This is about as much fun as a middle aged man can have armed only with a spade, a small bicycle, a wood with a status of “probably legal” and an afternoon running away from other stuff that is apparently more important.
More important than riding bicycles? A strange concept that resonates somewhere between “hollow” and “not at all” in my world. So armed with a mate, a foldingentrenchmenttool and a mental age of about 7, we set about clearing trails in a bijou landscape filled with bomb-holes, steep sided run-ins, leaf-fall and apparent abandonment.
For about three years, the mutt and I haveperambulatedalong the main track, occasionally exploring by shuffling down banks and fighting through brambles. At no time have I come across anyone showing an interest in the acres of non-coppiced trees, or – in fact – anyone at all. One snowy December, twenty happyminutes were passed by Murf and I arse surfing down the banks into the bomb holes. It’s may not be much of a wood, but it feels like mine.
Surroundedby larger wooded areas – all of which are filled withpheasantshoots – and bookended by the main road in the valley and the crumbling one on the ridge, this little bit of green seems largely forgotten and neglected. So perfect for some trail poaching.
In my lunatic cross-bike days, trails were scoped out but largely ignored mainly through fear of death. And with so much brilliant riding 20 minutes away, it’s easy to understand door step ignoration of something half as good but twice as convenient. But today we had a proper look and were consumed with “Line Disease“*
Poaching trails not entirely without cheek has a certain etiquette. Pitching up sporting petrol driven chainsaws for example is frowned upon. As is chopping down anything that’s still alive, although selective pruning is fine. Drop-Shipping home built planks and north shore isn’t on at all, but smoothing soil over a likely stump is absolutely the ethos of cheeky trails.
We scoped a lot but built only a single trail before the call of night, tea and medals. It’s a pretty fun 20 second drop off the ridge, cranking right between two trees on off camber loam, bit of speed into a corner needing a berm and then two jumps, the first little, the second merely a trail pimple.
But with a bit of thought and a lot of effort, there is a loop to be made here. It might not be the 100k of sublime singletrack hidden in the Forest or the steep and deeps of the Malverns, but it’s right on my doorstep and I’ve a winter to get through.
My deeply held view of legally-ambivalent trails is simply this; we’re not destroying anything, we’re not breaking anything, we’re not nailing stuff to trees**, we are merely making use of dead space, forgotten land, abandoned acreage. I almost think of it as a public service – although I accept other views are available. Wrong, but available.
But the very best thing about creating something from nothing is this; while you may be 44 on the outside, it males you feel about 11 years old. And only someone with a less developed sense of humour than an accountant would see this as a bad thing.
* Many MTB’rs suffer from this: Look at something clearly unridable by you, stroke chin, rotate wrist 90 degrees describing the line through a shark like wiggle of the hand and declare “that’ll go”. Pause. “Probably“. Pause. “Fancy trying it first?”
** Until recently, a practice exclusively left to Christians and Canadians.