Pushing the envelope

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kielder_jones_lo (16K)

Pic: Mark Pinder

Construction of 33km of new trails is underway in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, as part of a project to turn Kielder Water and Forest Park into one of Europe’s top mountain biking destinations. The new trails, part of an £850,000 investment, will include red and blue routes and features including a 10m bridge spanning Plashetts Burn and a 1km elevated wooden section over an important wetland area.

Supervising the construction is former postman Ian Jones, a fact of which the official press release makes much – “POSTIE DELIVERS FIRST CLASS TRAILS!” was the headline that we didn’t use, replacing it with weak puns of our very own. He’s a Northumberland local, and explains his role thusly:

“My job is to help turn the vision into a reality, looking after the longer of two new routes, a 18.7 kilometre “red” trail which will be the first ever purpose-built cross-Border track. We’ve built just over a third of it so far, with teams often working after nightfall using powerful spotlights to get the job done.”

“We’re doing okay despite all the rainfall, which adds to the difficulty of working in such a remote spot. Although we have the design carefully mapped out, we can tweak it on the ground to include features like berms and turns that work well. The key is to use an expert eye to get the most out of the terrain. We want to get the job done before the worst of the winter weather. But being an ex-postman, I’m pretty rain resistant and I work in shorts so my legs dry quicker”.

Alex MacLennan, Recreation, Communities and Tourism Manager with the Forestry Commission, commented:

“We’ve used state of the art mapping systems to plot routes that steer clear of sensitive conservation sites. It’s impossible to overestimate the challenges of pushing through such a big project in England’s remotest corner. But we are making solid progress. Thanks to the sheer scale of Kielder, the peace is rarely disturbed by the work. But hidden away contractors are beavering away, adding another exciting and sustainable attraction to the area.”

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