Uplift for Blaenau
As you start to descend the Crimea Pass, coming from Betws y Coed, the vast slate workings synonymous with Blaenau Ffestiniog command your attention. You'd be forgiven for not noticing a newly built track that heads up the hillside on your left. But this track is the key to a development that will attract downhill and freeride mountain bikers from all over the UK.
It is the uplift road for the minibus and trailer that will carry riders and bikes up to the trailhead for Antur Stiniog's
downhill centre, planned to open in early July. Currently, around 75 - 80% of the four runs down are completed. Simply known for the moment as Line A, B, C & D: the first two are graded black runs for experienced downhillers while C & D being less steep and demanding are red/blue challenges suited to 'all-mountain' and freeride bikes as much as a full downhill rig.
It'll take around seven minutes for the 16 seater mini-bus to cover the short distance and 800 feet height difference from the visitor centre up to the start, and about two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half minutes for a good rider to get back down. The newly appointed Centre Manager, Adrian Bradley, said: "A rider will probably be able to manage 15 runs in a day before their arms start feeling like they're going to fall-off. We're thinking that it'll cost about £25 for a day pass using the uplift. In the car park at the bottom by Llechwedd Quarry we'll also be building a visitor centre that has showers, a cafe and bike wash, as well as a jump site and pump track."
"MBUK magazine were here the other day, riding some of the trails and the feedback we got was really positive."
Adrian himself has been mountain biking for around 16 years and as the current Welsh and English Downhill Champion in the veteran category, modestly describes himself, as: "Not too shabby on a bike."
He added: "To get paid to do what you love is a dream job. When you've been living the sport for the past ten years, for it to become your job is fantastic."
Directly across the valley from where Adrian is giving me a tour of the freshly cut downhill-runs, much bigger tracks are obvious, but for an all together different purpose. They're for the yellow dump trucks and lorries that move the slate in the Gloddfa Ganol quarry. Once a part of the Oakley Quarry it had the claim of being the largest slate mine in the world. Now a lot of the levels and chambers are abandoned and flooded.
The hills all around Blaenau carry the mark of waste slate tips from the numerous quarries and mines that shaped the town and once dominated the local economy in the late 19th century. Now activity tourism is trying to play its part in the area's social and economic regeneration.
Adrian recounted how he'd worked in Gloddfa Quarry as a kid growing up in Blaenau and years later ended up managing it. During all that time he never imagined he'd be running a downhill biking centre opposite the quarry. "As a ten year-old I used to walk up through the Llechwedd quarry workings to go fishing in the lakes just behind the trailhead. I've worked in the quarries for over 22 years and done enough of it to last me a life-time. I'll stick to bikes from now on."
As well as the downhill and freeride trails, Antur Stiniog's plans include a 8.5 km cross-country bike circuit around Llyn Tanygrisiau for 2013. It is all part of the £4 million Eryri 'centres of excellence' project
, One Big Adventure, spread across four sites in southern Snowdonia.Photos
(© Ray Wood)
Antur Stiniog's Downhill Centre Manager, Adrian Bradley, with Line A and Gloddfa Ganol Quarry in the background.
Trail work at Antur Stiniog.
View from Line A down to Llechwedd Quarry. The new visitor centre will be built in the car parking space at the right-hand corner of the photo.
Topic: Antur Stiniog Downhill and Freeride Centre, Blaenau Mountain Biking, Eryri Centres of Excellence.
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