Saturday, August 31, 2013

Glentress

Hey bloggers, long time no post. Found myself visiting family in Peebles at the tail end of this week so it wouldn't be right to go all the way up there and not check out Glentress, part of the 7 Stanes network of trails (of which I've now ticked off 4). This review takes a bit of an alternative look, though, because I was accompanied by my daughter of 6 years old and an adult rider unaccustomed to serious off-road MTB. On top of this, my absence from the trails for far too long has meant my fitness isn't what it should be (although I was pleansantly surprised to find it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be), so we ventured on nothing more than blues, a green and a brief section of red.

So, what faces you at Glentress?

The visitor centre down at the base of the forest provides a small but excellent shop providing many a demo bike and juicy offers, plus the usual cafe and £3-all-day parking. It's all very new (less than 2 years old I believe) and excellent quality; very classy looking.

You can drive to the middle of the trails and park in Buzzard's Nest too, if you prefer (or have a friend who can uplift you there to save the climb). Less facilities here (just 3 portaloos) but it's more central to the trails. However, if you plan on enjoying the final run of the trails down the hill to the base, you'll be faced with a fair climb back up to your car.

We had cycled in from Peebles so had already covered just under 2km, so while the adults were capable of cycling up to Buzzard's Nest, it was a bit beyond a 6 year old... muggins ended up pushing two bikes instead, so if you can get a lift up for kids it will save their legs for the important stuff.

We took the little'un to the skills loop just down from Buzzard's Nest, where she practised her log run balance and handling of yumps and berms. This is an excellent little area where your kids can build their confidence up for what faces them on the trails; there are some small graded loops that show them what to expect if they want to trek out to one of the proper trails. Daughter fully confident, we ventured off to the green loop on the west edge of Glentress ("Roundhouse"). This is a lovely, short and easy green loop then any newly-found MTBer will have no problem traversing. My daughter managed it with no falls, no dabs but just one minor stop on the initial climb where she failed to anticipate a climb and lost momentum. Nothing dangerous and it teaches her the art of conserving momentum!

We then took an unmarked fireroad exit out of the park to the west and back to Peebles via Janet's Brae, and called it a day for day 1.

Returning the next day, this time with a car in tow full of family, we revisited the green loop with daughter. With confidence from the previous day, she enjoyed the trail even more and she couldn't resist a play in the skills area once more. But then it was time for the adults to break off for an afternoon and sample something a little more challenging.

As said before, we were taking things easy on this visit so I'm afraid I can't do the place full justice - we only sampled the blue route really. We started from post 11 at Buzzard's Nest, a short fireroad hack takes you to post 13 where we followed the blue/red east, climbing up a number of switchbacks. The climb burnt my withered legs a little and by the time we reached post 15 I was feeling the lack of saddle time. Another pretty boring climb up to post 24, then fireroad climb to 17, meant so far I wasn't "feeling it" much.

Here we split from the red, following the blue fireroad route over to post 43 and the start of Betty Blue. Unfortunately, Betty was in some state of disrepair and the makeshift trail that bled away all our gained height didn't really do much for me. We soon find ourselves back on fireroad, heading back west to post 16 again. In hindsight, I can't really recommend this section of blue much until Betty's fixed - the red is probably a better bet (Spooky Wood).

We're staying off reds for the sake of my 'fresh' riding buddy, so Hit Squad Hill takes a miss as we fireroad it round, past Pie Run and rejoining the red/black at Magic Mushroom. This takes us back across to post 57, then a 200yd fireroad stretch south-west to post 31 and the top of the final return descent back to base. Falla Brae is a short, fast and flowing run with a few small options for air-time, then we split at post 32 and take "Good Game" down the side of the hill and past the Go Ape activities. "Good Game" is fun - it's childs play, fast and flowing with neat little jumps (all offering you the option of an easy bail-out for the 'green' ones amongst you) and it's a nice unwind towards the end of the route - no effort, all fun.

"The Admiral" - the final blue section - is of a similar vein but over just as you get into it. A short fireroad drop back down to the main car park and it's the end of day two.

Verdict? Marvellous - typical quality you'd expect if you've ridden any of the other 7 Stanes sites. The blue route is pretty mild and more fun is to be had at the lower sectio below Buzzard's Nest - the effort for the upper section doesn't seem to offer much by way of reward. I think the red route is really one to look into for a better level of reward but unfortunately I wasn't able to venture along it this time, let alone the black. The greens on offer are perfect intros for kids or newbies; nothing intimidating and very enjoyable.

The trails do offer a good selection of fireroads and cross-overs so it's actually very easy to tailor your route to something more along your needs (ie. shorten the black, or tie together a number of different routes). Facilites are excellent and it definately gets my thumbs up. I will return!

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