This week we have had mountain bikers, both local and from further afield complain about how they (in this instance “they” are National Trust and Shropshire Council working in partnership) have surfaced the track from Pole Cottage to Pole Bank and down to the Medlicott junction therefore ruining it for mountain bikers. Having ridden the freshly surfaced track I happen to agree, as a keen mountain biker the trail now lacks any real challenge, sanitized of its natural features, a real shame.
However, we need to get some perspective on the matter. Firstly the Long Mynd is not actually exclusively a Mountain Bike centre, we (as Mountain Bikers) are only a small party of users, and many different people use the hill for recreation and a place of work. So why bother re-surfacing? The path is a public right of way and is a bridlepath. The surface was not conducive to horse’s feet with large loose stones. The main issue is that the path is getting wider over time as users move into the heather in order to avoid stones. We have seen this before in the 1990s when two or three paths become opened up and what was once a beautiful looking hillside looks scarred and damaged. The new wider, smoother path will now also allow access to Pole Bank for less active and less able users.
If making a mile of Long Mynd trail less interesting for some Mountain Bikers means that Pole Bank is accessible to wheelchair users and families then what’s the problem? As a consequence of this work potentially more people will be able to enjoy the view from Pole Bank and more people have an introduction to the great outdoors and might be inspired to get into Mountain Biking.
The management of Long Mynd is nothing new, many a trail has been surfaced and maintained to improve access and manage erosion. Many people comment on the natural beauty of the area, however it’s no longer natural, if it was not for the bracken burning and the grazing the beautiful heather would disappear, all the bridleways we ride are manmade, evolved from drovers roads and used for access for many years.
These trails and countryside need to be managed for all users, both people that work the land, and recreational users. It’s a job that requires finding a balance between conservation and development work like this. It’s a job that we appreciate as on the whole we benefit from the work. It’s also a job that we are glad we don’t have to do because you can’t please all of the people all of the time, we just hope that they are considerate and appreciate the common goal.
Established in 2013, the Long Mynd Batch Burner is returning in 2014! The event will take place on Saturday 7th June, 2014.
Organised and run by volunteers the Batch Burner promises to be the most fun and friendly Mountain Bike challenge event that you can enter.
On 11th May 2013 the first Long Mynd Batch Burner challenge mtb event took place on the Long Mynd in Shropshire, to raise funds for Norbury Primary School in South Shropshire. It encompassed 48 kilometres and 4000ft of the best of the Long Mynd’s trails and left the riders with tired legs and huge grins.
The event is organised by the PTA of Norbury Primary School (a tiny rural school located behind the Long Mynd) together with Church Stretton’s local cycle shop Plush Hill Cycles. Building on the work already accomplished by the local mountain bike community and the major land owner the National Trust, everything has come together to offer what promises to be a well organised and relaxed event, taking in all of the best singletrack in the area.
The event will be a mass start challenge event, so it is not a race; it’s all about having fun and raising funds for Norbury Primary School (all profits will go to the School). Places are limited to 350 riders in 2014 to minimise the impact on the natural trails and avoid singletrack bottle necks. Your entry fee will include the usual race support and on arrival back at base live music and a barbeque plus a Batch Burner goodie bag. There will be a bar and plenty of cake too.
Last Year’s Batch Burner Start
The day started early, for a Saturday. I awoke at 7am and wandered downstairs to make a cup of tea. I had slept badly, probably due to the anticipation of the day ahead. I drank my tea and made some toast for breakfast, wondering if I should be having toast before such an event. The weather looked rather changeable. It was dry but cloudy and the forecast was saying that there could be some heavy showers.
After double checking that I had everything I was likely to need, I loaded my bike onto the car and set off to pick up my friend from his house. We added his bike to the bike rack and drove to Norbury Village Hall, which was to be the starting place for the 2013 Long Mynd Batch Burner. After a bit of a detour down some country lanes we arrived at the venue. With still nearly an hour to go before the start, there were already over 100 riders present.
The venue had been professionally set up, with ample car parking in an adjacent field and the registration area in the village hall itself. Outside the hall there were marquees, sponsors’ stands, a refreshment stall and a stage for the afternoon’s entertainment.
After registering we applied our official numbers to our bikes and found our friends who were also taking part in the event.
At 10:00am we all made out way over to the starting point and listened to some final instructions and guidelines. After a countdown by the children of Norbury Primary School, we were off, on the first leg of a gruelling 30 mile trek up and down the Shropshire Hills.
With a group start of over 200 riders, it was a case of making sure you didn’t crash into one another at the beginning. Some riders got away and were setting a very fast pace. Those of us that have cycled these hills every week smiled wryly, knowing that it was more important to pace oneself for the duration.
After three miles of country road followed by a farmer’s track we arrived at the first of four climbs, a long steep rocky track which took us from the west side of the Long Mynd to Pole Cottage. The mile long climb was around 800ft and lasted for around 20 minutes, but it was tough and some people found it too much and had decided to walk it. I got into a rhythm and although my legs were burning I forced myself to keep going, despite the rocks trying their hardest to disrupt me. This is what I had trained for and I knew I could do this section.
As we were climbing, the sun came out and I quickly felt over dressed. Finally the end of the climb was in sight and we arrived at Pole Cottage to be greeted by a team of marshals who shouted encouragement at us for completing the section. We decided to regroup and wait for all of our group to arrive there and I was able to jettison one of my layers to one of the marshal’s vehicles.
Next followed a short climb to Pole Bank, the highest point on the Long Mynd and the fourth highest point in Shropshire. That meant that there had to be a downhill section to follow and indeed there was. We accelerated down the trail to Shooting Box and then along towards the Port Way. This was fast dry trail and we were soon at the Batch Valley section of the event, specifically Jonathan’s Hollow, a section that had been granted special access for the day by the National Trust.
Jonathan’s Hollow is a narrow trail, which is technical in places. It involved a hairpin turn on a steep slope, at the start and a marshal was warning us of the sharp left turn. Just after this was a tricky rocky section which had been made even trickier by the previous days’ rain. It was here that I had my only mishap of the day, when my front wheel decided to stop dead whilst I carried on over the handle bars. Fortunately I didn’t sustain anything more than bruised knees and a bruised ego. I was soon back on my bike and continued down the windy track to the bottom of Batch Valley.
Next followed a windy singletrack section, climbing up over Novers Hill and down to the back of the Water Factory. Then we crossed the golf course and descended into Cardingmill Valley.
None of us was looking forward to the next part of the route. The climb to the top of Motts Road was extremely difficult at the best of times. There are parts of it that none of us have ever cycled, due to the rocky terrain and the gradient of the track. The wind had increased significantly and this had made it even more difficult. I was happy to walk this part, although even this wasn’t easy fighting against the wind.
Once at the top of Motts Road, we followed the trail back down to Pole Cottage where we had our official food station stop. Much needed nourishment was taken on board in the form of flapjacks, jelly babies and bananas. By this time the wind was bitterly cold and rain was definitely in the air.
After our brief refreshment break we set off down Callow Descent towards Little Stretton. A group of us had completed some trail maintenance on this section a week prior to the event. This had made the track much faster, by getting rid of the surface water and ruts that spoiled this particular trail. This section has to be one of the most picturesque parts of the Long Mynd and it is always difficult to keep ones eyes on the trail because of the wonderful view.
At Little Stretton we joined the road for a mile or so of tarmac finishing in a steep climb up to the top of Minton Hill. After a quick regroup, we headed up through the gate and began the climb of Packetstone Hill. The first part of this was not cyclable. I would describe it as resembling a bomb crater, so a dismount was necessary for the first part. Once past this initial section we climbed back on and began the ascent of this steep hill. Whilst I was climbing this section, it dawned on me that we were well over half way and the reminder of the route was relatively straight forward. After all it was over an area that was very familiar to those of us that regularly cycle the Long Mynd.
Twenty minutes later we reached the top of Packetstone. We decided to regroup again. However at that moment we were engulfed by a squalling shower of rain and hail, made worse by the bitterly cold wind. We therefore decide to wait until we got to the bottom of the next decent before regrouping. We then followed a mile or so of windy singletrack across Yapsel Bank to the top of the infamous Minton Batch. Here stood a marshal warning us of the tricky nature of this part of the course.
Minton Batch is a rocky, uneven, twisting trail that requires undivided attention right from the word go. With the exception of a small wooden bridge that crosses some boggy ground it is an entirely natural descent. In places you really have to have your wits about you, as one mistake could see you tumbling down the bank into the stream that runs adjacent to the trail.
It’s always a relief to complete Minton Batch unscathed and as I tend to take things quite slowly descent wise, I found the rest of my group waiting for me at the bottom.
After a quick drink we continued along the narrow country lane towards Hamperley and then up to Priors Holt. There we picked up the forest trail, which is a mile long stoney ascent towards the West Midlands Gliding Club. Whilst not particularly steep, this section always seems to take longer than it should do. However we knew that this was the last climb for the day and once at the top, it was literally all down hill to the finish.
Another regroup at the top of the forestry and then we set off down towards “Trail 2”, which is a narrow zig-zag descent with several hairpin turns in it. This is a fun track although full concentration is needed down here or it is possible to get carried away and have a nasty spill. At the bottom of this section a kind marshal gave us some encouragement and told us that there were only three miles to go.
These three miles were a mixture of narrow road and unmade farmers tracks. Just when we though we’d had the worst of the weather, the heavens opened, while we were crossing an exposed area of farmer’s field. The wind drove the cold rain into our faces stinging like hail stones. It didn’t matter. We were nearly home, after 4 hours, 30 miles and 4000 feet of tough biking.
When we turned into Village Hall grounds we were met with applause and cheers from parents and children. I felt a great sense of achievement having completed what was probably physically the hardest thing I had ever done.
After checking in, we were given a “goody” bag each and we tucked into a well deserved hot dog and pint, whilst listening to music from Fight the Bear, whose album was the official album of the 2013 Long Mynd Batch Burner.
The event had been superbly organised by Norbury Primary School, with the route planning by Plush Hill Cycles and a massive thank you must of course go to all those involved in the arranging of the event.
I would definitely recommend that anyone who is interested in mountain biking should enter next year’s event!
Local rider and Aberystwyth University undergraduate Christy Russell is carrying out his dissertation on management and promotion of mountain biking in the Long Mynd area.
He would appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey he has prepared. (10 questions)
The National Trust are trying to acquire three disused quarries at Wenlock Edge to save their geology and wildlife and to allow more people to enjoy this spectacular countryside. However, a new planning application is jeopardising this vision.
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The National Trust would like as many people as possible to join in resisting this planning application. The best way to make your voice heard is by submitting comments to Shropshire Council. To view the plans and register your views, follow this link to the Shropshire Council planning pages
Shropshire Council has launched a period of public consultation until 28 August 2012 on the Edge Renewables planning application, reference number 12/03034/MAW
Please help the National Trust to save and transform this important conservation site so that more people can experience and enjoy the outdoors.