Sunday, 29 April 2012

Wettest Drought on Record - Draining the Dog (Trail building)

Despite the Met Office forecasting non-stop rain and strengthening winds, a gallant quintet of trailbuilders made their way to Birches Valley for a scenic view of rain blowing sideways. It was obvious that the exposed stretches of the Tackeroo Rollers would be uninhabitable in the rain and the mature trees of the Werewolf by-pass a bit of a gamble in the wind. Bearing in mind the amount of standing water on sections of the Dog, and ongoing submissions from U-boat captains complaining about the damp, it was agreed that we should de-puddle sections 9 and 10. Suitably equipped we made our way to the fire road at the end of 9 and start of 10, and set to. Despite the conditions or maybe because of them there was a surprisingly steady stream of riders relishing the challenges of the day. Although a few were clearly feeling the cold most seemed disconcertingly chirpy. One common factor is that the day’s fashion colour seemed to be brown.

There is a childlike pleasure to be had from draining puddles and watching temporary streams run down the hillside: like being on a beach playing with rock pools. Consequently we soon had section 9 considerably less pond-like than when we found it, and the remaining water a few millimetres deep rather than ankle deep. Then we turned attention to section 10 where it became apparent that puddles were even deeper and the rewards of draining them even more enjoyable. Ah the pleasure of little things! While we were there, Jez and Ian rode in and discussed the trail, the conditions and Jez's '96er' conversion that he was trialling. They set off into Section 11 and rapidly re-appeared having been put off by two trees crashing to the ground ahead of them and others hanging ready to fall. It was generally agreed that this signalled a return to the Urn. And we made it so, happy in the knowledge that our work had saved the RNLI from several call-outs to rescue shipwrecked bikers.


Trees down - sections closed

Following the high winds of the weekend, there are several big trees down and a few leaning against others - known in the trade as "widow makers". To ensure your safety until the Forestry's chain saw gang can get out and about, please follow the diversions around closed sections. Even a full face helmet isn't much good against 5 tonnes of falling tree.


Friday, 27 April 2012

Update from the Forest Commission

Warning - Nails Found on Trails
Tacks and nails found on bikes trails on the increase. Most notably in the chicane at the Birches Valley front entrance. Police have been notified and are monitoring the area. Please report any findings of tacks / nails or suspicious behaviour to the non-emergency Police number 101.

Cycle Watch
See here for details. For more information speak to PCSO Liz Dale on 07800 765641. They are holding regular drop-in sessions outside Swinnertons Cycle Centre at Birches Valley. Generally, bicycle theft is on the increase, mainly from sheds and garages so be vigilant – again report any suspicious behaviour to the non-emergency Police number 101.

New Car Park Enforcement at Birches Valley
From May 1st, the Forestry Commission will commence strict car parking enforcement. This is a nationwide scheme to help subsidies the Forest Centres, trails and forest that FC provides for the public. Failing to display a valid parking ticket will involve a parking fine of £50 reduced to £25 if paid within 14 days. Remember the best and easiest way to support your trail centre is purchasing an annual discovery pass for £40, which gives free parking at Birches Valley and Hicks Lodge (in National Forest). Purchase online here.

Monkey Trail – Closure Between Waymarkers M4 and M5
Harvesting has finally started, and will last for 4-6 weeks. Pease follow the diversion for you own safety; Forestry Commission and Chase Trails time spent re-instating a diversion is your tax payers money wasted, and could be spent on more productive tasks such as trail maintenance.

Gary (FC Recreation Ranger)

Ready to hit your doormat ...

Bruce now has everything in order so your membership packs for this coming year should be arriving in the next week or two - thanks for your patience.

If you want to support Chase Trails by joining our growing membership, please check out our website here.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Back to ‘roo (Trail building)

After our holiday up in bonny Scotland, we’re back to the grindstone on Tackeroo …. or should that be gritstone? Work started last week on a new technical trail feature which gives riders the option of smoother rock armoured ramp or for those who like more air under their wheels, a drop off onto a gnarlier run out.

You can’t build a rock feature without rock so the job started with a relay of extreme barrowing moving the split rock left over from the Rollers up the trail. A larch plank was driven into the ground to form the anchor for the rockery. There was a certain amount of deliberation to decide the best way to build the feature but it’s now looking pretty good.

Meanwhile, the other guys, me included, continued fettling and tidying the existing trail. At least the April showers, well, downpours highlighted where drainage needed improving – not always easy to spot when everything is dry and dusty.

We’re nearing the end of our work on the end of Tackeroo but the trail will need time to settle so expect a grand opening early summer.


Monday, 16 April 2012

Membership Update

Thanks to all the members who have renewed - I was amazed just how fast off the mark some people are, and our thanks for your generosity. You should now have had an emailed thank you from us.

Membership duties have been swapped around to give young Rob a rest. He's done a fine job of bringing many of you into our number, and has sizably increased the membership numbers (by about 4 times what they were!!!) in the last couple of years. During the genesis of the Monkey Trail, he did some fine work as the liaison between Chase Trails, the Forestry Commission, and the contractors Clixby's - in fact so much so that the nice people at the Forestry Commission recognised his talent, and offered him a job. This has left him with less time that he originally had, and therefore he now hands the baton to me to look after membership matters. I take my hat off to him (but not my riding helmet if I'm riding, in case I fall off - which I do regularly!).

Although I have no problems designing, building and maintaining trails, I'm not quite so hot on administrative matters. Sorting the goodies for the membership pack has taken a little longer than anticipated, and we are currently awaiting some items from the printers. This means that the membership packs are on hold at the moment. Please accept my apologies for the delays here. Hopefully we should be giving the postman an even larger load than normal in a couple of week’s time. we are of course still accepting applications

Apprentice Membership Secretary,

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away... Oh it has... Oh it's back again! (Trail building)

It was a day of 'scattered showers' as the Met Office coyly phrase it, although we didn't know that when we arrived in a steady rainfall that seemed set in for the day. Not relishing the unprotected reaches of the Rollers in the conditions, we settled on Plan B and loaded the Landy for a day at Werewolf Drops By-pass. We were joined again by Rob and Millie. Millie is currently the youngest trail crew member and winner of the prettiest pink wellies award.

Andrew, Dave and Jez had returned from the 7Stanes the day before and were full of tales of bike heroism, derring-do and white knuckle exploits, some of which may even be true, so the day was punctuated by reminiscences of trails ridden, falls avoided, crashes not avoided and what they got up to in the sauna, (very, very hot apparently).

On the trail building front, we surfaced the exit from the boardwalk up to the junction and bits of the ride down; fettled some of the bends and started inserting some water bars. These are logs inset across the trail at a diagonal to encourage surface water to drain to the side rather than stream along the riding line.

So despite discouraging conditions, progress was made and we repaired to The Urn with a sense of job well done, and some amazement at the sheer volume of traffic going through WWD on a day one would have thought would have been quiet. Shows how much people love those trails!


It's been a bit windy ...

We'd like to say that following reports of a tree down and blocking section 11, a man with a saw was rapidly dispatched for a spot of urgent pruning work. However, as the team had been away pedaling around a few of the 7Stanes, the job did languish for a few days. You can never be sure what you'll find in such circumstances, as the term 'blocking' means different things to different people. On this occasion, as the first picture shows, there were actually a couple of trees involved, but you should now have suitable freedom of passage.

Further back down the trail by the first section of boardwalk, one limb of a pair had split from the main trunk of another tree, about 4 metres up. It landed very conveniently by the side of the trail - but only just. Anyone around when that one had come down might have needed a new helmet and underpants!