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Follow The Diversion

22 June, 2009 at 18:04

Today Martin and myself helped Andy from the FC close sections 6 & 7 and put a diversion in place (we’ll do anything for a free lunch!). Both sections are closed for scheduled maintenance and upgrade works which will be carried out over the next few weeks. As we’ll be re-surfacing parts of these sections it is really important that nobody rides them as this will cost us time, money and delay the reopening of the trail. If you see anyone ignoring the signs and fencing feel free to have a polite word pointing out the error of their ways!

The diversion starts just before the new boardwalk, runs along the heritage trail, turns left though the ford and end at the bottom of the fireroad climb. It’s all signed and there is even a map at the start of the diversion. The diversion is on shared tracks so please be considerate of user users especially when it is busy at weekends.


Trail Building 21st June 2009 – Wrong turns and changing minds.

22 June, 2009 at 12:15

Rob wanted us to show up early today as he wanted to share some things with us … when i arrived i was faced with a small stage that had been cobbled together using some old trail sign posts and four chairs set out in a line facing the stage … Now we all know Rob is a little excentric (and we love him for that) but was this going a little too far?! Fortunatley our fears were put to rest when he pulled out a piece of paper and started to explain some points from a meeting he had with the Forestry Commission – thank the god of Cannock Chase!

Dave, Petra, Charlotte and Jessica (‘The Clan’) arrived closely followed by Jez, Frank and Steph. We loaded up the trailer with tools and headed over to where we were working last week. On the way, Martin turned right instead of left, but that didn’t matter – it meant more time riding in the landy off road! At the top, Alex was waiting with the post knocker – how he got his car up there is a mystery – mind you Alex somehow gets himself into all sorts of places!

Some of us trimmed and tweaked the trail to make it good and some wheeled a few barrows to build up the surface in places. We all had the pleasure of knocking some posts into the ground for some technical woodwork that is going in. With Mum and Dad watching with amusement, Charlotte and Jessica attempted to lift the post knocker – but struggled somewhat!

Jay arrived eventually! He certainly made up for the time he missed in effort and looked like he’d used up what energy reserves he had left from his ride in the morning.

We debated over how to handle a tiny little detail – a small gulley – not the biggest thing in the world but important to get right or it could eat the trail away! Last week we opted on a couple of planks and brought the materials with us to do that, but after a little influence from Andy today, we chose to install a step instead. Once the step was installed and the surfacing tweaked, we questioned our decision … but then came up with a solution! It was nearly 2pm so we will leave it for next time. One more week on this section and we should be ready to install the timber work construction!

By the time we had unloaded the trailer, our energy levels were a little low – but we had the draw of a post building ride! Rob loaded up on Jelly Babies and then Jez, Rob and myself set off – the plan being that we would ride FtD and do a bit of exploring for an alteration to Follow The Dog (not telling you where yet!). After a few Bramble scrapes and nettle stings, some random ups and downs, the odd comedic dismount by Jez and riding what we had already ridden, we finished off with a sweet run back to Birches Valley, although we managed to lose Rob … he changed his mind and turned right instead of left!
Fab Day!

New Birches Valley Trail Header

18 June, 2009 at 12:45
I popped over to Swinnertons yesterday, I know they are closed on Wednesdays, but I always forget. Anyway, as I arrived I saw that the Forrestry Commission were just finishing putting up the new Trail Header outside the shop. I had seen the plans and the unassembled bits of timber but this was the first time I had seen it properly.

I think it looks good. It looked huge on the plans but looks about right in place. When the timber has weathered it will look more natural. It definitely looks better than the banners it replaced and artificial type of Trail Header … like the giant forks at CyB. [but we are biased! – Ed]


Trail Building – Sunday 14th June 2009

16 June, 2009 at 08:16

More Phase II action today saw some finishing work on the singletrack from the first Big Build Day. The section entrance was built and surfaced using lots of wheel barrow loads!

In complete contrast to last week, the sun was out but we all ended up a bit soggy – this time with sweat!

Thanks to Jez and Jay who joined the usual rabble!

Some minor maintenace on Follow the Dog also took place, resolving some drainage issues that had developed from all the rain in the week.

Next week will see more work on the same section with some foundations for wood work being installed.


Big [Little] Build Day 4 – Sunday 7th June – Soggy but good!

16 June, 2009 at 08:05

Big Build Day 4 started for the organisers with an early 9am start in the yard. Everything was going just like any other build day until Stu arrived … and so did the rain! Apparently it had been forecast but I had optimistically avoided any negative reports. Anyway we donned our waterproofs and loaded up the trailer. Martin and Andrew then left for the build site while Stu and myself headed round to the shop to great the hordes of volunteers. Ok so we weren’t expecting thousands but we were expecting to see somebody! After a while we found ourselves a volunteer and then another so things were looking better but not great. A call was put in to the catering department to advise them that numbers may be a little lower than normal! Communication with Andrew and Martin revealed that they also had ‘a’ volunteer so it looked like we had a Little Build Day at least.

By the time we arrived on site the single volunteer had swelled to a good handful and they had already been briefed and started work on the trail. The combination of torrential rain and poor ground conditions make the digging pretty hard going but chatting to Lynsey kept my enthusiasm high and we had to hit some good surface at some point, didn’t we? Well no, it looks like we were digging though old mining spoil meaning that at least part of this trail will need additional surfacing to be imported. As I squelched my way along the trail to check everyone was alright things didn’t seem much better until suddenly I hit solid ground and looked down to see the familiar sight of orangey-brown cannock gravel and those much loved shiny pebbles.

Just as moral was starting to flag, Dale and Sharon arrived which could only mean it was lunchtime. Dale’s bad back had pre-empted a change from our normal BBQ to a spread of sandwiched and cakes. This was a really nice change and tasted great. As always we fired the generator up to ‘run the kettle’! Lunchtime also saw our ‘free prize draw’. The odds of winning were pretty high this time and the prizes were great (exclusive Chase Trails grips & headtube badges plus T Shirts). Dave’s daughters Jessica and Charlotte drew the tickets and surprise surprise Dave’s ticket came out first (fix I hear you say, fix!)

After lunch the weather improved and the sun even shone for a few minutes. We continued to build trail and dig out the inevitable tree stumps (I think Dave should have won a prize for the stump he extracted, hold on, he did!). The gravely conditions continued only interrupted by the occasional lump of coal, a reminder of Cannock’s mining past. By late afternoon we called it a day, collected up the tools, ate what was left of the food and headed back to the yard.

We may not have had thousands of volunteers but it was quality and not quantity. We got loads done despite the weather and it turned out to be a really enjoyable day. Thanks to everyone who braved the conditions to come and help.


The next Big Build day is on July 12th, but don’t forget we meet up every Sunday at 10am outside Swinnertons Cycle Centre.

Trail Building – Sunday 31st May 2009

1 June, 2009 at 11:56

What a fabulaous day!

The sun was shining on us today. We had a good turn out too and got a few key things done – all while not having worked too hard!

We’ve replaced the rails on the log roll at the end of Section 8 as part of the continued maintenance of Follow the Dog. The new rails are much more slimline and over time will fade from the fresh timber look they currently have to something more appealing.

We also filled in the link on section 11 – It just needs a few weeks to bed in with some rain and warm weather, we should be able to open it very soon.

Over on the Phase II site, some trees were cleared ready for the return of Clixby’s this week.

Next week is Build Build Day – Expect Prizes, Barbeque and lots of fab trail built!
10 am outside Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre at Birches Valley, Sunday 7th June. Bring yourself, be ready to work outside in the weather conditions on the day – we’ll supply the tools and the burgers!


Trail Building – Sunday 24th May 2009

26 May, 2009 at 16:49

We were a little short on the ground this Sunday – mainly because everyone was over on Stile Cop with Racers Guild. Still, we only need one or two to make a difference.

The old Section 8 is now no longer part of Follow The Dog. Since the trees were felled some years ago and new section 8 was built, this short section never really held the appeal of the rest of the trail. The trail will be there to be used for a while but it won’t be maintained any longer.

We also started digging a link on another section to create a new start… watch this space for previews.

Phase II continues at a fair old pace! Nearly all the sections have been planned and are ready to be dug! Hugh Clixby will be back very soon to carry on where he finished.

Talking of digging – The next Big Build Day is on June the 7th – Don’t forget to come along for a day of trail building a barbecue and prizes!


The Year of the Rat Highlights

26 May, 2009 at 11:30

2008 was a really exciting year in the world of Chase Trails including being part of two pretty major events and getting to build a new bridge…

A bridge over troubled waters
The causeway area had been getting increasingly busy for while now so the decision was made to build a new bridge across the stream and boggy ground and FtD off the causeway. The bridge design was a bit different from the boardwalk on section 7 so it was really interesting to help build. The main difference was the bearers and stringers were both made from large trees and the decking from waney edge larch boards.

We had a little help from the FC who used a tractor winch to help move some of the logs into position. The rest we moved with ropes, pulleys and manpower. Everything went really well except when you forgot how soft the ground was and your foot disappeared and the constant attention from the local insects.

Martin used his chainsaw to cut the logs and notches. Much debate was had over whether to tidy up the sides of the deck or leave it looking rustic, in the end I think we went for half and half! It would be a while before the bridge was finally opened but it was worth the wait.

Chase Trails at the APF
September saw Chase Trails enjoying the Indian summer as we featured at the 2008 APF international Forestry Exhibition. This event is basically a forestry trade show but also featured loads of displays of interest to the general public (mountain biking, lumberjack sports, chain saw carving etc). Chase Trails were there to show land managers the potential for diversity on their land and to put on a mountain biking display.

The Chase Trails stand comprised of a 150m singletrack test trail for public use and a north shore style display trail including a see saw, ladder drop, wall ride and double. The xc guys built most of this stuff even though we knew we lacked the skill to ride it. Aaron came along to help build the wall ride although we had to confiscate his ball of string and make him use more conventional construction techniques.

Giant had kindly supplied us with a selection of brand new 2009 Anthem’s for the weekend and members of the general public were able to ride these round the singletrack test trail (using the old and new starts to section 11). Everyone seemed to enjoy this but riding a lightweight xc race bike was a little different to what most people were use to. We also had to disappoint a few people who wanted an to take an Anthem off the ladder drop!

The display trail was intended to be ridden during 4 daily sessions by Chase Trails volunteers. This was too extreme for most the xc guys (except Alex, Dale & Stu) so we drafted into the Racers Guild crew, Aaron, Harry, Rich and co. Everyone enjoyed the trail so much that barely a minute of each of the 3 days went by without someone riding the trail. A bunch of tired but happy riders left the stand each day working out how more time could be taken off work to come back the following day and ride it some more.

We finished the weekend drinking beer and having a BBQ, unfortunately we forgot how quickly it gets dark in September and ended up eating and dismantling the stand in the dark (at least we couldn’t see the burnt bits). We had great fun over the weekend basically chilling out in the sun and riding bikes, I wonder if anyone remembers who won the Chase Trails ‘race’…

Beat Steve Peat
November saw Downhill legend Steve Peat come to Cannock for a special Racers Guild charity event. The event was billed ‘Beat Steve Peat’ and aimed to raise money for the Stephen Murray Foundation by people being sponsored to race against Peaty. It took people a while to get their heads round the concept but once they did it took off and ended up raising over £5,000. Peaty brought along a few mates as well, including Josh Bryceland.

The plan was to keep the day as close to a normal RG as possible, even though some world beating riders were in attendance Harry had organised extra car parking (getting in was easy, getting out more interesting but nobody get stuck), marshals lined the course and there were spectators everywhere. Harry is always the most enthusiastic and entertaining RG starter and was given the honour of sending Peaty on his way. Steve maintained his reputation as being a great down to earth and instantly likeable guy and in case anyone doubted it watching him ride was very special. [The way he sailed over the last jump was very inspiring!]

All in all, the year of the Rat was great for Chasetrails – but the year of the Ox looks set to be very exciting!

The Story of Chase Trails So Far…

26 May, 2009 at 11:00

In 1999, following a visit to the dedicated mountain bike trails in Afan forest, Wales, Gary Galpin approached the Forestry Commission at Birches Valley to explore the possibility of building similar trails at Cannock Chase. Nothing happened for two years until Gary hooked up with Stuart Tite via an Internet forum to explore Stuart’s idea to develop a 1/4 mile circuit at Stile Cop.

By now the Forestry Commission and Swinnerton Cycles were looking at building an ambitious 30 mile loop. However, they didn’t have the skill or knowledge to do this, let alone the resources. As a result, when Gary and Stuart approached the Forestry Commission again, they were welcomed with open arms and a three way partnership was formed.

Gary and Stuart named themselves Chase Trails and the partnership set about working on the loop. However, it soon became apparent that a 30 mile loop was far too ambitious, and Chase Trails persuaded the other to let them focus on a shorter circuit of about 7 miles. Whilst planning the route, they would sometimes just follow Zak, Gary’s Jack Russell, and so Follow the Dog was born.

Things really kicked off with the first ‘Big Build Day’ in February 2003 when 60 people turned out to work in the trees above Fairoak Pools, and by mid afternoon the whole section has been ‘dug off’. Significant progress was also made with the introduction of Bob and his digger. Bob’s 40 years’ experience of working on the Chase was to prove invaluable when he was tasked with constructing the trail across the clear felled section above the Pools, despite having to learn all about mountain bike trail design.

Volunteer numbers were not to stay at anywhere near the level of the first Big Build, and progress over the following months almost ground to a halt as often no one turned up to help. Determined to succeed, Chase Trails persevered and soon developed a core group of volunteers who turn up week in, week out to build and maintain the trails. As a result, and almost against the odds, Follow the Dog was opened in March 2005.

Encouraged by the success of Follow the Dog discussions soon started about ‘Phase 2’, another 7 mile loop of more physically and technically challenging trail. After two years of planning the project took a huge step forward in 2008 after a £200,000 funding boost.

The injection of funding meant progress on ‘Phase 2’ would be significantly quicker than with Follow the Dog. Building began at the end of 2008 as contractor Hugh Clixby arrived on site and began construction of the first of the machine built sections.

Chase Trails hand built several sections of trail and added finishing touches to others. The number of bananas eaten by volunteers during its construction was to give ‘The Monkey Trail’ its new name. The trail was opened in April 2010 by Olympian Oil Beckinsale and has received great reviews from both riders and press alike.


26 May, 2009 at 10:33

Welcome to the new Trail Building Blog of Chase Trails.

Here we will let you know what we got up to at the last trailbuilding session and give you sneak previews about what is on its way!

Enjoy the rambles!