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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.

No Trailbuilding on Sunday – 3rd May

30 April, 2015 at 13:00

Due to the amount of sections that are currently closed on the trails at the moment, we’ve decided to swap trail building this weekend with a spot of trail planning. As such, there will be no trail building this Sunday.

We’ll be scouting out some potential new routes on the Monkey, to put forward for approval to the Forestry Commission – no spoilers though! 😉


In other news, we recently hit a milestone of 5,000 “likes” on Facebook (look ma, we’re popular!) – and to celebrate we’ll be doing a giveaway with a few prizes lined up from Chase Skills, Mudhugger, NX2 MTB, and of course Chase Trails. More details soon – don’t think you’re getting off easily though, you’ll have to come trail building to have a chance of winning!

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.

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.

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!

Five Ways Descent is now open

16 July, 2014 at 10:00

Just a quick update to say the new 1km descent from Five Ways is now open, and has been since Thursday last week. It replaces the old fire road which took you down to near Absinthe and Upper Cliff. The new section avoids almost all the fire roads, and brings you out right at the start of Absinthe.

Chase Trails volunteers have been hard at work since early 2013 getting the section ready, and after a Big Build Day in October last year, and a few delays this year which prevented us from working on it, it’s finally open. At a very rough guess based on about 60 seconds with a calculator, we’d estimate that over 2000 hours of work has gone into building the section in the past year and a half.

To celebrate, myself and Ben (who sometimes attends the build days on Stile Cop) went out on Monday to do a spot of filming for a trailer. Be warned, it’s enduro… 😉

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… 😀

Diversion on The Monkey

2 March, 2014 at 21:00

There’s a short diversion in place at the start of Tight Squeeze (the first section of the Monkey after the climb) from today.  It will be there for a few weeks while the newly laid surfacing on the new start to this section settles – weather permitting. Please don’t ride it in the mean time – it will damage the surface! 🙁

Big Build Day Oct 2013 – Surfacing the start of a new section…

21 October, 2013 at 13:00

With the last Big Build Day being all the way back in January 2012, we thought it would be a good idea to run another one, so on Sunday, we held 2013’s first BBD. I asked on our Facebook page if anyone planned to turn up and got about five responses, so it was a nice surprise when we had 39 volunteers turn up in the end!

The aim of the day was to surface the beginning of an exciting new 1km descent on the Monkey. While most of the trail has been there for a few years now, Forestry harvesting meant we had to postpone completing it but now we’re having a strong push to get the section completed, hence the silence on the blog – for the past few months we’ve been out working hard every Sunday. Today’s task has helped surface approximately 10% of the trail, so we’ve made good progress so far, but we still have plenty to go – you can help speed it up a bit if you join us on Sundays. 😉

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We had previously prepared the ground for surfacing the start of the descent on the BBD (pictured above), but with the immense manpower that was soon finished. The trail corridor was quickly prepared, trimming back branches and marking the line to extend the trail parallel to the fire road – as such, we had to dig the trail from scratch. This extra bit of trail may be relatively straight, but it does twist in and out of the tight trees a little so it keeps you on your toes if you apply some speed. It should be similar to the end of Bomb Hole on Follow the Dog, so if you enjoy that, you’ll enjoy this.

IMG_8874

Once that was dug out, we all stopped for a spot of lunch – Andrew’s parents had kindly baked 60 jacket potatoes as well as assorted cupcakes. Very delicious cupcakes, as evidenced by the fact I had 8 of them…

Back to work, we moved on to surfacing the trail. With three piles of material available, a lot of barrowing was in order – which got somewhat interesting as the day went by, due to the work area starting to resemble Glastonbury’s mud. A combination of rain the previous night and lots of foot traffic meant we got the barrows stuck quite a lot. But the hard work paid off – by the end of the day, we had completely flattened all three piles of material, with the end result being….

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We’ve put a quick clip showing the whole trail on Instagram (more of that social media malarky 🙂 ) – as you can see we got a fair bit done.

As the whole section still has plenty of work to do before we can open it, we finished the day by brashing the trail – the entire section from start to finish is heavily brashed and completely unridable, so please do not try and ride it, or you’ll cause damage, which means we have to waste time fixing it. Trust us, it’ll be worth the wait in the end!

Further details for Sunday’s Big Build Day

16 October, 2013 at 19:27

If you’re coming along to this Sunday’s Big Build Day, here’s some extra info about the day.

Meet:

Either meet at Birches Valley outside Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre at 10am then follow us to the build site (5 miles away) or head straight there, parking in ‘Beaudesert Old Park’ car park on Rugeley Road (WS15 1QW gets you close) then follow our signs to the build area. Unfortunately the build area is a good walk from the car park (up quite a steep hill) – approximately half a mile – click the thumbnail below for walking directions.

Beaudesert Old Car Park: https://plus.google.com/104548429352956398678/about
Driving directions from Birches Valley to Beaudesert Old Car Park: http://goo.gl/maps/c1poK

The car park is halfway between the caravan site and the golf club (on the opposite side of the road).

Aim to be at the build site for an 11am safety briefing before we start work.

Lunch:

Filled jacket potatoes and cake plus hot/cold drinks will be provided at lunchtime with a free raffle for the chance to win exclusive Chase Trails merchandise. You’re welcome to bring your own lunch and we’d probably recommend bringing some water to drink throughout the day.

Anything else?

There’s no fixed finishing time so if you can only make the morning, we don’t mind if you beat a hasty retreat after lunch.

If you’re meeting us at Birches Valley then driving to the build site, there is no need to pay for parking. If you plan to leave your car at Birches Valley all day, ask for one of our volunteer parking passes.

There will be a covered camping toilet for the ladies.

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 Café
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.

‘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.