Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Ant Farm (Big Build Day Sunday 28th February)

Gale force winds, heavy rain and cold.

That was the forecast coming into the weekend of our final big build day before the launch of Phase 2.

The reality was something very different. The rain stopped before we loaded up the tools and the wind held back to, all was looking good. Worried that the weather forecast was going to put a lot of volunteers off we headed up the the build site in anticipation of a slack day but we couldn't have been more wrong.

An army of the usual big build volunteers was gathering along with a few new welcome faces, in all we had a round 50 people working through the day. Safety briefing done and we set to work.

The job was to lay 40 tonnes of local surfacing material on "The Link" which will soon bridge the gap between Follow the Dog and Phase 2. We had as many wheelbarrows as we could find and a steep and slippery hill to get up to drop the material down. Luckily the Grimey Lymies had the forethought to bring some straps which we used to help haul the barrows up the steep trail. We quickly got a rhythm going with a team of people filling the barrows, eager beavers pushing / dragging the barrows and groups lined along the trail to spread and compact the new surface. In an effort to get as much material up the hill we even enlisted Jez's help. In a recent blog you might have seen him tearing solid timber planks into strips with his bare hands. Well this time he was shifting literally grammes of trail surfacing in his now infamous man barrow.

It was a tall order but by the end of the day all of the 40 tonnes of Cannock gold were spread and shaped to give the finished running surface of the new trail.

The Chase Trails catering crew of Sharon and Dale did us proud as ever with fresh sarnies, hot soup and cake. The sun decided to make an appearance during the day and overall we had a cracking time.

We've still got some work to do to this trail and it, along with the rest of Phase 2, remains closed. The trails might look finished and ok to ride but please don't. At the moment we're working with the project partners to confirm the date of the Phase 2 opening and launch although at the moment it won't be for a number of weeks to come, watch this space.

We're still going to be working every Sunday on regular build days so feel free to come along any Sunday at 10am to Swinnertons. We'll also be looking at running further big build days after the Phase 2 launch to work on maintenance and other surprises through the rest of the year.


Saturday, 27 February 2010

Wood & Mud (Trail Building Saturday 27th February)

With the official opening looming ever closer, Saturday saw Bruce, Jez and me adding the finishing touches to the last section of boardwalk over on Upper Cliff. Originally, we had intended to have a rock step off the end but dragging a suitable hunk of gritstone there would be nigh on impossible. Previously, Dale had suggested a short ramp off the end so you can either hop off or roll it if you not quite as confident.

Well versed at carpentry in the rain, I started constructing the ramp whilst Jez screwed down the dozen or so deck boards that were only temporarily fixed last time we were up there. Bruce arrived a little later and in no time we had completed the frame work. A small oversight on my part by not grabbing another box of screws out of the container meant we weren’t able to finish fitting the last four boards – there’s always a next time.

Whilst in the area we spend the last few minutes before “ride o’clock” tidying the start of the descent that Hugh had built, scrapping a layer of sticky mud off the trail.

The afternoon’s ride turned out to be four shorter rides interspersed with mechanical moments …. firstly Bruce’s front brake pad return spring disintegrated, then a mile or so later Jez had a puncture (in a brand new tube). Bruce seized the opportunity to have another look at his brakes whilst I took a few photos.

Continuing with our ride, we slithered down a mud shoot of a “wild trail” into Abraham’s Valley accompanied by the smell of singed brake pads – Jez’s rear pads had expired. I’d got a spare set which soon had us back on the road. As we headed back to base, it was my turn – the return spring in my rear brake broke. It’s my own fault for buying a cheap set of pads off ebay.

The Chase’s winter mud had taken it’s toll on our trusty steeds - needless to say, the bike wash at Swinnos was getting a good hammering when we finally got back.


Sunday, 21 February 2010

Whatever the Weather (Trail Building Sunday 21st Feb)

A little snow doesn’t put us (fool) hardy souls off trail building …. but it does make the journey to Birches Valley entertaining, especially coming down a snow covered Stile Cop Road.

Today’s plan was to make the final few tweaks to “Red Monkey” and “Deerskull” prior to the official opening next month. Adopting the divide and conquer principle, we split into four teams.

Our rock shuffling experts set about creating a rock garden to armour the first descent just after the red / black split.

There's an art to creating stonework of any sort, but whether or not we've found it, you'll have to judge for yourselves .... when the trail opens! Once more, a nice little rock garden was created. In this case, as it was a red graded section, it was not so much a rock garden as rock faced slope. A selection of one man liftable rocks was set aside for the task earlier in the week. In addition, we also had 2 larger items set aside as the anchors for each end.

After 3 hours, the random shaped lumps of gritstone had been fashioned to a slope that will rattle the suspension a little. We will probably return to extend the armouring another couple of yards out from each end of the existing creation, as the general consensus was 'more would be better' but that was a task for another day, as we'd used all the available rock.

But of course you have to ensure it all works the way it was intended, and as it was snowing, the kids had a sledge to hand. So how else would you test such a slope? On a bike of course ..... you really think we'd use the sledge ......???

Martin and one of our new volunteers loaded a barrow up with tools and headed off to “Deerskull” to alter the diagonal step. Rather that remove it, they turned it across the trail and reduced the height of the step - now it won’t upset the flow of the trail. On their way back they stopped to fill the rabbit hole in the middle of the first climbing switchback.

I took the rest of the group to finally join the new start out of Rainbow Valley to the original “Monkey” trail. Then we spent the rest of the morning raking off the layer of pine needles and general tidying of the trail..

The junior trail builders kept themselves busy getting wet and muddy whilst sledging and pummelling Alex with snowballs ... he did get his own back later on.

Just a quick reminder about next weekend’s Big Barrow Day. If you have a wheelbarrow please bring it along if you can. Don’t worry if yon can’t – there will be plenty of digging and raking to keep you warm!

Andrew / Bruce

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Last Big Push

We are planning a Big Barrow Day on Sunday 28th February to surface the section we dug at the last Big Build. We'll be shifting loads of aggregate up the hill so if you have a wheel barrow you can bring that will be wheely useful.

Sunday 28th February
The Last Big Push
Big Barrow Day
Bring a barrow if you can.
Meet Swinnerton Cycles 10am


Monday, 15 February 2010

A Bridge So Far (Trail Building Monday 15th February)

Having agreed to meet directly on the trail most of us arrived grumbling about the dismal weather and wishing we had stayed in bed. But the rain soon cleared and the day turned out to be very enjoyable and productive.

Andrew, Dave & Dale continued working on the woodwork and with Martin on hand to cut timber made really good progress.

Martin and myself set about moving placing rocks for the entry and exit to the timber features. Hard work but very satisfying.

By late afternoon the rain came back in telling us it was time to go home.


Sunday, 14 February 2010

Romantic Links (Trail Building Sunday 14th February)

A fantastic valentines turnout of nearly 20 people today including several new volunteers. What better a day to fall in love with trail building!

We were back tweaking the link in preparation for a 'Big Barrow Day' to shift 50 tonnes of aggreate up the hill to surface the trail.

Loads of work was done including tweaking several berms and building a new stepped corner which some of our younger trailbuilders test rode and gave their seal if approval.

Charlotte and Jess made homemade fairy cakes but hopefully that won't have put (killed) anyone off and trail building will blossum into a lifelong relationship.


Saturday, 13 February 2010

Painting Rock (Trail Building Saturday 13th February)

Birches Valley was eerily quiet today (no Charlotte and Jess!). Bruce and Jez were on timber transportation duties while Andrew and myself were formulating plans for getting surfacing and rocks moved when we get use of a digger.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Take the Long Road and Walk It (Trail Inspection Thursday 11th February)

Time for the monthly trail inspection again. This month Martin and myself found a new location for our picnic.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Spliting Planks

Have you ever seen those people who rip telephone books in half with their bare hands? Well they have nothing on Jez.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Missing Link (Trail Building Sunday 7th February)

The majority of crew went to continue work on the missing link.

Martin and Jez went to add some rocks to their bridge while Andrew and Dave went to finish the goldmine.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

All Aboard! (Trail Building Saturday 6th February)

As the launch date for Phase II fast approaches, more and more volunteer time is required to get the trails ready. This week, the RAF were out to play on Monday, Stu, Dale and Dave were out playing Friday, today was Saturday and the usual building tomorrow makes for a busy trail building week - with a few more to follow! - The more the merrier and the quicker the trails get built, so even if you can help on one day for a few hours, you will be most welcome (see the panel to the right about trail building).

Climbing out of the car i see two big 20 ton RMC trucks roll up the driveway... 'where are they going' i thought to myself ... surely not the the trails. Then to my alarm i saw Rob riding shotgun in one of them... all i could think of was how much surfacing we are going to be shifting! 2 more truck loads (at 20 tonnes a piece) trundled up the road a while later. Throughout the week, a further four trucks had delivered surfacing to several places around the trails... we're going to need more wheel barrows! [and volunteers!].

The four truck loads have been dumped around Section 6 (the Stegosaurus Rocks, wooden bridge and skinny log section). After the big freeze, the section has suffered really badly from the ice, melt water and rider damage. As a result it is NOW CLOSED - please do not ride it until it is properly open (not 'other people are riding it' open). Please follow the diversions to the start of the fire road climb.

Trundling over to the shop, i found Sally geared up for a ride, and Jez already supping a cup of coffee! He'd already had one 'caffeine and sugar based energy related drink product' but that was obviously not enough!

Andrew rolled up, followed by the Pearson Clan so we sauntered round to the yard. The plan was for Sally, Petra, Jess and Charlotte to go have fun on their bikes while we head off to finish most of the decking to the Rainbow Bridge. On arrival, we found Bruce busy on the bridge.

After a few hours, the start of the bridge was made a little wider, nearly all of the decking was down (just a metre left at the beginning) and we had a bridge ... can't wait to ride it!

It took a few minutes to work out how to arrange the last few decking pieces so as to end the bridge nicely. Two narrow boards were too wide, one wide board was too narrow, so we opted on using one narrow board and splitting the wide one in half. Now normally this will involve a splitting axe or a bolster, but we only had small chisels and a hitting stick. After a little persuasion with a saw to start it off, Bruce got a chisel in there and the wood began to split a little until part of the chisel handle launched across the bog... oh dear. Still this isn't too much of a problem as trail builders are a fairly resourceful breed so we utilized the next best thing... By now Jez had consumed his second 'caffeine and sugar based energy related drink product' and two bananas, so was feeling particularly manly ... we dared him to split the board by hand... after a few attempts, to our amazement and amusement, he managed to spilt the board using just JezPower (assisted by two coffees, two cans of 'caffeine and sugar based energy related drink product' and two bananas). Next time Jez tells you to man up ... do it! You never know how much caffeine and potassium is running through his veins!

It was half past twelve, and time for a ride! We headed back to the Yard and got ready. Various assortments of food were consumed, and we headed out.

First stop was to see how the woodwork on Upper Cliff has progressed ... Looking Good! The Trees are quite dense in that section which will enhance the woodwork all the more! A Little further along the trail we inspected some alterations that had been made to a couple of corners and also look at what the RAF boys had done. Then it was off to have a look at the Tackeroo block ... again, looking good!

I say 'Looking Good' as until it's done, it isn't going to be good! There is so much still to do! Any help you can provide will only help the trails to be finished quicker.


Monday, 1 February 2010

Upper Cliff and the RAF (Trail Building Monday 1st February)

Martin and I were joined today by a group of lads from the RAF, Martin had loaded the tools onto the trailer and we met by Old Beau Desert Car Park. We decided that it was too slippery to take the vehicles any closer to where we were going to work; Martin gave the safety talk on the use of the tools and we collected a tool or two and started the long climb up the trail to Upper Cliff.

Today we were going to make some alterations to the trail by removing the exit from the first Black section and then link the two black sections together to make one continuous Black section.

As we had pre marked out the trail we started to Bench cut, after a short time we could see that the trail was starting to take shape. Some of the lads had a little fun whilst removing an old rotten root, it appeared to be a little tougher than they had realised but eventually it was removed and then it was time for a spot of lunch and a chat.

After lunch we headed to section “H” where we were going to surface a section where the original surface is mostly made up of sand. This proved to be a lot of hard graft as there is no easy route to get the surfacing to the where it was needed.

Thanks Lads for all of the hard work, much appreciated.

These trails will need to harden off please no not ride, Phase 2 is closed.