Oakwell’s a go

As most of you will know by now, the Oakwell Hall MTB trail is open and ready to ride!!

fb_img_1546790479867

And boy is it good – fun, fast and flowing and full of berms, berms and more berms. It is a blue graded trail, but it is definitely at the top end of what a blue trail should be – meaning its great for beginners and shredders alike!!

So how did it all come about?

The trail has been in development for the past 13 months, but has been an idea for over 2 years. The initial plan was for a hand built trail, designed and created by local riders, with the consent of Oakwell. Obviously, with it being on council property, those responsible for Oakwell needed to be informed….and then the bombshell was dropped –  they said that if it’s going to be done, it should be done properly and  that there was potentially some funding available!! All that was needed was a funding bid to be written and presented to cabinet.

Easy, no problem!!  I had no experience of trail building or writing bids, but thought, what have I got to loose. So with the help of Amanda from Oakwell, the initial bid was written with construction costs pulled out of thin air – more guestimates than anything else!! With the bid written and submitted, it was a waiting game to see if we could get the funding, and low and behold, it was offered through the better homes funding scheme. Brilliant, onto the next stage – finding someone to build it.

I got in touch with a number of trail construction companies, looking to get them to take a look at the site and provide a quote for it…Bombshell number 2 then hit – the funding we had wasn’t going to get anything other than a path!!

What to do….

It appeared that the plan had fallen flat on it a*&e straight away. I started looking into funding streams and where I could get enough money to make something worthwhile. It was through a chance meeting that I was told about the Community Access Fund from Sport England and the Awards for All through the Big lottery fund.  Great, however you can’t apply as an individual, so that wasn’t going to work…Unless

The birth of Ride Kirklees.

The idea came like a lightning bolt of inspiration – Ride Sheffield and Lady Cannings, a community group, raising funds, building trails and promoting mountain biking for everyone. I’d met John Horscroft at Lady Cannings, and decided to get in touch and pick his brains about setting up a group in Kirklees to mirror the work of Ride Sheffield.

Setting up the group was easy enough – the benefits of social media!! The group started growing in numbers and support, and there was now a community group that could apply for funding and begin to make a positive contribution to mountain biking in Kirklees. So it was back to the computer, writing funding applications, submitting them and waiting for what seemed like ages!!

After a few telephone conversations and several emails, I got word from the Big lottery – success!! 1 step closer to getting the cash….A bit more waiting, more phone calls, quite a few more emails, and BINGO, Sport England were on board. We had the money!!!

Who to choose…

With the project being done through the council, there were a number of things that had to be done a certain way. They had the money (there was no way I was taking control of the cash!!) The construction had to be put to tender. I did some research on trail building companies and provided a list of the ones I thought would be suitable. A few companies submitted tender to build the trail, and it was then time to decide who would get the contract. A meeting was held with Oakwell staff, Kirklees council staff and group members from Ride Kirklees. The applications were scrutinized and discussed at length, with points awarded to each company for the way they were going to build the trail, maintain it, and how much it was going to cost.

It was a close call, but Bike Track got it. Not the cheapest, but definitely the most thorough, offering a really good service in designing, building and maintaining the trail.

And their off…

With bike track selected to build the trail, it was then down to them to carry out site surveys and design the trail. This is quite a lengthy process, and can’t be rushed (unless you just want a path through the woods!!) and it was a few months before some designs were seen, and approved. The scheme of works was drawn up, all we needed was for LUBP red trail to be finished, and bike track were going to get on with Oakwell.

And get on with it they did!! Trees were marked up for felling, fences were flagged for removal, and it was over to Oakwell staff and volunteers and Ride Kirklees to get the trail clear ready for the machines and Jordan with his gang to get on site.

In no time at all, the majority of the trail was cleared, and bike tracks compound set up. The stone was delivered and ferried around the fields ready to be laid out. Within a couple of weeks, there was a definite trail forming, and it was time to have a meeting a sign it off so the build could progress.

As soon as the initial digging out of the trail had been signed off, the stone started going in. It was an impressive sight to see. A group of 5 guys, with a digger, dumper, rakes and shovels shifted countless tonnes of stone into the woods and sculpted the trail pretty much by hand.dsc_0012 They worked tirelessly, and pretty soon, I was asked to go and sign off the next phase of the build. When I arrived, I felt like a kid at Christmas – it was more than I could have imagined. There was a trail, a perfect ribbon of sculpted mountain bike heaven just waiting to be ridden.

A couple more weeks, and the build was complete, but unfortunately mother nature was against us, and decided to rain in vast amounts and saturate the trail, meaning no amount of wacker plateing was going to make it ready to ride….and so, back to the waiting game!!!

Bike track had said they would be complete by mid December – and true to their word they were, but with the heavy rainfall, it was decided that it would be after Christmas and probably new year until it had firmed up and was ready to ride. No bother, there was still plenty of work that needed to be done.

One of the main jobs to get on with was ensuring that the dog walkers, who had previously walked where the trail now ran needed another route, and so Ride Kirklees group members grabbed some mattocks and shovels, donned their work boots and made good a footpath to the side of the trail – which was much appreciated by the walkers!!

 

There are other jobs that still need to be done to complete the trail – fencing around the cow field and drinking pond, kissing gates to be installed, fences to be repaired, brash to me removed – the list goes on, and it’s going to take a fair few volunteer hours to get it done (any help would be greatly appreciated on trail maintenance days!!) and I had plans to get in  over the Christmas and New Year period to get on with some of these jobs, but sometimes life gets in the way of the things you want to get on with….

Then the call came in…

After New year, I decided to take a trip over to Oakwell with my 3 girls to show them what I had been involved in creating, which just so happened to coincide with Jordan putting up some new Bike track signs. After a brief chat, Jordan said that we should be good to go, it just needed a few more days, and bit of tree work and a tidy up and then go ride.

The wait was over, time to ride…

In order to avoid the masses descending on the trail whilst there was still work to be done, the decision was made for a small work party (the RK committee) to go in and finish of the last few jobs to make the trail safe, do some litter picking so that the trail could start out as a #trashfreetrail and clear the brash before the first rides..

 

A few laps later, and it was time to let all of you good people know the craic..A quick word with riders coming past and a post on Facebook told people what they needed to know – the trail was open. I could feel the excitement in my pocket as my phone started going ping, ping, ping!!! Riders started appearing at the start of the trail – excited kids and adults who happened to be riding past, the faces said it all…

Since that sunny Sunday in January, my phone hasn’t stopped – comments on the trail, people asking for directions, writers and bloggers posting reviews, mums and dads joining the group to find out more information, horse riders with concerns, and of course complaints!!!

The inevitable…

As with all new things there is always some teething problems – it was expected, but I just hoped it wasn’t going to be the mountain bikers who were causing problems, more disgruntled visitors to Oakwell who had “been walking here for 20 odd years”, but unfortunately it was a small minority of riders who believe that getting a Strava KOM/trophy/PR is more important than being polite and courteous that have caused some issues.

So far (from what I’ve been told) and elderly couple and their dog have had a near miss, regular Park runners have had bad encounters and Amanda (one of the rangers) has had some grief from riders. This kind of thing puts mountain bikers in a bad position, and is detrimental to all the work Ride Kirklees is trying to do.

The issue seems to be people tearing down the main track to and from the trail head, and not giving any consideration to other user groups on site, so please keep the Strava KOMS and trophies to the trail and

bnsh

On a positive note..

The comments and feedback are brilliant. Everyone is out enjoying the trail, Dads and their lads, mums and their little uns, shredders and newbies are riding the trail with smiles plastered across their faces. The café has commented on how polite the mountain bikers are (and how it’s great for business). So this little trail can only strengthen the community and encourage people to get out and ride.

It’s been a long and at times stressful journey to get this trail built. A lot of hard work has been put into it and it has paid off. I hope you all enjoy riding it and we can prove to Kirklees Council that mountain bikers are a responsible user group worthy of investment.

Have fun!!!

 

Advertisements

A new year on the horizon….

2018 is nearly over, and it’s been a pretty good year for Ride Kirklees. The group has made loads of progress and is getting bigger (judging by the number of members joining on social media ).

The group is still in its infancy – just over 1 year old, but already we have made a lot of progress and have a number of achievements due to the drive of our members. If the past year is anything to go by, then 2019 will see us growing in numbers and making a huge impact on mountain biking in the area.

Our achievements this year have been:

  1. Becoming a constituted group.
  2. Taking the first steps to getting insurance so we can carry out trail maintenance on our bridleway network.
  3. Having our 1st AGM, and electing our committee members.
  4. Getting the Oakwell hall trail built-it will soon be ready to ride!!received_378946719543987.jpeg
  5. Getting the nod from the council to plan a Waymarked off road route around Kirklees, which will hopefully be a big project for 2019.
  6. 250 be nice say hi signs are being printed and will soon appear on bridleways across the area.downloadfile
  7. Developing links with other user groups and the council to take further steps towards providing better rights of way.
  8. Getting 1000 flyers printed up to promote the group and our vision.ridekirklees flyer-01
  9. Being instrumental in the development of a Yorkshire wide advocacy group that will provide evidence of the positive aspects of mountain biking to help develop more off road routes.

So what’s the plan for 2019?

In a nutshell: to keep it rolling and take things further. The success of the group is all down to the proactive approach to improve mountain biking for seasoned riders and the next generation. We need to prove that it’s not just a popular fad, and that mountain biking is only going to get bigger and better, that way more infrastructure can be developed and people will be encouraged to get out and ride.

To do this, we are going to have to look towards development and encouraging riders to ‘be nice say hi’ and put something back into the community/countryside. This can be a really easy process – being polite and respectful to other user groups is a straightforward thing to do and shows that we (as a user group) are respectful and mindful of others. Putting something back however is a bit trickier and will take a bit more effort. We are planning on carrying out some trail maintenance days – not just on Oakwell Hall trail, but on the bridleway network across Kirklees. This is going to need some serious effort and time from group members, but don’t worry if you don’t have that much time!!

Whilst out riding, there a few ways each and everyone of us can make a difference.

Give a drain a kick!!

So easy and takes less than a minute. This simple act will mean that drains keep water of the trail, and will stop trail users (one group especially) from avoiding getting their feet wet and widening the trail, therefore keeping singletrack single!

Keep a record

of the trails that could do with some TLC. If you are getting rotor deep in mud on a trail that could run well, or having to dodge a load of overhanging branches, make a note, post it to the group and lets get it sorted out. This will mean we can ride great trails, but other users can enjoy them too.

Other than those two things, you can also join us on a trail maintenance day at Oakwell or any other venue that needs it. You can also submit your local routes that could be worthy of being part of the Kirklees wide circular loop. We are looking for day loops, containing the best ascents/descents that are on offer. We would also like to get the routes pages up and running so any GPX files would be great…

All the best for 2019…Enjoy the ride…

 

 

Merry Christmas

Just a quick one to say merry Christmas to everyone, and thanks for being part of this group..

This year has really seen the group take off with projects taking shape, new members joining and plans for more great work.

Between now and the beginning of the new year, there will be some trail days at Oakwell to get it all ready to ride, so keep eeye out on social media and here for details.

Enjoy Christmas, be merry and ride bikes… .

Christmas come early?

It’s that time of year, the weather has certainly changed since our glorious summer, decorations are going up and people are out buying presents. Well this year the presents for Ride Kirklees members are as follows:

  • A new blue graded trail at Oakwell Hall.
  • Some funding for ‘be nice say Hi’ signs.
  • Flyers to advertise the group and the work we are doing.
  • Trail maintenance days a plenty…

The big, main present – Oakwell Hall!! Bike Track said the trail would be finished mid December and….IT IS!! It has been signed off today and the Bike Track gang are packed up and shipping out. However, due to the recent weather and potential weather in the future, the trail won’t open yet… BOO, I hear you say. The reason for this is that we want the trail to be in its best condition for as long as possible (before we need to carry out any maintenance) and the recent deluge has meant that no amount of whacking will make it rideable yet.

Parts of the trail are still really soft, and the only thing to do is let nature take its course to let the trail bed down. The time this takes, no one knows. If we have a really dry spell maybe a couple of weeks, if we get rain (or snow) then its going to take longer. After discussions with Bike Track, the thinking is – let it be for this year at least. The good news is that this will mean we can get a date organized for next year, and go ride a trail that is ready for riding!! The logs and brash that is currently covering the trail will stay on until then – so please don’t be tempted to go have a cheeky ride – it will cause more harm than good.

Be nice say Hi.

The national campaign that was started by our fellow advocacy group Ride Sheffield is soon to be a common sight around Kirklees. Funding has just been confirmed for us to get 250 signs printed up. The iconic black and white squares will soon start appearing on bridleways across the area. Kirklees sports and physical activity development  project ‘Try it, Like it, Do it’ have awarded us the cash to get the signs, so when they arrive we will need some volunteers to screw them onto posts.

Flyers, flyers, flyers.

After the AGM in October, it was suggested that getting some advertising for local bike shops needed to be done. So a few months later and with some help from Adam Simmonite from Trail Advantage some flyers have been done designed. The next thing was to look at how to get them printed, and thanks to Amanda Walker, we now have a box of flyers to distribute around. Some have already been delivered to Earnshaws two wheel centre on Manchester road in Huddersfield, Albion Cycling in Thongsbridge and The handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite. I am aiming to get leaflets out to all the local bike shops and bike friendly eating and drinking establishments – so if anyone can help, please let me know and I’ll get you some flyers.

Trail maintenance days.

An application has recently gone into Natural Kirklees so that we can be insured to carry out trail maintenance in the area. If this comes through then we will need members to update the group on trails that need some TLC – from drainage to overhanging branches. Winter is a great time to get out and do the work, as it’s the right time to fell trees, clear drains and look after the trails so they are ready to ride come spring. All potential work needs to be cleared by Kirklees council, so please let the group know if there are areas that need attention.

One area that is going to see some work is around Oakwell. There are loads of bits to get stuck into to finish of the areas surrounding the trail. Jobs like fencing, tree felling and pruning and the installation of gates to help protect the trail from motorbikes. The first task is on Saturday the 8th of December, with some footpath work, and further dates will be organized to carry out other tasks. Any help would be greatly appreciated, so keep an eye on the Facebook page and if you can spare some time, please do.

Hope you all enjoy your Ride Kirklees presents when they are ready – it will definitely be worth the wait.

Have a great Christmas, and hopefully see you on the trails…..

 

Meeting up…

The back end of last week was pretty busy with meetings and trail maintenance (and probably loads of riding for most people).

The “know your tracks” meeting was held on Thursday the 4th. Organised by the Kirklees Bridleways group and the Colne Valley Saddle Club, this meeting (with pie and peas) looked at providing evidence to support the 2026 project by identifying routes/trails that should be accessible for horse riders and cyclists.

If you don’t know about 2026, check out the Bridleways group or the British Horse Society websites., but the basic thing is that user groups need to identify and record historic bridleways and trails before the 2026 cut off date. The Kirklees Bridleways group are doing loads of work to link up the current trails and reinstate old trails that may have been recorded as footpaths previously . If we can identify trails that we ride that should be bridleways we need to highlight them with the bridleway group and provide evidence forms (which can be downloaded from their website) and then help create a decent network of trails that are accessible. Kirklees currently has around 5% of bridleways compared to the national average of 16% – pretty shocking to say the least.!! So by completing evidence forms, we have a chance to extend the network. The forms take about 10 minutes to complete and will be collated by the bridleway group and submitted to the powers that be..

Friday the 5th of October was the date of Ride Kirklees first AGM. The main thing that was discussed was the constitution and creating the management committee. The constitution was signed, which means we are one step closer to being insured to carry out official trail maintenance .

With that sorted we were able to turn our attention to projects that we as a group can be involved in.

Full details of the meeting will be posted soon and will include plans to create a waymarked route around the area, as well as an update on Oakwell Hall and the Yorkshire mtb alliance.

The final meet up from last week was a more practical meeting, where a small group of people got together on Saturday morning to get started on the Oakwell trail. 6 of us from the group got together and joined Jason the ranger and a few of the friends of Oakwell Hall to get on with clearing the way for bike track to start building the trail. The regular Thursday volunteers had already made a start and within a few hours the 11 of us felled a number of small trees and stands of Hazel coppice. There has been about 200 meters cleared in about 2 days and there is now a definite trail corridor starting to evolve. There is still loads to go, so more days will be organised soon. I’ll get another date sorted for a weekend, but anyone wanting to go along to the Thursday volunteer day can work alongside the rangers to do some more.

Bike track have now arrived on site and it looks like they have started shifting some materials around the site to prepare for the build. The most important thing now is too let them get the job done, so please don’t be tempted to ride any of the trail until its finished and we get the go ahead. If its ridden before, it could set the whole project back and cost more (which we don’t have) It should be ready to ride in mid December, and we will look to have a small opening event then, with a bigger event in spring…

 

Oakwell Hall Dig Day

With Bike track due to arrive on site at Oakwell Hall on the 8th October, a dig day has been organized for Saturday 6th October.

The plan is to meet around 10.30am in the court yard. We will grab some tools and head into the woods to begin some clearance work. This will include the felling of small trees that have been marked up for us. All the necessary training and equipment will be provided on the day, all you need to do is show up ready to work in some sturdy footwear.

You don’t need to commit to the full day – an hour or two will be brilliant. Its going to be some hard work, but good fun…Just remember to bring some lunch, a brew and some good banter….

Annual General Meeting 2018

The AGM is set for the 5th of October 2018. The agenda for the meeting can be seen below.

 

Ride Kirklees Annual General Meeting 2018 Agenda.

 

This is the first AGM for Ride Kirklees and has been set in order to enable the group to become a constituted group and discuss a number of projects that the group are involved in.

 

 

  • The constitution. The constitution needs to be agreed by the group members, with any adjustments made. It must be signed and dated by elected management committee members, who are also to be elected during the meeting.
  • Update  on Oakwell Hall.  Bike track are planning on establishing their compound on the 8th October. Clearance work on the trail is due to start by Ride Kirklees on the 6th October, with further dig days to be organized.
  • Be nice, Say Hi.  The be nice say hi campaign has gone national and Ride Kirklees is aiming to champion the campaign. Suggestions on how we can fund/promote and advertise the campaign. E.G: T-shirts for sale, trail markers, stickers etc
  • Meeting with Kirklees ROW. Potential projects backed by Kirklees include developing Bluebell woods in Mirfield and creating a way marked off road route around Kirklees taking in the ‘best’ climbs/descents in the area. Discussion about turning the Deerhill/Wessenden trail to become a permissive BW (discussion to be held with the NT)
  • Funding from Sport England.  Bikebiz.com post for bike parks etc. Potential to fund waymarked trail/pump track.
  • Restoring the Record – 2026. How can RK help identify and record lost trails etc. Help from Kirklees Bridleways Group.
  • Wilkally Clough update.  National Trust have been contacted so that RK can be involved with any work carried out on the trail. No information about how the trail will be maintained yet. It has been suggested that the area to be looked at is the approach to the packhorse bridge, not the trail itself (this has not been confirmed)
  • Yorkshire MTB Alliance.  A new group is being set up with members of Ride Kirklees, Ride Sheffield, Ride Calderdale, Wakefield District and PDMTB to ensure we are all working to the same goal – Good MTB Advocacy.
  • Any other business.