Yesterday was such a good day with warm Spring sunshine for probably the first time this year that I decided not to waste it and threw my gear together in the afternoon and headed for Barnes Gap forest.
I fancied something a bit different from Friday’s spin and thought the trails up there would be good with a possible climb to the summit in the back of my mind.
I was aware of the works in the forest as there is a construction company installing a windfarm. On my last visit they were working between the summit and the quarry with minimal security at the quarry end but safe enough as the site shut down for the weekend. Big change now! The works have spread out along most of the main trails with massive sections quarried out to provide stone for the widening of the trails for increased access for construction vehicles. Most of the trails have changed from potholed gravel and stone to chunky hardcore and rock. Where the vehicles have been working and travelling the trails are a mixture of smooth and some rock but the newer sections are very rocky making the going particularly difficult.
On my loop I entered and left the forest twice each. Neither of the two entrances were signed but both exits were. If I’d seen the signs early on I probably wouldn’t have gone but by the time I saw the construction I was committed and decided to go ahead, especially as all the vehicles were parked up for the weekend. The only security was at the quarry end again but he couldn’t have cared less about me as he was standing chatting to someone.
Halfway round brought me to the summit trail. No windmills going in up there so the track was in good shape. I headed up with the option to retreat if my legs gave up on me. It’s a tough old climb this one at 2.2km and an average gradient of 7.4%. According to Strava it’s an elevation increase of 165m but I’ve no idea how that reflects on other climbs. All I know is that it’s pretty relentless with very little respite and a number of steep sections hitting 12-14% and I’m sure 20% on one of the final sections. The steepness is a real challenge but it’s the loose gravel on some of the steep sections and especially on the tight corners that are the most difficult. Pleased to say I made it to the top without having to stop and even managed a PB for my 3rd attempt taking 45secs off my previous time.
The views from the top were amazing. I’ve been up here a good few times, on foot as well as on the bike and this is definitely the best views I’ve had. I hung around for a few photos but the windchill was significant enough to speed me along.
The drop back down isn’t for the fainthearted either! The steep descents are slippy now with the loose gravel and the turns are tight enough to test. With images of A&E flashing through my head I kept on the brakes and took it fairly handy all the way down.
At the base I continued on through the construction site, stopping for photos before exiting out on to the main road. A short stretch of tarmac and back into the forest to loop around back to the car to give me almost 19km and 400m of climbing in 1hr 20min and a big smile on my face.
Are they going to fix the trail when the wind farm is done? Or will you have to dodge the trucks on a crappy dirt road forever?
I assume it will be like others around here and revert back to stone trails once the construction phase is over. No idea how long construction will last though and it will probably take at least a year for nature to weather the trails back to an enjoyable level again. I won’t be happy until I see grass growing up the middle again 😆
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