Words: Tommy Wilkinson Photos: Various
Many of you will have seen the proposal for the updated Cardrona pump track, just outside Peebles.
The Tweed Valley continues to be a hub of UK mountain biking, though the position of why this is has perhaps changed in the last few years. In the early 2000’s the Forestry Commission devoted a lot of financial resource and energy into the valley, creating what were some of the best trail centres in the UK. Since then, despite decent visitor numbers and an engaged riding community, investment has been limited.
Now, most trails are created by dedicated locals who put in countless hours out of sheer passion.
While this is an amazing story in itself, the scale of operation becomes limited when relying on volunteer groups. The key is to combine the passion of builders and add some further investment from local authority and business to try and help drive participant numbers and create an entry gateway for younger and beginner riders into mtb. This is where Cardrona Pumptrack comes in….
I sat down and chatted with Blair Aitchinson and Paul Milne, the two men driving the project.
Paul, Blair – firstly can you tell us about the pump track concept? Where did the idea stem from?
Blair and myself have spent the majority of the last couple years in Whistler, it became routine to grab the hardtail towards the end of the day and go ride the pump track or some dirt jumps. When we returned back to Scotland and this was simply not possible, and for what reason? We have a strong enough rider base, and large numbers of local kids passionate about the sport. Growing up and learning to ride in the Borders, we feel it is our duty to push the development of the facilities to be up there with the best in the world. A progressive, low maintenance facility with asphalt turns, lots of flow and endless line choice. It seemed like a no brainer.
Obviously the tweed valley area is known throughout the UK as a premier location to ride, but the facilities don’t compare to somewhere like south wales. Is there a reason for that in your eyes?
The valley has some amazing riding, but compared to the areas leading the development of mountain biking we have an official trail network that has become stagnant with virtually zero development over the last 10years. Is it a lack of the right people in the right places not making things happen? Quite possibly. We want to kick start a change we so desperately need in the Tweed Valley and we think the modernisation of the Cardrona Pump Track is the perfect start. Once everyone witnesses the benefits first hand we hope we can make a start on developing other facilities and get caught up with the times.
You’ve spent a bit of time in Whistler and seen how popular pump tracks can be – there’s probably a real social case to be made for building a facility like this. Are you planning on the track being suitable for everyone?
We’ve said right from the start of the project that we want to create a facility that caters to everyone. A well built pump track is the perfect learning environment to master basic skills and allows riders of all ages and abilities to have fun and progress. Witnessing this first had over in Whistler really highlighted the lack of opportunity riders have over here to do so. That mix of ability in a concentrated area helps bring on the younger or less experienced rider as well as keep the riders at the top of our sport on their toes. At the moment we have so few of these facilities in Scotland.
Various pro’s have came from the tweed valley, most being brought up when Glentress and Innerleithen were still getting FC development. That seems to have slowed a bit now and most trails are built by passionate locals. Is this a case of “making it happen if no one else will ?
Absolutely! The Tweed Valley is so fortunate to have these guys who dedicate their spare time to creating new trails. They do great work, and in our eyes they’re the only trails worth riding in the valley! However, we feel if the sport is to progress, we can’t rely on unmarked trails with little maintenance and no budget to support the valleys desired ‘world class’ image. They also cater primarily to the older generation so how do we plan to develop future champions? One of our main goals is to ensure that the younger generations have the best opportunity to succeed and a modern up to date pumptrack could be the start of that.
Paul and Blair are both well rounded riders who have benefitted from both Travel and the Tweed Valley’s trail infrastructure.
There’s a bit of work goes into making something like this happen – can you give us an outline of what’s involved?
Once we had come up with an initial design and plan, we met with the Cardrona Village Association (CVA). After a couple of meetings, they gave us the green light. From there we held some more meetings with the well-known faces of the valley to gauge support, and to make sure they themselves were on board with our project. Not surprisingly, everyone was and from that point all we had to do was… Get a 3D design together, set up a crowd funding campaign, launch it, promote it almost daily with fresh content through the various means of social media, film for local news, press for local papers, educate and inspire the Tweed Valley on the importance of a facility like this. In-between, set up our company, fill out form after form for insurance, banking and the like, gaining various accounts for materials and plant, finding local suppliers for all the other miscellaneous pieces to the puzzle. After that, just build it.
If you get the go ahead and funding when could we expect to see this built?
Once the target is raised we hope to begin construction within a couple weeks. (Dependent on our Scottish weather) Mobilisation is fairly quick on our side, once the local residents have been notified of our construction dates to ensure there’s little disturbance we’ll get some shovels in the ground!
You can support the project by clicking here – We say get behind it!