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Hamsterley hits the big time

Phase 1 of Hamsterley Forest’s new trails project nears completion

Attentive readers will have noticed that big-money UK trail building activity is largely confined to Scotland and Wales, with England being largely the preserve of the dedicated volunteer. But Hamsterley Trailblazers are bucking the trend, having teamed up with the Forestry Commission and a bunch of other funding partners to raise over £200,000 for what is believed to be the biggest trail building project in England.

The goal is to make Hamsterley Forest in County Durham the premier MTB venue in England, and Phase 1 of building is already under way under the eagle eye of expert trail builder Pete Laing of 7Stanes fame. The first step is a skills area and a new off-road link between the visitor centre and the Grove end of the forest where most of the MTB stuff is concentrated. The idea is that the “Grove Link” will double as a low-conflict route to the fun stuff and a “Green Route” to give the less experienced a taste of off-road riding. The Green route and skills area are almost complete, and once they’re done it’ll be time to move on to the next phase of the project.

Phases 2 & 3 involve a system of stacked loops at the Grove end, designed to make the most of the forest and surrounding moorland. Pete Laing has identified over 50km of potential Red and Black-graded trails in the area, which will allow the Trailblazers and FC to shift the focus of mountain biking in the forest away from other forest users. The full trail network should really put England on the UK (and perhaps even international) purpose-built trail map.

All this isn’t going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to happen without more money. Raising £200,000 from a variety of public and private sources was an impressive achievement, but completing the project will need another £2,000,000. It’s a huge target, but the people behind the project believe that it can be reached.

Founding member Mike Richardson says, “The amount of money that has been raised in such a short period has been phenomenal. The funding has started to become available as funding agencies and Forestry Commission have realised that the Hamsterley Trailblazers have the drive, enthusiasm and capacity to make this dream a reality. We need to get grass root riders from around the globe involved in projects like this. We know that there are literally thousands of mountain bikers in the North East region and beyond. We need these riders to become members so that potential funding agencies can see there is a genuine interest in mountain biking and that the money will be well spent and used. By becoming members, riders don’t necessarily have to get their hands dirty or attend meetings, it’s their support we need.”

It’s a simple equation – more members equals a higher profile and a greater ability to attract funding for trails. That’s obviously a primary benefit of being a member, and you don’t even have to lift a spade. But the Trailblazers have put together a very respectable membership package – free vehicle access to the forest (which alone would cover the cost of membership after eight visits), organised rides and other social outings, free coaching on club rides, discounts on skills courses, weekend breaks and instructor courses with local operator Grit Mountain Biking and discounts at local bike shops Iron Horse Cycles and Specialised Cycles. Find out more at http://www.hamsterley-trailblazers.co.uk/


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