Launch For £130k Bike Trail in Hamsterley Forest

by Ben Haworth 1

Gary Ewing tackles the new red trail in Hamsterley Forest. Pic by Mat Clark.
Gary Ewing tackles the new red trail in Hamsterley Forest. Pic by Mat Clark.

A new section of mountain bike trail is set to open on the Forestry Commission estate in Hamsterley Forest this weekend.

The Forestry Commission, Hamsterley Trailblazers and Groundwork will unveil a new section of single track on Saturday (12 September) which links together two popular ‘red routes’ in the 2,000 hectare (5,000 acre) woodland, near Bishop Auckland, creating a loop over 14 kilometres long and offering a unique experience of County Durham’s biggest wood.

The project has been made possible thanks to a £50,000 CDENT PREMIER Award from the County Durham Environmental Trust (CDENT) under the government’s Landfill Communities Fund.

One of Britain’s top trail builders, Pete Laing, designed the trail to world class standards, complete with enough jumps and turns to have bikers grinning from ear to ear. Work on the ground was done by contractor Alan Patterson using locally quarried stone and a hardy team of over 20 volunteer trailbuilders.

Amongst them was 33 year old Gary Ewing, who now lives in Bishop Auckland. He emigrated from Nottingham to New Zealand in 2004, but after a couple of years decided to return to the UK with partner Fiona Simpson. With few ties back home selecting a place to settle could have been a big job.

He explained: “I did a bit of research and opted to live near Hamsterley Forest on the basis that the trails and area looked so good! It’s been a great move and Fiona has also started biking. Adding to the trails network makes the forest an even better off-road venue.”

Bikers can give the trail a test drive and join a barbecue from 2pm on 12 September to mark the opening. The Great Milk Stout Ride takes place in Hamsterley the following day to raise money from Macmillan Cancer Support making it a great biking weekend.

John Taylor of CDENT added: “This is an exciting project which is opening up biking and exercise to a broader cross section of people. Hamsterley Forest and the wider community will benefit from the increased number of visitors to the area, which can only have a positive impact.”

Alex MacLennan, Recreation and Tourism Manager with the Forestry Commission, said: “This is another key step forward in the development of Hamsterley as one of the north’s prime locations for off roading. Because the trail is surfaced it will add another weather-proof, all-year-round attraction to the forest and boost bike tourism to the region.”

In addition to the CDENT funding, backing for the trail also came from the former Teesdale District Council (£40,000), Forestry Commission (£28,000) and Hamsterley Trailblazers (£20,000). Trailbuilding volunteers were managed by Groundwork. One of the ultimate aims is to create one of the UK’s best singletrack red routes at Hamsterley Forest up to 25 kilometres long.

Pic by Mat Clark.
Pic by Mat Clark.

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