Volunteer Trail Builders

There’s plenty of opportunity for helping build and maintain the trails at Gisburn. There’s a group that meets on the second Sunday of each month, heavily supported by the forestry commission team including the head forester.

The Gisburn Forest trail building volunteer group has been going strong now for over two years. Started by Martin Colledge (beat forester for Gisburn) after he realised that single handedly building the trails would take a while. The volunteers started building before the contractors built the upper loop of the 8 and have continued building ever since.

Gisburn Forest Trail Builders - log chiselling

At the last count (Feb 2013) 3.0km of singletrack, berms, bridges, log rides, rock gardens and boardwalk had been hand built and many tonnes of gravel laid in repairs (equivalent to over £100,000 of contractor costs, including the additional cost of trail features and drainage). One of the signature sections of singletrack at Gisburn, Homebaked, was built by the volunteers. The fact it was hand built and not bulldozed through with machinery gives it a very special extra tight and twisty feel. With no need to bring the heavy stuff in, only those trees which had to be removed were. The other key ingredient is the that the trails are built by local riders for local riders. We build, we ride, we tweak. You’ve heard of air guitar, well we practice air handle bars, and yes it does look as nerdy as it sounds but it does work. Fancy building a drop off in the trail, switch backing around those trees or going in the other direction, all you’ve got to do is convince your fellow volunteers on the day and that’s where the trail goes next. The map below shows in blue the sections built by volunteers so far on the bottom loop of the 8.

The volunteers have also been active with trail repairs. The spring of 2010 saw nearly 100 tonnes of gravel laid in Hully Gully to consolidate the trail bed built by contractors during the previous year. We also try and maintain what we’ve already built so a full dig day was set aside last summer to carry out repairs on Homebaked.

Future Plans.

Despite what’s already been achieved there’s loads more trail to be built. There is an ambitious long term plan, initially sketched out by Martin Colledge and Rowan Sorrell (Back On Track) but this hasn’t stopped additional areas for trail building be identified as well. The log ride section was not part of the original plan and neither is the Hope Line. The main XC volunteer group started a new section in March 2011 which whilst in concept was part of the original plan, has already significantly deviated from the original route to incorporate a rather fine gully just begging for some bench cut flowing swoopyness. This new section has the potential to add over a kilometre of new singletrack and should open in mid 2012.

Dig Days.

We hold scheduled dig days on the second Sunday in each month. We sometimes sneak additional days in if people are up for it and have also had mid week dig days so people working weekends and shifts can come and give us a hand. Dig days will be added to the events page on here as well as be communicated through email and posted on our Facebook page.

We have all sorts of people come out and help us dig, not every one is even a rider. No experience is necessary as there’s always either a member of the Forestry Commission staff or an experienced volunteer on hand to give advice and generally get in the way. We provide all tools, gloves and even brews & biscuits (digs led by Martin tend to have the best choccy biscuit selection and it’s worth coming to the dig day before Christmas if last year’s selection of cakes was anything to go by). All you need to bring is your lunch, a water proof and ideally a decent pair of boots. Enthusiasm doesn’t hurt either, sometimes it rains, sometimes it snows, other times the sun is glorious but regardless of the weather we generally have a good time and get some more trail laid.

Gisburn Trail Builders - Come rain or shine

Gisburn Trail Builders - Undercover brew

We usually meet at 10:00 am and work through to around 3ish, really depends on the weather, how people are feeling and whether Martin suggests adding another thirty metres on to the trail after lunch! We do actually stop for lunch, around 30 minutes for a chat and brews.

We are lucky enough to be allowed to drive into the forest and park close to where we’re building so we don’t have to walk for miles to get to Gisburn volunteer meeting point mapthe dig site, or worse still miles back to the car at the end. The only downside of driving on the fire roads is all the flippin cyclists so we do try to keep our speeds down. The access gates will be unlocked before the dig and locked up after everyone has left. Meeting points vary depending on where we’re working and how quickly the trail is progressing.

How do I Get Involved?

Drop us an email to contactus@pmba.org.uk, it really is that simple. We’ll add you to the mailing list so you know when the next dig day is (it’s worth getting on the mailing lists as very occasionally the dig days can get cancelled at the last minute, usually due to snow as it’s hard to build trails when you can’t see the ground). All you need to do is turn up, we’re a friendly bunch (as long as we’ve been fed), no pre-booking is needed. If you want to email us before coming that’s fine to. Come for an hour, come for the day, you might even get addicted, after all it’s not that different from riding, certainly the same outcome, you’ll end up muddy, knackered and happier than you were before you started. If you already ride at Gisburn you’ve really got no excuse.

To add to the incentive though the Forestry Commission has created a parking pass scheme for volunteer trail builders. Put in three dig days in a year and you’ll get an annual parking pass for you local forest. Increase that to five dig days and the pass will cover Gisburn, Grizedale, Whinlatter, Kielder and Hamsterly.

One final reason for coming, we get to play with these beasties:

Gisburn Forest power carrier

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