Category Archives: Croft Diary

Trail Building Update

Last year we started a programme of Friday night build sessions throughout the summer. They worked really well and we got a lot done with a small team, so much so we decide to do the same this year.

Those of you that are regular visitors to the trail will have noticed the new optional red line that connects the blue to the red over by the motorway. We built a ‘double’ and went further down the hill banking round at the bottom with a new berm. This meant that there might be some conflict between lines so to reduce this we installed a stepped up rock garden on the existing red line to reduce rider speed where the two lines meet.



Remember those rocks that were dropped off on site back in March? We moved them over to the same area and installed a new rock garden which now gives us multiple ride options on that section, the theory being that you can now ride 4 or 5 laps whithout riding the same lap twice. To keep the existing red line interesting we’ve also built another, slightly smaller double.


Back in March we removed the first woodwork section at the lowest part of the trail as it had become dangerous. We’d long since grown frustrated with the line down to that section as it had never worked quite as well as we’d hoped. We spent a lot of time walking the area looking for an alternative and eventually settled on a plan. This would entail a change of direction at the blue/red split, a new berm and hopefully swooping the line in and out of the ditch at the bottom. We made a start on this in April, building the back of the berm in timber so as to reduce the amount of dirt needing to be shifted. An exploratory bit of line cutting gave us a bit of a problem in that we couldn’t take the line through the ditch where we’d wanted to. A quick re think saw us come up with an alternative line and after digging and test riding it we think it works really well.

20160610_194331 20160610_194406 20160610_194454 20160911_153431 20160911_153514We’re currently surfacing this section and hope to have it officially open within the next month.

Kudos to Jez, Gary, and John for regularly turning up for the Friday night dig sessions and to Jason and Guy for turning up when they could.

Our Friday night sessions will continue until the end of October, these aren’t every week though so keep an eye on Facebook for announcements if you want to get involved. We’ll also be having a more traditional Weekend build day soon so look out for that too.

Trail Build Day – March 2016

By Chris Hopkinson

Today was all about the less glamorous side of trail building: fixing and making good.

I arrived on site at the same time as Paul. We recognised a few cars in the car park but nobody was in sight. Just as we were about to head off on a search, David Stone appeared in a flat bed truck with some rocks we’d previously arranged for him to deliver. These are for a feature that only exists in our heads at the moment but will hopefully come to fruition sometime through the summer.

Just as we finished unloading, Jez appeared with JP, Sarah, Gary and Tom, who’d all made an early start repairing a worn out section down by the pond. Grabbing a shovel and a full barrow of gravel, a few of us (including Neil who had just turned up) set off to carry out a quick, easy fix on another section not too far from the car park.

In the meantime Debbie, Paul, Richard and Sharon had set off to litter-pick the site. This was the last I saw of them for the day but, given that the whole park looks a lot tidier now, they did a grand job. Litter picking is one of those thankless tasks that nobody likes having to do. It’s shameful the amount of litter that builds up down there. Just because we’ve got people prepared to do it shouldn’t mean they have to, so please everyone – if you brought it in,  then take it out with you.

After a bit of a tea break, we got going again. Jez and Gary headed down to the lowest part of the trail to remove a woodwork section that was way past it’s best and had started to become unsafe. We’ve got some ideas in mind about what to replace it with: we’ve spent the last month walking the area and think we’ve spotted a line that uses the fall of the land and a natural feature well. Exciting times.

Some of us set off with three barrows full of gravel to do another repair down by the triangle entrance, while JP and Neil were to follow on with the compactor to finish things off. That done, we turned our attention to a worn out section of the Pipers Hill climb, using some gravel we’d stockpiled nearby some time ago. This done, it was time for a late lunch and another tea break.  Tom and I set off to do a quick repair on the roller on the corner just before the S-bend berms, while the others shifted the rocks that had been delivered that morning.

A good day’s work from all involved – we got exactly what we wanted to do done. We’ve repaired most of the sections that had suffered with the mild winter, removed a section of woodwork that had been giving us headaches for quite some time and left the place tidier than we found it thanks to our litter pickers.

Good work y’all!

Trail Build Day Feb 2016

Jez, Gary and myself (Chris) were the first 3 on site on a cold and drizzly winter morning. The rock drop-off on Piper’s hill hadn’t been right for sometime. We’d previously removed the wooden feature that had become known as ‘the kerb’ from it’s original location – where it had never really worked as well as we’d hoped – and the plan for today was to relocate it and use it to replace the feature on Piper’s Hill. Two birds with one stone. As we started to dismantle the old rock drop Phil turned up and got stuck in. The feature had been there for a good few years and we were all surprised at how much rubble and rock we’d used to build it originally. By now Jason had turned up along with a young lady called Claire. Jason had a new notice board that the club had recently purchased to replace the one at the start of the trail so he, Phil and Sarah headed off to install that.
Trail build feb 16b
Meanwhile, we’d finished dismantling the rock step and were ready to install ‘the kerb’. Surprisingly quickly, we’d found it’s ideal position and had one end installed, I was dispatched to go and find the down ramp, which we’d hidden in a bush a couple of months previously, but not before picking up the kettle and getting a brew on. By this time Ollie had turned up and had set to work barrowing over gravel from a stash we had stockpiled nearby to surface the alternative line and  the run-up to the new feature. By the time I returned, Gary and Jez had both ends fixed in the ground and were now scratching their heads thinking about how far out the down-ramp should be fitted – too short and it becomes too steep, too long and those who jump the feature run the risk of clipping the ramp with the back wheel, causing damage. While the three of us were umming and aahing, a rider came through and jumped off the feature. Hey presto! The landing point of his back wheel gave us our marker.
Trail build feb 16c
With the new feature firmly in place, Jez and Gary set off to fetch the compactor from the car park while Ollie and I set about filling in some deep holes that had appeared further up where the trail comes over the top of the hill. These types of trail repair aren’t easy when things are really wet. The gravel takes on a porridge-like consistency which it’s hard to do anything with. We carried out the repairs using hardcore (from the feature we’d just removed) and gravel tipped into the wet holes. Not the best repair we’ve ever done, but it’s better than it was and we’ll take another look later in the year. Just as we finished, Gary and Jez had also finished off compacting the trail around the new feature and we all spent a while admiring our handiwork while supping another brew.
By now it was late afternoon. It had been drizzling constantly all day and we were wet and starting to get a bit cold. Ollie had now left, as had Claire and Jason. This left me, Jez, Gary and somewhere on site, Phil. It was decided we’d load a couple of barrows up with gravel to do a quick repair on some braking bumps that had appeared – just before the berms at the entrance to the triangle – before calling it a day. This done, we headed back to the carpark, bumping into Phil on the way. Just before we left we went down to the lowest point of the trail to have a look at the first woodwork section. This woodwork has been kicking about in one guise or another for a good few years now and even pre-dates MB Swindon. On inspection, it was decided that the time had come to take it out, something that will be done on an upcoming build day.
All in all a good day’s work.

Trail build report: tidy up, new line and triangle exit

This was a low key trail tidy session.

We started out by blocking a potential short cut on Piper’s hill with branches. The step jump then received a tune up. After that we removed some neck level wire from an old fence that was a bit close to the trail down near the triangle. We replaced it with more branches to block a short cut off the trail.

Jump tune up at MTB trail.
Jump tune up.

Then we did some more work on the triangle exit rock. This had already been built up on the previous build day but some of the rocks had slipped. We rebuilt the top level with some bulkier rocks and ended up with a much better feature.

Rock feature at MTB trail.
Rock feature is now bigger.

Then we moved on to look at a new option for the trail. We cut back undergrowth to reveal a new line. This goes higher after two big berms and will give a longer, straighter run down the hill. We’re going to build a few wooden jumps along this line.

Cutting new trail.
Jez incestigating* the new line (*new word).

We drained out a puddle on the main track round the site (near the pond).

Drained puddle.
There it was. Gone.

Finally some wheel barrow wheels were fixed following a trip to Bell Tyres.

Wheel barrow fleet.
Wheel barrow fleet.

See the full build diary. Future build events are listed on the events calendar.

Massive mtb jump.
Massive jump.
MTB trail build progress map.

Trail build report: last of the pothole filling season (Piper’s, north side, mway1&2, triangle)

Wheel barrows of limestone at mountain bike trail
Let’s fill them.

On the Friday afternoon I rode the trail and the noted the location of any remaining potholes. After two years of pot hole filling I knew that our helpers were really looking forwards to a nice change and spending the day filling holes. Jez was particularly excited about this and kept texting me to ask how many potholes needed filling and saying that it was far more interesting than building new features.

We’d already moved the material on our mega build day in February and shifted some of it in March (pothole filling).

Not long after 10am we had Shaun, Adrian, Jez, myself and a new Phil (not Mayger) on site. We got stuck straight into the pot hole filling task, using the stock pile of material near the north side of the pitch. Because the ground was so dry we commissioned Shaun to tip water onto the ground to help the limestone chippings bed in. Whilst we were there Jez and Phil tuned up a few of the jumps which had sagged a bit.

Water butt in a wheel barrow.
Water feature.

After that we moved south to our second stock pile of material and filled more pot holes. We were joined by Andy Matthews, Jerome, Stuart and Christopher Banjo Vincent. A new jump was built in place of the first small step.

MTB jump
New jump

The last two set off to the triangle exit ramp and dug a significant drain.  I filled a few long range pot holes in the triangle.

Rock drop at mountain bike trail.
Rock drop tune up.

We finished off by tuning up the rock ramp at the exit of the triangle. This had sunk over the winter so the rocks were lifted up and reseated and new limestone chippings were added.

Thankyou to everyone who came along. Future build days will be advertised on the events calendar.

Pot hole map.
Pot holes were filled.

History Corner

Full build diary.

A major change of direction at the trail

Croft Trail 2009
The Croft Trail in 2009

The Croft Trail has existed in Swindon since mid 2008 (see the history).  Over the years the route has been adjusted and new features built. A dedicated group of volunteers have worked in their spare time to create the trail as it is today. All of this has been recorded in the  trail build diary.

A guiding principle has been to make the most of the limited space and elevation that’s available. This has involved many hours of discussion over the years, countless diagrams, test digs, trial runs and rebuilding of parts that didn’t work. The end result has been a trail that’s received positive feedback from many riders. 

When the club took over the trail development some basics were already in place. The start and finish points already existed and an evolutionary design process was used. Recently a radical question was posed to the committee: would the trail actually make more sense if it was ridden in the opposite direction?  The inspiration was a cyclocross rider who was found riding the wrong way round and said “I’ve always done it this way!”.

20 tonnes of gravel
20 tonnes

Some members thought it was worth investigating the idea. Others were dead against it for various reasons. In the end  the whole committee assembled in the early hours  on a Sunday morning and rode the trail in reverse by torch light. After three laps votes were collected. By a very narrow margin the vote was a yes. 

ExistingCroft_Trail_Map After

Club chairman Phil Mayger is very excited about the possibilities “it actually works a lot better this way round.  Some things come up a lot sooner  such as the bit near the end (start) round the pond. The triangle is still in the middle of the lap and the bits near the start (end) now happen later. The woodwork at the end (start) is still one of my favourite features and the berm just after (before) it flows a lot better.”

Surprisingly many of the jumps work well as step ups and can be left alone. Two are going to be moved from the climbs (descents) onto the new descents (climbs). Pete’s steps, long a source of frustration to riders, will now be a fun descent.

Improved sign posts at Croft Trail in Swindon, Wiltshire.“We discussed our ideas with one of the guys from Architrail and he said that we’ll get more life out of the trail since the gravel actually beds in directionally with use.”

The camp fire will now be at the end of the laps on Friday nights rather than the start.

A small oversight was made regarding the notice board, but, as Phil says “no one ever reads it anyway and this way round then can look at the map of where they’ve been rather than where they’re going.”

A benefit of the change is that all existing Strava segments will be voided. Since the trail has changed many times over the years many of the existing times are for old layouts which might have been shorter and easier.

Technically the only work required at the trail is to swap the arrows on the sign posts around. This is going to be done overnight on the longest day of the year, Saturday June 21st.

So be prepared to be a bit confused with the new look trail after the swap date.  It really will be like visiting a new trail centre. Hopefully riders will appreciate the new look.

A last word from Phil “as far as trail centres go this really is a first (as of April 2014).”

Stack of wheel barrows.
Wheel barrows


Trail build report: triangle woodwork opened, triangle + alley pothole filling

Mountain bike north shore being built.
Morning wood.

This was a low key trail build day.  On the February build day we’d shifted 20 tonnes in record time and ended up with stock piles of material in strategic locations round the trail.

The plan for the day was to finish and open the wood section in the triangle.  This had been almost finished back  in January.  Jez, Ricky and Gary (Gary 5) got straight on with wood task.

Meanwhile Phil, Tom, Pawel and Sarah marked out the entrance path, dug it out and then filled it with limestone. The short section off the end of the first logs to the start of the extended raised section was also filled in. Chris came along with a broken gas stove and then Kate arrived to help too.

With the wood section officially opened then a lot of OCD pothole filling was done in the area. Some serious water damage was discovered in the back alley and  it was necessary to shift material from a more remote gravel stockpile to fill this.  The distance was around 300m and three people did about 6 journeys each. That means they walked 1.8km pushing a wheel barrow. Good training for something. The Garmin log from the build day shows 7.5km total distance walked.

Trail building crew

Power drill

New MTB trail section
New section opened. Raised beds for the flowers too.

After months of rain and cold it was pleasant to be out on an early spring morning. Small patches of green were appearing on trees and the birds were tweeting (they haven’t mastered hashtags yet though).

Pothole filling kept the group occupied for most of the afternoon. It was very satisfying to see a damaged patch of trail be turned back into something robust.

Shifting Limestone
More limestone being shifted.


Dumping load
Ricky dumps his load.


Fixed trail section
Fixed section.

In general we’ve been very pleased with how well the trail has stood up to a very wet winter. 

Croft Trail progress March 2014

Thanks to everyone who came along and helped keep the trail in good shape. Future build days will be advertised on the events calendar.

History corner (it’s going to be big)

The original triangle was closed in late 2010 (see the plans from August 2010).  The first attempt at marking a simplified route was done in Sept 2010. The bulk of the work was done during 2011. It carried on into 2012 with it opened ready for the April open day.

The entrance and exit lines had been scouted in May 2010The entrance link was marked out in Aug 2010. The logs were moved in Nov 2010. The triangle entrance was cleared in 18th and 28th of Dec 2010. The 2011 build history covers the triangle activity.  The 2012 work consisted of more surfacing on the 14th and 15th of Jan. More material was moved on the 4th ready for the 5th  of Feb. The final connecting berm was built on the 4th March and a few minor details finished on the 24th March.

Resurfacing work was done on the 8th and 9th of Sept 2012, drainage work in Dec 2012  and pothole fixing in April 2013 and Dec 2013.

The wood section was mainly built in 2011…it’s just taken a while to finish it properly.

The alley history is covered in this update from  May 2012. It was further patched up in April 2013

Full build diary.

Early spring view
Early spring view

Trail build report: 30 people, 20 tonnes (start, exit, mway1, east side)

Volunteers at a trail build day.
Many hands make light work.

See the complete Croft trail build diary.

After low key build days in December (triangle surfacing) and January (triangle woodwork) we had a big day planned. Twenty tonnes of build materials had been delivered on Thursday morning: half a tonne of gabion (rocks) and 19.5 tonnes of type 1 limestone. Our target was to shift all of this in the day and it was looking promising; twenty people had clicked “yes” on the Facebook event.

We’d found our stash of large rubble bags on one of the previous build days. This includes two 3 x 3m bags that can hold around 7 tonnes each. We had Pete Ratcliffe and Daisy the Land Rover booked for the day. Tom Scott was bringing his barbeque and Kat Ratcliffe had cake and hot drinks ready to go. Well, the drinks weren’t actually heated until needed but the plans were there.

20 tonnes of gravel
20 tonnes

The weather since Christmas had been long periods of heavy rain interspersed with drizzle. When that stopped then it precipitated. When that stopped then it started to rain again. One day there was a period of literally minutes between the rain stopping and then starting again. On top of that it rained quite a bit as well.

More recently there had been a week of high winds that had felled trees at the major trail centres and Somerset was flooded. After all of this it was heartening to find that the majority of the trail was still intact. Some pot holes had formed but in other areas there was pristine rocky trail even if it was surrounded by water. 

Trail build volunteersThe first target was moving material down to a stockpile in the triangle area using the Land Rover. At the same time material was moved to the rock spine area using wheel barrows. Once the triangle stockpile was complete then a second was built at the end of motorway1.  On the way a large mud pit at the bottom of Pete’s steps was fixed.

Paul and Debbie walked the trail removing branches and other debris. Debbie received kudos for raking moss off the woodwork. Kristian dug out puddles using his African monster mattock.

With so many people present we were able to start more jobs. Jerome filled potholes round the first section of the trail and on the north side of the pitch. A large group got started on the trail exit area which had turned into a quagmire. This was dug out and filled with rock. 

When that was done the the group moved onto motorway1 and filled more pot holes. Meanwhile Phil and myself (Tom) inspected the trail on the east side of the pitch and found several large puddles. These were drained.

New trail

By 2:30pm most of the gravel had gone and it looked we were going to beat our previous record of shifting 20 tonnes by 3pm. With little else to do in the car park the main group moved to the east side of the pitch and dug even deeper drainage channels. The last two loads of gravel were used to fill potholes and puddles. Finally we entertained ourselves for an hour or so working on our drainage canal. This had been built two years ago after some newly built trail had been completely submerged. Cutting through roots that were under dank water gave us a few laughs.

BBQ at the Croft Trail

That was an amazing day and proved that with a decent number of people then a lot of work can be done and it’s more fun. I remember the early days in 2009 when it was often just Phil Mayger and myself at the trail. We are winning the war on pot holes. If the trail can survive the last two months and remain in good shape then it can survive anything. Thank you everyone who came along and made this a success.

MTB Trail drainage work.
Our self built canal.

Those present

  • 1 – Sean Carolin
  • 2 – Mike Ponzo
  • 3 – Andy Smith
  • 4 – Jason Rodger
  • 5 – Tom Scott
  • 6 – Hazel Ross
  • 7 – Ania Zielnik
  • 8 – Debbie Davies
  • 9 – Paul Allum
  • 10 – Graham Burgess
  • 11 – Gary (new Gary)
  • 12 – Sean Morrisey (RAC man)
  • 13 – Kat Ratcliffe
  • 14 – Pete Ratcliffe (Daisy operator)
  • 15 – Kristian Price
  • 16 – Tom Stickland
  • 17 – Phil Mayger
  • 18 – John Crocker
  • 19 – Jon Proudman
  • 20 – Richard Barnett
  • 21 – Gary Palmer
  • 22 – An Wheeler (previously known as Anne and then Ann)
  • 23 – Jerome Crametz
  • 24 – Gary Lee
  • 25 – Mike Jeffries
  • 26 – Steffan James
  • 27 – Christopher Banjo Vincent
  • 28 – Phil Allum
  • 29 – Paul Kidd
  • 30 – Malcolm Toop Rose

Trail maintenance

Gravel shifting league table

 Our new gravel shifting record:

MTB trail drainage work.
Drainage work.

History corner

Canal dredging.

Complete trail build diary.

Trail Build  Progress 2014 02 22

Trail build report: triangle wood, signpost fix & mattock reclaim (rain)

Come and help us at the February build day!

I couldn’t help but notice on the drive over that there was rain falling from the sky. It was clearly collecting on the ground in big puddles. When I arrived at the trail the rain was still falling. Oh well, nothing stops a build day. 

In the triangle  I found Jez, Phil, Kristian and Kirk hard at work finishing off sections of the raised woodwork. The weather gave the ideal ground conditions for banging the large stakes in. That’s about the only positive regarding the weather.

Building a wooden section at the Croft Trail in Swindon.

We made good progress and connected several sections.  After a few hours we’d used up all of the slats and flattened several batteries. We were also wet and cold so quite happy to stop.

At our last big build day we’d lost one of our mattocks. After much searching we decided to record it as missing in action.  A few days before this build day a rider posted on our Facebook wall to say that they’d found a mattock. They moved it to a special secret location.  We sent Mike Jeffries off to collect it.  He was gone for a long time but eventually returned with the trophy. It took a bit longer than expected because he fell over in the mud. 

Trail building in the rain.
Mattock reunited.

After a few weeks of rain the river was almost touching the bottom of the bridge in the triangle. I took a quick trip over to the east side of the pitch to take a look at the flooding and found our canal was working well. We dug this in December 2012 and January 2013 after a big flood over Christmas. We fixed the flooded section in March 2013.

Mountain bike trail flood.
High water.


Drainage ditch.
Our drainage canal.

Our final job of the day was to concrete in a sign post that had been ripped out of the ground a few times.  Generally posts that are ripped out will be somewhere nearby. We’d spent a long time searching for it on a previous build day and given up. We decided to have a final look for it. The four of us set off in different directions and wandered around for ten minutes. Then I heard a shout and Phil arrived with the missing sign. Good job. 

He hammered at least 6 nails into each of four sides of the post before we postcreted* it into the ground. You do the math(s) on how many nails that is. 

*the week after my holiday in the Mediterranean was known as postcrete.

Fixing sign post into the ground with postcrete

With that done we went home to dry off and warm up. Thanks to everyone who was there working in the rain. The experts on Facebook voted our Mudtrek build day as being colder and wetter. 

We’re going for a big push at the February build day! (More info about the big push).


Trail build report: triangle resurfacing

Mountain bike trail surfacing.This was our last build day of the year. The plan was to fix and resurface a few muddy patches in the triangle using material that we’d moved on the previous build day

Phil Mayger,  Kristian Price, Chris Macnamara and myself (Tom) were there from the start. On the walk down to the triangle we found the missing stash of  gravel sacks….in the river. It looked like they’d blown there in the recent high winds. That was a mystery solved anyway.

We decided to start at the furthers point from the gravel stash. A few puddles were drained out, gabion was tipped in and then the whole lot was resurfaced and compacted. Kristian built a few bits of wooden edging too.

Chris and Kristian left. Chris was replaced by another Chris (Hopkinson).  After some very busy build days it looked like this one was going to be quiet. Not to worry. We were making good progress.

Gravel sacks at a mountain bike trail.

Reinforcements turned up in the afternoon: Steffan James, Paul Kidd and Richard Ford. By about 3pm we’d moved all of the available gravel. It was soon dusted and compacted. Finally some drainage channels were dug and then we called it a day.

Great work. Thank you everyone who turned up.

Newly surfaced trail at a mountain bike track.

We’d already fixed some of the triangle area in April 2013. The triangle was dug out in June, July and August 2011 surfaced in September & October 2011, January 2012 and then topped up in Sept 2012 (more).

Build progress at the Croft Trail in Swindon. Dec 2013.

Some build day turnout highlights (not based on an exhaustive study).

Build diary.