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The Hamsterley Beast roars again!!

  •  Reportage


On 15th May 2016 a greater roar could be heard around Hamsterley Forest in County Durham, England for the second year running. The Beast had returned bigger and better!

What is “The Beast” I hear you say? A mountain bike challenge ride around the Hamsterley Foresty Commision territory, it’s sole purpose to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance Services (GNAAS).

Riders take a breath and fill up on water and fuel…….Cakes!! provided by volunteers (@JWDTphotography)

The idea of the event was born in 2014 by a small group of mountain bikers and realised in May 2015. The group felt it was important to “give something back” to the very helicopter crews who come to the aid of injured mountain bikers all over the north of England.

The terrain in many of the mountain biking areas is very difficult to get to and therefore rescue is quickest by air. GNAAS has three helicopters, which operate 365 days a year with crews and medics. They respond to upwards of 1000 emergencies a year at a cost of £4 million and rely on charitable donations- a travesty I know!!

Sean Gilbey showing some air….early on. (@Adam Sherratt)

May 15th saw the addition of timing chips to keep track of the riders, but also let them accurately assess their times. This event was never a race, but a pretty grueling 40 miles of mixed trail centre tracks, singletrack moorland crossings and a small taster section in Hamsterleys Descend Bike Park run by Craig. Putting such technical trails in was giving riders a chance to sample all levels of riding in the form of steep rocky and rooty sections. This was put in early on, to ensure riders had good strength in their legs and bodies.

Descend Bike Park provided some good technical riding!! Graeme Fletcher negotiating steep roots early on in the challenge (@John Latham)

None of us had ever organised an event of this scale, originally we were told 80-90 riders would turn up in 2015. Just under 200 did, even after biblical rainfall and horrendous conditions. This year 358 riders had signed up, the weather was perfect. It was game on!!

Smiling early on……Angela Doran (@Adam Sherratt)

Brian Harrison was responsible for the course, which involved 3 loops, a 9 mile, 11 mile and final huge 20 mile loop. Each loop had big climbs, but with big climbs come great downhills, fast flowy trail centre downs, moorland singletrack downs and super technical downs that quite a few enduro races have used. Each loop passed through the event village where volunteers and beast organisers had made cakes, flapjacks and brownies for the riders to refuel with. The loops included some of the best trails Hamsterley has to offer, but also took riders out and into the moors, exploring areas many had never ventured to. I sure will be exploring more of this area having missed out for at least a decade now!

“Dangerous Descent”, the first technical descent was pretty congested as the riders hadn’t yet spread out. (@JWDTphotography)


The event village had camping with burgers and beer for those wishing to stay over the night before the event, organised in partnership with the Forestry Commission. On the day, there were physios helping riders with cramp and aches, a DJ giving some event atmosphere, bike mechanic and various stalls and raffles. Sue one of the Beast organisers had approached numerous companies who provided signs, prizes… name it, she got it. For example, the person who raises the most in sponsorship will win a holiday cottage week in Ireland, a gift from Will Rea.

Beast-writeup-26Ian and Sue, both provided a stirling effort throughout the planning and running of the event (@JWDTphotography)[/caption]

Physios Lynsey Braines and Kathryn Forte helped riders in their hours of need…..CRAMP! (@JWDTphotography)

One of the most memorable moments of the day was the GNAAS pilot had cleared a flyby for the day……to see the helicopter fly over and acknowledge our efforts, riders, organisers, marshals and helpers………was just the icing on the cake.

Beast-writeup-23GNAAS actually did a fly over……emotional mountain biking men……(@JWDTphotography)

Event photos were organised by established roots and rain photographers and Seb Frost, the man behind the website agreed to waiver the charges as this was for a charity event. Top man or what!


Michael Hutcheson taking on 40 miles on a Fatty……Kudos!! (@Carole Soloman)

The event not only attracted more riders that has been seen at a Hamsterley MTB event for years, but riders Jamie Walsh and Jeff Doran who are both part of the dedicated GNAAS team. Both defeated the beast in respectable fashion.

Jeff Doran (pictured front) and Jamie Walsh both conquered the beast, both work for the GNAAS (@JWDTphotography)

Jody Sellars still smiling after 39 miles!! (@JWDTphotography)

Jody Sellars still smiling after 39 miles!! (@JWDTphotography)


The beast has been and gone and the dust is barely settled, but already we are starting to whisper about next year……the eagerness of the team to go bigger and better than this year is simply too tempting. So far the positive vibes from riders, the fantastic feedback and sense of pride amongst every single rider, helper and organiser is a powerful Beast to handle!!!

Rob Platten. This guy seemed to get faster and faster through the day-I want what he’s taking!! (@John Latham)

Special thanks go to Brian, Will, Barry, Ian, Susan, Al, Paul, Tony (Chunk), Andy (British Cycling), Chris, Adam & John & Carol (official photographers), Matthew, Noel, Tony, GNAAS (for an awesome flyby) and the Hamsterley Forestry Commission, plus many people who donated prizes and essential tools to make this event happen Hodgson-Sayer, Inspiral Cycles, Descend Bike Park, Northern Echo, Seb Frost over at roots and rain…….lists like these never mention everyone, you know who you are…..the marshals…..the cake makers…….

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