Sunday, 31 January 2010

Best Laid Plans (Trail Building Sunday 31st January)

Well, today’s plan was to shuffle more rocks around on the Monkey but the dusting of snow put pay to that – the weather gods aren’t smiling on us at the mo. So, with a little head scratching we quickly drafted a plan ‘B’ to keep the willing volunteers warm. “The Link” above Marquis Drive seemed an obvious choice as we had a few alternations to make. During last week’s inspection, the Forestry Commission’s engineer was a tad concerned that the “Verbier Switchbacks” looked out of place and were a little too extreme for our red grade trail. Alex was not a happy bunny considering the effort he’d put in planning the trail but they had to go. Don’t worry, Alex has vowed to build something similar elsewhere at a later date – the trails will evolve over time!

Whilst being pelted with polystyrene like snow, I began to think Martin and Jez had plumped for the right job dropping off more planks at the various locations where we’re building woodwork – at least they were warm and dry in the Landrover. That said, the trailer was crammed with over a dozen icy larch planks they would be lugging around. Killing two birds with one stone, on the way back they manhandled four hernia inducing rocks into the trailer with the help of some passing riders – thanks guys. These will form the step for the stream crossing at the end of Lower Cliff finished earlier in the week.

The previous day, the local quarry delivered 60 tonnes of prime surfacing material for us to use patching the clay and sandy sections of “The Mad Hatter”’. Now, we’ve done our fair share of extreme wheel barrowing over the years but struggling up near vertical fire roads with a barrowful of sand isn’t my idea of fun on a Sunday morning. Luckily, we’d been offered the services of a dumper truck to move the material closer to where it’s needed. So that the driver knows where to drop each load, Alex, Dave, Jess and I grabbed a handful of flags and drove over. Planting a flag for each 6 tonne load seemed a sensible way of letting the driver know where to dump and from a distance the small yellow flags looked like daffodils in the snow. Well, they did to me.

Whilst in the area, we flagged out a short section of trail that will join the two black rock options on the Upper Cliff hillside. The RAF guys will be lending a hand building this trail during the week – weather permitting!


Saturday, 30 January 2010

Superstar Woodwork (Trail Building Saturday 30th January)

Saturday is usually ride day but, with the imminent official opening of Phase 2, we're rapidly running out of Sunday's to get everything done in time. So, Dave despatched Petra, Charlotte and Jessica for a ride, and joined Andrew, Bruce, Alex and me for a spot of woodland carpentry.

Delegation of duties was the first order of business when we arrived at the site of our 'Klondike' bridge in Rainbow Valley - some of you may have noticed it on the right-hand side when spinning up the fire road. I set to sawing up planks to the required length whilst Bruce, Andrew and Dave set about planing the edges for a nice fit and triple screwing the planks to the supports.

Alex took a large and dangerous knife and headed in the direction of some naughty boys who were riding the closed section which ends at our bridge. Ever the epitome of restraint and decorum, Alex informed these wayward souls of the error of their ways, explaining that the 'Trail Closed' sign really did in fact apply to them as well. Having done his good deed for the day, Alex then set out back along the trail to brash it just in case any other riders made a similar mistake - there's now several tons of fallen branches, logs and foliage on those sections to emphasise the closure.

Meanwhile, progress was rapid back at wood shop 101. I sawed my way through a dozen or so planks, whilst the others systematically measured, remeasured, adjusted the angles and fixed down the boards to our structure. Progress was interupted briefly when one of the Forestry forwarders arrived with 20 odd tons of sawn and sorted logs to add to the neat piles in the area. Obviously, the piles he needed were exactly where we'd parked the vehicles. Luckily, he was understanding and refrained from moving Alex' car out of the way with his mechanical grab, instead agreeing to return in an hour after we'd packed up and shipped out.

The bridge still isn't quite finished, maybe 1 more day of boarding and it'll be ready for a final engineering inspection.

We met up with the ladies, had a quick lunch and headed out for a well deserved ride. Winding up Marquis Drive, past the pumping station we noticed a group of naughty boys and girls at the top of one of the closed sections. Our 9 year old trail information service (Jessica) started broadcasting that the trail was closed and they should stop riding it. Thank goodness they were too far away to hear so we took the excuse to ride around the next closed section of trail (and brash off the beginning again) and up the fire road to the top.

We found an impressive group of journalists and competition winners on blingtastic machinery. There was also a tall man from Yorkshire called Steven or Peter (I couldn't work out which) on a nice looking Santa Cruz - apparently he's quite well known for going down hills very quickly - who was assisting with a spot of on the trail tuition for the lucky competition winners.

There was a bit of hobnobing and chit-chat, then the decision was made to move on.
Clearly, with all the new faces, Jessica took the opportunity to ride off down the trail yelling "WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE" at the top of her voice and showing the downhill world champion how it should be done. There was a bit more sessioning at the bottom on the berms at the bottom of the hill before we went our separate ways - journos and superstar back up to Stile Cop and us back to Birches Valley for some coffee.

Note - all the built trails in that area are closed to allow for their recovery after the cold snap. Please, please, please don't ride those trails. The official opening is shortly before Easter and the trails need that time to settle down after all the damage caused by hundreds of wheels, sub-zero weeks and metres of snow. Our guests were invited by the Forestry Commission and were in a controlled and managed area for their visit.


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Trail Pixies in the Valleys (Trail building Sunday 24th January)

Because of the amount and the type of work that is needed to get the trails ready to open it was decided that we split up into teams, we loaded up what was required and started work.

Martin & Jez set off to work on Lower cliff building a crossing to span the stream, the bearers and stringers were installed which now requires bolting together before the decking can be installed.

Andrew & I set off to continue the work in Rainbow valley on the bridge; we were putting a section of decking in place on the new bridge ready for the FC Engineer to Inspect. This is only decked in a small section Do Not Attempt to Ride.

Bruce, Alex, Dale, Josh, Petra, Charlotte, Jessica, Matthew, Dominick, Phil, Tom & Phil and anyone who I might have missed set off to continue the work on section “H” this required sculpting on some of the corners to make the trail flow more easily, the team also had the difficult job of armouring the trail (Especially when up hill and with no grip) to make it more sustainable.

While working we were surprised by the number of riders on the trail. Please read the notices and stay off. Beware that we are working on multiple sections and have young trail builder with us who may not hear a bike approaching.

Work continues every Sunday regardless of the weather, meet at swinno’s 10:00am

Please keep off the trails they need time to settle.


Monday, 18 January 2010

Kitbag Hill Continued (Trail building Monday 18th January)

Martin and I were again joined by a group of lads from the RAF and fortunately for us the weather was considerably warmer that the last time we worked on this section.

We headed off to continue with the work on section “H”, we decided to split the lads into two teams one team was given the task of bench cutting a new piece of trail which spanned between two fire roads. The other team were given the task of armouring a section that we had bench cut on one of our regular Sunday builds a few weeks ago.

The day ended with a little challenge for each of the lads to get a wheel barrow full of surfacing to Martin who was working on corner further up the trail. This was a very difficult push; all were encouraged to have a go especially as they got the sergeant to go first.

The work went very well a big thank you to the RAF for attending and by the end of the day we had a new trail cut which is ready to be surfaced and another part of the section is now surfaced. If you come across a new section of trail please resist the temptation to ride it as you will destroy all of the hard work that is being put into it...

Don't forget we meet 10am every Sunday outside Swinnertons, All Welcome


Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Big Thaw (Trailbuilding Sunday 17th January 2010 )

After the recent inclement weather, today brought us bright sunshine and a balmy 5 degrees. After pre work/post ride coffees were consumed we split into two groups. Martin, Ian, Jez and Phil headed off to inspect and administer repairs to the exceptionally muddy Dog whilst the rest of us headed to The Link to continue surfacing after the recent Big Build Day.

Petra, Sally and I tooled up and began our search for some good surface looking for the lovely orangey dirt. After a while Sally began to wonder if she had a knack for digging in just the wrong spot as the good surface seemed to be evading her but after perseverance she eventually found some. Bruce started the day with an axe to grind and put it to good use hacking out tree roots until Alex borrowed it pausing only to ask if it made him look more like an axe murderer?! We politely smiled and backed away slowly giving him a wide berth to pass! Meanwhile Dave, Alex, Dale, Stu and Steve began the woodwork to support the tight series of switchbacks towards the trail exit. Several posts were erected and supporting wood was put in place before the switchbacks were surfaced.

Dominic and Frank came to join us although we were sure it had more to do with the lure of jelly babies than helping us surface. We realised after a while we were being watched, two riders had stopped just below us. Petra sprang into action and put on her best recruitment speech and we soon had Phil and Tom joining us surfacing. We all did our best marketing speeches telling them all about Chase Trails and they will hopefully be coming over next Sunday to help us, see you at Swinnerton’s at 10am.

At 1pm the workers were rewarded with birthday cake courtesy of Sally – Happy Birthday Sally! This provided us with enough energy to continue for a while longer. We then paused to supervise Stu, Dale and then Alex test riding the steepness of the newly built switchback and once they were satisfied we collected up the tools and headed back feeling like a good day’s work had been done.

See you all next week

Lei x

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Snowballs & Sledges (Trail Building Sunday 10th January)

Andrew and Dave continued woodworking today. They even had time to decorate the timber with snow!

The rest of the crew went to continue work on 'The Link' which we started last week at the Big Build Day.

A continuous stream of runners passed up and down Kitbag Hill as we worked. They all seemed really excited to be nearly at the ice, I mean drinks station!

Charlotte and Jess (the toboggan trail crew) had something much better to sledge down this week!

I don't know how it started but the day ended with a snowball fight back at Birches Valley that lasted well into the dark. Another long but fun day in the world of Chase Trails!


Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Missing Link (Big Build Day Sunday 3rd January 2010)

We had an excellent turnout with 64 volunteers braving the freezing cold weather - a big thank you to all. The day started well with us struggling to get into the forestry compound and our tool container – frozen locks! Judging by the fact that tea spilt on the table at lunch time froze, I don’t think it got above freezing point all day.

It doesn’t seem five minutes since we held our very first Big Build Day exactly one year ago. This was our ninth and we’ve estimated that your efforts have counted for over 1500 man hours of digging creating close to 2 km of new trail.

We were a little concerned that the cold weather might put people off but a steady stream of volunteers crossed the railway as we set up camp. After a quick safety briefing by Stu, the troops armed themselves with tools, headed off up the hill and found a patch of trail to attack. It was impressive looking up from the bottom seeing everyone spread out on the hill side above.

The baked spuds, chilli and beans seemed to go down well – after helping Martin chainsaw up some larger fallen tree trunks, I ending up with the scrapings out the pan. Thanks to chefs Dale and Bruce.

After refreshing themselves, most were keen to get back to digging just to keep warm. We held the raffle on the hill so as not to disturb the excellent progress. Congratulations to the raffle winners – they looked very fetching in their new Chase Trails T-shirts.

We wrapped up around 3 pm with all but the last few feet of trail dug. The freshly cut trail will need the usual fettling over the coming weeks – shaping the bermed corners and adding a crib wall on the last section of switchbacks. If you fancy helping, please come along – we meet at Swinnos every Sunday at 10 am.