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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

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

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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.

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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!

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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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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

Le Singe Noir is now open!

5 September, 2014 at 18:00

Le Singe Noir is now open. We have improved the safety/durability of the features (improving demarcation) and carried out improvements to drainage. The trail has been thinned out, which keeps the trail drier by letting though light and wind.

The Forestry Commission has also organised a contractor today to leaf blow the trail clean of needles, dirt and stones – after a good many months out of action, it was hard to see the trail in a few places! 🙂

Enjoy!

No Trail Building – Sunday 16th Feb

14 February, 2014 at 00:00

We are not trail building this Sunday (16th Feb) but instead conducting a trail inspection ride with a view planning where and what maintenance is required over the coming months.

We are also reviewing the possibility of holding “fix what you enjoy riding” Big Build Days to repair longer sections of damage trail – watch this space…

Forthcoming Events – November/December 2013

5 November, 2013 at 19:00

A few events you may be interested in this and next month:

Thursday 14th November – Chase Trails Mid-week Maintenance
10am @ Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre, Birches Valley
For more details see the event page on Facebook.

Sunday 24th November – Stile Cop Big Build Day
10am @ Stile Cop Bike Park (see here for directions)

Thursday 28th November – Chase Trails Mid-week Maintenance
10am @ Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre, Birches Valley
For more details see the event page on Facebook.

Saturday 30th November – Christmas at Birches Valley
Christmas tree sales and Santa’s Grotto open at 10am @ Birches Valley. Santa’s Grand Arrival, along with his reindeer, will be at 11am.
For more details and opening times visit the Forestry Commission’s website.

Saturday 7th December – TrailPlus Adventure Challenge
Starting @ Tackeroo Caravan Site
Team adventure challenge event including trail running, mountain biking and kayak canoeing and special challenges.
For more details see the TrailPlus website.

Forthcoming Events – October 2013

1 October, 2013 at 11:00

A few events you may be interested in this month:

Sunday 6th October – Chase Trails Downhill Trail Building
10am @ Stile Cop

Thursday 10th October – Chase Trails Mid-week Maintenance
10am @ Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre, Birches Valley

Saturday 19th October – Evans Ride It Mountain Bike Ride
Starting @ Tackeroo Caravan Site
The RideIt! series are organised Mountain bike and Sportive bike rides that take place twice a month all over Britain. The RideIt! series is a fantastic way to meet like minded cyclists and get out and ride in stunning surroundings.
For more details see www.evanscycles.com/ride-it

Sunday 20th October – Evans Ride It Road Sportive
Starting @ Tackeroo Caravan Site
The RideIt! series are organised Mountain bike and Sportive bike rides that take place twice a month all over Britain. The RideIt! series is a fantastic way to meet like minded cyclists and get out and ride in stunning surroundings.
For more details see www.evanscycles.com/ride-it

Sunday 20th October – Chase Trails Big Build Day
10am meeting @ Swinnerton Cycles at Birches Valley
Come and get involved in building a BRAND NEW 1km long descent on the Monkey Trail! It’s been in the making for a number of years and now we’re having a big push to get this exciting new section open as soon as possible. Please come and lend a hand at our next “Big Build Day” to help build the start of this trail. Food and drinks will be provided at lunchtime along with a raffle to win exclusive Chase Trails merchandise. Tools are provided so just come prepared for working outdoors.

Thursday 24th October – Chase Trails Mid-week Maintenance
10am @ Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre, Birches Valley

Thursday 31st October – Forestry Commission Halloween Forest Fun
10:30am – 12:00 noon meeting @ Birches Valley CafĂ©
Halloween Forest Fun – Come and join us for our spoooooky halloween forest fun session at Birches Valley Forest Centre. Bring a pumpkin to carve, have a go at some natural crafts and brave our self led, fearsome forest trail! Come along if you dare!!! Booking essential.

One hell of a pile of rocks

25 August, 2013 at 22:00

Oh! My pry bar is twitching already…… Oh sorry, am I not supposed to say that? The latest delivery to Chase Trails. We won’t be giving a prize for selection of parking spot, but there won’t be any complaints either. So where is it going? Don’t worry yourself about that, you’ll find out in the next few weeks! As you can see from William lending his presence to give an idea of scale, these are no small stones. They come from the same origins as the rocks on the Stegosaurus, and yes, we will be getting more with the passage of time. We can find plenty of uses for nice gritstone like this.

But in the mean time…..

A skeleton crew was out on Sunday giving the Lower Cliff section some pruning. The last part of the run through the clearfell area is still to be completed from about two switchbacks from the end. You can expect Lower Cliff to be shut at some stage in the near future, for just one Sunday, whilst we repair the edge that has broken away. We’ll probably elevate the edge by about 5 foot, with a spring loaded lip, so if you get it wrong, we get some film of you going head first into that smelly pool at the foot of the hill – call it trail builder amusement! We like a good laugh occasionally….

Bruce

“Twist & Shout” now fully open

10 August, 2013 at 18:00

After our usual Saturday ride, Dave and I nipped into “Twist & Shout” to check out the condition of the new surface. Between the teenagers from the Shugborough Outdoor Education Centre and last Thursday’s mid-week building session, nearly 150 metres of trail had been resurfaced. The last few days of dry weather had done the new material a world of good so we’ve took the decision to open the section.

This now means all of our trails are fully open …. good news all round.

“Twist & Shout” Resurfacing

31 July, 2013 at 22:00

As part of the government funded National Citizen Service Award Scheme, 46 young volunteers from Shugborough Outdoor Education Centre helped resurface over 100 metres of worn out trail on “Twist & Shout”, the first section of Follow the Dog. Considering the inclement weather, this was an excellent achievement. The youngsters aged between 15 and 18 worked for four hours in the pouring rain only breaking for lunch. The existing trail was broken up, new material barrowed into place then raked and wackered flat.

Unfortunately, due to the saturated ground and surfacing material, we’ve had to leave the first part of the trail closed. After all, we don’t want to wreck the volunteer’s hard work. Following an inspection during the coming week, a decision will be made on when we’ll reopen it so until then, please follow the short diversion – thanks for your understanding.

‘Black Monkey’ Closure – Sunday 28th July

22 July, 2013 at 18:00

For one day only, the black grade section of ‘The Original Monkey’ – soon to be signed as “Le Singe Noir” will be closed for essential maintenance. This is the section that starts by waymarker information post ‘M3’.

The red grade route will be open as normal but we may ask riders to wait for a few moments as we move materials down the hill.

Mid-week building – Thursday 25th July

22 July, 2013 at 12:00

The next mid-week trail maintenance session will be this coming Thursday – meet outside Swinnertons Forest Cycle Centre at Birches Valley Visitor Centre for a 10am start.

Remember, you get a free car park pass for the day so why not bring your bike for a post build ride.