Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Irish Coffee (Trail Building Tuesday 29th December)

We split into two groups today. Andrew, Bruce, Dave, Petra, Charlotte & Jessica went to continue the woodwork on 'section M for Mystery' while Martin and myself continued digging in waymarkers.

The woodworkers made really good progress and another structure is ready for decking.

Martin and myself continued digging holes and filling them back in.

At lunch we had Christmas cake and Irish Coffee (that'll teach the others for abandoning us!)

The waymarkers are 90% done now and we should be able to do the final few in one session, we just need to finish building the trail first!

Don't forget it's the next Big Build Day on Sunday 3rd January.


Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Tooth Fairies (Trail Building Sunday 27th December)

Today the majority of the crew went to build a short connector at the end of 'Deerskull'.

Andrew, Alex, Dave and myself had some planning to do before next weeks 'Big Build Day' but were thwarted by the lack of flags so Dave and Andrew went to start some wood work while Alex and myself went on a flag hunt! We knew we had left some somewhere but Cannock Chase is quite a big place when you are looking for pin flags. We found some in the end and also ran down the 'Mad Hatter' to test its flow.

When I rejoined the other they thought they were just about finished and ready to head back to the 'tea earn' but I quickly identified some more trail that needed digging and set them back to work!

Jez had kindly brought Chocolates but Jess bit off a bit more than she could chew and will be leaving a present for the tooth fairy tonight!


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Freezing Mulled Wine (Trail Building Tuesday 22nd December)

More waymarker installation today. Unfortunately Bruce couldn't make it so we replaced him with Andrew. Andrew seemed to insist deciding on the best place to put the post BEFORE digging the hole and using a spirit level. Very strange behaviour but given how hard the ground was probably a very sensible one!

It was bitterly cold today but the mulled wine kept us warm and Jason from the Forestry Commission had provided us with a tin of Chocolates.

Dispite the ground being so hard we made really good progress today, it won't be long until we'll be attaching little red arrows to all these posts.

Have a good Christmas and we'll hopefully see you all at our next Big Build Day on Sunday 3rd January.


Monday, 21 December 2009

Chase Trails Needs You - Big Build Day Sunday 3rd January 2010

What better way to see in the new year and work off all that Christmas Pudding that by coming to a Big Build Day. A great day out for the whole family, free food (turkey curry?), a free prize draw and the chance to spend the day with like minded people digging brand new trail.

Chase Trails Big Build Day - Sunday 3rd January 2010
Meet outside Swinnerton Cycles Forest Cneter 10am

Check out Missus Toast's most self-indulgent and nerdy BBD poster yet (her words not mine!)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Spirit (Trail Building Sunday 20th December)

It was just a little cold and icy this morning to the extent that I thought we might not be trail building but when I suggested this to the other I was greeted with 'IT'S SUNDAY - WE'RE TRAIL BUILDING'. Well that was me told!

Woodwork, rocks and surfacing were off the agenda today which just left good old digging. We headed to work on the 'Mad Hatter' and fortunately the ground wasn't too hard.

The kids (Charlotte, Jessica & Rob) were in high spirits today and entertained themselves by singing Christmas Carols and taking lots of photos. Everyone else worked really hard and dug a significant section of trail.

Energy was provided by mince pies and Christmas cake (thanks to Kath & Abbey) and everyone worked long into the afternoon (apart from those that left early to see Father Christmas!).

Thanks to everyone who has helped and supported Chase Trails this year. We would like to wish you all have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

I Don't Have A Map (Trail Building Thursday 17th December)

Today Martin, Bruce and myself made a start on installing waymarkers for 'Phase 2'. Digging in waymarkers can be very therapeutic, very little to think about just digging holes and filling them back in again. Between digging we chatted about everything and nothing. We enjoyed lunch at Five Way sheltering from the icy wind as it started to snow. (Well actually Martin and Bruce enjoyed their lunch while I picked mould off my sandwiches!)

After lunch Alex joined us and we went to do some maintenance work around the causeway. The bridge looked very picturesque covered with a dusting of snow. We cleared some mud and moved some rocks so hopefully you'll notice the improvements the next time you ride it.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Double Skinny? (Trail Building Sunday 13th December)

We set ourselves a challenge – finish the framework for the ‘Gold Mine’ bridge today which was a tall challenge considering it’s getting dark by 4 these days. Loaded up with lengths of timber and fixings, Dave and I headed for Rainbow Valley. When we arrived, a large group of riders were eyeing up our handy work and one asked if there was going to be an easier route across … “no mate, the plan is to flood the area so you’ll need your SPD wellies!”

Later someone else asked if we were going to deck it.... “No, it’s a double skinny”. “I can’t ride that!” was their reply – sorry, but we were in a mischievous mood.

Working like Trojans, progress was swift but light was fading fast as we finished the last span. There is a little tidying required here and there before the decking goes down but first the Forestry guys need to give it their seal of approval.

It might look like a film set for the next ‘Indiana Jones’ film but it’s securely screwed together …. that said it’s best not to walk on it as the wet wood is rather slimy.


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Kitbag Hill (Trail Building Monday 7th December)

Today Martin, Dave and myself worked with a group of RAF recruits to build and surface another section of 'Phase 2' trail.

The RAF were great to work with picking up all the basic trail building techniques really quickly and putting in loads of effort.

Giving the history of the RAF on Cannock Chase it was great to have them come and be part of 'Phase 2' and be part of what was hopefully a mutually beneficial and rewarding day.


Sunday, 6 December 2009

Great Lake Swimmers (Trail Building Sunday 6th December)

We had some maintenance work to do on section 15 this week so while Andrew and Dave went off to continue work on the 'Gold Mine' the rest of us went to re familiarise ourselves with Follow the Dog. The main job was dealing with some potholes that were developing. We had hoped that we could just drain the water and shallow off the edges but the surfacing quality was poor so we ended up resurfacing. As always newly laid surfacing needs time to settle so section 15 will be closed for a little while.

We were all looking forward to our mid morning baggin as we had mince pies left over from a BC Cycling course we hosted yesterday. Unfortunately the goodies were locked in the back of Martin's Landy and he had gone walkabout. Luckily everyone except Alex had their own snacks so we all refueled whilst trying our best to make Alex feel hungry.

Without enough time to head over to 'phase 2' we decided to head to section 14 and do some 'drainage work' (playing in puddles!)

Ian soon appeared on bike with the excuse for being late that he 'had looked everywhere for us'. Anyone remember Ian's last excuse when he was cut up on a roundabout and ended up at CyB? At least he made up a good story that time! Ian was armed with Chocolate just to make Alex feel even more hungry. [Tasted good too ;)]

Given the amount of rain some of the puddles were pretty deep. I think we must have raised the level of Fairoak pools by a good couple of inches. I hope the fishermen had their waders on.

Finally we tackled the biggest puddle of them all at the end of section 13 before heading back to Birches for mince pie, bourbon biscuits and cups of tea.


Monday, 30 November 2009

Bridge To Nowhere (Trail Building Sunday 29th November)

As time is matching on, we need to get cracking on the timber work that will cross the swamp at the bottom of Rainbow Valley. I’d already sketched out a design so last week a small group headed over there to make a start. After looking at the site and mulling over the design, we tweaked it slightly but I reckon it will still provide a techie start to the climb out of the valley.

Rain made cutting timber hard work but we temporarily erected the first few spans of the bridge to get a feel for it. It may not be as high as the black boardwalk as Llandegla, but it could give vertigo suffers a few scary moments! We’ll be completing the frame work over the next few weeks and then deck it at a later date.

This week, Dave and I armed ourselves with cordless drills and enough fixings to start a small ironmongers then headed back to the bridge, Our mission was to replace the temporary screws with proper fixings – all thread and coach bolts. After a couple of hours sliding around in the mud, the job was a good ‘un before more pressing needs meant we headed back to join the rest.


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Birches Valley Carparking Arrangments

Please be aware that from Saturday 28th November until Christmas the Birches Valley top carpark (near Swinnertons & Go Ape) will be being used exclusively for Christmas Tree sales. Everyone else is asked to use the lower carpark near the Cafe. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Trail Trashers (Trail Building Sunday 22nd November)

On Sunday we worked on the Monkey. The junior trail builders, Jess and I, (as none of the other juniors were there) and our mum, Petra, tweaked the Red Monkey. We were soon accompanied by a passing biker who wished to help us. We had to get rid of a gulley and block off a turning that isn’t part of the trail any more. By that time the rider had gone to do some more riding. Mum, Jess and I decided to trash the bit of trail that we had had to block as we remembered that some riders remove the brash and ride it even though it’s closed. So we got the mattock, croc, spade and rake and decommissioned the blocked off trail and we put a massive log or two just to make sure.

After that we went to check on the guys doing the wood work and unfortunately for Andrew, who had designed the new bridge, his helpers Gary and Stu (and Zac and Max, who had gone barking mad as Andrew said) had deserted him. The bridge was coming on nicely and Andrew came up with us to see what we had accomplished. Then we went to check on the rock moving and we watched for some time and we were entertained by Jessica and Alex. Alex started the fight by trying to rub mud from his gloves all over Jess’s face.

Back at the compound Alex and Jess were conjuring up another fight and this time Alex managed to get mud all over Jess’s little face. She looked like she’d just come out the trenches and was chasing Alex around the compound in order to get revenge on him!!!

By Charlotte

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Mad Hatter (Big Build Day Sunday 15th November)

With promises of floods and tornadoes and general meteorological cataclysm we had thought that Sunday's Big Build day wouldn't be that well attended. How wrong were we? With over a hundred cups of tea and fifty hot jacket potatoes served for lunch and a few people opting for the "Just cake" option, we've got to say that the turnout was excellent!

We began the day, as normal, with a quick word on the safe use of tools before heading up to the trail, "H", to get cracking on the monster that's consumed two big build days already. After leading the way to the end of one of the sections and asking people to "Follow the yellow flags until you hit trail that's already been built, and space yourself out" I got a big shock when I could see people only a short way in stopping and starting to dig. Our volunteers had reached all the way from the fireroad crossing to where we left off on the last big build, not an inconsiderable distance!

With lots of digging, a few monster stumps removed and some trees 'moved', a ribbon of freshly benchcut trail had emerged under the feet of our volunteers. We broke for lunch and the raffle (featuring brand new Chase Trails T Shirts). After enjoying Sharon and Dale's excellent baked spuds and chilli nearly everyone went back to the trail to chew through more trail. So many in fact that we crossed the fireroad and got to work on the next section of "H"!

By 4pm, and with that nearly done, we called it a day having built a huge amount of trail. Top effort from everyone and a big thanks to everyone who came along to help.

We want to open Phase 2 at Easter 2010, and with a few more days like today, we'll be well set for it.


The Junior Trailbuilders

The junior trail builders were having so much fun on big build day because they were making dens! Charlotte, Bethany, Josh, and I were making a den at the end of absinth trail in the trees out of pine needles. Abby and Joe were making a den out of mud at first then afterwards planted mini trees!(sticks).

Rob came to look at our den but Alex was sneaking in the trees to get to Josh. then it was time for lunch with spuds and biscuits thanks to Sharon and dale. Soon it was time to go and we packed up. We hope to see everyone on the next big build day which is the 3rd of January.


Sunday, 8 November 2009

Holes & Rocks - Trail Building Sunday 8th November

As there were no junior trail builders around this week – they were off being Guides and Brownies, and with the favourable weather conditions, rock shifting was the order of the day. So to this end, the Landies were loaded up with tools and bodies and off to the Monkey we headed.

Phil and myself had some rather pressing maintenance to do on the Dog. Whilst shredding the trails the day before, Bruce discovered a hole on the blue chicken run around the original boardwalk. The recent wet weather had caused subsidence around the drainage pipe under the trail. Now, ideally a short length of pipe would have made a perfect repair but after a good ferret around the yard we drew a blank. With some improvisation, we came up with a fitting solution. Now, those without the confidence to tackle the boardwalk can take the diversion without the fear of ending up in Oz.

We then headed off to join the others grafting on Phase 2. Work was well underway on a short descent of the “Red Monkey” . It was being rock armoured to make a durable trail and give it an exciting technical edge. The guys had started with a hernia inducing large rock at the bottom of the slope to act as an anchor and then worked upwards selecting suitable shaped rocks to fit into the jigsaw. To finish, a couple of larger rocks were positioned either side of the entry to the section. The right hand one is quietly waiting there ready to jump out and rip the rear mech off an unsuspecting rider’s mount.

The finished result looks much better in the flesh than in these photos – and far steeper!

Whilst the one group were humping the rocks around, another group made a start on a new corner on the “Black Monkey”. This will be a steep tight rocky lefthander dropping down the hill about 3 metres (10 feet for us oldies). We needed to take out a couple of trees blocking the flow of the corner and hack out their stumps. Unfortunately the FC won’t let us use dynamite so deft use of a mattock and brute force did the trick. The rooty top surface needed clearing away and a rotten stump removed before we started to shape the corner. As it will be rock armoured, we were only interested in getting the general shape sorted.

Remember, it’s Big Build Day this coming weekend so if you’re around, please come and lend a hand – even if it’s only for a couple of hours.


It Came From Across The Road (Chase Trails Needs You - Sunday 15th November)

Phase 2 Big Build Day - Sunday 15th November
Meet Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre 10am

Autumn and winter are a great time for trailbuilding and with only a few months to go before the official opening of Phase 2 next Easter we need as much help as we can get to make sure everything is finished and ready to ride. We're looking forward to catching up with our growing number of 'Big Build Day regulars' and also welcoming new faces coming trail building for the first time. So why not come along and help build part of 'Phase 2'

The great poster again designed by Missus Toast

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Quick Trim and Tidy

Today Martin and myself caught up on a few little jobs that needed doing on 'Follow The Dog'. We didn't do anything major but just lots of small bits and pieces that most people wouldn't even notice.

My day started with a ride in very heavy rain but at least it was warm enough to wear the best waterproofs ever invented (shorts). After changing into some dry gear we set about our list of jobs; replacing missing signs, clearing fall zones, removing old waymarkers and best of all cleaning the bridge!

It's surprising how long lots of little jobs can take but we crossed off everything on the list and the weather stayed dry all day until it was time to ride home when it started to rain again!


Monday, 2 November 2009

Slip Slidin on AoT - Trail Building 1st November 2009

Wet... Thats how the day started for me. I got up early to get a ride in before trailbuilding but the journey to Birches Valley suggested that it was going to be a very wet ride! After negotiating with minor flood on the A449, i wondered how much of the Chase would be under water - the answer was most of it! From the start of section 2, to the last blat on 17 to the causeway there was water and grit and mud everywhere - but it was brilliant!

I pulled up in the yard with grit grinding in the disc rotors to find most people had arrived and started loading up. By now it had stopped raining which is great news! After a quick chat i got changed out of my soaking clothes, then we all headed up to Five Ways to do some more on the trail from the last Big Build Day.

Now, this section hasn't been named yet, but the conditions on it in places are treacherous when its wet. We're going to need lots of surface materil here - LOTS! This slippery beast has lead to it's second name so far - AoT (I won't expand the reasoning on this name) - the first was just daft. Others were mentioned, like 'Face Brake', but AoT is the best so far.

Today was about progressing the trail further down the hill and making some tweaks and adjustments. Dave and Jez found a couple of stumps that needed removing and while 'trimming' the roots of one tree at the edge of the trail 'it fell over' ...

Fortunately for us, Silver Birch are classed as a weed by the Forestry Commission, so this wasn't much of an issue. It also means the long corner works so much better.

Further up the trail, Bruce, Sally & Phil were hard working some sculptural magic on two left hand berms ... Photos don't give the size, shape and depth of Berms ... thats when i had an idea. I had seen some photos that create 3D images ... so i thought i'd have a go ...

The trick is to go a bit cross eyed, so that the two images merge into 1. Then you need to focus on the middle image, and suddenly it all fits! I need to work on it to make them better, but it gives you an idea...

While we were digging, the weather was good to us. Apart from the odd nock on a tree which releases a mini shower, it remained dry. But as we were loading up the tools, the rain started to fall again - timed it just right!


Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween Challenge (Evans Cycles Ride It, Cannock Chase – 31st October 2009)

Although not on official Chase Trials business Dave, Petra, Jessica, Charlotte, Jez, Andrew, Jay and me took part in the Evans Cycles Ride It yesterday and wanted to share our escapade with you all.

The day started off with thick dark sky lashing down copious amounts of rain. At 6am most of us were up and getting our gear together for the day our love of mountain biking meant we somehow overlooked the inclement conditions outside, besides as Jez said “just means more mud!”

We arrived at the Tackeroo campsite at about 8.30am to improved weather conditions meaning it was now just a little damp under foot. We headed over to registration and paid our fee to receive a map and gel bar in return. Charlotte and Jessica located us although they were not looking too well, we could see Charlotte’s bones and Jessica’s heart. It was marginally concerning to see that Jessica’s heart was not beating but she seemed chatty as normal so it didn’t seem to be bothering her. Dave, Petra, Andrew and Jay soon appeared and we all headed down to the start.

There were three different ride options for the day Short = 14 miles, Medium = 24 miles and Long = 28 miles. Dave, Andrew and Jay were feeling particularly energetic and had signed up for the long route, Jez more sensibly had signed up for the medium route whilst Petra, Jessica, Charlotte and I had opted for the short route.

At approximately 9.20am we were off, the route we had been told would stay within the confines of the Chase keeping to numerous bridleways that criss-cross the area taking in the beautiful forest scenery. The website promised it would be a great day out in the saddle. Jay, Andrew and myself had not been out riding for a while so were looking forward to getting on our bikes while Jez and Jessica were looking forward to searching for mud and puddles.

The route started reasonably sedately as we picked our way through the forest crossed over roads before heading back to the forest. The boys had decided to ride with us girls on the short route before heading off to their medium/long ride afterwards. With varying fitness and technical levels they were able to hone their bike control skills by riding at a more sedate pace than they may usually do. The route presented us with various surfaces to ride on from mud, leaves, tarmac, sand and pebbles which made for an interesting ride however, feeling this was not enough of a challenge the organisers had supplied up with climbs. At one stage Charlotte and Jessica’s enthusiaum was waning exclaiming “I thought it would be more down!” before assuming a strong pout. We were rewarded with some long and flowing descents but unfortunately they tended to follow some rather tough lung bursting climbs.

Still the day was not without its entertainment, at the half way point Andrew demonstrated a particularly flamboyant way to dismount a bike. Jay and I both experienced one of those ‘way hey’ moments when on a particularly rocky decent not far from The Ford, whilst Jessica chose to ride through a rather large muddy puddle before exclaiming “I’m soaked!”

At the drinks station where the routes split Petra, Charlotte, Jessica and I headed back to Tackeroo wondering why it was we had paid for the privilege of such a tough ride whilst debating that the published mileage must be wrong as we were sure our 14 miles felt more like 41! The boys headed off for more torture knowing they were set to climb up Abrahams Way, come down and then climb back up the fire road next to it before descending once more. After what felt like a short time later they too arrived back at Tackeroo.

Results for the day are to be published on the Evans website and although no certificates or medals were given I would like to express thanks on behalf of Petra and myself to the boys for riding with us and supporting us. Charlotte and Jessica would like to say a BIG thank you to Jez, Jay and Dave for taking pity on them and pushing their bikes up the numerous hills. Personally I would like to thank Andrew for the riding tips and to everyone for making what was a challenging day enjoyable and for reminding me why I like coming out riding at Cannock.

Lei xx

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Skulduggery on 'Deerskull' (Trail Building Sunday 25th October)

Whilst the others were building sand castles, Ian and myself headed off to fettle 'Deerskull'. For those that can remember the lovely warm Spring, it was the trail we built on the Big Build Day back in April (you can read about on Missus Toast's blog). Test riding the trail had shown a number of problems. The main one was the first corner into the dense trees did not work – the two trees on the inside of the bend were throwing riders out wide and heading straight towards another tree. Being well prepared, we only had one short folding saw between us – while I hacked at the trunks, Ian lent against them so with our combined efforts the two trees didn’t stand a chance. Now the corner looks like it will flow smoothly into the rest of the trail.

Next we tweaked the short climb after an evil root - being a red grade trail, it seems a shame to remove the root so for the moment it stays. A rotten root was removed and the slope of the climb reduced.

Another problem was a step part way down the compression with its landing at the bottom of the slope – not ideal. As the entrance to the compression was on a slight climb, we decided to lose the step totally – don’t worry there’s a tricky diagonal one further down the trail to maintain a technical element.

Recent rain had hi-lighted the areas of trail where water was collecting thus requiring improved drainage, so to finish our morning’s work we tidied up some sections of the trail out slope. For the technically minded, have a look at Ian’s Trail Tech guide to bench cutting.

To allow these reworked sections time to settle, we wrapped up by rebrashing the whole trail – so please steer clear and leave it to slumber in peace.


Absinthe Is The Root Of All Evil (Trail Building Sunday 25th October)

This morning started very early for Charlotte, Jessica, David and myself. The girls and I were booked to go on a rutting walk to see the fallow deer and had to meet at Birches Valley at 6.00 a.m. David, unfortunately, had drawn the short straw and was ‘on call’ so he had the tedious task of waiting at the car for us. As it started to get light we were walking into the woods and saw lots of fallow deer, they were making very loud grunting noises and we did see two deer fighting with their antlers. The girls found this walk fascinating.

We arrived back at Birches Valley around 8.00 a.m. and found Jez all kitted up for a ride before trail building. As we ate our toast and had a drink Ian also turned up ready for a quick blast on his bike before building.

Later Martin arrived in his Landrover closely followed by Andrew, Bruce, Frank, Steph, Alan, Sally and Lei, tools were loaded and a discussion took place as to where we were going to work.

Andrew and Ian went to do some work on 'Deerskull' and the rest of us went back to work on the sandy trail that precedes the 'Absinthe trail' which we had started last week. As we were digging the trail we unearthed quite a few evil routes so the ‘muscle’ Bruce, Jez and Lei (in training) used mattocks to remove some of the roots.

Frank and Steph dug holes for posts to be used for holding the trail surface on entry to the bridge. After this Jez was made to ‘walk the plank’ across the bridge with the wheel barrow full of tools and then everyone else had to follow.

We went to the end of the 'Absinthe trail' to put in a log step for the exit out onto the fire road.

This done everyone packed away and headed for Birches Valley except for Jez, Lei and Sally who had headed up the next part of the trail to take a look.


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Loki the Labradoodle (Trail Building Sunday 18th October)

The day started earlier than usual this week. For some bizarre and masochistic reason, I thought it would be a good idea to go for a ride round before building. For me, this meant a 6am alarm call - it's a 115 mile round trip - to load up the car with bike and gear and head on up to Cannock. So, at 8.09am I was off for my ride. 15 or so miles later and it was time for large amounts of caffeine and chocolate from Swinno's and to meet the rest of the gang to find out where we were working.

There was a choice today to split into two groups to get as much as possible done with precious volunteer time - rocks or digging, both on the Monkey. Transport was assigned and our motley convoy set off. And promptly got stuck unable to get through the barrier off the main road as the FC have put a new padlock on it and not given a copy of the new key to anyone. Much arm waving and head scratching ensued and eventually the decision was made to go to the next barrier along and drive round to get to our destination.

There was plenty of testosterone flowing for the rock moving, so Dave, Petra, Charlotte, Jessica, Josh, New Andy, Jay, Alex and his dog, Loki, set off down the hill to smite the earth with tools. It would appear that silly people who don't understand what no entry signs mean or pay attention to trail closure signs had in fact been riding the section after where we were working backwards (down, instead of up - not some kind of stunt riding). So, once we'd finished building the amendment to the trail, we returned the old exit of the trail back to Mother Nature's sweet embrace, with a large amount of earth and several tons of fallen trees. Greets to the 2 riders who showed up to say Hi. Next time we'll make sure we stop off at Swinno's again just before we go to see if there are any stragglers who want to help us out.

There was still a large amount of muscle flexing going on at rock central [Frank mainly - the rest of us struggle in that area - Ed] so we decided to head back to the log bridge we'd built last week and make a start on bench cutting the trail to the bridge - also known as 'Absinthe'. Bad news is that the entire hill on the other side of the bridge appears to be made of sand. This means that we'll have to bench cut the whole section, which is about 300 yards, and then barrow some imported decent surface in to stop the trail disappearing into a scene from Lawrence of Arabia.

In other news, the young'uns were using the log bridge for some kind of gladiatorial combat, presumably over rights to who got to hold Loki's lead. In the carnage, Josh tried to stop a wheel barrow with his jaw and managed to cut his lip. This was duly administered to from a handy first aid kit. Luckily, the wheel barrow sustained no damage. Late in the afternoon, Martin turned up and walked around with a shovel for a while. He alleged that he'd spent a good part of the day finishing off the construction of the log bridge although we were fairly sure the extra supports and the bolts that had been fitted were just coincidence and could have been put there by anyone.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Days Like Diamonds

I know this may sound like a badly written Singletrack column but some days I just think to myself how much I love riding my bike and that there really is nothing else I'd rather have been doing.

I spent this morning at my desk looking out at the sun shining and the clear blue sky. By lunch I could resist any longer, I wouldn't go far, just a quick spin and I had a couple of things I needed to look at so I could kill two birds with one stone. But it didn't take long for urge to ride to kick in. Maybe if I just did that one section, and if I linked that bit in, and then I could ride that trail...

Eventually I was heading for home until I bumped into a stranger (John who races for Mammoth), got talking and decided to go and ride a few trails together. Unplanned adventures are always the best and the next hour or so was spent happily chatting & riding as the sun slowly fell from the sky.

By the time I got home from my quick lunchtime spin it was nearly dark. There are some days that catch the light, days like diamonds.


Monday, 12 October 2009

I Promise That This Won't Hurt (FtD Trail Inspection Monday 12th October)

If you ever ride 'Follow the Dog' on a weekday you may have come across some strange looking people wearing hi viz jackets walking along the trail. We're actually not just out for a walk but carrying out one of our regular safety and maintenance inspections.

We carry out inspections in partnership with the Forestry Commission. Ian, Martin and myself do the majority of inspections (we have even been on a training course). It normally takes most of the day so we always take a picnic lunch, usually eaten at the start or end of section 8 (maybe we need to build another bench!)

We also take the opportunity to collect litter (3 bags this month). It is amazing the number of water bottles and broken bikes parts that we find. Ian has an unhealthy obsession with collecting reflectors.

The weather was beautiful today and the trail really quiet. We saw a few rider in the morning but hardly any after lunch. Thanks to the guy from Kent who stopped for a chat at the top of the fireroad climb and took our 'picnic' photo. The highlight of my day was seeing a group of fallow deer enjoying the late afternoon sun.

If you ever see us out on the trail we'll make sure we move out of the way but please slow down as you pass, shout hello or even pull over and stop for a chat.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Bridge To Beaudesert (Trail Building Sunday 11th October)

Despite a rather grey and marginally damp start we had a good turn out and would like to welcome Sally and Alex to their first building session. Bit confusing with two Alex’s and Alex No2 may have wondered why so many people he had not met before were talking about him wearing lycra, but he soon realised he didn’t need to worry as it wasn’t him we were discussing! The grey day didn’t dampen our spirits and everyone was in a good mood, some were even humming and all of us were looking forward to working on the end of section H Phase II.

Realising that he would be building a log bridge today Martin set about recruiting some muscle and made a bee line for Jez! After his successful show of strength whilst relieving Alex of rock duty a few weeks prior, Jez seemed a natural choice and Martin sold it to him by saying he could use the big lump hammer to hit things! Next Dave was recruited, although unfortunately due to injuries from a crash he was unable to hammer he did a sterling job digging and moving logs. He was also the brave man holding the posts in place for Jez to hammer – rather you than me mate!!

Meanwhile slightly further back barrow loads of good earth were being conveyored in and our thanks goes to Tony, Steve, Bruce, Alex and Frank for supplying a steady stream for us to whack. We progressed well down the trail and were all chatty talking about riding and trails, Alex and Sally were asking where else we had been building and we discussed the problem of keeping the numpties off the new trails until they had settled and between us came up with some rather interesting suggestions…..
firstly we discussed burying Charlotte and Jessica in the trails up to their necks to scare off any potential riders, although Petra didn’t seem to mind we decided that it would take quite a while to dig a suitable hole. Petra suggesting pinning Charlotte to a cross at the entrance but for some reason Charlotte didn’t seem too keen? I suggested burying a skull in the ground and having two cats’ eyes in it, might freak people on a night ride, Petra suggested this could be accompanied by paper skeletons hanging from the trees which could of course be laminated to enable them to withstand the weather. Alex then came up with the piece de resistance of burying a few cats in the trails up to their neck and the high pitched meow and hissing should ward off even the most hardy rider?!

Thanks to everyone’s hard work we managed to complete the trail up to the log bridge and as if signalling the end of building it began to rain! As we packed up Alex and Alex headed off to check the other trails and photo name and shame any numpties they found. Jez and Dave kitted up to head out for a ride, whilst the rest of us headed back to Swinnerton’s to celebrate a successful day with a well earned cup of coffee.

See you all again next week.
Lei x

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Send in the Clowns (Big Build Day, Sunday 4th October)

Plans of making it early to help load up tools didn't quite go to plan and I arrived with Junior trailbuider Abi after 9 to find most of the tools loaded with just a bit of faffing left until we were ready. Being ready early doesn't always mean an early start to work and faffing continued until we swept up the volunteers at 10. Off up to the trail site in convoy and we were just about ready to make a start.

We only started running big build days this year and they've turned out to be a massive success for us with a load of new faces most of them becoming regulars. What's been great to see is the number of children coming along and having fun helping with the building or just messing around in the forest. Along with the older kids who can cut trail on their own (as long as they get a chance to go climb trees too) we're getting the younger ones interested too, this time our youngest were Immy (3) and Abi (4). Both of them had a blast digging in the dirt, playing with the dogs who came along with Grimey Lymies and generally getting into a real mess.

It means that those of us who have to balance family time with bikes get to mix the two together and spark a bit of enthusiasm from the younger ones. It's got to be better than staying a home in front of the TV.

Other highlights of the day included decent weather (the last session on this trail couldn't have been any wetter), too much food (we needed Scruff and Snakebite to help finish it off) and giving away the last of some of our limited run kit (meaning we'll be able to roll out the new prizes next month).

We ended up digging around 250 metres of new trail and surfaced some pre dug trail too. There's still over 500 metres left to dig on this section so we need your help, next BBD is Sunday 15th November and we're out every Sunday too.