Postman Ian Jones is helping to deliver a huge mountain bike trail network in time for spring.
Two new off-road routes are being built at Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland, UK, as part of a £850,000 bid to make it one of Europe’s top mountain biking destinations.
44-year-old Ian, who is enjoying a career break after 24 years with the Royal Mail, has been appointed as one of two supervisors to oversee the construction of the 18.7km ‘red’ trail for accomplished bikers.
This will be the first purpose-built mountain bike trail to traverse the border between England and Scotland. There is also a less challenging 14km “blue” route.
Ian, who lives in Rothbury, Northumberland, said: “My job is to help turn the vision into a reality, looking after the longer of two new routes. We’ve built just over a third of it so far, with teams often working after nightfall using powerful spotlights to get the job done.
“We are doing okay despite all the rainfall, which adds to the difficulty of working in such a remote spot. Although we have the design carefully mapped out, we can tweak it on the ground to include features like berms and turns that work well.”
Ian, a member of the Cheviot Hill Riders club, has previously been involved with the Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William and took part in the UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships this summer in France.
He said: “The key is to use an expert eye to get the most out of the terrain. We want to get the job done before the worst of the winter weather. But being an ex-postman, I’m pretty rain resistant and I work in shorts so my legs dry quicker.”
Both trails will provide unique access to one of Britain’s greatest wilderness areas. Over 30,000 tonnes of locally quarried stone will be used to surface the tracks, ensuring they are well drained and can be used all year round. A 10-metre long bridge is being built to span Plashetts Burn, along with a 1km elevated wooden “boardwalk” section to speed riders over an area of wetland.
Alex MacLennan, recreation, communities and tourism manager with the Forestry Commission, said: “We’ve used state-of-the-art mapping systems to plot routes that steer clear of sensitive conservation sites. It’s impossible to overestimate the challenges of pushing through such a big project in England’s remotest corner, but we are making solid progress. Thanks to the sheer scale of Kielder, the peace is rarely disturbed by the work. But hidden away, contractors are beavering away, adding another exciting and sustainable attraction to the area.”
Funding for the trails has come from the Northumberland Strategic Partnership via Single Programme funds from One NorthEast, European Regional Development Fund, Forestry Commission, Tynedale Council and the Kielder Partnership.
The project is part of `The Big Picture’ – a vision to make Kielder Water & Forest Park one of Europe’s pre-eminent visitor destinations.