This time of the year my local “trails” are muddy. I know, so are yours but mine are not very interesting at the best of times so when it gets muddy it simply is no fun at all.
I am not a geologist but I can confidently say we have a heavy clay content in our soil around here so when it gets wet no “mud tyre” or “winter tyre” will cope. So the only solution if you want a proper ride is to visit a trail centre.
As we were going to be in Wales it would be rude not to take in a trail, so we hatched a plan to visit Cwmcarn and ride the Cafall.
I was determined this time to take some photos and with the misty conditions it was certainly moody and picturesque enough for some fine results. Hopefully you will agree.
This ride was great and theres a lot to be said about making the effort to find a trail centre during the winter. They are built to take a battering from riders abusing them and of course the weather, especially in Wales. A combination of the trees and elevation profile will allow rain to either be drunk by the vegetation or run off down the hillside to join the local rivers out of the way. So save for a few patches we managed to ride around in some damp but not muddy conditions.
Now, there’s not getting away from it, its time to see my face and listen to me talk. 2017 will see me do more video (hopefully much better than this one) so get used to it!
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Its been closed for some time due to a disease spread among the Larch trees, a problem that has affected a number of trail centres across South Wales over the last few years and has changed the landscape, in some places beyond recognition.
But now the Twrch is open again!
More than 160,000 larch trees will be felled around the Cwmcarn Forest Drive area over the next 18 months to two years. The tricky terrain means that every tree has to be felled by hand and then winched up to the drive. The process is labour-intensive and expensive. About 2,000 lorry loads of larch timber will be removed from here to a saw mill in mid-Wales designated to process the diseased timber. It will be used to make furniture and fibreboard. – Guardian, May 2015
For a long time Cwmcarn had come under some criticism with only one XC trail and one short DH trail. Many trail center users were choosing to visit the near by Forest of Dean with its wider selection of MTB trails and forest routes or to travel further west to Afan for a bigger all mountain fix on Skyline, Y Wal or the grueling Whites Level.
Cwmcarn was being left behind. The locals (of which I know many) barely ride there, opting to ride their own trails that frankly offer a much better time for experienced riders. In late 2013 Bike Park Wales opened less than 45 mins drive away threatening the very existence of Cwmcarn’s classic Twrch Trail, a trail that so many riders cut (and broke) their teeth on. Cognation had a job to do if Cwmcarn was still to have a place in the Welsh MTB landscape.
Sunday morning rides have been great over the last few months but its time to start going further afield. So I’m feeling pretty excited cos I have some proper biking plans on the calendar now.
1st March – This coming Saturday a few of us are off to Cwmcarn. A ride of the Twrch and the Cafall are in order I think. Should be fun and hard work all at the same time. Might even try the new DH run – PedalHounds I think its called.
21st March – This is going to be a proper bit of mountain biking. 4 of us have opted for a guided ride around some of the excellent singletrack at the Forest Of Dean. Singletrack descents, drops and maybe some adrenalin fueled nonsense! GoPro will have to be charged with spare batteries for 3 hours of frolics in the forest.
16th April – North Wales Weekender with MB Swindon – This is my bike holiday for the year, unless I can squeeze in another weekend or two at some point. We stay in Dolgellau and will be riding Coed-y-Brenin, maybe Llandegla, will be doing some classic local routes around Cadair Idris and the famous Pont Scethin trail as well as maybe hitting Cannock Chase on the way home.
1st May – May Day! May Day! Finally after a year of it being open I have myself an uplift booked for Bike Park Wales. Nuff Said!
For a long time Cwmcarn has come under some criticism with only one XC trail and one DH trail. Many trail center users were choosing to visit the near by Forest of Dean with its wider selection of MTB trails and forest routes or to travel further west to Afan for a bigger all mountain fix on Skyline, Y Wal or the grueling Whites Level.
Cwmcarn was being left behind. The locals (of which I know many) barely ride there, opting to ride their own trails that frankly offer a much better time for experienced riders. In late 2013 Bike Park Wales opened less than 45 mins drive away threatening the very existence of Cwmcarn’s classic Twrch Trail, a trail that so many riders cut their teeth on. Cognation had a job to do if Cwmcarn was still to have a place in the Welsh MTB landscape.
The hills and forests around Cwmcarn have some fantastic “local” trails with steep descents and great natural riding – Cafall was going to need to deliver something special when it was to open in February this year.
I rode the trail for the first time a few weeks ago and I can tell you its great. The Twrch Trail has been noted for its technical climb and long flowing descent – Cafall offers something different.
By the time you have reached the 400m peak of the trail through some tiring sections such as QUADZILLA you will be well and truly warmed up for the descents! Split into a number of distinct sections with names like Voodoo, Powder House, Riddler and Rocky Valley, each has slightly different feel. From tight wooded sections to loose rocky off camber stretches it challenges you all the way to the finish.
The trail feels natural which maybe its downfall, so far the general consensus is it wont stand up to to much wet riding, but this is also its appeal. Even the locals like it!
Cafall is a great trail and earns its RED grading on two counts – the climb is not for a novice (at least not in a hurry) and the descents are tight and twisty with some drops and switchbacks that will catch you out if you don’t know how to ride them.
Now with two great trails, plus some DH action if you are up for it Cwmcarn is back on the map with enough to keep you interested and challenged for a good few hours riding.
Visitors to South Wales who may be coming for Bike Park Wales should consider a stop here if you have more than one day at your disposal.