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Mountain bike trail group in the Forest of Dean fears after funding cut

By RupertJ  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

Alan Grist of Dean Trail Volunteers

Alan Grist of Dean Trail Volunteers

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A volunteer group which looks after mountain bike trails in the Forest of Dean fears the attraction could be "left behind" due to lack of funding.

For almost four years Alan Grist, head of the Dean Trail Volunteers (DTV), has looked after several bike trails in the Sallow Vallets enclosure with his team of enthusiasts.

But with almost 100,000 bikers riding the trails each year, Alan and his team are hard pushed to keep on top of maintaining the trail.

And there is a need to create new trails through the woods and valleys to keep biking in the Forest up to speed with its competitors, such as Cwmcarn in Wales.

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Top priority for the volunteers is to extend the existing red run (a cross-country route just one grade below a black run, the most difficult) from its current three miles up to 10 miles.

It's something which would cement the Forest's growing identity as one of the top mountain biking locations in the country but the project is too big for the group of volunteers.

The Forestry Commission, which owns the land, provides around £50,000 a year to maintenance of bike trails in the Dean, some of which comes from the £3 day parking charge at places like the Pedalbikeaway centre in Cannop.

But after 25 per cent funding cuts and many job losses at the Commission, regional recreation head Phil Morton said they simply could not afford to spend more on mountain biking.

And he emphasised that the broad appeal of mountain biking in the Dean – to families as well as downhill riders – made major projects like the extension of the red route unfeasible.

Mr Grist, 48 and from Cinderford, has been a mountain biker for 30 years and has lived in the Dean for 17 years. He is also appealing to local businesses to come forward and supply funding, in return for sponsorship of the highly popular bike trails.

He said: "For the sheer amount of business mountain biking brings to this area – we get people from all over the country who stay in local B&Bs, have lunch in the pubs – the amount of support we get is really minimal.

"To extend the red route would be brilliant but we don't have the manpower, the money or the machines that we need to get it done.

"If a local company – preferably one on the Forestry Commission's books – could help us out with construction and sponsorship, then that would be great.

"The danger is that if we don't keep improving – never mind just maintaining what we already have – then we get left behind and bikers start going elsewhere.

"Mountain biking's a growing sport in this country and we want to be at the forefront of it."

Mr Morton said: "We have a budget and a full management and design plan for the area but we have had to make cuts and there's only so much money we can spend.

"Most of the people who ride the trails in the Forest are families, with children, and the way we spend what funding we do have has to reflect that.

"The Dean Trail Volunteers do a fantastic job and I'd love to be able to double the amount of funding support we can give them but we just don't have the money.

"We are working with them to put together a sponsorship agreement similar to what we have done in Leigh Woods, in Bristol."

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  • DeanTrailVol  |  December 04 2012, 8:23AM

    in response to MTBUK I think you maybe missing the point, we are to few and skint So unless people start coming to digs to help and we can get some cash injection we can't get anything much done regardless of priorities We spent £14,000 on the Downhill Tracks (top section,endo and gbu) I personally spent 4 months working on GBU every weekend and wednesday evening So know I intend to prioritise the XC for at least the same time and money if i can find some Verderers was built as a Blue Mid Skill Level Trail the people that Ride it (8000) a month will soon get bored so we need the next step up to be a Good Red Trail and currently we have a very worn 3 mile Red Trail so for me extending Freeminers is No 1 priority until it is at least 10 miles long Other Members of DTV will continue to work on DH tracks but like i said there is LOADS we want and need to being doing but with 4 people turning up to dig days we can't even keep up with wear and tear maintenance and unless we get some sponsorship and a lot more people come to dig it will take about 8 years to finish the XC So lets see more people joining dig days and joining DTV via our website every penny helps http://tinyurl.com/bvqr6vp and digs are in the events section at https://http://tinyurl.com/bu37qlr I can be contacted at dtvchairman@hotmail.co.uk

    Rate   1
  • MTBUK  |  November 29 2012, 2:02AM

    Actually, hate to throw a spanner in the works, but there's a lot of repair work to be done on the DHs before any improvement work is carried out on the Freeminer's. Drove up to the Forest of Dean yesterday and rode the Verders, Freeminers, GBU and Corkscrew - all had some sections in very poor condition, presumably after the heavy rain. If I was being pedantic, I'd say that neither the GBU or Corkscrew should be passing their weekly safety inspection in their current condition - and before you all start giving me an ear-bashing, I do have experience in trail management. I would agree that bringing the Freeminer's up to standard is important, but it's not a Health and Safety issue and so it isn't a priority.

    Rate 0
  • obscurasky  |  November 26 2012, 7:08PM

    Sponsorship is a great idea, but ideally, it should be in a format that benefits the local commumity. A single, large, sponsor would certainly make life easier for the Forestry Commission, but it's unlikley that there are any small businesses locally who could afford to stump up that kind of money. I'd prefer to see either individual sections sponsored, or some kind of joint sponsorship arrangement - where the overall cost of sponsorship is split into affordable packages.

    Rate   14
  • pnutcracknell  |  November 26 2012, 3:19PM

    lydneylass, You really should get your facts straight before putting finger to keyboard. DTV have put considerable time into the freeminers trail over the last 3 years. Those berms and rollers on the descents didn't build themselves you know, they cost money to have the material moved into place and man hours to have them shaped by hand. That's before I mention the bridges and other work that we have done to help fix some of muddiest areas. The main reason we did less X.C work over summer was that we needed GBU finished for our final D.H race, which was part of a fundraiser for building more trails. We really struggle to get any help with digging, especially on the X.C side as it seems to be mostly downhill riders that are interested in giving a hand. If you really want to help improve the red route Find dean trail volunteers on facebook and go to the events page and turn up to the next X.C dig and give them a hand, any help, even one dig a year will be greatly appreciated. Also, in the grand scheme of things, GBU is still pretty easy for a downhill track and most downhillers have no problem at all riding it as all the features are rollable, or have chicken runs around un-rollable features.

    Rate   -1
  • DeanTrailVol  |  November 26 2012, 2:21PM

    Facts about Dean Trail Volunteers Dean Trail Volunteers have existed for just over 3 years DTV came into being as a result of an appeal by the Forestry for a Group to be formed DTV do not get paid or have any regular funding Walford Timber are one of the few non MTB related local businesses to have been supportive For the last 2 years we have bought our own tools If DTV received £50,000 for trail maintenance we would not be appealing for funding ! On a regular basis only 5 people turn up to Trail Build Sessions which we do every weekend The Chairman of DTV went round with his begging bowl to get the £14,000 that was needed to pay a contractor to build 1000m of Downhill Track that needed machinery as the job was to big for manpower alone For those that ride in the FoD the £14,000 paid for the New Section from the Start Mound, the bottom of Endo and the bottom of Good Bad & Ugly Of the £14,000 £5000 of this was paid by the Forestry and contributions also came from Ian Officer at Pedalabikeaway and Simon Ruskin of the Flyupdownhill Service The balance was paid by DTV The Verderers Trail was built with SW Development Grant money and is the property and sole responsibility of the Forestry, DTV are not responsible for its upkeep/maintenance. The Chairman of the Dean Trail Volunteers works full-time, has a family and gives over 200 hours a year to working on the Trails !! Contact dtvchairman@hotmail.co.uk for further facts

    Rate   8
  • Alfredo_  |  November 26 2012, 9:40AM

    @LydneyLass - put your money where your mouth it. @Spud0 - what are you talking about? The mountain bike course is/will be open to the public after a few modifications, you can ride the velodrome, and you can also ride the road routes. @MRadd - agree on all points. It properly f.... me off to see people parking in that little lay-by next to the pond just outside PABA. Pay your £3 (or get a super-value annual pass) and go for chips & beans afterwards! The cycle routes, family, XC or DH, make up a massive resource that's right on our doorstep. It's superb.

    Rate   -2
  • vockered  |  November 25 2012, 10:31PM

    Oh you mean SALLOW VALLETTS, still this is TIG so what would we expect. Why on earth don't you get reporters who know proper place names

    Rate 0
  • notthedtv  |  November 24 2012, 5:20PM

    Sorry should have been a little clearer in my reply - 90% of the Forestry Commissions's efforts have been put into the bridge, car park, Verderers, skills area, etc. With majority of the funding coming from the South West Development Grant. You might find the Freeminers an easy track but I am guessing that your riding skills are much more advanced than the average rider. Freeminers can be tricky track for your average rider esp in the wet. Don't forget the 7 mile Verderers trail which is built for the majority of riders and the big red descent at the end. As with any organisation the active members are the driving force behind what they do and what they achieve. The DTV is no different. If you don't like what they do then get off your saddle and put your shovel in the dirt and help. Every little bit of digging help would be appreciated even if you can only manage a couple of dig days a year. So really it's a case of "dig up or shutup" -said in a polite way :-) of course.

    Rate   3
  • LydneyLass  |  November 24 2012, 1:29PM

    notthedtv - correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that the building/maintenance of Verderers, the road bridge, the skills areas and the car park re-vamp are nothing to do with DTV. Construction of the GBU track, by the DTV, must have taken the most extraordinary amount of effort, time and funding, yet it's a 3 dot track that's unridable by most people using the centre. The Freeminer route, on the other hand, falls within the level of most riders, but receives virtually no attention whatso ever. So, no, I don't think I have it the wrong way around at all. As for me moaning, well maybe I am, but I'm not alone. Go onto the Forestry Comission website and see how many other people have complained about the standard of the Freeminer trail also.

    Rate   12
  • notthedtv  |  November 24 2012, 9:49AM

    LydneyLass - you have your stats the wrong way round - 90% of the effort and funding has gone into the family/xc trail side of things - building of Verderers, road bridge, skills areas, car park re-vamp, etc. All positive developments I might add. You are obviously concerned with how things are so why not get involved with the DTV and help shape the way things are done? Better than just moaning via a keyboard.

    Rate   2