Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Trail Building

Posted by Colin | September 9, 2010 | 13 comments so far

We often say how lucky we are to live in such a great area for indulging our favourite past time. The mountain biking is pretty good around here too! Boom Boom.

Despite having covered over 2,500 miles of mtb on my patch in the last 3 years, its amazing that in the last two months, I’ve ridden such new delights as Bat Outa Hell, Life on Mars, Rob’s Bits (on Headley!) and last nights new bits on Ranmore.

Whilst I love BKB on Holmbury, along with anyone who rides it, I personally get much more of a kick from trails that instead of being completely ‘man made’, appear more as if finishing touches to what God has already provided.

In other words, the natural features are exploited rather than conjured. Trails such as Bat’, China Pig, Infestation plus a plethora of Leith trails (that I still no little of) spring to mind.

So who builds this stuff? We know some of the more extreme stuff emanates from a group based nearish Westcott but they have a clear signature, quite different from the subtle stuff like Life on Mars. It normally involves rather agricultural and aggressive looking gap jumps that scare the cr8p out of most of us mere mortals who classify anything over 8 inches as big air!

Having popped my cherry on some of the new trails last night, I got home thinking it really is time I (and the Moles collective) put a little back into our community and build some of our ‘own’ trails.

Trouble is, I wouldn’t have the first idea what to do, what techniques to employ, how to identify stuff, what makes the best basis, etc.

So this is an invite to a) folks or groups who would be willing to share some knowledge and experience and b) to us lot to take action.

It would be great fun and immensely satisfying to create, name, ride and share some trails of our own. It would make an ideal alternative to wet, claggy Sunday rides, to get out there and build instead.

It would also give Dave something else to do instead of buying/swapping/building/cannibalising new bikes and may help Matt recover his errant mojo.


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  1. AndyW says:

    I have a place in mind for a new trail, been meaning to start it but never have the time. Will help if I can.

  2. Guacamole says:

    I am familiar with digging holes from which I cannot escape. I do it all the time at home!

    I am up for a bit of building work am willing to travel and even have my own spade. Will send full CV on request

  3. Markymark says:

    Count me in.

  4. paul901 says:

    The spade would be for another volunteer of course, Iron Hands would have a reputation to live up to after all!

  5. Matt says:

    This is an interesting idea Colin as there’s many trails across the Surrey Hills that have appeared over the years and many of our favourites probably started out as deer tracks or such like. Lost in the mists of time now I’m sure.

    I’d be a bit wary of invloving the Muddymoles as a group in this activity though, purely because we don’t have any legal right that I’m aware of to build our own trails. If people want to get involved then there’s the Redlands and Hurtwood organisations that do this with the support and agreement of the land owners.

    The risk is that we as a group (Muddymoles and MTB in general) get a bad press for what some might see as vandalism.

    Of course if people want to sympathetically ‘enhance’ a deer track here and there by removing an obtrusive branch or two that’s one thing. Building jumps, berms and stuff is something else. I think this really should come under the heading of ‘personal responsibility’.

    Don’t want to be negative but just wanted to paint the bigger picture…

  6. Dandy says:

    I have to agree with Matt on this one. We should not be seen to assume we can trample over other peoples land and permanently alter it just for ourselves.

    I would suggest this idea be rapidly consigned to the Mole Hole asap.

  7. Colin says:

    Thats the point I was trying to make – I’m not talking about ripping apart the countryside, just tweaking and clearing what is already there – subtle and even sympathetic being the key ……….. whilst trampling over other peoples land of course!

    I don’t hear too many complaints when we ride stuff that we know has been built on land without the owners permission [he says with tongue firmly in cheek]

    Consider it consigned!

  8. tony says:

    Damn I was looking forward to joining an elite group of underground trail builders setting free the Surrey countryside……

  9. StevenD says:

    It comes down to how far you want to go. I am with Matt, and something I do from time, get off the bike and clear debris/encourage a route that over time you hope others take and it becomes a de-facto.

    But then again I have this amusing vision of seeing Moles entering the woods with chainsaws, handsaws, axes, hammer and nails etc in their backpacks, and the landowner standing afar, scratching his head thinking WTF ? LOL

  10. PIJ says:

    These things have to start somewhere, but I do roughly agree; going out with shovels etc. is a bit of a no no. Pushing through a hedge onto a deer track and following it through some woods, well, we all get lost from time to time don’t we?

    I think in terms of actual trail building, it’s certainly a skill that some don’t possess. I’ve pushed through woods trying to establish new paths, only to realise that nobody has ridden that way before for good reason; flow. It takes a keen eye to establish a trail that flows well on a bike.

    Things are a bit lax here in the UK. I was in Belgium recently; there in the woods it is legal to hunt deer after 6pm. One tends not to stray too far then?!

    By the way, if one fancies a change next year, there is a North Shore bike park in Daun near to the Nurburgring.

  11. mike61 says:

    Interesting comments.

    We don’t have a preprepared mtb area on our doorstep so we probably (no we do!) err towards the activites that you guys want to steer clear of.

    We had exactly the same discussion as you are having but decided to go ahead.

    Colin joined us a while ago and rode some of our stuff at Whiteways. He enjoyed it, it isn’t damaging to the woodland and we recognise that timber harvesting may well trash it. I must say that the odd shovel-full of dirt was moved and the occasional bit of tree sawn through.

    Two ways of looking at the issue; 1) the trails you enjoy were made/cleared by someone (before they moved onto bigger jumps and the like); therefore you are giving something back to the mtb community, and 2) do nothing but enjoy the fruits of others toil.

    Enlarging a deertrack is a good place to start and I don’t think it verges on trail building – more like off piste riding.

    Formal trail building groups are also a productive way to give something back to the mtb community even if you don’t personally like the results.

    Keep it low key (don’t organise it or advertise through you site etc) and don’t advertise the trails that you make or claim ownership. A big plus is that you will get exactly what you want in terms of riding challenges.

    Only my thoughts for what they are worth.


  12. PIJ says:


    I think if you read between the lines, there’s a bit of off piste trail building going on around these parts. Trails start off somewhere after all. What you advocate is “trail clearing” surely? Helping out the landownwers for no fee….

    Shovels, saws etc. could be taking things a bit far and the NIMBY’s may start to take umbridge, especially if it is organised on a public forum such as this one!

    I noticed at Bedgebury the local bike club has open days where one can learn the basics of trail building. Helping out may make a change from riding the same local loop?

    Personally deer or dog walking paths are always worth a quick exploration, as are those chalk blobs the fell runners lay down.

    In an area such as this, with the sheer volume of traffic we get at weekends, there is always going to be areas where people want to let off steam; to escape the norm, and forging new paths seems to be such an activity.

  13. Colin says:

    Yes Mike, that Whiteways ride was superb, particularly the trails nurtured by yourselves.

    I’d love to join you guys again but alas the distance and leisurely start time pretty much rule it out for me. Your Stanmer Park play area looks great fun, maybe I’ll join you down there one day.

    Regards to the BrightonMtb possee.

    On the building front up here, we’ve a few willing helpers and some locations for our first attempts. Watch this space.

    Well actually don’t because it’ll be a little hush hush of course!!

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