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MTB Trails Trust Newsletter No. 8 February 13, 2015
Our first year of operation has been a busy one for the MTB Trails Trust. Not only did we get the Trust established early in the year, but we have done a fair amount of work on the ground as well. We've completed nearly 24kms of new trails in the region and have funding applications in, which if successful, will allow us to start construction of the Hackett-Lee track. We have cemented strong relationships with DOC, forest owners and councils and made presentations to at least eight different interest groups as part of consultation processes. Solid groundwork by the Trust has also been laid especially for the trail development work that's rolling out in Picton, Blenheim and Marlborough. It seems everyone we are working with really appreciates the Top of the South approach we are taking in this area, and we look forward to helping set the region up as the off-road riding destination it should be.
Completed tracks are Maitland Ridge 10km, Sidewinder 3.1km, Kaka 2.8km, Duck Down 2.7km, Heaven up Here 1.5km and Escalator 2.8km.
This year will see considerable work done in Silvan Forest, more tracks near St Arnaud and hopefully some action on the Hackett-Lee to kick the Epic Trails Plan off in earnest.
Pink line is the completed loop. Blue lines are the next tracks scheduled to be built.
Silvan Forest Trail Development
While you were rushing around preparing for Christmas, Andrew, Chris and Gary were busy completing the first loop, named Heaven up Here in the Silvan Forest. Thanks also to Gareth and Mike for their input.
The track has settled in and is riding well with many people using it regularly, with the loop 1.5km long and although rated easy, heaps of fun to ride. From the top of the loop the track climbs another 200m or so to link on to the forest road that takes you across to the gate into Kingsland Forest. The next phase of the project involves building another track up from the deer gate (the rightmost blue line on the map) so that you'll be able to ride right up into the forest without using the bottom part of the forestry road at all. And we'll be filling in the area below Heaven Up Here with a number of smaller loops before moving higher into the forest to complete the rest of the network.
There are lots of easy to ride corners on the uphill
To get to Heaven Up Here drive or ride up Champion Rd and turn right near the top where a new road leads up to the water supply tanks. Take the first road left slightly downhill and park outside the deer gate. Ride through the gate and up the road to the large cleared area. The start of the track is to the right at the high point of the cleared area.
The downhill is easy fun
We haven't been too concerned with advertising this extensively as yet - that won't happen until signage and all the necessary safety information is installed on site. Access to Silvan is freely open for all anyway, but please respect the area as it is privately owned and open for recreational use through the generosity of Rick and Sarah Griffin.
Keep up to date with trail news on our website Trail News page, we are constantly updating it.
Duck Down Track now open
Meanwhile, up at the Lake, Rob, Alan, Liz and helpers were busy over New Year pushing through the last of the Duck Down track. They even got a chance to ride it. In the next few weeks we will be putting up directional signs to make it easier to find the new tracks.
Riding from St Arnaud out to Teetotal, up Kaka, down Duck Down, through Sidewinder, Douglas Hill and back to the village can give you a 3 hour ride. So it's worth the trip up to the lake to do a ride. And of course there's now Maitland Ridge to do too. See next news item.
Climbing Kaka Track to the top of Big Bush
The track is a bit "raw" at the moment, which adds to the fun, but
it will get even better with more traffic on it
Bryce bursts into a clearing overlooking Lake Rotoiti
Alan reaps the rewards of all the labour
This is part of the section built by the Ground Effect trail crew
The old moraine is a great substrate for building a track on
I knew very little about Maitland Ridge when I accepted an invite to go ride it, except that the track – still under construction – was a bit “raw.” Now, gasping from a 600-metre/hour-and-a-quarter climb/push to its nondescript start, I got my next ominous inkling when a companion pulled some body armour out of his pack. Barely ten minutes later, I ruefully regarded a bleeding wound on my arm, right where my own elbow pads would have been, if I’d thought this all through a bit harder.
The grind up Beebys' road is worth the effort to get to the singletrack.
The Maitland Ridge track runs west to east from a gravel four-wheel drive track off Tophouse Road, not far from St Arnaud. Lilting about the 1100-metre contour mark, through beech forest and open clearings of mat plants, it sorely tests intermediate riders like me with some decidedly 4+ descents, and a number of sharp switchback-riddled climbs, some measured at 10 per cent-plus, over slow, fussy going. Add a few sections of pig rooting, and you have a techie trail better suited to the sort of backcountry zen mastery my riding companions seemed to have in spades.
Dave Hansford rides up the long ridge and tackles one of the steep switchbacks on the main descent.
Maitland Ridge is the fruit of the Herculean labours of two of them; MTB Trails representatives Alan and Liz Eskrick aided and abetted by Rob Kay. The trio, helped by a small and dedicated band, with logistic support from the Department of Conservation, have spent countless hours up here, tracing and clearing a route between gorgeous views. There’s still some finessing to do: some of the track needs benching, a few of the switchbacks will need re-routing to make them do-able by mere mortals, and the route needs more marking, as it’s a bit of a nav-ex at present.
The surfaces are still soft, and some will get easier with passing traffic. The flip side is that while we had the benefit of fresh soil cover over many of the beech roots, that will be dug out over time, and the roots will likely only get bouncier. Maitland Ridge in the rain, I suspect, would be an exercise in self-flagellation of the most perverse kind. Now, even in beautiful weather, it was showing up my singular lack of talent. But after eight and a half kilometres of ridge travel, it’s just a short stony descent off the ridge and the end of the awkward stuff, to the sunny verandah of Red Hills Hut and the delight of cold water from the tank.
Liz on the final descent to Red Hills Hut. Not yet up to Heaphy standard, no bike racks here; yet!
From there it’s all four-wheel drive track back into the Wairau Valley. Well almost. My companions had neglected mentioning that there is a testing 1500m technical stretch littered with challenging root infested uphills that we still had to negotiate back to the carpark. Having left my ‘legs’ up on the ridge I took the sensible option and walked the uphills. All up, our group rode 22km in 4hrs 50m. We climbed, and gratefully descended, 1080 metres. The MTB Trails Trust has plans to make the grunt up to the the start of Maitland Ridge a bit easier by threading a new climbing track around the existing four-wheel drive road. It’ll be a gentler grade, naturally, but Alan points out that Maitland Track is after all, a track for advanced and expert riders, and good fitness is a base assumption.
Having never ridden backcountry, riding Maitland Ridge seemed to me to be half mental attitude, half dark art. Desperately digging for inspiration, I remembered something I once read in a dog training manual – that once you lose your patience/temper/composure, the session is lost. I hadn’t brought my best head game, but Maitland Ridge is worth training for, and once I have some easier backcountry kilometres under my tyres, I’ll certainly be back. Next time, I mean to better appreciate the beautiful views and birdsong I missed while I was going over the bars (and wear my body armour). It’s too good to leave to the experts...
The Trust is supporting Jude Rawcliff and Tim Bendy with seeding and progressing the potential development of a trail system in this forest. We produced a trail plan for the project, and a community meeting was held in January to seek support for the proposal, and to hear the views of the locals and interested parties. It was a very interesting evening, but unfortunately was a little bit hijacked by a very vocal horse riding community, some of whom viewed mountainbiking to be detrimental to their existing access for horse riding.
This project is all about sharing a very under utilised forest, and providing a riding resource close to Wakefield which all agree is a good thing. The proposed mountainbike trails sit on the interior areas of the forest so that current horse riding around the perimeter road would be retained under its existing 'shared use' arrangement. This meeting is a starting point, and conversations will carry on from here to determine if this project can go ahead with everybody happy.
Consent has been given to go ahead with the Picton trail development proposals as submitted to the MDC. Following a Sustainable Trails Workshop delivered to the Picton Trail Group, and flagging out of the first trails by Chris, the Picton crew started on clearing the vegetation in preparation for trail construction. Project details here.
Contact John Pickering firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to help out as he will be coordinating the working bees. Facebook page here.
In Blenheim, the fire in the Wither Hills Farm Park delayed progressing the new trail system a little, however that will be back on the agenda as summer winds down.
And down at Blairich Station in the Awatere, Chris helped DOC staff scope a trail link from the river valley up onto the station's farm tracks - this link will access a currently landlocked and massive area of back country trails and routes through Blairich identified during recent tenure revue. Construction is expected to begin on this link this month, with DOC having liberated 50 Air Force cadets for a day to swing grubbers.
Saturday the tenth of January was the day chosen for the Dave Lewis Memorial Ride. Stu McKenzie came up with the great idea of riding the Coppermine in Dave’s memory. We were all to meet at the Coppermine Saddle at 2 to 2.30 and enjoy the descent and return together. I thought this was very appropriate because the last time I saw Dave was at the Maitai pipe bridge. He had been around the Coppermine the day before, loved it but it took a lot out of him. He said he’d have to get a bit fitter before he tried it again…
It was a gorgeous day and our little group of 3 set off just before 12. There was a cooling breeze in the shade of the trees and at Windy Point but out in the sun it was scorching. Luckily we were not the first to arrive as we saw no others on the way up. We sat and enjoyed the scenery and a yummy slice made by Sarah and soon a gaggle of riders could be seen streaming along the hillside. We sat and chatted and with a shout of “Dave!” headed down the track, to salute him again in chorus at the Sprig.
In approximately 3 weeks harvesting will commence directly adjacent to the Meade Rd Bridge off Lee Valley to the Forest Gate on Lucy Creek Rd. Due to the compact nature of the skid site log cartage will be probably be restricted to night cartage so the operational hours will be considered to be 24Hrs with the exemption of Sundays.Activities will include tree falling, sliding logs, full stem cartage, processing and loadout within the restricted area.In addition the recreational grounds will need to be closed. PLEASE NOTE: All recreational access to and from Mt Starveal via Lucy Creek Road and Long Gully Road will be closed.
The Kaiteriteri MTB Park run regular work parties which are a feature of this park and easy to get involved. Work on Jaws II is progressing now the rock gully has been conquered.
Latest Nelson MTB Club Trail News with information on how to get involved with trail work at Codgers and Sharland's Creek, Hira Forest. AFM advise summer gate opening hours: the main gate at the forest entrance off Maitai Rd will be locked at 9pm Sat/Sun nights and Public Holidays. For anyone who gets locked in, Armourgaurd will now be charging a $52 fee to let them out!