Bike fans break new ground in Kielder

A plan to put 155,000 acre Kielder Forest on the map as a top mountain biking venue has moved up a gear

CREATION OF FIRST EVER ALL-WEATHER ROUTES UNDERWAY

A plan to put 155,000 acre Kielder Forest on the map as a top mountain biking venue has moved up a gear with the creation of the first ever purpose built trails.

Last October the Forestry Commission called on local enthusiasts to saddle-up and help tap the woodland's huge potential as an off-road venue. The public response has delighted forest chiefs and now a new volunteer group has been formed called the Kielder Trail Reavers, backed by an initial £5,000 from the Forestry Commission, who will help design and construct new routes.

Alex MacLennan, Recreation, Communities and Tourism Manager for Forestry Commission England, said:

"By creating a community based group, we now have an independent voice for mountain bikers in Kielder. They will also be able to apply for partnership funding, which is crucial to taking these proposals forward and increasing tourism to the North Tyne. That's the vision of the Kielder Partnership, of which the Forestry Commission is a partner.

"Our goal is to make the region a world class mountain biking destination. Better facilities will also encourage more people to take exercise, a key objective in our Active Woods campaign. With Kielder coming on stream, along with a £200,000 investment in trails in Hamsterley Forest and development of the Descend Hamsterley Downhill MTB centre, these are exciting times for the north east."

Trail building sessions are being held every second Saturday each month and initial progress has been rapid. Construction of an all-weather skills training network near Kielder Castle is underway and set for completion by 20 May. They will be the first ever surfaced, single track routes in the forest and colour coded to denote the degree of difficulty, comprising a 0.5km blue route (novices) along with 0.25km red (intermediate) and black (advanced) trails.

So far over 50 people have registered their support with the Trail Reavers and half that number turned up for the first trail building days, travelling from as far afield as Carlisle, Berwick upon Tweed and Gateshead, as well as the surrounding area.

One of the volunteers, Matthew Bone, 16, who lives in Kielder and attends Haydon Bridge High School, said:

"This is a great project for the village and will get youngsters off the computer. I also think it will be good for the community and bring tourism to the area. Other young people locally are involved and looking forward to using the trails once completed."

The Reavers' next target is the possible creation of an ambitious 15km "red" route from the top of 2,000 foot high Deadwater Fell, subject to planning consent. The ultimate goal is to give Kielder a mix of routes, suitable for all levels of ability and open all year-round. Thinking further ahead there is also a plan to link Kielder Castle with the famous 7stanes trails over the Border at Newcastleton with a cross country trail.

Support for the trailbuilders has come from Ian Bell, who runs The Bike Place in Gateshead, and who has added his muscle power as a volunteer.

"Ever since Scottish trail building started, customers have said there really should be a similar facility in Kielder Forest. Now that we have formed the Trail Reavers, this is going to happen. We hope to have the skills area up and running in record time and then move on to our next project, which should really start to attract visiting mountain bikers."

To find out more about trailbuilding in Kielder go to www.trailscotland.com and click on the "community forums" link. To volunteer contact Alex MacLennan on 01434 220242 or email him at alex.maclennan@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

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