Trails and Wear

Human activity changes the world around us and it should come as no surprise mountain biking has an impact on the planet.

One day the army might want their land back…mud carried off the land is a microcosm of erosion

The good news is comparative studies put mountain biking in the light touch category. Thats not to say others are bad, it’s just we tend to ride in single file and leave narrow tracks. There are a few studies available for download, including this one.

One significant factor is the soil and terrain. Our blessing of light sandy soils equals excellent drainage and year-round riding or walking on the military lands. Try going for a walk or ride on chalk or clay after heavy rain and a swift lesson in geology will be delivered in the form of sticky, heavy mud clinging to your boots or bike. And it won’t wash off in a hurry.

DIO may resent casual recreational access but the real irritation isn’t Section 2 of the byelaws, it’s the underlying geology that rinses clean by just whispering “hosepipe” at the end of a ride. Given the choice who wouldn’t want to go for a winter walk or ride on well drained terrain?

Erosion – But How Much?

But for all the positives of MTB we will have witnessed a trail that is changing by erosion. Rainfall patterns are changing too and short, heavy downpours will run off faster and use gullies to drain…taking with it loose soil. The steeper the slope and straighter trail the greater the runoff and erosion.

Beacon Hill has been subject to erosion. We fully expect DIO to hold up trail erosion as a good reason to ban every cyclist on every trail…and their track record of using rational evidence to set policy will present a compelling but mostly false narrative leaving the decision makers with a view that Caesars Camp will cease to exist as a hill all thanks to MTB if nothing is done.

So what could we do to counter any emotive or egocentric policy setting?

Here at TAG we always fall back on evidence…and there are ways and means of precisely measuring changes caused by erosion with precise surveying tools (thank you to our friends at One Point Basingstoke), a decent camera or drone and some very clever software.

The technique is called photogrammetry and its used for everything from preserving evidence at serious road collisions to documenting shipwrecks.

So we have selected a couple of trails and scanned them in 3D. Click on the link to take a look:

In 3~6 months we can repeat the process and measure the differences. Early results have hinted at some erosion on one trail but its volume is measured as less than a half a wheel barrow load over 6 months. A small group of riders who care (and who don’t?) would have the trail restored in an hour…

This approach will deliver hard evidence that can then be used for two things:

  • Counter any subjective reasoning proposed by DIO to ban mountain biking
  • Tell us how fast the trails are wearing and plan to repair or divert as required.

Objective evidence is one of the principles of Standards in Public Life. It goes without saying we are more than happy to discuss using the best evidence and mitigation of trail damage with DIO, should they choose to engage.

Causing Harm/Closing Trails

There are a couple of trails that are causing concern and our riding is damaging some precious prehistoric remains.

In July 2021 DIO SE received a report entitled “Scheduled Monument Quinquennial Condition Assessment Surveys, Aldershot Training Area, Hampshire”.

For a 15 page report it mentions mountain biking or cycling no fewer than 17 times, and its not always positive. The main concerns over trail damage are occurring on some of the archeology at Caesars Camp, and we do agree there are some changes needed.

At this point we must point out a few things:

  • Its highly likely public money was spent on this report
  • Lt Col Bishop (Commanding Officer) and staff are likely to have sight of the report
  • It took a Freedom of Information request confirm the report’s existence
  • It took a second request to be provided with a copy

At no point in the 6 months between publication and the FOI request has DIO approached TAG to discuss any concerns regarding MTB damage.

We can draw our own conclusions as to why DIO have sat on the report and continued to bear witness to trail damage. Maybe it’s because one area where walkers and cyclists are blamed for damage is exactly the same area where TSMs like to drive their pickups?

The report author didn’t witness a TSM on patrol, but we have some photos showing vehicle tracks damaging the monument, if needed.

If DIO had raised the report with TAG we could have worked together last year to take action to close the trails and prevent more damage. Three trails that cross the ditch and bank are causing erosion to the 2500 year old fort and to prevent damage all we need do is choose not to ride these short sections of trail.

The vegetation will recover and help stabilise the soil. This will prevent further erosion and limit additional damage.

The green area represents the scheduled monument of Caesars Camp. The red trails show the locations of the trails causing harm. All are causing erosion and we need to let the vegetation recover to protect the 2500 year old fort

So this blog post really is an appeal to everyone asking that we individually and collectively stop riding over the ditch and bank of the Iron Age fort at Caesars Camp. It’s a precious piece of our cultural heritage protected by law (its scheduled by English Heritage) and we can do the responsible thing by applying “Do no harm” principles as much as possible.

What we cannot and must not do is repeat DIO’s “do nothing and watch them fail” approach as this hands good reason to anyone who wants to ban MTB to call for exactly that.

In total the trails doing the harm are a mere 327 metres in length. When compared to what else is available in the area – a whopping 109.88 kms for Long Valley and Caesars Camp combined – then its not a major loss.

We have prepared an overview of the trails:

Tracks and trails at Long Valley and Caesars Camp

Update 13th February – a ride yesterday added another 10kms of trails – total distance is now 118.9kms for both areas.

It’s not quite complete but a very good guide as to what is there. You can download a copy here:

TAG are quietly confident the local community cares about the lands. No one is setting out to deliberately cause harm, but once known and identified we can all do the right thing and the thing right and ride elsewhere letting Caesars Camp ditch and bank heal.

TAG day – 28th Jan – thanks to everyone!

Well done to the T.A.G. trail workers. When 10am dawned on Saturday morning and there were only 5 people at the meet point I must say I was worried that we had lost your enthusiasm. But lo and behold within 10 minutes another fifteen people had appeared and the final turnout for the day was a record twenty two people and a few assorted children of various sizes.

The weather was generous and stayed dry for the day, although woolly underwear was a good idea as it was a bit nippy in the woods. The team split into two work parties and set off for a day of tidying up in the area of Bunker Buster where winter rain had created some erosion problems.

Everyone pitched in and the path culverts were cleared out including some incredibly smelly bits (well Stan swore it was the drains). One trail that had got very muddy was re-routed to more stable ground and the old route closed off.

The tea break was greatly improved by the cake donations from Jo and others.

Where the route crossed ground that was inherently very wet, some low level boardwalk was installed to stop any further erosion while protecting the drainage.

We finished off at lunchtime with a visit to the Tweseldown pub to refresh adults and children alike.

A big thank you to everyone who came along including…

The ‘A’ team – Bob, Dave and Lee (great skills guys)
Dave B, Ned & Lucia, Stan L, Wheezy Steve , Lesley, Jo F and family, Pants and small
Pants, John, Bazz , Irish Rich and Family and dog, Ewan, Jo M (hope your shoes dried out)
Mike ,Kate , Rachy and family, Gayle, Simon(Sandy Hill) and son.

Well done all!

October 22nd / 29th Maintenance days – A Big Thank You

A big thank you to all who turned up to help at Minley, it’s humbling to see how many care and want to help out on the land which you ride on.

The main aim of the day was to help prevent any further ground erosion on two sections of trail; Banksy and Sponge BoB.

On Banksy we installed a small section of board walk over a wet/boggy area to minimise erosion over the winter and to let the ground recover.

Sponge BoB had repairs made to braking bumps/holes and has temporally been closed off to allow the ground to settle. Please respect the trail closures currently in force.

On another note, could all who ride on MoD Land look out for any gates which may have been left open on the Training Areas. If you see any that are unattended please close them as they pose a security risk to Troops training and it leaves the area open to fly tipping.  If asked what you are doing, just reply with “The gates are supposed be closed at all times and have a sentry posted if left open”.

Thanks again for all your support – keep an eye on the website and facebook for the next trail maintenance day.

October 22nd Minley Trail Maintenance Day

On the 22nd October we’ll be other at Minley doing a variety of tasks including, general trail maintenance, fixing a couple of the bridges, and fitting some boardwalk over a wet area. Please come and get involved – you’ll need clothes you don’t mind getting dirty in and garden tools (including bow saws if you have one).

Meeting point is here: http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=481494&Y=158510&A=Y&Z=115&ax=481882&ay=158650

Time: 10am – 2pm
PS. If you’ve got any treated wood you don’t need do let us know it may be of use.

TAG Trail Maintenance Day 9th July

Come join us on the 9th July at the carpark near the Foresters Pub for the next TAG trail maintenance day. We will improving trails and completing general trail maintenance – everyone is welcome.

Time: 10:15am
Location: OS Grid Reference SU827527 (car park near the Foresters Pub)
Map link: http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=482750&Y=152750&A=Y&Z=115
What to bring: Spades, shovels, rakes, suitable footwear, and some gardening gloves

TAG Trail Maintenance Day 11th June

The 11th is the second Saturday of the month which means it’s a TAG trail maintenance day. We will be clearing water catchment ditches, and completing general trail maintenance – everyone is welcome.

Time: 10:30am
Location: OS Grid Reference SU830510 (car park on Bourley Road
Map link: http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=482800&Y=150685&A=Y&Z=110
What to bring: Spades, shovels, rakes, suitable footwear, and some gardening gloves

TAG Trail Conservation Day 30th April

The weather delivered bright sunshine which encouraged a good turnout and made for a very pleasant time at Ceasars Camp training area . Armed with a motley selection of shovels, rakes and our trusty barrow we headed out at 10am.

First order of the day was to re-route a section of trail away from an Iron Age barrow on Beacon Hill which was quickly accomplished and then one sharp eyed member spotted another barrow marking that was new to us and so we re-routed around that as well and covered it with brash to discourage foxhole digging.

Then it was down the hill to clear some catchment ditches and clean up the crossing points so that the water could flow. Very muddy smelly job but the dogs loved it and were wading around in the mud to cool down. Here it was important to ensure that trail crossings did not block water movement and to remove all the old roots and rubbish from the drains that was blocking them up.

While this was all going on a second group had tackled the closure of two trails which crossed the Iron Age defensive ditches which adorn the plateau at Ceasars Camp. These required an extensive barrier of ‘dead hedging’ so much hedging material had to be searched for and brought up onto the site by van. Stakes then had to be drivven in to support the hedge across the trail entrance and then filled with the collected ‘brash’. With the ground so dry hammering stakes in was no easy task but the lads persevered and made a super job of it.

Then it was onwards to a sandy descent where youngsters had been digging pits and making little jumps. These pits were very dangerous at night and had caused some accidents, so they needed filling in and the jumps removed. The youngsters had also left a lots of drinks cartons and pop bottles so this rubbish was collected up from this area and taken away.

At this point everyone was ready for a beer so we called it a day with a quick de-brief with the Landmarc Training Area Warden, Steve Plain who reviewed the days work and said “This is a great help in managing the area and excellent standard of work. It shows what volunteer groups can achieve by working cooperatively with Landmarc. Well done.”

Thanks to everyone who attended particularly first timers and we will hope to see you all next month.

The team making hedge posts

Using recently felled natural materials to create the dead hedge posts

Dead hedge blocking a trail

In addition to perserving the iron age ramparts the dead hedges will act as shelter to small mammals and reptiles

A completed dead hedge

One of the six dead hedges

TAG Trail Conservation Day 13th March

First job was to remove some slightly shonky jumps that had recently been put in on Tunnel Hill together with putting in a few drainage channels on the trail they’d been put on.

Then it was off up the hill to walk a few of the more highly used trails clearing debris, clearing existing drainage channels, and inserting new drains where we encountered standing water.

Finally we rerouted one of the less well used trails and added in some support to corners to prevent it following the fall line. After a quick scoot round to put up some MTB awareness posters it was off down the pub after a hard day’s work – thanks everyone!

A happy (but tired) team

A happy (but tired) team - off to the pub!