This article lists some frequently asked questions and some answers that we have given in the past.
- The FC charge so much for parking at High Lodge - why don't they invest some of it to improve the trails?
- Why aren't there more Technical Trail Features in the forest like there used to be?
- Why's it taking TIMBER so long to improve the trails?
- Why are there no maps of off-piste trails?
- How are build days organised?
- What tyres are best for Thetford?
- Why is there no North Shore or woodwork at Thetford?
The FC charge so much for parking at High Lodge - why don't they invest some of it to improve the trails?
The fact is that the FC do not make money out of High Lodge, in fact they lose it. Most of the other centres that charge less do so because they are heavily subsidsed, often by European job creation schemes, and thus don't reflect anything like reality
At this point people usually point at Brandon Country Park - and the fact that they don't charge as much for parking. Well it might surprise you to find that BCP which belongs to Suffolk County Council has been up for sale for a long time ,and in fact would now be closed were it not for the simple fact that a lottery grant would have to be refunded if they closed it. Why? Probably because it loses money.
Add to that the fact that MTB contributes very little to the FC coffers in this forest, (most riders choosing to park elsewhere and ride in), whilst at the same time being amongst the most vociferous user group in moaning about the place and you'll understand why until recently that the prevailing sentiment at FC was to close trails rather than invest in them
That being the case you might then appreciate the monumental job we have done in turning that perception around, and in recent times getting the FC to invest well in excess of £60,000 into the trail network. Not only that they have also recently invested a further £20,000 in making TIMBER into the premier volunteer group in the UK doing what we do. In that vein we are now the only volunteers in the entire FC estate who are allowed to work with powered plant. This will increase our ability to restore and maintain trails exponentially.
This is known as the the Techncial Trail Features (TTF's) Myth.
The fact is the features we built were crap. They were poorly designed, poorly situated and dangerous. Finally several extremely serious incidents occurred on them. In the wake of that, we made a decision some time ago that our priorities were as follows:-
- To turn the Red Route into a sustainable, and well maintained loop before it degenerated into the rut fest that the black had already become.
- Once that was done to move onto the Black and do the same to that.
- Then and only then to concern ourselves with the creation of TTF's on both trails.
We are close to completing the work on the Red, and we intend to start on the Black very shortly. Incidentally the black will soon be downgraded to a red grading. In this you should note that Thetford was the first forest in the UK to embrace MTB, and that fact is clearly reflected in some of the outdated trail definitions and so forth. However, that's about to change and here again you are looking at some £40,000 worth of investment just to bring that signing and way-marking into line with current expectations.
That aside we are also engaged actively in planning and delivering a Pump track, and we would also like to develop a Sudbourne Jumps style jump site in partnership with the local jumpy riders.
These are not pie in the sky ideas, they are all very much reality and they are also receiving very active support from the FC
So whats holding us back? Contrary to common belief its not the FC. Far from it.
It's the lack of people who are prepared to roll their sleeves up. As riders we can make Thetford Forest Park into whatever we want it to be. There is absolutely nothing standing in our way other than our own imagination, and motivation. So rather than moan about the lack of facilities, we would always encourage people to come and see what we do and get involved. Its actually a lot of fun.
There are many miles of off-piste non-waymarked trails in the forest - more than there are waymarked trails. Most of them were created by motor cross races that took place in all areas of the forest and which are still held in the remoter places. We decided some time ago to not publicise these off-piste trails by not posting maps on the website. There are a number of reasons for this.
- When maps of routes were published in the past this caused problems when riders annoyed the landowners causing riders to be banned from certain areas of the forest.
- Maps encourage overuse of Off-piste trails which quickly become eroded. This tends to annoy the locals when people drive to the forest from elsewhere just to ride "their" trails.
- If we published maps on the website and a rider following our directions had an accident - we could be held liable.
- The FC have a duty of care for riders in the forest. If they were to become aware of trails that they considered dangerous they might be forced to sanitise them or close them down completely.
If you are interested in learning where these great trails are - the best thing to do is join TIMBER and go on some of our group rides which regularly use these trails.
Everyone is welcome to attend TIMBER MTB build days where we work to improve the trails. We always need more volunteers!
Build days are posted in advance on the forum. Each build day has a leader who has agreed a plan for the day (known as a method statement) with the forestry commission in advance. Please post a reply in the forum to say you intend coming so the leader has an idea of numbers turning up. We prefer you to be a TIMBER member so you contribute to the cost of our insurance, but it's fine if you want to just come along and see what it's like first.
It's best to bring your bike with you in case we don't have enough vehicles to get everyone to the site and back. Apart from that all you need to bring is your lunch. A hi-vis vest and tea/coffee will be provided on the day. You don't need to bring any tools - these will be provided. Wear suitable clothes - long trousers are probably better and sturdy foot wear is a good idea - safety boots if you have them. Warm stuff is needed if it's cold, wet weather stuff if it's wet etc. If you have your own work gloves please bring them as our supplies are short. Be prepared to do some digging.
Build days start between 8:30-9:30am and can finish anywhere between 12:00-16:00 depending on the amount of work. You can leave early if you want - just tell the build day leader so he knows you're not lost. The start point where everyone meets is the Kanga Container / Portacabin which is round the back of the BikeArt shop (follow the fence around the left side from the main building and go through the gate). If you can't find it, or arrive late, please go to the High Lodge information point and ask there as they can radio us. Park as close to the building as you like in one of the main car parks: you won't have to pay for parking at High Lodge - make sure you ask for an exit pass before you go. The build day leader will register your details, run through the relevant risk assessments and explain the plan for the day before we drive or bike to the area of the forest where we're working.
TIMBER members are covered by third party liability if involved in an incident while on build day, club ride or at a volunteer event. Read more about our insurance coverage on the forum.
Work can vary but may include, digging drainage channels, building berms, barrowing, raking and compacting stone to protect trails, cutting branches, digging out tree roots and stumps, harrowing trail beds, digging borrow pits - and much more.
There is no right answer! Thetford's trails are generally well draining sand with a bit of flint thrown in. Tyres should be quick rolling while still gripping on fast lose corners. Schwalbe Racing Ralphs and Kenda small block 8's are often praised. In wetter conditions consider Schwalbe Nobby Nic's.
Find out more about Tyres generally here
Wooden trail features have gained popularity with riders and trail builders after being inspired by Canadian “North Shore” consisting of elevated ramps and runs designed to test balance, bike control and add excitement to trails. So why is there none of this at Thetford?
It's because the acidity of the soil is extremely high and as a result wood that's on or in the ground rots down very quickly, in about 2 - 3 years. As a result timber structures are very maintenance heavy and require a very high standard of inspection and care once built. Theoretically we can build timber structures, but it is questionable whether its worth it for the amount of ongoing work involved. The work would include 1) annual civil engineer inspection and certificate of structural integrity, 2) weekly - or if particularly gnarly - daily on site inspections, 3) routine scrubbing down with sharp sand to prevent lichen and moss growth, 4) immediate closure in the event of rotting or damaged components, 5) rotting or damaged parts to be replaced and the structure to be reinspected by a civil engineer prior to being re-opened etc etc.
You might ask why Thetford is unique - after all everyone else manages to use woodwork on their trails? For example Chicksands is not far from the East of England and there's loads of wooden features there?
Well, no there isn't - it's all going to be removed as they have the same issues we have - more details here http://chicksandsbikepark.co.uk/trail_guide/freeride/ and its not just insurance, its the overall cost and amount of hassle involved that means wooden features are not generally feasible.