to the Red Monkey rocks (see later), Bruce and Dave assisted with the construction. It didn’t take too long before things started taking shape. In the meantime, Martin cut the tops of the stumps off below ground level so they can be covered with surfacing material.
All in all it had taken the whole day to get the start ramp frame work finished. We won’t be decking it until just before the event for safety reasons. As you can see from the warning sign, please keep clear and don’t climb on the structure. The APF display will be taken down after the event but it’s been built with the intention of erecting permanently elsewhere on the Chase – Stile Cop for the more extreme features and the Monkey for the tamer North Shore woodwork that we’ll be building in the coming weeks.
We’ll be out same place same time next weekend doing more woodwork – stop and have a chat or lend a hand if you want.
First things first, we set out our trail warning signs. A big thank you to all the riders who did slow down but as usual, there are those who don’t think that the rules apply to them. Please slow when you approach trail warning signs.
The rocks are installed in these areas to give protection to the trail but they also give us an added bonus of a trail feature. Riding around is probably harder than riding the section but as an added incentive we decided to lay some larch logs along the edge so that riders stay on the trail to prevent any further damage. If you don’t feel confident to ride these features you should dismount and walk down the trail and not try to scoot over the rocks.
After clearing some to the debris from the rocks, it was time to rejoin the other builders and continue with the work that was being done for the APF.
Sunday, 15 August 2010
It was decided that Martin, Jez and Alex would go and cut down some trees to clear the area where we are setting up a Demo for the APF as this is quite a dangerous operation it was decided that we would take the younger trail builders to work elsewhere.
Bruce, Steve, Phil, Sally, Petra, Charlotte, Jessica and I went to do some work on section “H” we started building a log roll like the one on Section 8 of FTD. This is to allow the trail to drop to the fire road before crossing onto the skinny; we started putting in the posts while Sally and Petra started to re-shape the landing leading to the log roll. Phil was re-shaping from the fire road crossing to the Skinny to try and make sure you didn’t hit the skinny whilst being off camber. After a short while the structure was starting to take shape. Caution this structure is not complete do not ride it was quite interesting to see that for a closed trail how much it was being ridden and from the number of riders that came down the trail to where we were working.
This section is closed some of the features may not be complete and may be unsafe.
The people that are riding these closed sections are making it harder for us to complete as we have to keep going over the same work that we have already done, so if you want to moan about the trail not being open or the braking bumps why don’t you come and give us a helping hand.
Friday, 13 August 2010
On the Saturday we did Dalbeattie, the girls rode some of the red then went on to the blue to avoid doing ‘The Slab’ and the men rode all of the red. I really enjoyed this trail as it was technical, there were lots of boardwalks, rocks, drop offs and a rocky descent reminiscent of a down hill race course. I really surprised myself by doing most of the technical features and after looking at the rocky descent I summoned up the courage to do it, although I was rather relieved when I managed to get to the bottom in one piece. The girls finished up by doing the skills loop which I enjoyed.
On Sunday it was Glentress, this started with a climb up through the trees with technical bits, rocks and skinnies. We reached the skills area, this had a skinny with corners on it, after falling off several times I managed to complete it then I attempted the rock drop off which I managed to do, I did, however, fail to do the rock climb which consisted of a rock step up. We then split into two groups some of the men did the red and the rest of us did the blue. There was lots of climbing, some on single track and some on fire road. Then came the descents, there was a very long descent through the trees, this had some roots and switchbacks but went on for a long time. The rest of the descents were shorter and these had rock drop offs on the trail and larger ones to the side for the more adventurous then we crossed over a bridge with a drop off the other side of it. Another couple of sections of switchbacks and we arrived back at the cafe.
Monday we went to Kirroughtree, we started by having lunch in the cafe then started our ride. We started off on the red route and this had technical features with occasional black options to the side. After doing some of the red the girls split off from the boys and did the blue, the descents were nice and flowing and we really enjoyed them. The ride finished at the cafe, but we decided to climb back up the first section to do the skills area. This was good as it had a blue loop, a red loop and a black loop. We did the blue loop a few times and then stepped up the challenge for the red loop, this consisted of a rock step up, immediately followed by a rock switchback climb another switchback and then a couple of rock drop offs. As it had been raining and the rock was wet it made it difficult to manual over the step as the back wheel kept sliding and then there wasn't enough momentum to get around the rock switchback, I did give it a go but ended up having to dismount and push my bike around the corner, unfortunately I slipped on the rock whilst pushing my bike and managed to land on my hip which came out in a huge colourful bruise. I continued around the rest of the loop and then gave it another couple of attempts. I didn't manage to get my back wheel over the step up but I gave it good try. We got one of the lads to show us how to do it but he appeared to have the same problem as we were, although he said something about wet rock being slippery and not having the correct tyres for riding rock. Then it was quickly back to the cafe for a hot drink before they closed.
Tuesday we packed the camping gear away amidst torrential rain thunder and lighting and hail stones. At one point there were three of us with umbrellas huddled over the electric hook up to make a drink just as the heavens opened up again and the hail started. When we eventually managed to get packed away we headed for the Lake District to ride Whinlatter. It was late when we arrived and so, of course, we had to check out the cafe as we had missed lunch. After eating we set off for our ride, we did the north loop this consisted of single track with a drop to the side. We climbed up rocks and roots and climbed and climbed some more then we came onto a fire road and climbed a bit further as we entered the single track again guess what? Yes you guessed it more climbing but what goes up must come down and the down when we got to it was great, flowing single track with drop offs and steep down hill sections and switch backs going through the trees which by this time was quite dark as dusk was fast approaching. When we arrived back at the car park it was virtually empty, quite late and we still had to drive back home.
Fab company; lots of laughter; superb trails; great biking; brilliant hills and to top it all . . . the coconut and cherry scones at Kirroughtree!
The two things I enjoyed at Scotland was having a laugh with the trail builders and Glentress. I enjoyed Glentress because of its blue routes last three sections (they are all downhill). The best bit of them was the bridge going over the other trail and the jumps. Thanks for organising it. It was so much fun.
Jessica aged 10
Abby and I don't do camping ... that was blatantly obvious from our lack of camping gear! No tent, no sleeping bags and no camping style catering implements! But that didn't matter too much, as our fellow holiday goers were well equipped! Thanks to all who we scrounged from!
It also goes to show how much of a draw mountain biking is for us ... choosing to sleep in a field to ride some of the country's best trails says plenty.
Both Abby and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves ... I'm already thinking when I can go up there next!
And the riding? ... It is a completely different story up there, the terrain, materials (and money) used to build them culminates in some seriously bonkers trails. They are trails that EVERY mountain biker should ride at least once.
Red grade trail really is red up there ... you think werewolf drops is difficult ... ride one of the red sections on Kirroughtree and you won't think twice about riding werewolf again.
Oh and now we have some ideas up our sleeves. Expect some 'upgrades' over the next few months, all of which we will need your help with!
Chase Trails Scottish Summer Shenaniganry Awards
Best Cafe - Mabie - “I'll have a Shed burger and Shed Chocolate please” (for those that stopped the full week )
Best Campsite Cooking - Profiteroles & Beer - we ate like Kings (again, for those that stopped the full week )
Worst luck - Jez (broken spoke & shock two rides in a row)
Most punctures - Dave (every time he rode a black feature!!)
Most forgetful - Rob (gloves, bottle, glasses - maybe I just like doing that first climb twice!)
Most improved - Petra (seemed capable of riding anything)
Best Riding - Bruce (nailing The Slab)
Best trails - Kirroughtree and Dalbeattie
I too could be nominated for the worst luck award as after breaking my frame a couple of weeks ago, the replacement didn’t arrive until 4:30pm on the Friday afternoon before our trip. If the courier had delivered in the morning, I’d have had my “new” bike ready to ride in Scotland but c'est la vie …. Thanks to Dave and Jez for lending me their spare machines and Jack and Steve at Swinnertons for trying to get me back on the road in time.