Posts Tagged ‘Thetford Forest’

Last weekend’s race on the BCP side of Thetford Forest may well be the last time anyone gets to ride some of the best trails in the forest. Yes, that’s right, the harvesters are moving in and local sources tell me it sounds like work has begun on the Four Bridges area already. It is a real shame but it has happened before and new trails will emerge from the wreckage.

I have been riding in the forest since the late 1980s and it has changed beyond recognition not once, but many times. There was a ‘golden period’ when the riding was fantastic, there were very few bikes on the trails and you could put together a two or three hour ride of almost constant singletrack on the BCP side alone. In due course, and for reasons I will not go into again, this time has passed and most of the good riding on the ‘dry side’ has been lost to us. What was left (until last weekend) represented the skeletal remains of some arguably the best trail network to be found…anywhere. This too is under the cosh now and it is hard to remain enthusiastic about what will remain and frankly, the limited options on the High Lodge side.

In memory of the dead trails I will put a discreet black band around my frame as I mourn the loss of some (more) old friends.

At the end of the day though, none of these are ‘our’ trails, they don’t belong to us and a little like friends and family, they have only ever been on loan. One day, they will all go, or we will take our leave of them, in turn, and what then? With a little bit of nurturing, a touch of tlc and the passage of time, a new generation of tracks will emerge all shiny and clean, ready to begin the cycle once more.

The trails are dead! Long live the trails! Rest assured, something will emerge but don’t make the mistake of thinking that trails make themselves, don’t be a lazy so and so, leaving the work to others. Get involved. This did not start off as a recruiting poster for trail pixies but this time round, believe me, Kitchener is looking you straight in the eye, demanding your help!

Trail building…..years ago, it was a case of riding around, spotting a potential line in the trees then coming back with some friends, clearing overhanging branches, scraping back the pine needles, trying out the lines and riding it over and over again. Once happy with the result you would simply mark the entrance, spread the word, and before too long a new trail would be established. I did this all the time and always knew I had done well when people would tell me about a ‘new bit’ at such and such an area, or when it would be adopted for race use. My riding mates were not always so happy though as I’d invariably use them as unwilling volunteers’ leading them down sections that ‘just need riding in’.

Like the trails however, times have changed. I no longer know everyone in the car park, rider volumes have expanded dramatically and we have to do things differently now. For a gnarly old timer I have had to embrace change slowly, reluctantly, and have almost fully adjusted now. The increase in traffic means more erosion, trails being damaged by riders who rely on their brakes, rather than any skill, to get them round corners, through berms etc or who are unable to bring their bike to a controlled halt without leaving long skid marks everywhere. Advances in bike technology mean that people can get themselves into more trouble than they realise and yes, they end up hurting themselves. The Forestry Commission often end up picking up the pieces and sorting out the liability issues when people set themselves challenges they are nowhere near being able to meet.

The point behind this? (Yes I can ramble on for ages) Make some effort, give something back to the forest. In austere times such as these, the Forestry Commission do not have money to throw about, they have no resources to spare and without volunteers, the trail network will most surely disappear. There is only one group in the forest dedicated to the creation and upkeep of the trail network; there is only one group run by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers who give their time and money to working on the trails you enjoy. There is only one group who are so far ahead of other UK trail pixies that they are being held up as an example for others to follow. Yes, it is Timber. Membership is ridiculously cheap so even if you can’t give your time, make the effort to join…your contribution will go back to the forest, your trails and ultimately your fun. Check out the website and the forum (quite an active place actually) to see what is going on. Most of the inhabitants are (more or less) human and it isn’t somewhere where you get shot down in flames by regulars.


I watched this little film with interest as work on the trails at Gisburn seem very similar to that done in Thetford Forest by Timber and the FC. Hand built trails constructed by a volunteer group combined with longer sections put together by professional contractors. The only difference seems to be one of gradient.

For those of you who don’t know what Timber is about, they were formed a handful of years ago, initially as a pressure group, to stop what was perceived as a program of trail destruction by the FC either by design or neglect. It didn’t take long to realise that this was a mistake, very little pressure was required, the FC didn’t envisage wholesale trail destruction, instead they welcomed volunteer input with open arms. After a few teething problems where rider aspirations had to be adapted to the reality of working with a large organisation, a partnership flourished. The introduction of a new Chairman and the gradual phasing out of the old committee saw Timber move onto bigger and better things. New vision, new energy and new ideas resulted in some major advances for Timber, plant was purchased for use in the forest and a systematic program of work was introduced. Timber are now a bigger and better organisation although they are small enough to be friendly and welcoming to newcomers. Apart from trail work there are regular rides and even a race presence though there are no full on, serious, racing snakes in the ranks.

All that is needed now is a film maker to make a short film such as the one seen above, a larger than life character such as Ed Oxley to do the introductions and Timber will be world famous!

If you are in Thetford Forest and enjoy the trail network, give a thought to the guys who turn up on frosty/wet/cold winter Saturdays to work on the trails. It only costs a fiver to join and even if you can’t give a hand with a shovel or rake, your contribution will have helped preserve the trails you are riding on.

Timber are sponsored by the FC, Hirebase, Revel Outdoors and Bike Art.

Pretty much like part 1 actually, just more snaking trails.

… you’ll just have to search for it as I ‘m not telling you where it is! 🙂

Sunday ride in Thetford

Posted: February 13, 2011 in 2011, Rides
Tags: ,

A short-ish ride this time but we kept the pace as high as we could. As I am struggling with speed and stamina at the moment, I am finding it really tough going. Average moving speed of 11 mph is quite reasonable. Conditions were good and we had a bit of fun.

Saw Beanfield (Timber) just starting out as we were finishing.

Tune of the ride

Sunday ride in Thetford by slowjo61 at Garmin Connect – Details.

A section of single track familiar to everyone who rode WS3. This is further footage of my camera mount test. I have edited this quite heavily to fit into the space available (500MB). I think it shows off some nice trails and some decent riding from my mates, especially as they dropped me quite comprehensively!

There is more to come from this ride but it might have to be back to YouTube and their horrible compression if I am to get it all on before it is time to start filming again!

I fitted this to the Swift yesterday and took it out for an inaugural try out. I didn’t go far, down the road, along some very lumpy fire road and back. Despite riding a rigid bike, the picture was very steady with no sign of wobble at all. I’ll be going out to Thetford this morning, probably over to Santon Downham side and back via the Gay Trail (don’t ask) which will cover almost every type of terrain. This will be the best test yet. I’ll post some clips on this entry later in the day if I get time.

Oh yes, yesterday for the first time, I noticed the slight fish eye quality to the film that others have spoken of. No big deal when you get used to it but a little weird ar first!

I am in the middle of downloading the video clips to iMovie so it will take several hours before i can even start editing but having watched  the raw footage I can confirm that the image is very stable with no sign of camera wobble at all. I rode on fire road and some very lumpy single track as well as some really buff trails (currently in perfect condition). I didn’t want to give the camera or the mount an easy ride so I fixed it my rigid 29er with a reasonable amount of pressure in the tyres. Rich and Dan were my riding companions and both have the legs on me at the moment though I don’t doubt I can edit the footage to show me on their tails all the time! I think the experiment was a success and with the camera mounted low-ish you got a really good impression of the speed we were riding at whereas mounted higher up, the impression of speed just disappears.