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