The perfect section to work on getting some air under your tyres
Our winner, K-Line, is just one section on Hamsterley’s red trail. Named after Kay Graham who lead Trailblazers youth coaching who sadly passed away in 2015.
Hamsterley Forest – K-Line
K-Line is just one section of the 14.5-mile red trail. Filled with jumps it’s the perfect section to work on getting some air under your tyres, but it’s equally fun if you want to keep your wheels on the ground. Starting at the top of the hill on Polty’s Last Blast and finishing with Nitrous at the bottom there are few trail centres that cram as much good stuff into one hill as this.
Volunteer-built Trail of the Year
Hamsterley Forest feels quite remote. Tucked away on the east side of the North Pennines in county Durham it sees far less traffic than other trail centres; Dalby Forest to the south and the 7 Stanes just over the border in Scotland drawing the big crowds. Possibly overlooked but most certainly not unloved Hamsterley has been steadily growing its trail network as well as a community of riders and trail builders.
Hamsterley Trailblazers was set up in 2003 to try and help formalise some of the unofficial trails that had been built on Forestry Commision land by local riders. Today it’s remit has grown to cover much more than liaising with the FC. From applying for planning permission building trails through to organising events and working to encourage new riders into the sport Trailblazers is at the heart of riding in the area.
Trailblazer’s chairman Alex Talks is, as you’d expect, passionate about the work the group does. From the practical to the political he’s enthusiastic about improving riding in the forest and further afield – the group have just taken a nearby BMX club and track under their wing. The red route at Hamsterley is a case in point. This is a trail that has come about purely from the work Trailblazers have put in, it’s a 14.5 mile testament to the hard work and dedication of many people with a united cause – and it’s still a work in progress.
K-Line has all the hallmarks of what makes for a Trail of the Year winner. Fast, easy to session and packed with jumps of all sizes it’s a feel-good trail that rewards whatever you put into it. You don’t need to be able to jump to enjoy it though, it’s been designed to work at many levels with a natural rhythm to the trail that anyone can appreciate.
K-Line has been an instant hit; it even has a race named after it, the K-Line TT. Last year 150 riders, 50 of which were children, took part in a mini-downhill race on the trail. It’s a trail that has widespread appeal and versatility.
It’s not been easy going though. During construction K-Line changed direction three times thanks to ground conditions making trail building nigh on impossible. One section in particular was labelled the Bottomless Bog after several tons of rock and aggregate was poured into it with seemingly no effect on filling the muddy void. Needless to say the trail now bypasses it. Rider’s looking for a STRAVA shortcut beware.
That K-Line is so popular is saying something. The trail leading into it, Polty’s Last Blast and the trail it joins up to, Transmission, are both stand out sections in their own right. Deep within the tall, dense forest the views to the outlying moors are limited, but coming round one corner it opens up for a ‘Hallelujah’ moment and your eyes lift to the horizon, but are quickly dropped back to the line of doubles in quick succession.
Unlike the entrance to Polty’s there are no big signs to mark the start of K-Line. Alex says the club would love to have something to show where the trails begins but realistically the money to create such a thing could be better used elsewhere. Knowing when and where to use resources is an important part of trail building and with ambitions to create more trails elsewhere in the forest tough decisions have to be made when it comes to budgets.
Trail building is part of the club culture here. There are dig days every third Saturday of the month and there are large banners on the trail to advertise the fact. Today a team of builders are helping to repair and resurface Transmission. General use and weather has taken its toll and the trail needs a bit of love to help keep it flowing as intended. The volunteers work at engine specialists Cummins in nearby Darlington who have a social responsibility programme. This allows them to use half a day a year of work time to volunteer on projects in the community. Alex is a lecturer and has had his students come along to lend a hand and the Trailblazers run family dig days to help get kids involved and give them a sense of ownership over the trails. The dedication to digging is impressive.
While one group is ‘barrowing in rocks another is doing the mundane but essential job of ensuring the drainage channels are clear. These are the thankless tasks that need to be done to maintain a functioning trail, the chores that go unnoticed until someone doesn’t do them. Trail building can’t be all sculpting fresh turns…
It’s no surprise K-Line has won trail of the year, the sheer love and effort that has gone into its creation means it was always going to be a stand out trail.