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Follow the Dog Diversion – British Cycling Nationals XC Race

2 August, 2016 at 12:00

As has been the case in recent years, Cannock Chase is one again the venue for Round 5 of the British Cycling National Cross Country series. The event is taking place this weekend on the 6th and 7th of August, at Tackeroo Campsite.

The race route will use part of Follow the Dog, and as such, Son of Chainslapper down to Hugh’s Bridge will be closed to the public from Thursday 4th to Tuesday 9th of August. For your safety as well as the safety of the race organisers and entrants, please do not attempt to ride these sections.

A signposted diversion will be put in place taking you down the trail that runs parallel to Penkridge Bank Road.

Birches Valley Forest Centre and The Monkey Trail will not be affected by the race and are both fully open as usual.

2016 Trail Building Update

13 January, 2016 at 17:00

Happy New Year to everyone and we hope you received all the bike related bling on your Christmas lists 🙂

Just to bring our readers up to date, here are details of what’s happening over the coming few months:

Follow the Dog:

The diversion around Aunt Flow, Bomb Hole, Billy Goat’s Gruff, Time for a Brew and Evil Slab has been lifted following successful harvesting operations and the FC’s inspection. Billy Goat’s Gruff will remain closed for 4 to 6 weeks with a fire road diversion in place whilst Chase Trails carries out maintenance filling various holes and replacing the rotting log steps. This will take a few weekends so if you’re passing, please stop and help load or push a wheelbarrow or two.

The work upgrading Werewolf Drop with an alternative exit line will continue once we’ve finished and reopened Billy Goat’s Gruff.

We’ll also be looking at resurfacing the start of Twist and Shout plus extending the rock garden slabs up to The Boardwalk in Watch Out Trolls.

Monkey Trail:

Forestry operations are starting soon for a 4 to 6 week period on Over the Rainbow and Deer Skull. This is a “clear fell” operation but the good news is that the trails will remain open. If you’re out riding during the week, the harvesting crew may ask you to wait for a while if the machinery is working close to the trail. Take the opportunity to watch the harvester felling trees – it’s quite impressive.

Remember, the Chase Trails crew are unpaid volunteers and we work on the trails for the love of it – any help, no matter how small, all goes to keeping the trails up and running.

Have a great 2016,
Andrew

National MTB Series – Spectator Information & Trail Diversion

9 August, 2015 at 14:00
2015 British Cycling MTB Cross Country Series Diversion Map

2015 British Cycling MTB Cross Country Series Diversion Map

On Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th August the National MTB Series will be taking place at Tackeroo. The start / finish will be at Tackeroo campsite and there are lots of good spots to spectate within Tackeroo block.

Several sections of Follow the Dog will be closed and diverted. A small part of the blue Sherbrook trail will also be diverted. Please take care on shared tracks and show respect to other forest users.

The diversion will be in place from Thursday 13th until Tuesday 18th August.

News & Updates – July 2015

9 July, 2015 at 18:06

Couple of quick updates on the trails at the moment…

Aunt Flow and Tight Squeeze

We’ve just today reopened Aunt Flow (on Follow the Dog) and Tight Squeeze (on the Monkey). Tight Squeeze has had some harvesting damage repaired, but for the most part is the same as it’s always been. Aunt Flow is also pretty much the same, however the 2nd half of it has been completely resurfaced by Clixbys Land Design. The trail is the same as before, just smoother and faster, and less puddle-y.

We also took the opportunity while we were out today to do a small repair on Devil’s Staircase – we’ve added a crib wall to one of the corners half way down as well as at the bottom, where the trail edge was eroding.

No Trailbuilding for the next two weekends

Next up, we’re cancelling trail building both this weekend (12th July) and also next weekend (19th July). This weekend’s cancelled build day is due to the Forest Live concerts – more on that in a moment – and next weekend we’ll be holding a committee meeting to discuss future works and stuff like that. We should be back to normal on the 26th July. You know the drill…10am at Swinnos!

Forest Live Concerts

It’s once again that time of year, when lots of people will be descending on the forest to see the live concerts (for those wondering – Paloma Faith, Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters, and Tom Odell will be performing this year). As such, this means the usual restrictions as per previous years will be in place.

Birches Valley car park will close early on the following days, and alternate parking will be available at Tackeroo campsite up the hill. If you’ve never been before and aren’t sure where to go, just turn up at Birches Valley and speak to one of the Forestry Commission staff – they’ll be at the gate to direct you where to go. It’s only a couple of minutes up the hill so not too far.

Friday 10th July 2015 – Closed at 3.30pm
Saturday 11th July 2015 – Closed at 3.30pm
Sunday 12th July 2015 – Closed at 3.30pm

More info can be found on the FC’s website here.

Current Trail Closure Situation

16 March, 2015 at 20:00

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.

Bomb Hole

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.

Lower Cliff

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.

Thanks.

What’s happening on the Bomb Hole?

4 January, 2015 at 11:00

IMG_5597

You might be wondering what’s happening with the Bomb Hole – after all, we’ve closed it a few weeks back, but haven’t said much so far. Time for a sneak peak.

First and foremost, we’re resurfacing most of it with new surfacing material. The existing surface was starting to deteriorate quite quickly – thanks in part to the many puddles – so if we take care of it now, it’s keeps the trail in a much better state. Ideally, we want the trail to be higher than the surrounding terrain – thus leading to much better drainage. While it might not seem too bad at the moment, if left alone, it wears out and gets worse and worse, eventually ending up along the lines of how Lower Cliff is at the moment – with lakes rather than puddles! Obviously we can’t please everyone though – some prefer the rough stuff, some prefer the smooth machine-build stuff (like Son of Chainslapper). You can also see our new wacker here – purchased with your Chase Trails donations (thank you!), as our old one recently died.

IMG_5594 IMG_5598

A big thank you to the riders who’ve so far stopped to help out – we had a small group stop two weekends ago to help out for about half an hour – it might not seem like much, but it does make a difference! Also happens that one of them was an Olympic athlete – fancy that!

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We’re also sprucing up the section with improvements to the Bomb Hole, and the addition of some extra little features here and there. We’ll be adding a rock garden into the Bomb Hole itself, and we’ve built up the berm around it, so you should be able to carry more speed through it without flying off the top (definitely not talking from experience there…).

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We’re also adding a “Strava line”…thanks in part to all the shortcuts that we see (honestly, is it that hard to ride an extra 5 meters around a corner rather than shortcutting?), we’ve decided to build our own. With a twist. But you’ll have to wait and see what that twist is. No spoilers!

IMG_5606 IMG_5607

Bonus fat bike picture:

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Finally, toward the end of the trail, where the water usually ends up running down, we’ll be putting some big rocks in. While we did discuss the option of a boardwalk here, the Forestry Commission have expressed a preference for rock instead of wood where possible – it’s a lot more weather-proof and should last long into the future until we’re all riding around on hover-bikes. Don’t worry, it won’t be too challenging – this is Follow the Dog, not Whistler Bike Park. 🙂

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The Head Banger – new Let Loose black section now open!

1 December, 2014 at 02:00

Let Loose

We’re delighted to announce that the brand new black-graded section next to Let Loose is now open! The Head Banger is a short but brilliant black-graded section near the start of Let Loose, with two boardwalks and a rock qualifier, and the mother of all rock gardens – enough to challenge any rider! The section was built by Chase Trails with support from the Forestry Commission, Sport Across Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent, Run and Ride, and British Cycling.

We held a highly successful Big Build Day back in June, with around 50 or so volunteers pitching in their help to get the section started. Following on from that, our regular volunteers worked hard to build up the rock garden ready for the British Cycling Nationals XC race earlier this year. It went down a treat during the race, and following on from that, we’ve been back to continue working on it to build a qualifier – the idea being that if you find the qualifier tricky, you’ll probably find the main feature even trickier.

We’ve had plenty of people pitch in over the past few months to work on the section – remember, anyone can volunteer and without YOUR help, this section (and indeed most of our trails) would not be possible. We’re always on the look out for more volunteers, so if you can spare the time, please come and help!

Finally, as with all new features, if you’ve not ridden it before it’s a very good idea to stop and have a look before attempting it – and if you’re not sure about it, we won’t judge you for giving it a miss – promise! 😉

Advance notice of Trail Closures

31 October, 2014 at 19:04

Trail Closures

We’ll be closing two sections of trail whilst we carry out essential maintenance over the next two weeks. These sections will only be closed for the Sunday morning, reopening after we have completed the work.

For everyone’s safety, please follow the signed diversions – we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Trail building: Devil’s Staircase

22 October, 2014 at 13:00

Now that the Let Loose black option is ready for the FC inspection in a few weeks time, we took the opportunity to reshape the last corner at the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase. After scraping off and taping a diversion route, we started by driving in posts to support the crib wall around the outer edge of the corner.

Whilst Dave and Steve staked a log on the inside of the corner, new volunteers Izzy and Adam broke up the existing surface so we could shape a gentle bermed corner. Phil and I packed down the material building the berm up while Bertie, the Golden Retriever, plonked himself down in the way.

As the material is sandy and quite dry, the new surface will require a few weeks to settle and a good whackering before we can re-open the last part of the trail.

Andrew

National MTB Series Round 5 – Follow the Dog Closure!

3 August, 2014 at 17:00

As you may know, the British Cycling National MTB Series Round 5 is a mere two weeks away, and will be taking place around the Tackeroo block, where Follow the Dog passes through. Due to the size of the event, this means that the sections of Follow the Dog within the Tackeroo block will be closed from Thursday 14th August until Monday 18th August for the races. If you are riding Follow the Dog during this period, a signed diversion will be in place. The diversion is on shared tracks so please take care and show respect for other forest users. This map shows what’s affected and where the diversion is:

Midlands XC Race - Tackeroo Closure

Midlands XC Race – Tackeroo Closure

For those wondering – yes, you can spectate! Just turn up on the day and pick a spot to watch from, and enjoy the fun.

As part of today’s trail building, we worked on the new rock garden next to Let Loose to put the finishing touches in place – this included a few last minute tweaks to the B-line to make it a bit faster (widening the corners), as well as making sure the rock garden was finished (couple of extra rocks here and there, bit more material to fill in the gaps, etc). And it’s done! However, it’s not quite ready for everyone yet – we’ve blocked it off until the race, and once that’s completed, we have a few small changes to make here and there before it will be ready for the public to ride. If you want a sneak peak before then, there’s still time to enter the race before the cut off date on the 12th August… 😉

We uploaded a few photos of the finished product on Facebook – here’s a quick look:

Let Loose Black Section Progress – 6th July 2014

7 July, 2014 at 18:54

Yesterday’s trail building saw us push on with the black section on Let Loose. The to-do list was fairly simple for the day – move rocks and material into place, and tidy up the B-line.

As we turned up on site, we saw the results of the Forestry’s work this past week – they had delivered a few extra rocks on site for us for the rock garden, and cleared a path up to the rock garden in case emergency access is needed on race day.

With plenty to do, we all got to work. A few of us started shifting rocks and material into place for the rock garden, while Dave and Jez, the rock wranglers, got to work making them all fit. As the day went by, we saw it steadily progress up the hill. The current start of the rocks seems reasonably easy at first glance – it’s a gentle slope, relatively flat, and not too challenging compared to what’s coming. That leads to a gap between the trees, where there are a few small but tricky steps to attempt. Finally, we have the end section which is the trickiest of the lot, which was done last week. We gave it a test ride, and even with a confident rider attempting it, it looks difficult!

It’s not quite done yet – we have a lot more rocks to put into place, including adding some hefty slabs to the bottom where the landing area is, so we’ll be back to carry on the work very soon.

The level of difficulty of the rock garden presented us with another problem – we’re predicting the B-line will get a fair bit of use on the day, so Phil, and new volunteer Tom, worked on removing some tree stumps, widening the line, and improving some of the corners a little. Tom had joined us for the day as part of working toward his Duke of Edinburgh award.

After a good many hours shifting material and rocks around, we were all rather tired, so we packed up, grabbed a couple of photos, and headed back to base. Job done. 🙂

Big Build Day: Let Loose Black Section

2 July, 2014 at 08:34

What’s this? A blog post about actual trail building for the first time in about half a year? Yes, sorry…we’ve neglected it a bit. But no more! We’ll aim to get weekly or bi-weekly updates out once again. 🙂

So, without further ado – remember that Big Build Day we had last month? It was a fantastic success and we got a good deal done on the day. The section is being built in partnership with British Cycling, Run & Ride, and of course the Forestry Commission, and will be used in the upcoming British Cycling MTB Cross Country Series race, which is being held at Cannock Chase on the 16-17th August.

We had a fantastic turnout on the day – including the Chase Trails regulars, we had a total of 54 people arrive for the day ready to help, and we managed to get most of the new section surfaced, and made a bit of a start on the rock garden.

Big Build Day - Let Loose Black Section

Big Build Day – Let Loose Black Section

Zig Zak? Snap It? Where do these names come from?

5 June, 2014 at 18:00

Ever wondered where all the section names came from? Well, the easy answer is: you! A good selection of them were thought up by members of the public at the Forest Discovery Day in 2012. Most of them are reasonably obvious – such as Insidious Incline (it’s a bit of a climb…), Lung Buster (it’s a nasty little climb), Time For A Brew (it’s near the Cannock Chase Visitor Centre), and so on, so you can probably guess why most sections have their names. Some of them though…are less obvious. 😉

Zig Zak

First up, anyone want to hazard a guess as to who Zak is, on Follow the Dog? Yes…he is the original dog, who was followed around Cannock Chase to come up with the route many years ago!

Zak, Gary, and Stu

Zak, Gary, and Stu

In case you’ve relatively new to the Chase (and plenty of us are!), you might not know that this little chap is part of the reason why Follow the Dog follows the route it does. The original route has changed over time – for example, the current Follow the Dog route goes from Tackeroo campsite down to Birches Valley, but the old route used to follow a path down the hill on the other side of Birches Valley road – above the Fairoak Pools – eventually finishing under where Go Ape’s long zip wires are now.

The photo above shows Zak strutting his stuff, along with Stuart and Gary – the two original founders of Chase Trails. And as you can see, the photo was taken back in the day when you didn’t need a 160mm travel all-mountain full-suspension bike to tackle Cannock Chase. 😛

Snap It

One of our regular builders on the Chase Trails team, Phil, decided one day to go out for a nice little ride. During that ride, he stopped on what’s now known as Snap It, and put his foot down on the ground…which, for his ankle, didn’t entirely end up as planned.

If you were hoping for a nice happy story, unfortunately, it didn’t end very well. It ended with Phil having a selection of screws and plates in his ankle to hold things together. Ouch! 😐

Phil's Ankle X-Ray

Phil’s Ankle X-Ray

Thankfully, after about a year to recover, Phil can once again hop on a bike, but with perhaps a little less enthusiasm about riding Snap It now.

And there you have it. That’s the story behind Zig Zak, and Snap It. Hopefully that hasn’t put you off riding Snap It… 😀

Big Build Day: June 8, Black Section on Follow the Dog

25 May, 2014 at 09:00

Apologise for the silence on the blog…we’ll try and change that from now on and get the updates coming a bit more frequently… 🙂

The first of those updates is about our forum – you may have noticed that the old Bike Adventures UK site went offline recently – unfortunately, that was beyond our control and as such it appears we no longer have access to the old database of members, posts, and so on. Bit of a shame, but it gives us the chance to start fresh. While you can quite easily argue that Twitter and Facebook (mostly Facebook…) has all but made forums extinct, there is still a place for a forum – not everyone is on Facebook, and a forum is a lot more of a “permanent” archive than Facebook is – you can much more easily go through old threads, search for stuff, and so on.

Without further ado…here it is: Chase Trails Forum. Unfortunately you’ll need to re-register – though you can now login with Facebook or Twitter with just a couple of clicks, or sign up the “traditional” way, so it’s nice and easy.

Next up….BIG BUILD DAY! YAY!

We’re holding another Big Build Day, in exactly 2 weeks time! We’ll be building a brand new black section on Follow the Dog, which will run alongside “Let Loose”, on the right-hand side of the existing trail. The new black section will be used for round 5 of the British Cycling MTB XC series, in August. Once that’s finished, it’ll be opened to the masses and become a permanent black section on Follow the Dog. We’re delighted to be working on it in partnership with Run & Ride, British Cycling, and of course the Forestry Commission.

Our plan for the Big Build Day is to get started, and ideally finish the first “phase” of the build. If we have as good a turnout as we had in October on our last Big Build Day, we’ll be able to work on making it even longer – without revealing too much, there are plans for quite a decent length of trail if we have the manpower to build it. It’s in your best interests to come along on the day and lend a hand, and bring all your friends along too. 😉

When: Sunday, 8th June 2014, at 10am until around 3pm.
Where: Meet at Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre, Birches Valley (WS15 2UQ).
What to Bring: Yourself, all your friends, and suitable clothing to work in – boots are good if you have them, flip flops are bad.
Food/Drink: Various food/drink including jacket potatoes (like our last BBD in October).

Finally, be sure to look out for our poster outside Swinnerton Cycles – rather striking, isn’t it? 😀

 

Big Build Day - June 2014

Twist & Shout Closure

31 January, 2014 at 15:00

As you’ll no doubt be aware, ‘Twist and Shout’ – the first section of Follow the Dog after you pass under Go Ape – has been closed for around a week and a half.

The current forestry operations in ‘Twist and Shout’ and around the visitor centre will last for approximately 6 weeks. Once complete, we’ll assess the level of damage to determine what repairs are necessary. Depending on the amount of work required, the opportunity may be taken to re-surface that second half of the trail. Please abide by the warning signs and follow the signed diversion. More details to follow once the harvesting is complete.