Ride no. 16 was a glorious day riding in Shropshire! We went to Eastridge Forest, a ‘trail centre’ on the Forestry Commission’s land.
There is an interesting history that lies in these woods and on these trails. Before the forest was officially taken over by the Forestry Commission there were a lot of downhill tracks and trails etched in by the local riders. Since they weren’t ‘official’ mountain bike trails, they were liable to be ripped out or viewed as a nuisance, as is the case in so many local-rider driven trail builds on private land.
When the Forestry Commission took over these woods, they could have easily relegated the existing DH trails to the sidelines and put in their own sanctioned trails. Instead, they worked with the strong local riding community, deciding to form a partnership in the building and maintenance of mountain bike trails in the forest.
The partnership works like this: the local riding scene builds and maintains the trails at Eastridge, and in exchange, the Forestry Commission not only allows this to happen, but also grades, signs, and maps the trails. The trails have to be built to a standard (so they don’t damage the environment and are safe to ride), but really the local riding scene get to create the trails that they think would be fun to ride. Which, really, end up being the best trails to ride!
Because of this partnership, Eastridge is quite a progressive set of trails in a Forestry Commission/trail centre context.
For all you folks reading who haven’t visited a ‘typical’ Forestry Commission trail centre, the trails at Eastridge are quite a contrast. Typical Forest Commission trail centres are built for mountain bikers to have trails that are fun, not too difficult, and ride-able all year round. Since the trails need to be more durable (as trail centres see a high volume of riders) as well as more predictable (as they are used by mountain bikers with a range of abilities), they sometimes have a slightly more ‘groomed’ feel to them than trails built by your local mountain biker.
Which isn’t necessarily less fun … it just sometimes feels less like the mountain biking I grew up with; which was trails built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. Eastridge feels that, though – feels like riding that is well thought-out, uses the gradient efficiently, and just makes you smile. I wouldn’t have guessed that there are some gems in these woods, but really, the Shropshire riding scene has it going on. Go ride it, you’ll see!