Scotland's Jedforest Trails eclectic combination of subtly contrived and all-natural offerings make it a must for anyone riding in Scotland.
Soon after slicing your way through Northumberland and over the border into Scotland you find sleepy Jedburgh — the first significant market town en route to Edinburgh’s fringe.
Who’s behind it?
42-year-old Tony Yates, originally an Oxfordshire native, took on Jedforest Trails’ project management role soon after setting up Jedburgh’s Rush bike shop in 2002 with his Borders-raised wife, Susan; Tony had previously dropped out of the Visual Basic hustle and bustle of the IT game to enter the cycle industry.
Rush unfortunately ceased trading in ’07 after spending its final year operating from Galashiels. In-between closing the shop and re-familiarising himself with network migrations, Tony has worked on a Scottish Borders council bike project alongside day to day landowner negotiations and running maintenance of the trails.
When did it all start?
Jedforest Trails’ volunteer group was formed in 2000, stirring the community council into initiating a feasibility study to explore the potential of forming dedicated trails around Jedburgh.
In the network’s infancy Pete Laing of nearby Glentress and Innerleithen fame was drafted in as a consultant. However, after setting up Jedburgh’s Rush there was an understandable agenda behind Tony’s step to take up the reins of Jedforest’s trail development, eventually driving it to realisation.
The laborious funding application process eventually proved fruitful. A total of £105,000 has been secured so far. This has chiefly been gathered from the CERS (Community Environmental Renewal Scheme), Leader+, Scottish Executive Rural Challenge Fund, Jedburgh Common Good Fund and Scottish Borders Council Community Support Fund.
Forestry Commission Scotland has also provided assistance with construction expertise on the ground, while software from tracklogs.co.uk enabled the digital routes. Jedforest trails were unveiled in the summer of 2005 and have been undergoing tweaks and fine-tuning ever since.
What about the trails?
Don’t expect a highly groomed, self-contained affair brimming with stunts, as that simply wasn’t the mission statement.
Jedforest Trails are about maintaining the natural connections between existing paths and byways and continuity with the environment. As free roaming is pretty much the order of the day this side of the Scottish border, Jed’s trail network had to accommodate the walking and hoofed community as well as the two-wheeled traffic.
Despite this free ranging, because much of Jedforest’s route spans private land, specific permission was still necessary before actively encouraging traffic through these portions.
Without the carte blanche afforded within a Forestry Commission arena, a considerable part of Tony’s effort is involved in working behind the scenes with half a dozen landowners to maintain this waymarked access. It also meant that these private areas couldn’t offer the sustainable surfacing of the forestry sections.
The 40km Justice Trail, with its title nod to the ancient Jeddart justice once served on suspects before trial, lays down the gauntlet by tying all of the Jedforest Trails together in one hit, supplying just over 900 metres of climbing within this distance in the process.
Waymarked trails include the likes of the 10.5 kilometre Deer Street Dash, Lanton Woods’ two family-ready loops and Swiney Woods’ slightly more technical offering.
Swiney is the only Forestry Commission contained section, providing around seven kilometres of trail that’s tentatively graded as a red, although as project manager Tony admitted it is at the easier end of the intermediate red-graded spectrum despite the trail’s narrow going.
In Lanton Woods you can expect groomed gritstone singletrack with a nifty, if not especially challenging, flow. In many senses riding in Jedburgh doesn’t feel traditionally Scottish — there are no looming peaks and the riding is certainly a lot less foreboding than the bordering open country of the Cheviots.
That said, there’s an involving mix of both subtly manufactured and naturally forged trails among the Roman road remnants and broadleaf flanked singletrack.
Where there are access issues on the ground through technicality or drainage, shore woodwork has been deployed to span the area, albeit only six inches or so off the ground.
Formed around the backbone of ancient byways in a rough figure of eight, it leaves plenty of bail-out or short-cut opportunities back to Jedburgh’s civilisation. Swift escape routes are also largely on tarmac.
Tony compared tackling the complete Jedforest Trails as a halfway house between a trail centre and a natural ride. Kind of like riding a backcountry classic with the aid of waymarkers and the bonus of constructed features.
And if you’re looking for an aperitif to one of the more feature-laden southerly 7Stanes, Jedburgh could be just the ticket.
When’s the best time to ride?
Less of an all-year round venue than more old-fashioned forest centres as the majority of the riding is fairly ‘au naturale’. Don’t expect a free-draining stone-flanked trail centre, because in the winter you will encounter some mud. It’s just a case of being realistic. Conversely though, the singletrack may well feel a bit more single during the abundant months due to nature’s encroaching foliage.
How do I get there?
Leave the A1 by heading north-west on the A696 into Northumberland. This drag strip turns into the A68 after Otterburn and continues across the border to meet Jeburgh.
What’s it cost?
It’s absolutely free! Just turn up armed with a trail leaflet, route download or trusty Ordnance Survey map then just keep a look out for the Jedforest waymarkings.
Where do I eat?
The Cookie Jar Cafe on Jedburgh high street, or Belters Bar in Jedburgh.
Glenbank House Hotel, Jedburgh; 01835 862258;
Allerton House B&B, Jedburgh; 01835 869633;
The Butterchurn Guest House, Otterburn. A handy B&B stop off en route, particularly if you’re hitting Kielder Forest on the way up; 01830 520585.
How do I find out more?
Trail leaflets are available at Jedburgh’s tourist information centre or you can download route maps from www.jedforesttrails.org.
Alternatively, you could check out the mtb venues listings on www.7stanes.com
Simon Porteus Cycles, Kelso. 01573 223692
The ironmonger in Jedburgh offers a few very basic spares
Hawick Cycles, 01450 376033
0870 608 0404