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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

We’re Back!

23 October, 2015 at 17:00

We’re back!!! 🙂

We’ve finally got the “behind the scenes” stuff sorted out with the Forestry Commission, which means we can get back to doing what we do best – building trails!

First up, we’ve got plans to improve the Werewolf Drop – we’ve got a few ideas to improve it, so keep an eye out for that soon. Unfortunately, this does mean we’ll need to close the drop itself while we work on it, however the red-graded bypass over the Colonel’s Bridge will remain open.

If you’d like to lend a hand, we’re always in need of more volunteers! Meet on Sunday at 10am outside Swinnerton Cycles, Birches Valley – details can be found here.

Also a heads-up that the FC will be thinning the trees in that area on Monday 2nd Nov so a day closure with diversion will be in place just for the working day.

Update on Trailbuilding #2

14 September, 2015 at 15:00

(Following on from our previous update…)

A quick update on trail building activities – we’re still here after our summer holiday but Sunday trail building is currently on hold at the request of the Forestry Commission while our working agreements and protocols are reviewed and agreed between us and them. This delay is allowing us to work on the “behind the scenes” activities like a stocktake of tools and reorganising our container. We have also been working with the FC on planning a significant change to one of the sections which will keep us busy over the coming winter.

As soon as the “red tape” has been unravelled and neatly rolled back up, we’ll let you know – hopefully sooner rather than later. In the meantime, enjoy the fully open trail network…

Update on Trailbuilding

20 July, 2015 at 12:00

We’re taking the rest of the Summer off from trail work so there will be no Sunday build sessions until September (date to be confirmed).

Whilst we’ve been very busy this year the number of volunteers is at an all time low and it’s making our work slow going. Remember that despite certain views on funding of contractor repair works, the trails are kept alive by Chase Trails volunteers. We’re all riders and give up our free time for the good of the trails.

The trails are free to ride and we reckon are some of the busiest in England so we really do need your help to keep things going.

For the next few weeks our core crew are going to take a hard earned break to get some much needed riding time in (along with a couple of events).

Keep an eye on our Facebook pages (XC & DH) though as we will post other news as it happens and will also let you know when build sessions are kicking off again.

Happy trails.

No Trail Building – 14th & 21st June 2015

10 June, 2015 at 17:00

Please note that there will be no trail building on either the 14th or 21st of June 2015.

Due to the Ironman event taking place around Staffordshire this weekend, we’ve decided to cancel trail building for the day as the area will be busier than usual. The event doesn’t affect the bike trails (they’ll be open as usual), but it does affect some of the roads around Staffordshire, including Birches Valley. More details can be found on this blog post.

We also won’t be trail building on the 21st of June – as most of the core team will be down at Gatcombe Park for the GO Outdoors Mountain Mayhem race. Look out for the Chase Trails flags and jerseys if you’re also going down to race or watch and give us a cheer!

Trail building will be back to normal on the 28th June – as always, meet us at Swinnerton Cycles at 10am.

Your trails need you!

13 May, 2015 at 19:30

During the course of the coming summer we are going to be asking you to get more involved in our trail work.

As the founder of Follow the Dog and The Monkey Trail, Chase Trails remain the backbone of the official trail network on the Chase. The Forestry Commission work hard to invest contractor time into the trails but without the maintenance and development work undertaken every week by Chase Trails, the future of Follow the Dog and The Monkey Trail, our 14 mile XC network and the downhill trails at Stile Cop Bike Park will be in jeopardy.

With trail work happening on 48 weekends of the year, it’s easy to get involved.

Whether you stop mid-ride or join us all day, your help is appreciated and vital to the continued existence of the trails and the creation of new sections. By becoming involved in our work, you have the opportunity to shape the future of the trails by securing the regular build days and by becoming part of the core team who plan and develop the trails.

Over the last year we have lost five of our long-term regular volunteers and unless we get new regular volunteers, we will struggle to continue our trail building activities in the current weekly format. We know that this will have a detrimental effect of the quality of the trails so we are reviewing the situation and will keep you all posted.

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!

No Trailbuilding this Sunday – 26th April

20 April, 2015 at 12:33

The trail pixies will be off for their yearly riding holiday in Scotland this weekend, which means that there won’t be any XC trail building this Sunday.

However, if you still want to get your hands dirty, there is a build day on at Stile Cop – and the more people we have, the better, as we’re aiming to get a lot done!

If you fancy helping out, we’ll be toward the end of Balboa from 10:30 to 15:30. Not sure where to go? Have a look at the Stile Cop map.

No Trail Building Tomorrow – Sun 12th April

11 April, 2015 at 18:38

Apologies for the short notice, but due to a shortage of the usual regular trail builders pixies, we won’t be out trail building tomorrow.

We’ll be back out next Sunday on the 19th April, so if you want to join us, you can do so then. 🙂

Cheers!

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.

No Trailbuilding This Weekend – 25th Jan 2015

22 January, 2015 at 18:00

Unfortunately, a clash of schedules has meant that most of the regular builders won’t be able to make it on Sunday, and as such we’ve decided to cancel trail building this weekend.

We’ll be back to normal next weekend, on the 1st February. 10am outside Swinnertons as usual! 😉

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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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