We’ve had a lot of comments on Facebook regarding the state of the trails and harvesting works currently going on. Rather than try and compress all our replies into a Facebook comment, this is a much more in-depth blog post explaining why everything is the way it is at the moment.
We closed Bomb Hole back in November last year to do a complete rebuild of it. At the time, no other sections were closed. The plan was to completely rebuild the section, as well as add some smaller new features – including resurfacing 100% of the trail, rock armouring the entrance into the bomb hole itself, and adding new little rock feature. The old trail was from when Follow the Dog opened, and was about 10 years old. It had gotten to the point where it was very worn out and it was decided that we would do a complete rebuild, to bring it back up to “flagship” standard. We had actually planned to hold a Big Build Day late last year to do the majority of resurfacing work, but by the time we got close to organising it, we decided against it as we had done enough work that there probably wouldn’t have been much point to it.
The work on this section is now complete, and it has been left to bed in. We’re leaving it as long as possible to ensure that it will hopefully last for another ten years. While several people have complained about how smooth it looks now – and for that matter, about the work to Son of Chainslapper last year – it would be wise to remember that at one point, every single trail was the same when it was opened. The braking bumps and roughness will eventually come back over time. You might not like it, but we’ve had plenty of comments about it from other people saying they love it – it’s fast, flowy, and smooth. We have 14 miles of trails to choose from, so there should be plenty for everyone. One comment on Facebook suggested we build more “rough trail” – this is easier said than done. Cannock’s landscape is very sandy, and as such, there’s only so much we can do. One of Chase Trails’ and the Forestry Commission’s aims when building trails is to build them out of local sustainable material – this means that you’re unlikely to see rough rocky trails like you’ll find elsewhere in the country at places such as Coed Y Brenin. We know this isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but we like it, and it works for us.
We’re expecting to have the section open by Easter as long as the weather is kind to us. Frosts will soften the surface which is not good for a new trail.
High Voltage, Zig Zak, Devil’s Staircase, and Kitbag Hill (singletrack climb)
These were originally closed by the Forestry Commission a while back, due to harvesting work being done in that forest block (nothing to do with the mountain bike trails). Whenever the FC close a section of trail, we usually try and get some work done on the section as well, before it’s reopened. This is currently the case and for the past few weekends we’ve been working on the Devil’s Staircase. We’ll also be working to improve drainage where necessary on all four sections, and repair the log roll at the end of Zig Zak. In parallel the FC are organising for a trail building contractor to come and carry out the repair work on High Voltage.
As for why all four sections in this forest block are closed – at this moment in time the Forestry Commission take the approach that it’s better to keep the section closed for the whole period of working on it, rather than, say, opening it for a week then closing it again for us to work on. Before a section can be reopened, it has to be inspected on foot so that it is safe, the diversion has to be removed, diversion maps (online, on the notice boards around Birches Valley, in Swinnos, etc) updated, and so on. If it’s only going to be reopened for a week, it is easier for all concerned to just keep it closed.
At the moment, the felling contractors are still on site. Nothing can be done until they have finished. Then a decision will be made on how to proceed. Over the past two weekends we’ve visited the section to inspect it, and the conclusion is that while the trail is still there, in most places it’s buried under up to 2 foot of debris. In other places, it had been destroyed which was anticipated due to the gradient of the ground and the method used to remove the large trees. These sections will need to be rebuilt from scratch.
Due to how much work is to be done, a contractor will be brought in to reinstate the trail. As Lower Cliff is the flagship section of the Monkey Trail, we’re pushing hard for it to be restored to it’s former glory that everyone absolutely loves. We’ll provide an update as soon as we know more.
Lung Buster and Tight Squeeze – Entire Monkey Trail Closure
From today (Monday 16th March 2015), the entire Monkey Trail is closed. This is due to harvesting works on Lung Buster and Tight Squeeze. The reason for the total closure is due to lack of access – a way marked diversion cannot be safely put in place with harvesting machinery working in the area.
The Forestry Commission are endeavouring to complete the works this week and, if possible, have a diversion in place for the coming weekend. Once the work on Lung Buster and Tight Squeeze is complete, the extent of damage to the trails will be assessed and we’ll provide an update.