The Forestry Commission’s build-more-trails ethos is becoming ever-more pervasive in England, having already had a huge impact in Wales and Scotland (although not Northern Ireland – more on that soon…). Next on the hit-list is Kielder Forest in Northumberland. There’s 155,000 acres of woodland there, and FC is looking for enthusiastic riders to form a volunteer trailbuilding team.
Kielder is reckoned to be one of the nation’s great untapped areas for mountain biking. Currently, trails use forest roads or the former Border railway line. While these offer a great experience of the spectacular countryside, they provide less scope to cater for bikers of widely varying abilities, nor do they offer any skills areas. The new group will allow enthusiasts to shape Kielder’s future as a top mountain bike destination, said Alex MacLennan, Recreation, Communities and Tourism manager:
“Volunteer trail building teams have worked well in other areas. Bikers get a big say in the design of routes and their construction, before saddling-up to ride the trails. We know there’s plenty of enthusiasm for this move, which many local off-road fans have been urging for a long time.”
Trailbuilders will meet once a fortnight on Saturday mornings, starting in November, and take a ride into the forest in the afternoon. Even non-bikers are welcome to lend a hand.
New trails have played a key role in rural regeneration in many parts of the UK. The trails at Glentress just over the border from Kielder have seen visitors increase from 50,000 to 300,000 in just five years, boosting the economy. Many north east bikers currently head to Scotland or Wales, where massive investments have been made in off-roading. But hopes are high that Kielder could figure among the hot-spots in future years.
Alex continued: “Kielder is so vast that there’s huge scope to create trails for everyone, from novices and families to advanced riders. Its sheer size also means we can cater for other forest users like walkers and horse riders with little conflict. By creating all-weather trails, biking in Kielder would be a year-round activity, which is good news for local pubs, restaurants and hotels.”
The Forestry Commission also wants feedback on the kind of mountain bike facilities people would like to see developed. Whether you are into jumps, drop-offs, natural or man made trails, north shore or free riding, now is the time to make your views count.
To volunteer as a trailbuilder, or give your opinions, contact Alex MacLennan on 01434 220242 or via email.