Friday, March 10, 2006

Cannock (Again) 9th March

It must we wonderful to live close to an area so rich in trails as Cannock. I have been visiting fairly regularly for a few years now, but can still easily get lost. Last year Dangerous Dave and myself joined a ride led by locals which took in some of the extreme stuff in the area South of Milford, but they were so fast it was impossible to ever get your bearings while trying to keep up and GPS was not even a distant possibility in my mind.

When What MTB mag published a route covering most of the area I thought I must do it, but talking to locals suggested the one in the magazine might be 'sanitised' and perhaps not so accurate. I have done a bit of exploring in the past as has Dave, but it is a slow process. Recent acquisiton of a GPS unit opened up new possibilities and I asked St fom Chasetrails if he had a Tracklog route and he kindly obliged. So I loaded up the route and printed out some maps and off we went yesterday to explore new parts.

Must admit the torrential rain over the previous few days had made me wonder whether to abort, but Dave still seemed keen and the skies were looking a bit brighter.

Start point was from Birches Valley Car park and takes in 'Follow the Dog' - very soggy in parts, like riding through a river in others. Bad news was that my gears started playing up immediately. After the boarded section we left this route and headed off towards the south west in the direction we normally take for the downhill course. This area is, like most here, riddled with Trails that only years of riding or a local guide will help you find. It has steep climbs, reminds me a little of Wales. Despite the GPS we got a little lost and by chance found some nice singletrack up and over a hill that got us back on the fireroad grind. We realised later that we skirted one of the highest points which appears to have a downhill course previously unknown to us. The GPS route promised us a "Roller Coaster" and "Sandstone chute" and thats what we got - great fun and we did not fall off, just had to walk when we did not get the right gear for the 'ups'. From here we crossed a road into yet another area different in character again and straight onto a very muddy bridleway. Again there were plenty of signs of trails going off the 'legal' route, but we stuck to the route which at one point became a swamp, so we just gave up and walked this bit. I got off route again on the return leg where there is a crossover and realised we were running parallel to 'proper' course, but as this would have involved another climb, we carried on, (it had started raining at this point).

All this had taken much longer than it should in good weather and it was getting well past 'nosebag' time - a steep climb after the road and rail crossing called 'Kitbag Hill' seemed easy now and we rejoined FTD including the new section to get us to the Marquis Drive Café which has never looked so good and they served up hot food, home made cake and coffee almost instantaneously which is just what we needed. We finished off FTD, (my favourite bits!), most was much wetter than I have known it before, and decided to call it a day. I will be back to explore the rest, but in better weather.

The GPS? Still getting used to it, but I found it invaluable. Next time I go i will put it on record, mark some points and edit when I get home so it will be easier to find for others. The route I had loaded had been done some time ago and in places it just did not add up, though mostly it was spot on. Would not have found our way so easily without it.

Gears?? Dave reckons the crankset is worn out, so urgent rebuilding before Wales, I think.


Farqui said...

I'm glad that you both made it around in one piece. Our visit a few days earlier had the trails just on the edge of enjoyable and with the recent rainfall I figured you'd be rowing in places.

Doh, you didn't get the GPS to record your route. It's easy to forget to flip on the rec option. I didn't even get that far as I left the lickle yellow contraption on the back seat !!!

I'm sorry to hear that your cranks are poorly, you've gotta get your drivetrain sorted for CyB. Which is now 7 days away and counting :)