Thursday, 29 December 2011

A spot of one man maintenance (Trail building - Thursday 29th December)

After getting rather soggy feet, there was an indication that maybe a little excess mud and water was present on section 8A (from the top of the fire road climb, through the old growth). What better day to pick for trail maintenance than a rainy one? Well at least you can work out where the puddles are, but the shock was where the trail was. Sounds obvious, but no, you've actually been riding largely off the left side of the trail for at least 18 months. This was not immediately apparent until I set about a spot of one man maintenance.

The puddle points were cleared by pulling the accumulated ledge of mud and pine needles from of the down-slope side of the trail. On the first bend in from the start, that edge of mud was about 13cm high! The side of the trail has been cleared off for a metre out from the down-slope trail edge to give plenty of space for the water run-off to soak away.

It seemed strange that there was trail material under a 50mm layer of mud and grass to the right side of the trail. This ran to about 30cm out from the edge of the riding line. The clearing continued, as did the revealing of more trail material. It soon became apparent that the riding line had migrated left by 30 to 45cm. The right side of the trail had slowly disappeared with time, and become buried - in 18 months! Even more surprisingly, this shift in riding line was to the left of the trail for the whole of this section (300 metres or so), not just a few bits - most curious.

However, the actual trail was in good shape, but the other 50% of the riding line will certainly need surfacing at some stage. The suspicion is that this section may have been too cambered (contractor built) and too narrow, and riders may have ended up riding to one side of the trail surface. This got slowly worse with time, hence why all the mud and pot holes have come about.

A wet cold day, but a good five hour session, and no shortage of happy riders working off the Christmas food. No offers of help mind you! The riding line has been moved back over to where it should be, and the muddy pot holes covered with logs. Your feet should now remain drier down this section, as long as you stay on the actual trail !!

Don't forget the BIG BUILD DAY on 8th January!!!


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Look what Santa has got us …

Well, maybe not the jolly portly chap in a red suit but a quick surf on e-bay turned up a bike trailer which we reckon will be an ideal means of carrying a few tools around. Our plan is to do a few mobile maintenance sessions sorting out drainage and other issues on the trails. It tows surprising well off-road and copes with braking bumps so watch out for our trailer out on the trails.

An early Happy New Year to all our readers and hope to see you at our Big Build Day on the 8th January.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

It’s not just a resurface… (Trail building - Sunday 18th December)

We may have been spending time on rock armouring the Rollers but we’ve added a few new surprises to the closed section of Tackeroo. To start with, the old stump jumps have been spruced up with rock takeoffs. Young Phil turned up at just the right time to give them a quick test ride.

The first Roller has been remodelled, with a rock slab and frame work that will become a short boardwalk.

We plan to resurface the worn sections at the forthcoming Big Build Day on Sunday 8th January – please come along and lend a hand, it's an ideal way to burn off those festive calories.


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Date for your diary - 8th January - next Big Build Day

It's been a while since we've had a Bid Build Day so to help everyone burn off those extra minces pies and helpings of Christmas pud, we're having a "Big Surfacing Day" on the last section of Tackeroo - that's the section that is currently closed.

We'll provide all the tools, a free raffle, hot food and drinks - all we ask is for you to turn up and lend a hand. There's plenty to do to keep you warm - the old surface will need breaking up, new material barrowing into place and it all wacked down.

If you can spare the time, even if it's only a few minutes whilst you're out riding, we'll apprieciate it and everyone will be able to ride the "new improved" Rollers again.

Have a Merry Christmas and hope Santa brings that shiny new ......... (insert whatever is on your Christmas list).


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Christmas at Birches Valley

As you probably already know or have seen Christmas Trees have now gone on sale at Birches Valley. While the trails are all open as normal parking arrangements are a little different to normal. The top car park by Go Ape / Swinnertons will be used solely for Christmas Tree sales & Santa’s Grotto so unless you are buying a Christmas Tree you’ll need to park in the lower car park during December.

Buying a Real Tree from the Forestry Commission is a great way to show your support for the trails and the work that Chase Trails and the Forestry Commission do so why not take a tree home after your next ride? More details here

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Back to ‘roo (Trailbuilding – Sunday 4th December)

This week we were back on the last section of Tackeroo and in particular the Rollers and the two stump jumps beforehand.

Thanks to Bob the Digger Man, we had piles of surfacing material and rocks next to the trail which improves the speed we can work immensely. While rock splitting experts, Petra and Martin continued making light work of converting the big rocks into manageable slabs for Frank and Phil to surface the Rollers, "orginal" Bruce and Steve started making an interesting feature out of a massive slab. I’m not going to spoil the surprise but it should make for a novel start to the Rollers.

Meanwhile, Inga and James returned to help "new" Bruce, Dave, Jez and myself converted the existing stump jumps into sustainable features with suitably shape rock launch pads. The line of sight into the features was improved by removing a large mound.

The day’s building drew to a close much earlier than last week due to the inclement weather so after an urn stop, half the crew headed up to check out the Christmas tree sales area and in particular the hot pork baps – well worth a try!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Return to 'Le Singe Noir' (Trailbuilding - Sunday 27th November)

In an unexpected departure to our recent period of hole digging on the final part of Tackeroo, this week we needed to make a maintenance visit to the Black Monkey following a credible report that the exits of some of the armoured sections and steps were wearing down and making the landings tricky to the point of over the bar acrobatics.

After a very delayed start due to some geezer with a white beard, a red suit and two reindeer (we have this problem with him parking in the wrong place every year), we set off. Although we were down a Jez, we had an extra Bruce and acquired another Phil plus Frank as the day went on so combined with Matt and James and a guest appearance by Abby we were pretty well crewed up.

Studying the hillside of the Black Monkey, it was interesting to reflect that it was two years ago that we were engaged on the massive effort that went into building the armoured sections, and the difficulties of moving big, heavy rocks down steep hillside obstructed by trees. In comparison today's rocks were smaller and more manoeuvrable, but the hillside just as steep tricky to use a rock-barrow on.

So Petra, CT's own rock-chick, split rocks with Martin, while Dave, Abby and new Bruce set about revising the end of Oblivion. Matt and James walked the trail trimming the edges and clearing the drain channels ready for winter. Andrew, Bruce, Frank, Liam and I set about revising the worn landing zone of a major rock step, but the ground turned out to be more taxing than expected when we discovered impenetrable sandstone that resisted all posts. Eventually lateral thinking prevailed and a larch riser was planted to act as the face of a new rock landing area. This has done nothing to reduce the technical challenge of this feature, if anything it seemed to me trickier than ever - not that I expect to find it a problem as I shan't be riding it!

As the rest of us packed up, Dave finished the day off by armouring the drop out of Toboggan with a quick rock shifting and bedding-in session before we finally decided it was time for tea.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Black Monkey Closure - one day only

Just to let everyone know that the Black Monkey will be closed for essential safety related maintenance on Sunday 27th November. The exits of two of the rock features have worn and need armouring with a little more rock.

The Red Monkey will be open as normal but we’ll be asking riders to stop whilst we move rocks down across the Red Monkey so please be patient and follow all requests to wait – it will only be for a couple of minutes.

Thanks for your cooperation.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

It was flat at the bottom and the sides were steep... (Trailbuilding - Sunday 20th November)

What a grey day! Damp and misty and unrelieved by a glimpse of sunshine. But the show must go on, and we dragged ourselves away from the comfort of The Urn and our admiration of Jess's newly acquired FS, loaded the wagon and trailer and headed over to the Rollers. Dave was back after his touch of lurgi last week and we were joined by new man Tony, who having worn himself to shreds walking Snowdon and riding the Monkey thought he'd finish off the week with some trail building.

In our quarry, Dave, Petra and Frank set about reducing our rocks to manhandleable rubble in anticipation of getting some JCB assistance to carry a load of rock to the trail. Meanwhile high on the hill, Andrew, Tony, Bruce and Phil were barrowing hardcore and excavating a borrow pit to fill a new low berm just below the 2 rollover steps. It always takes much more than you realise to fill these features so it was not until midday that we moved onto the next stuff.

Frank and Steve joined Bruce to set about the two steps that have been getting deeper as they wear. They dug out the back face and rebuilt them in lovely bomb-proof rock. They remain rollable while being tougher, more durable and marginally more intimidating, although this may just be the presence of Frank and a plank to swat anyone who attempts to by pass this feature.

Down the trail and around the corner, Tony and Phil were enlarging and completing another deep sump hole and drain channel. A task made considerably more difficult by uncovering an enormous tree root that seemed impervious to mattock blows. The solution was to tunnel under it to make a path for the drain pipe. Tony dug like a “mole on Monster” and considerable sweat later, he'd made the channel. Sterling work - many thanks Tony.

Later we surveyed the climb from Hugh's Bridge and were relieved to find only minor repairs are needed that mainly consist of building up the surfacing. One view of the trail led to a learned discussion of the merits, style, and variations of a boardwalk that might be constructed. After all we haven't built a boardwalk for several months....


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Air Ambulance Tree Carry

As mountain bikers who occasionally have accident most of us have at one time or another seen first hand the fantastic work the midlands air ambulance do. And if you didn't realise they are a charity who receives no funding from the government and relies entirely on the support and generosity of local people and businesses.

This Saturday (19th November) the Midlands Air Ambulance is teaming up with members of 4th Battalion the Mercian Regiment, and the Forestry Commission to carry a 15ft Christmas tree the 7.5 miles from Birches Valley to Cannock hospital. The tree is being donated by the Forestry Commission to Cannock Hospital as they have done for many years.

The event will begin at Birches Valley at 9.30am so if you are around please come to the trail head area and give them your support for all the great work they do.

If you are not around this weekend Air Ambulance volunteers will be at the Christmas Tree Sales Centre at Birches Valley at weekends carrying Christmas Trees to cars in return for donations, so why not help support the trails by buying a tree from the Forestry Commission and support the Air Ambulance at the same time.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

"There was I, digging it deep... " (Trailbuilding - Sunday 13th November)

The pattern is now well developed: tea urn - trailer load - move across road - trailer unload - Rock Gang start drilling - trail makers set to work… but where's Dave? Has Britain's no 1 consumer of Monster finally self-destructed in an explosion of taurine powered energy? Has Petra taken her revenge for last week's cartoon? No, fortunately he'd just been taken ill, showing that even monster-man is not immune from all the hazards of normal life.

So this week our quarry team of Jez, Martin, Frank, Phil and Bruce carried on with splitting, moving and setting our steadily reducing pile of rocks. Preparing the ground for them were Pete and Aidan who were riding by, saw the Trolls at work and came over to lend a hand for a while. They softened up several rollers, ready for rock laying, with some muscular pick work then headed off to the Forest Centre for a well deserved cuppa. Thanks guys, as always we are glad for the help.

Joining us for the first time were Inga and James who along with young regulars Matt and James, returnee Bruce, and Phil (Thinks... 'what a lot of duplicate names') with Andrew finished off another berm, barrowed a ton or two of hardcore down the side of the Eiger to the trail, and continued the emerging Tackeroo tradition of digging deep (sump) holes. Inga immediately endeared herself by sharing cake, as did Martin whose birthday is imminent. Then to add to the fun, Tom and Phil (yes another one!) rode up and set to, sorting put another trail soft-spot.

The past few Sundays up on the trail have been an object lesson in autumnal colour ways, a kaleidoscopic palette of greens through yellow-gold to a spectrum of russets, tans, taupes and brown. It's easy to not notice on your bike when you're trying to avoid a tree that it's currently carrying an exceptionally pretty leaf load. The opportunity to appreciate the Chase in flux is a fortunate bonus of trail work.

Then it was back to the urn for critiquing or envying the range of bikes queuing for the jet wash.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

It's women that build all these trails ....

It's a hard life. They spend the week looking after the kids, doing the shopping, and the cleaning, etc. And then on their days off they slog away all day breaking rocks like a convict.

And what are the men doing? The lazy sods just stand around talking bike parts, eating, and supping large amounts of Monster (like they need the energy for that!) Idle swines!


Sunday, 6 November 2011

"... So big and sort of round it was ..." (Trail building - Sunday 6th November)

Last night was a slight disappointment. We didn't win the National Lottery Award for Best Sports Project. The worthy winners were the Bluebird Care Hampshire Disability Cricket Programme. We consoled ourselves with the thought that simply to be at the Final meant we were on the virtual podium of the event which is a huge success in itself; and that Rob probably looked hilarious in a suit. [If you watch a replay carefully, you can just see Rob looking very dapper in his suit ... he does scrub up well after all - Andrew]

Today, we were back to normality and the increasing familiarity of Tackeroo Rollers and thereabouts. We were joined at the mystic urn by Ross a passing UoW outdoor pursuits undergraduate with a terrifying handshake and a strong work ethic. Good to have his help. Otherwise it was the usual suspects - down in the dark cold forest, Dave, Petra, Frank, Bruce and Jez rock-splitting in our quarry and shifting blocks to the Rollers. Then in a great leap forward they started armouring the first roller. Originally it was just going to be the dip at the bottom, but having evaluated the situation with the fact that we don't want to do this again anytime soon, it emerged that the whole of the back face and bottom of each roller is going to armoured. Oh, those rollers will be different next time you ride them. You can't say we don't give value when we fix a trail.

Meanwhile in the sunlit uplands of the section, the Two Phils (sounds like a bad music hall act), Andrew, Ian, Ross and Liam were barrowing tons of grit stone and gravel to fill, shaping and wackering two bermed bends, with deep, deep sumps.

So, we're making progress, with a lot of rock still to split and shift, prepare and place, and we are at least a couple of months away from getting this section open. If you want it faster than that, please join us on a Sunday at 10 am outside Swinnertons (remember, there's free car parking for the day and a hot drink) or if you're passing at the end of your ride stop and join in for a while – even 10 minutes helps. You'll feel better for the experience.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Chase Trails on the BBC on Saturday night!

Just a quick note to thanks you for all your support and to let you know that Chase Trails will be on the BBC on Saturday night.

As you will know the Chase Trails Cycle Project on Cannock Chase is through to the final of the National Lottery Award in the best sports project category. Voting has now closed and the winners will be announced live on Saturday night. Although we have no great expectation of winning the overall title, the project video will be shown and we hope to at least get a glimpse of the Chase Trails team as they sit and sip champagne.

Thanks again for all your support over the last six months.


Sunday, 30 October 2011

This Hole In The Ground ... (Trailbuilding - Sunday 30th October)

Well this week was very much like last week except we're all a week older. After a quick lurk at the urn, we set off to Tackeroo whilst quarrymen Dave, Steve and Martin carried on rock breaking. Along the trail, two Phils dug sump holes and drain channels while at the Roller dips Matt carried on enlarging the sump holes begun last week. We were delighted to welcome the return of Graham, the human JCB, who repeated his Olympic hole-digging record attempt. Meanwhile Bruce and Frank were filling the trailer with aggregate and transferring it to the top of the hill to be barrowed down and along the trail to reinforce the soft spots and a new low berm we added just because we felt like it. Vague but persistent mutterings are now heard about adding a boardwalk... will anything come of this or is it all just a rumour?

After some lovely cake supplied by Petra in honour of Bruce's birthday, we retired to the tea urn to witness the engagement of Bruce to his new true love, an orange Transition Covert frame. We hope they’ll both be very happy together.

Remember that this coming Saturday (5th November), this year’s National Lottery Awards winners will be revealed - 9:30pm on BBC1. Will Chase Trails be proud but humble winners or a generous and gracious support act? Either way it's a tremendous achievement to have made it to the final and see Rob looking smart.


Sunday, 23 October 2011

'There I was a-diggin this hole' (Trailbuilding - Sunday 24th October)

After an entertaining weekend off (some went to Dalby and the Peaks and dislocated fingers whilst I went to Greece and got struck by lightning) we returned to the tranquillity of Tackeroo. We also returned to a pile of enormous rocks kindly provided by the nice Forestry Commission people. The only snag being that they are a little too big to move! However, undaunted we equipped ourselves with all the appliances of modern technology (no, not just big hammers) and set to work.

Dave and Steve focussed on splitting the rocks into handle-able chunks using the 'wedge and feathers' method as practiced since ancient Egyptian times (though not by Dave and Steve obviously). See here if you want to know more. It's a cheap, effective and quick way of cutting boulders down to size. Meanwhile, Martin had been adapting the battered old rock wheelbarrow by removing the bucket and fitting a flat plate. This made moving rocks from our “quarry” to the trail vastly less arduous and finger-risky as he and Jez ferried the newly cut blocks to their future resting place.

The rest of us were engaged in more traditional trail-building activities - digging holes. Between each “Rollers” is a dip where water accumulates and turns to mud in the winter. To defeat this problem we are armouring the bottom of the dips with the rock and digging big, I mean BIG, sumps to the side as drains. Everyone not “rocking” started digging - Petra, Frank, Matt, Andrew, another Matt, Peter and Ellie. A really big thanks to Ellie who was hard at work digging a hole while her dad sat and gave her advice (so we believe). When we struck good sub-soil, it was barrowed off to build up the final berm. Special thanks to Paul, Trevor and the two other riders, who stopped, got stuck in, and then went to finish their ride. Sorry I didn't get all of your names guys but thanks for your help - please come again.

Later, and further up the trail, the sump hole-digging continued with talk of repairing berms and possibly adding a small sky-berm. After all, we always like to leave trails better than we found them, although it does mean that it's going to take longer to sort this section out.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Trail building update

We'll be working on the end of "Tackeroo" in the coming weeks (that's the last section of 'Follow the Dog' - the one that's currently closed). There are rock slabs to go into the bottom of the Rollers to stop them turning into mud baths, drainage on the corners that turn into swimming pools and reshaping of the two steps. We may even add a few new surprises .... why not stop and say "hello".

This is the pile of rock we've got to play - the "wedges and feathers" will be getting some serious use splitting these boulders!


Monday, 17 October 2011

Busman's Holiday

Last weekend saw five of the trail building crew (Bruce, Dave, Jez, Petra and me) heading “up norf” for a weekend away. Glorious sunny if cold weather greeted us on Saturday morning as we drove the 20 or so miles from ‘Little Argham Cottage’ (Rudston, near Bridlington) to Dalby Forest.

The red grade trail is 23 miles long but the best bits are recent additions for the black grade World Cup course. We’ve come back with a few ideas that may be appearing at Cannock in the future. The drop off at the top of ‘Worry Gill’ makes Werewolf Drop look like a cute fluffy puppy!

Following a recommendation from the cottage owner, we stopped off in Seamer for fish and chips. ‘Seamer Fisheries’ fries the best haddock I’ve had in years – definitely worth the detour on the way back to our cosy 6 berth cottage.

On our way back home, the riding choice was Sherwood Pines or the Peaks – the Peaks won hands down. As Petra wasn’t riding, she dropped us off at Hayfield so we could ride “au naturale” to Edale via Kinder Reservoir, Edale Cross and Jacob’s Ladder – now that’s a proper rocky decent.

Back to normal next weekend …more maintenance work on the last section of Tackeroo.


Monday, 10 October 2011

No trail building Sunday 16th October

There will be no trail building on Sunday 16th October as the trail building crew are on a fact finding mission to Dalby (i.e. seeing if there are any good ideas we can "borrow" from our Yorkshire friends).


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Hurrah For Us: Fame at Last & Tackeroo Improvements (Trailbuilding - Sunday 9th October)

The day got off to a fairly normal start, with appropriate milling about the tea urn and loading the trailer with tools, wood and two tons of surfacing (by hand!) and then hi ho, hi ho, off to work we go ... etc. We didn't have far to go, just across the road to the end of Tackeroo. Work started with barrowing the two tons of surfacing up the trail to help in the formation of the improved final hairpin berms, which will be considerably stronger and a bit higher. It didn't take long to shift the trailer load so then we split into 3 parties. The main group Dave, James, Matt, & Graham dug out the dips between the Rollers and moved the spoil to build up the berms. While they were at it they dug out some sumps to improve drainage and struck a mother lode of material which also made its way into the berms. A huge round of applause for newcomer Graham who performed like a human JCB, barely stopping for breath all day and put us to shame. Terrific effort! Meanwhile Bruce, Phil and Frank had found some spoil across the fire road and were quarrying and barrowing it to the berm. As may be apparent, a berm takes a lot of building

Upstream, (another) Dave, Andrew and Steve had started remodeling the trail below the two wood steps. They timbered up the outside ready for some surfacing after burying a drainage pipe to prevent the corner from flooding. The steps will be remodeled with rock slab landing zones to prevent future erosion. There's still a fair amount of work to get through, not least the slabbing of the Roller dips which will be fairly time consuming

Oh, and the “Fame At Last”? Well, Chase Trails have won the Forestry Commission 'Volunteer of the Year Award'. It recognises how much consistent quality effort, month-in month-out goes into making and mending the trails. And despite our seemingly low key response to it, we really are very, VERY pleased and proud. Hurrah for us!


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Section 11 Opened - Hurrah : Tackeroo Closed - Damn (Trailbuilding Sunday 2nd October)

After many, many months being closed for repair and upgrading it was with great pleasure that the Trail Crew set off with a trailer of tools and a song in their heart to open Section 11. The cheerfulness was reinforced by Abby arriving with another birthday cake for Charlotte! Lovely. Even the apparently simple task of opening a section takes a couple of hours. The brash has to be removed and the various shortcut opportunities eliminated. A final safety check of the various boardwalks, and any hanging branches overhead that may fall on the unwary. James and Matt grafted away sweeping the trail surface clear of pine needles and stuff to ensure a grippy start to the day. (Those Chase Trails people are really house-proud!)

Eventually about noon, the start was cleared, the diversion sign removed and the trail inaugurated by Phil & Tom, and Petra, Charlotte & Jess, plus a posse of riders who were either lurking waiting for it to open or just struck lucky. Having watched several dozen ride through and all survive unscathed and happy, we noted where any finessing might be needed, and moved on.
Just as we were in sight of having all sections open, it became apparent that the final length of the Tackeroo descent, the hairpins and berms at the end, are breaking away at the edge with a risk of high riding bikers encountering the scenery at an unexpected angle and unwished velocity. Attempts early in the week at running repairs were scuppered by bikers who rode dangerously in the vicinity of trail crew so the only option has been to close the section from Hugh's Bridge and divert riders down the bridleway back to the Forest Centre. Many people are riding this dangerously fast and with no regard for the interests of other users on foot or horse, or even pedalling uphill. Take it easy folks and think of others!

Right, to give you guys (and dolls) a bit more of a heads-up on what's going on with Tackeroo, here's an update from today's inspection and the commencement of works. The first feature after Hugh's Bridge is the pair of log steps/drops. These are digging out on the down slope and require repair and/or modification (and possibly rocks). Between there and The Rollers there are a few corners that urgently need rebuilding/changing and maybe a new berm.

The Rollers - We've started digging the bottoms of the rollers out in preparation to fill them with rock slabs. A couple of them have had a couple of feet dug out. The idea being that we will be able to use the rock to channel the water away without it pooling and turning the valleys into bogs like last winter. This should also mean we won't get frozen mud ruts again when it freezes. The height of the rollers won't change and neither should the inclines, they just won't wear away and turn to mush in winter.

The Berms - These have collapsed in places so we've also started digging out the backs of the berms at the bottom in preparation for crib walling and rebuilding with better material. Big thanks to Matt (no 2) who rode in and dug like a good 'un. It was especially good of him because he'd arrived just too late to help on Section 11, so made the effort to ride over and join in on Tackeroo. Outstanding!

This will not be a quick fix so please be patient with us. Please don't try and work round the tape and brashing. It just means we have to waste time putting it back and delays progress. Even though there's a fair bit of work going on in the final length, it's still intended to press ahead with the Werewolf Drops remodelling if enough people turn up on Sundays (10a.m. at Swinnos, Free Car Parking), so come along and help us help you!

...and cakeaholics will be glad to know that Abby's cake for Charlotte was delicious.

Phil (PTB)

Friday, 30 September 2011

Tackeroo Descent - Bottom Section Closed

Please be aware that, with immediate effect, the bottom of Tackeroo - the final section of Follow the Dog and Monkey Trail - will be closed.
Commencing from the feature signed "Hugh's Bridge" until the end after the rollers will be closed to riders at the instruction of the Forestry Commission. This is to enable rectification and repair work to begin and to prevent further degradation of the trail. Please do NOT ride this section.

We know you all love this section but the FC have taken the difficult decision to close it and do something about it now.

Please obey any and all signed diversions that are in place.

Evil Slab Bypass Open

As of today, the bypass is now open for business

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Let Them Eat Cake - Evil Slab Bypass (Trailbuilding – Sunday 25th September)

I was away recovering last week (I won't bother you with the details, but pain and handlebar acrobatics were involved) so my belief that work had started on the Werewolf Drop bypass had to be recalibrated when it turned out that a different bypass had been undertaken. The feeling was that Evil Slab (the Evil formerly known as Root 2) was turning out a bit too evil, and most people just couldn't or wouldn't manage it. So in the spirit of having a slightly friendlier trail, with fewer naughty words so near the Visitor Centre, a bypass was in order. This week we would finish the job.

Because it is Charlotte's birthday (Happy Birthday Charlotte) Petra arrived with trays of home-made fairy cakes for hungry trail pixies. So we had some cake and loaded the trailer with tools, and all the usual crew plus returnee Dave set off to the scene of action. All that is except Dave (another one) and Andrew of Chase Trails and Gary and Andrew (another one) of the FC. They set off to do prospecting and long-range thinking stuff not realising that cakes were going somewhere else.

Last week a chicken run (oops) by-pass had been carved out to the right of the approach to Evil Slab. This week we ate fairy cake (mmmm), unloaded some larch logs and laid them out and secured them as kerbs to keep riders on the straight and narrow, Last week’s surfacing looked a bit untough so after some more cake, we re-cycled gravel surfacing from a nearby disused hard standing and barrowed it in as an extra solid running surface. The pleasure we may have had at this point was somewhat marred by the horizontal rain sweeping across the Chase and dampening our enthusiasm and trousers.

In the meantime we amused ourselves by observing passing riders attempting Evil Slab. Many avoided it on an unofficial alternative (now under logs and brashing placed to make it less attractive); lots failed valiantly; and the remainder conquered with varying degrees of elegance. We pointed out to those who failed that they would have won cake if successful, but forgot to mention this to those who rode over and away, thus we had to eat their cake too.

After Martin had wackered surfacing to his hearts content, and Frank had installed a marker post (can you find him in the picture?) we decided it was just too late enough to be able to go start something else and went back to base and stashed the gear. Then to the magicial tea urn and a final cake (or two).

Big thanks to Matt who came by, got off his bike, worked like stink for half an hour and then rode on his way with a clean conscience having done his bit. Boo to all those riders who seem to think a hi-viz vest is a Harry Potter invisibility cloak, and don't even say 'Hi' or 'Thanks' to people trail building a yard away. In future follow Matt's example, get off your bike and pitch in for half an hour. The trail needs it.

And as for Dave and Andrew x 2 and Gary... we never saw or heard from them again!!!


And now for something totally different ...

As posted here, Sunday saw the Tackeroo camp site being taken over by cyclo-crossers. For those that don’t know, they look like road bikes but have cantilever or 'V' brakes and wider knobbly tyres. Chase Trails weren’t involved with the event but Dave and I witnessed some of the racing whilst on a planning session with the Forestry guys - more about that in a future post.

It’s not my cup of tea but it certainly looks like a good way for the “roadies” to keep fit during the winter months ... not sure about those narrow (compared with MTB) tyres on wet roots!


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Trailbuilding Update

Just to keep readers informed, section 11 (that's the one which has been closed for a tad over six months) will be reopened Sunday 2nd October as part of the day's trail building activities.
Those of you who can remember far enough back to when it was previously open, the trail line hasn't changed but just about the whole length of it has been dug up and re-laid using a number of different types of aggregate as an experiment to work out which is “best”. By that we mean which can cope with the rigors of winter and 100,000 + riders a year.
To spice things up, there are three boardwalks spanning the boggy areas, a section of small log steps to direct the water off the trail and a couple of rock steps.
We’ll brash the edges to encourage riders to stay on the surfaced trail and complete the last minute fettling before the tapes finally come down. Can’t say exactly when it will open but if you’re in the area stop and say “hello” – you never know, you may have the honour of being the first to ride this revamped section.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Not Tackeroo After All (Trail building - Sunday 11th September)

With the Forestry Discovery Day underway Chase Trails needed to staff our gazebo and encourage anyone in the vicinity to vote for us on the National Lottery Awards (still at Big thanks to Petra and Charlotte for their sterling work in engaging the passing public to vote and increasing our membership by two.

As we’re awaiting the go ahead to start the tweaks on Tackeroo, the decision was made to fill in the holes at the end of Section 10. It's easy because we knew we had some surfacing material on hand to fill the holes with, clearly an important consideration in holesmanship.

With a “tooled up” trailer, off to Section 10 we headed. A quick set of diversion signs plus trail brashing as a hint to illiterate riders and it was sweep, hack, barrow, level, wack until all the final section of the trail through the trees looked like a billiard table, albeit a billiard table covered in gravel.

We were pleased to be joined by Jo, Isaac and Josh who despite all temptations seemed to enjoy themselves and put in a solid days graft of trail preparation and shifting surfacing. Robin and James returned and James brought Matt and all wielded picks with disturbing ferocity. Ian provided the technical expertise in moulding the running surface to his exacting standards (you would be surprised how much care goes into details you never see as you ride). Peter, Matt and Phil completed the surfacing party until Matt was detailed to join the rock group. We all want to be in a rock group when we're young but in this case it was Dave, Jez and Bruce shifting boulders to finesse parts of Section 11 (the section that will not die). They armoured the log-step landings to prevent erosion.

And then we went home and had tea and said - I wonder if next week we're going to start on the Werewolf Drops by-pass?


Thursday, 8 September 2011

National Lottery Awards Video Filming

Hopefully you'll have seen the video we filmed for the national lottery awards (if not head over to the National Lottery Awards Website where you can watch the video and vote for Chase Trails at the same time.

The video was filmed in late July. We met up at lunchtime in the Treehouse. Abbey was our coordinator for the day and briefed everyone on what to wear and say. The crew split into two groups with half going to do some proper work building up on section 11 while the other half were filmed riding their bikes on the Steg. After numerous re-shoots (can you ride a little slower / can you stay together a bit more!) the film crew moved up to 11 to see what really happens on a Sunday morning. Real building was taking place as we finished a short section of boardwalk but there was also a bit of 'staging' as we looked over maps and randomly pointed at the trees. Martin showed off his chainsaw skills and was reluctantly interviewed.

Following this we went up to Upper Cliff for some more riding and interviews. Andy and Jason from the FC were interviewed while the rest of us admired the view. The day finished with the group shot by the birches valley trail header. "Should we yay or whoo???"

We all had a great day filming and the result is a really nice short film about what we do and what the Chase Trails Cycle Project is all about.


Forestry Commission Forest Discovery Day

This Sunday (11th September) the Forestry Commission are holding a Forest Discovery Day to celebration the 2011 International Year of Forests.

There will be loads going on and lots of free activities including forest machinery demonstrations (including tree felling), a forest cycle game for children and a self-led quiz walk. Forestry Commission rangers will be on site if you want to talk / ask them anything be it about recreation, wildlife, education or operations. Chase Trails will be around (probably outside the bike shop) so please come and say hello. Paul Massey from Mountain Bike Adventures will also be running free MTB skills taster sessions throughout the afternoon.

Cyclo Cross Race - Advance Notice

Lichfield City Cycling Club are holding a Cyclo cross race on Sunday 25th September at Tackeroo Caravan Site. The course is based in a small area around the campsite and should be really good either to spectate or to race.

As the course crosses Follow the Dog there may be minor delays through Tackeroo. The crossing points will be marshalled so please obey all signage and instructions, if you are asked to wait please be patient and enjoy the racing for a couple of minuets. More info on or enquries to

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Will it Never End on Section 11? (Trailbuilding - Sunday 4th September)

Well actually yes! In fact it ended today with all that small scale fiddling about that stops you ever really getting your teeth into anything but which is absolutely vital to winding up the job properly. The usual Trail Crew were joined today by ride-in returnee Bruce (not to be confused with Bruce who is of course somebody completely different) and newcomers Danny, Jake and Robin who despite the piecemeal nature of the days efforts worked willingly and hard, making a significant impact on the day’s achievements. Our time was divided between resurfacing the worn-out start bits of the section so some of us had to go and ahem 'recycle' some spare gritstone to toughen up the usual trail surfacing material. Meanwhile others including Jez, James and Robin were preparing some interesting step features. What makes them interesting is these are UPHILL steps. You can't say we don't make your riding life varied. Then it was the cheery round of mixing, barrowing and spreading that makes Sundays fly by (no, honestly it does).

In another part of the forest something stirred and thundered into life – our trusty wacker. Martin and Steve took it in turns to compact the whole length of the trail, well the newly laid material. Now all we have to do is let nature take it's course and weather the trail down to a durable riding surface, so please don't jump the gun and try and ride it until it's opened in a few weeks. It'll just mean we have to keep it closed longer while we fix the damage you cause.

So what next I hear you cry! Current betting is that we'll put in a blue grade by-pass to Werewolf drops and when it's open use it as a diversion while we sort out the braking bumps leading into Werewolf. Why not come and join us for a day to make and mend the trails you love to ride. We need your help. In the meantime vote for us in the National Lottery awards at


Friday, 2 September 2011

National Lottery Awards

Chase Trails have now reached the final three in the best sports project category. We're really pleased to have made it to the finals as it is a great for us to receive national recognition for all our hard work over the past 8 years in designing, building and maintaining mountain bike trails on Cannock Chase.

You can vote for Chase Trails Cycle Project by calling 0844 836 9721 or online. Public voting for the final starts at 9am on 2 September and ends at midday on 26 September. If you voted for us in the semi-final please vote for us again in the final.

The Chase Trails Cycling Project involves local people in the design, build, maintenance and use of mountain bike trails in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire by providing equipment, training and machine hire to get the trails started. Over 100,000 people have ridden the network of cycling trails built in partnership between the Forestry Commission and the local community.

Volunteer trail building group Chase Trails was founded by local riders in 2003 with the aim of building and maintaining high quality, sustainable mountain bike trails on Cannock Chase. Working in partnership with the Forestry Commission, we have built 15 miles of mountain bike trails which we are continually working to maintain and improve. To date it is estimated that over 25,000 hours of volunteer time have been invested in the trails.

Chase Trails rely on volunteers to build and maintain the trails. We hold trail building sessions every week and are always looking for new volunteers to come and get involved.

By voting for Chase Trails you'll be showing your support for the trails and the work the volunteers do to build and maintain them. We'd encourage everyone to get behind us and support this fantastic project.

Vote for Chase Trails Cycle Project by calling 0844 836 9721 or online