Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year to all our readers

The wet weather is limiting what we can do at the moment – any surfacing we lay just ends up like sandy coloured porridge and bypasses around work areas turn to axle deep slurry.
The section we re-laid a couple of weeks ago has been de-brashed to save the forest around it - riders trying to find a drier line churned it into a muddy mess. We have plans for this low spot but first we need to run them passed the Forestry – we’ll be back …

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Burning off the Christmas calories – Trail building

Did Santa bring all the bike bling you asked for?
To burn off the Christmas excesses, Bruce and I met up for a soggy building session on Tackeroo - yet another sump and drainage pipe combo. After cutting and taping a bypass, Bruce started digging the sump while I worked on a trench for the pipe.

Considering the inclement weather, there was a surprising number of riders out. Many voiced their approval of our recent trail maintenance efforts – it’s good to hear our work is appreciated.

After installing the pipe and back filling the trench, we finished the job off reshaping the berm. The soft ground needs settling time so we’ve left the bypass in place for a while

Sunday, 23 December 2012

More Maintenance – Trail building

With Bob the Digger Driver moving the surfacing material received from the Cemex quarry (see here for details), we could carry out some much needed maintenance on the later sections of The Dog.

Last weekend, the crew split into two teams working on different sections – the first rerouting the trail to improve the flow and drainage by digging a trench. Unfortunately, as the surface needs time to settle and dry out – unlikely with the current weather, we had to leave the bypass (mud bath) around the work zone in place.

The other crew made a start on filling holes and other damaged areas of trail which we continued this weekend. It’s a case of draining off the puddles, breaking up the old surface and adding new material. This is then raked level and wackered flat but as the trail needs settling time, we had to post a diversion along the fire road. This should only be for a couple of weeks depending on the weather,

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Up on the Cliff - Trail building

We were back up on Upper Cliff this weekend to sort out a potential wheel trap of a hole that had developed not long after the start of the descent. Initially, the plan was just to fill the hole but after spoting a water gully in the bank at the side of the trail, the job grew into digging a sump and installing yet another pipe - if a job’s worth doing …..

Whilst one team were working on that, two more were working their way down the trail filling smaller holes, cleaning the woodwork and de-berming the edge of compacted pine needles to improve drainage.

To finish, there were a couple of information panels to plant above the black rock sections – you need to know what you’re letting yourself in for.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

How many pipes? - Trail building

I've lost count how many berms we have installed drainages pipes in over the last couple of months but riding around the Dog, you can see the improvements given the amount of rainfall we’ve had recently. Last weekend, we headed over to Upper Cliff on the Monkey Trail to hit another berm and tidy up the Black Rocks.

A “Strava line”, as one of the guys had christened it, was blocked with a low fence – riding down the side of the rock feature at speed into the path of riders on the red line is an accident waiting to happen. Young Phil, who stopped to help mid-ride, worked like a Trojan digging material out of a hole to repair the entrance to the rocks.

This Sunday, the work site was a little closer to home – the flooded corner between the Stegosaurus and Kingfisher Bridge. Yet another pipe was buried in the trail to take water from the sump. This left the trail surface rather soft so we may need to do a bit more remedial work in the future.

Another “Strava line” was blocked with logs and other brash whilst a number of puddles were sorted.

There are a few more pipes to install but we’ll be doing other maintenance work over the next few weeks …. weather permitting now winter is here!


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Monkey Trail Diversion – Update from the Forestry Commission

* * *    For latest update - see here   * * * 

The harvesting work is now 50% complete. We are investigating whether we can reopen some sections of the trail as the contractors have nearly reached the start of the initial diversion. Harvesting sites are dangerous places and it is imperative than forest users stay out of these areas. Contravening these exclusion zones not only endangers your own life, but also the harvesting contractors. It also slows down the operation and consequently the speed at which the trail can be re-opened. It is important to remember that the trail closure is only around 10% of entire trail network of which is the long fire road climb.  We are already talking to a contractor about trail reinstatement to ensure we can get the trail open as soon as we can.

Gary (FC Recreation Ranger)

Forestry Commission on Facebook

The Forestry Commission on Cannock Chase now have a facebook page. They'll be posting news about Cannock Chase Forest, information on forthcoming events and activities, trail updates and much much more…

Recreation Ranger

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Christmas Tree Sales - Impact on Car Parking

It's that time of the year again. Christmas Trees are on sale at Birches Valley from Saturday 1st December daily from 10am - 5pm. While the trails are all open as normal parking arrangements are a little different to normal. The top car park by Go Ape / Swinnertons will be used solely for Christmas Tree sales & Santa’s Grotto so unless you are buying a Christmas Tree you’ll need to park in the lower car park during December.

Buying a Real Tree from the Forestry Commission is a great way to show your support for the trails and the work that Chase Trails and the Forestry Commission do so why not take a tree home after your next ride? More details here.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Work on Upper Cliff - Sunday 25th November

As a “heads up”, we will be doing maintenance on Upper Cliff over on the Monkey Trail. The plan is to install a pipe in the first left hand berm and do general repairs on the trail. Rather than closing the complete section, we will erect a temporary local diversion – please observe the warning signs.

The ‘Black Rocks’ may also be closed while we tidy up and cut back the trees on the lower section – again please observe the signage.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Blame the weather – Tackeroo Berms Diversion still in place

OK, I said that the diversion would be in place for just one week but I lied - the section needs to be kept closed for another week whilst the newly laid surface dries out. I’m blaming the wrong type of weather … a week on unbroken sunshine and temperatures in the high twenties and we’d have been sorted!

This week, we’ve completed the last berm repairs thanks to the Bruces, Frank and Steve plus some help from Bertie the dog. Jez and Martin beavered away filling braking bumps while Petra, Ben, Dave and William installed yet another pipe – this time on the first berm.

After a good dose of wackering, the section now looks mint – a bit like rolling the clock back 3 years … here’s hoping it will stay that way.

The diversion should be lifted next weekend before we head up to give the Upper Cliff descent some TLC.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

For one week only - Diversion on Tackeroo Berms

To get back on schedule of fixing two berms each Sunday, with a good turnout, we hit three of the Tackeroo Berms simultaneously. Ben, Martin and Steve worked on the last one before the fire road crossing while Dave and Matt fettled the next one leaving Peter, William and I on the first one. Bruce and Jez headed off with the trailer in tow for a load of the surfacing material dropped by the quarry a few weeks ago.  

Trenches were cut, pipes laid and berms reshaped in time honoured fashion. While we worked on the berms, Frank swung a pick into action and set about removing the worst section of braking bumps and shaping the berm into a sort of low wall ride – we’ll see how that one works in time.

As the material in the last berm was very soft and boggy, the decision was made to leave the section closed for the week as further work and material is needed. We’ll be back up there this coming Sunday to finish off and sort out the first corner, so in the mean time please follow the red diversion signs along the fire road.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Another one bites the dust - Trail building

Today’s mission was to fix the final berm on the first section of the Dog by installing another drainage pipe. A Halloween ride by Dave and me in torrential rain proved that our work adding pipes to the berms was working a treat.

As usual, we started by taping and signing a diversion before Petra, Ben, Dave, Jez and Steve started worked on the berm. A sump on the inside of the berm was dug, along with the trench for the pipe and another sump for the overflow.

In parallel, Martin dug out the existing waymarker post at the end of the trail and swapped it with a replacement complete with new signs before spending time felling dead trees close to the trail. The Bruces and William turned their attentions to a corner that regularly puddles. They brought the level up with material from a borrow pit* and dug a drainage channel rather than adding a pipe.

Petra and I worked my way along the trail de-berming the edges and digging drainage channels. To finish, Ben put a couple of rocks found in the undergrowth to good use by adding a small step down between two trees.

Next weekend we’re back to last of the seven berms on Tackeroo so there will be a temporary diversion along the fire road while we work.


* - a borrow pit is a means of obtaining surfacing material close to where it is required. By digging off the top surface of pine needles and peaty soil, the material underneath can ideal for surfacing – that’s assuming it’s not too sandy.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Birches Valley Visitor Centre Car Park

Now the clocks have gone back and winter is on the way, the gates for the car park at Birches Valley will close at 5pm.

Be careful that you don't get locked in if your afternoon ride takes a little longer than expected.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Downhill Trail Building - Sunday 4th November

Next big build session at the Cop will be Sunday 4th November.

10am - 2pm. As usual we'll bring the tools and free refreshments. Meet at the bottom of the Red Course.

Plan is to work on the bottom sections of the Red & Black courses. We will need a good turnout to get all the work done so please spread the word.

Black course needs some maintenance after the wet summer we've had and for the Red, we want to reintroduce the pumpy flow form when the course was first built. The last straight-ish section will be pimped, buffed and polished to get it riding sweet again!
This will mean that the lowers sections of both courses will be closed throughout the day.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

It’s dirty work – Trail building

As mentioned in last week’s post, the two berms above Werewolf Drop were targeted this week. We’ve got the routine down to a “T” now – cut and mark out a diversion then start digging! That’s the clean bit, the dirty work entails excavating the rather smelly sediment out of the bottom of the sumps. Our four legged trail builder, Bertie, was having great fun paddling in the muck much to his owner’s disgust!

Martin, Steve and I worked on the upper berm while Ben, Bruce2, Dave and William worked on the lower one. Making good use of a closed trail, Original Bruce and Jez filled in a number of braking bumps then struck gold – well, trail builder’s gold – good quality material for reshaping the lower berm.

After much barrowing and wackering, the berm repairs were finished just as the rain set in – it was “adjourn to the urn” time.

To capture our grafting on camera, William set up his Go-Pro in a tree to do a time-lapsed video – have a look here for laugh.

Next Sunday, the later part of the first section of ‘The Dog’ is ear marked for some TLC so we’ll be diverting riders along the Heritage Trail to the start of the Stegosaurus.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Monkey Trail Diversion UPDATE

* * *    For latest update - see here   * * * 

From today (Monday 22nd), the FC are extending the diversion as the harvesting contractors are making swift progress and have now using the same track as the existing diversion. This will turn into a bigger mud bath than it already is with the forwarder making deep ruts.

The new diversion will be from Klondike Bridge, up Rainbow Valley, to the start of The Original Monkey as shown by the purple line on the map above. This is likely to be for 4-6 weeks. Please follow the signs for your own safety.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

No More Swimming Pools – Trail building

The early morning fog didn’t deter the usual suspects from turning up with recent recruits Ben and William coming back for more – thanks guys. Today’s plan was to hit the first two big berms on Tackeroo that have resembled swimming pools recently.

After cutting and signing a diversion around our work area, we set to work digging trenches into the backs of the berms to drain the water and later take the pipes. Once Jez had broken through the dam on the upper berm, a torrent of mud and water cascaded down the bank for several minutes.

We were expecting to find a shopping trolley or rusty old bike in the sumps but other than rather smelly silt, there were no surprises – that said a couple of mobile phones did end up in the mud …. remember to zip up your pockets!

Once the pipes were in place, the trenches were filled and the material compacted. To finish the job, the berms were reshaped and wackered smooth – let’s hope with the drainage pipes in place, they stay that way.

Next on the list are the two berms above Werewolf Drops so expect another short cut through the trees next Sunday.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Special Delivery

A big thanks go to Stuart from the Cemex quarry for organising the free trail surfacing material and Neil, the tipper truck driver, for making four drops on Saturday morning. Following these deliveries, we now have 80 tonnes of material dotted around the Dog ready for our vital repairs.

The guys will be delivering more material in coming weeks for future work on the Monkey Trail.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Four down .... loads more to go - Trail building

The last two Sundays have seen us make a start on improving the drainage to the many berms on the Dog and Monkey. To do a proper job, we’re cutting a channel through the wall of the berm and installing a 150mm diameter drainage pipe to carry water from the sump well away from the trail.

It’s going to take us a while but the end results will be well worth it.

Next Sunday, we'll be making a start on the seven berms or should that be swimming pools in Tackeroo.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Future works

With the darker evenings, winter is most definitely on its way so our attention is turning to winterising the trails as best we can. Anyone who’s ridden the Dog recently will know that several of the berms have turned into lagoons – experience has shown that after a couple of years the sumps slit up and no longer drain effectively. With this in mind, we have mapped all the berms on the Dog and Monkey that need drainage pipes (20 in total).

Experimenting with the top two berms on the descent into Deercote has proved that we can cut a trench, lay the pipe and back fill without needing to close the trail long term. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be hitting these berms so with a bit of luck, your socks should stay drier for longer.

Some remedial work has already been done on the worst berms until we can get around to doing a proper job so please bear with us.


Forthcoming Events

The following events are happening on Cannock Chase over the coming months - check out the websites for further details:

Saturday 6th October – Evans “Ride It” Mountain Bike Ride
Starting at the 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 likeminded cyclists and get out and ride in stunning surroundings.
For more details see

Sunday 7th October – Evans “Ride It” Road Sportive
Starting at the 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. More details

Saturday 20th October – Specialized UK Demo Day
Birches Valley Forest Centre
Specialized UK demo day starting at Birches Valley giving you the chance to test ride the latest Specialized bikes.

Saturday 3rd November – Forestry Commission 4x4
Starting at Birches Valley Forest Centre
Join the Rangers in your 4x4 to explore Cannock Chase from behind the wheel. Follow a Forestry Commission guide in your 4x4 vehicle and view Cannock Forest from a different perspective.

Saturday 1st December – Trailplus Adventure Challenge
Starting at Tackeroo Caravan Site
Team adventure challenge event including trail running, mountain biking and kayak canoeing and special challenges.

Saturday 1st December – Santa’s Grand Arrival
11am Birches Valley Forest Centre
See Santa and his reindeer make their grand arrival at Birches Valley.

Saturday 1st til Wednesday 19th December– Christmas Tree Sales
Birches Valley Forest Centre
Come and visit our winter wonderland selling a wide range of sustainably grown real Christmas trees in the beautiful woodland setting of Cannock Chase.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Forest Discovery Day

Thanks to everyone who stopped for a chat – it’s good to get feedback from the public. The old trail route markers come mug coasters went down well - again thank you to those who purchased them along with the pens…. one chap said he was getting one for his girl friend so she’d know where her bike was kept!

As part of the day, we utilised our time wisely to demonstrate how rocks are split and the boardwalk is constructed – this will get used on the trails so it won’t go to waste.

On their stand, the Forestry Commission guys were running a competition to name a section of trail – they received 37 entries and the best suggestion will be immortalised in wood. The entries will be judged next weekend so watch this space for the winning details ….


Sunday, 23 September 2012

"Berm Bailing" – Trail building

Today's trail building involved...laying pipe. We started off the day by adding a quick diversion around where we were working, once that was done, a trench was dug in the berm to drain away the water that had accumulated, then the pipe was dropped in, and covered up (plus the hole inside the berm was made a bit bigger). Finally, a bit of whacking to harden the surface again, and it was ready to be reopened, just as the rain started.

The berm now drains a lot better (hopefully), and since it can double up as conduit, when the trails are eventually tarmac'd and lighting added all the way around, you'll be able to see at night. Plus, power sockets will be added every 100 meters along the trail to help riders who have that new electronic suspension since they'll need to charge their bike up all the time..

Okay, I lied, it's only for drainage. There won't be tarmac, lights, or power sockets, ever. [Are you sure about that! – Andrew].


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Forest Discovery Day – Sunday 30th September

On Sunday 30th September, from 12 pm to 4 pm, we’ll be holding a Forest Discovery Day at Birches Valley. This is a great chance to find out more about Forestry, Wildlife, Recreation, MTB Trail building, Orienteering, Huskies, Go Ape and lots more. There will be loads of activities and competitions for all ages throughout the day.

Paul Massey and his team from Mountain Bike Adventures will be running free skills sessions and on hand to offer tips and pointers.

There will be a couple of talks related to mountain biking followed by Q&A sessions so if you have any thing you want to ask or find out more about please come along.

Chase Trails will be demonstrating boardwalk construction and will be there to sign up new volunteers and members and answer question on trail building.

There will be a competition to name a section of the trail. This will be your only chance to name a section and have to immortalised in wood. There will also be spot prizes and the chance to win a year’s car parking pass.

Other activities include the chance to have a try on Segway, have a go at micro orienteering with local club, Walton Chasers plus loads of things to see and activities for kids.

12:30 pm – MTB Skills Session
1 pm – Talk on Managing Mountain Biking followed by Q&A
2 pm – Talk on History of Chase Trails & volunteer trail building followed by Q&A
2 pm – MTB Skills Session

See you there,

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Harry’s looking good – Trail building

As we didn’t have time to finish the repairs on “Harry” (the last of the rock gardens on the ‘Red Monkey’) the other weekend, today’s mission was to install a crib wall and back fill with suitable sized rocks.

While Martin and Steve split several large rocks into more manageable pieces, Dave, Jez and Matt drove the rounds into the ground to support the larch planks which are bolted in place with coachscrews.

The rest of the crew took the opportunity to do a spot of routine maintenance – removing the “marbles” and pine needles followed by de-berming the edge of the trail to reduce the number of puddles.

The finished job looks good and it was down to me to test ride it in front of the heckling crew – that what comes of taking your bike to a build session.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Temporary Closure of ‘Red Monkey’ on Sunday 16th September

To allow for us to complete the repairs to the final rock garden on the ‘Red Monkey’, we will be imposing a temporary diversion from the red/black trail decision point (near the ‘M3’ information post) out onto the fire road then down to the end of the section.

The ‘Black Monkey’ may be effected depending on how work progresses.

Please obey all warning signs and any requests from the trail crew for your own safety – we’ll be shifting some sizeable rocks on Sunday.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

What's on your Christmas list?

I know it's only September but you do have to plan ahead!

This weekend, the core members of Chase Trails paid a visit to Thetford Forest to meet up with their trail builders - the TIMBER folks. It was an early start on Saturday morning to get to Thetford by 9:30 am. After exchanging introductions and signing in, we had a quick briefing on the day’s work – rebuilding a flowing single track climb. Whilst pruning back the branches and raking off the pine needles along the trail corridor, the sound of an engine echoing amongst the trees signified that the Kanga had arrived. This is a compact stand-on tracked machine that can be fitted with various hydraulic powered attachments. The TIMBER guys have it kitted out with rotovator for breaking up the sandy ground. Their trained operators took it in turns to work along the section whilst the rest of the volunteers piled the rotovated material to form the new trail bed.

It wasn’t long before their other “toy” arrived by trailer – a Bomag. It’s a remotely controlled articulated roller weighing in at just over 1.5 tonnes – definitely something for the Chase Trails’ Christmas list. It made short work of compacting the new trail, especially as it vibrates while trundling along the trail – much quicker than our wacker!

It had been a productive day with over 100 metres of trail refurbished. After a little weathering and once the bracken grows back, it will take on that natural look all the Thetford trails have. To finish the day, the guys laid on a BBQ – a perfect way to soak up the rays while exchanging stories over a burger or two.

After a hearty breakfast, we met up with the TIMBER guys for a guided ride around the best bits of their trails. For those that think Thetford is flat, think again. OK, we’re not talking mountains but there are descents and climbs which add to the variety of riding. As you’re pedalling constantly, it’s a good workout – covering just short of 20 miles, we finished at the visitor centre cafĂ© for lunch.

A big thanks to everyone involved in organising our visit and making us feel so welcome - the FC rangers: Emma (from Thetford) & Gary (from Cannock) and all the TIMBER folks. Click here for more details about TIMBER - who they are and what they do.

Dave, Jez and I will be heading east again next month for ‘Dusk to Dawn’ organised by Thetford MTB Racing. Click here for more details. 


Friday, 7 September 2012

Skinny final dies - Trail update

The fallen tree that became the log skinny on 'Follow the Dog' after the “Stegosaurus” and causeway bridge is no more. Following a trail inspection yesterday, we found severe rot in the feature so in the interests of safety it has been removed.

We have plans afoot to add similar features elsewhere so watch this space …..


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

No Trail Building on Sunday 9th September

The core trail crew are on a road trip to Thetford Forest this coming weekend. We're meeting up with TIMBER, their local trail builders to share knowledge and experiences whilst lending a hand at one of their building sessions. We also get chance to ride with the guys on their trails - both man-made and natural stuff.

For more details of TIMBER click here. There’ll be a full report on our escapades in a future post.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

“Tom, Dick & Harry” – Trail building

As posted previously, this Sunday saw us up on the “Red Monkey” doing some much needed maintenance on the rock gardens. As regulars to the Chase will know, there are three rocky descents in this section so Frank aptly christened them “Tom”, “Dick” and “Harry”. All three require work but first a diversion was cut so we could work in safety. This was to be a permanent route that would become a waymarked ‘short cut’ for those that don’t fancy the rocks. With haste, branches were trimmed, top soil dug off and way marker posts planted. Meanwhile, the “Rock Splitters” (Martin and Steve) fired up the generator and turned the large rocks into Swiss cheese before slicing them into manageable chucks with the wedges and feathers.

‘Harry’ needs the most work, requiring a timber crib wall to be erected then back filled with rocks. As the trail was to reopen later in the day, we concentrated on the other two sections. The Bruces, Frank, Jez and new volunteer William worked on ‘Dick’ whilst I replanted a missing waymarker at the end of the trail. Returning to find much shuffling of rock, I accepted the easy task of dropping a slab at the bottom of ‘Tom to prevent the step down growing deeper. “Crash Test” Bruce donned is helmet and test rode my handiwork to ensure everything was good.

As soon as ‘Dick’ was finished, Bruce happily rode the new line several times just to check that the rocks were nicely bedded in – sorted. We’ll be returning to have a bash at ‘Harry’ and maybe the “Black Monkey” in a couple of week’s time.