So excited to see our new hiking guides completing their two weeks of training with Venture forthwww.wwf.org.za/. Thanks to all those who supported the training: DEA, Swellendam Tourism and WWF/TMF. The guides have worked really hard this week and are now ready to start practicing what they have learnt.
They are off today to walk a 15km route along one of our red routes and will talk about the many topics that they have discussed for a good guided experience: planning, information, safety and having fun! We are very proud of them all. Soon we will be working on some packages and experiences that will make a visit to the area even more enchanting so "watch this space"! Perhaps we will even get some of them on a mountain bike!
The group spent today walking through a planned route and practicing aspects which included tying ropes on steep slopes
Cool new trail maps are available for download on our website with information on each of the trails. The maps include points of interest on natural biodiversity and historical sites. Information on the points of interest are detailed on each page.
The maps are available at Grootvadersbosch Conservancy, Selected Guest houses, Swellendam Tourism, Delish in Heidelberg and Paradise Organic Restaurant in Suurbraak
Last week we had a fabulous first aid training that was done by medicare EMR. We highly recommend these providers who gave excellent training with passion and commitment. Garth really took the time to make sure everyone reached their potential. We are very proud of everyone who attended and passed. We know that the training could save lives in and out of the work place. This training will lay the foundation for developing skills in the community. We want to build on this as we establish guides to help people explore the trail networks. Watch this space as we build skills and create jobs in the community.
In early June, we were lucky enough to have a visit from a few mountain bike legends who were out scoping for an article to be feature internationally in the spring. Daniel Dobinson and Harry Millar (Iride Africa), lead mountain bike trips across South Africa. They were joined by another mountain bike nutter: Oli Munnik and well known photographer Ewald Sadie. Just to add to the challenge, they decided to carry their beds with them and camped out for the night. They selected a lovely camping spot on Grootvadersbosch Farm and were lucky to have a magically warm day in June. These are not unusual here as June records on of the lowest rainfall months. You only have to drive 3 hours to get a totally different weather system to Cape Town!
These guys know how to ride bikes and were we thrilled at their feedback:
"We had a freaking fantastic time on your trails and I am super impressed with what you have done. The area you have managed to cover is large giving that rad feeling of getting out into the 'wilderness' and your trail work is exemplary! We will be plugging you guys for sure! Apparently we didn't even get to your cool trails so I am super keen to come back so we can cover decent distance as the green route looked rad and the Broken pass sounds amazing and the trail we saw switchbacking up to the pass/poort looked amazing (we ran out of light up there so didn't get to it). I recommend more trail through the indigenous forest (for diversity) and Aileen says you have actually built some rad trails in the forest that we didn't see as still opening. Well done! The steep benchcut section when you diverge onto the red route from the black route is a masterpiece! I can see how much work went into that !! Trail wise you have done some great planning and building! The routes feel natural and wild and it doesn't feel like you are just going in circles which is always hard to do. " Dan Dobinson Iride Africa
Thanks for the visit and come back again soon so we can show you more of the trails. We can recommend a few places to stay so that you dont have to drag your bed with you and can spent more time cruising the trails!
This weekend launched the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy trails at the Heidelberg Pumpkin Festival Race. The race was a huge success with riders from all over the world competing. Billy Stelling, Transcape 2016 solo winner, claimed the inaugural 80 km title in a time of 3hr45. The female title was won by Swiss rider Marie – Claude Baars, who came all the way from Australia to compete.
The 80km route sent riders straight into fun technical single track with the opening of the Heidelberg cross country track. The track promises to become an active venue in the school cross country circuit. Once the riders left the sleepy town of Heidelberg, they headed for the mountains where the real racing began. Billy Stelling lead the way into the mountains but local rider, Pieter Gildenhuys, was an able challenger and kept the racing fast and furious. From water point 1 to water point 3, the riders crossed the awesome single track of the conservancy with great support from Honeywood and Grootvadersbosch farms. The magnificent views and great trails brought smiles to all. After WP 3, the riders took some strain on the "stairway to heaven" climb that took them to Skeiding guest farm. The final 10km tar stretch took the riders back to Heidelberg for a well deserved pumpkin beer. Billy managed the win with only a 3min lead over Pieter. Third place went to Johan Fourie.
The 60km route was won by Cape Town legend, Dick Morkel, who was also celebrating his 60th Birthday. Michelle van Zyl was the fastest female in the 60km distance and also the second overall with a time of 3h23. The 35km race had the largest participants with many local riders coming out to enjoy the festive atmosphere. The male and female titles of the 35km were won, respectively, by Pitie Rall and Corné Giliomee. Full results available below:
After 2 years of hard work, the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy launches its Mountain bike trail network. The launch is part of this weekend’s Heidelberg Pumpkin Festival. As we celebrate the opening, we share 9 myths that we have dispelled on our journey from trail riders to trail builders.
Myth 1: The most difficult part about building trails is the digging and the shoveling
The most difficult part is the planning, permission and design. A good trail network takes a long time to plan. This does not mean that the building is not back breaking but most people don’t see the other steps in the process. Our trials cross 11 different landowners. We discuss the routes in detail with each landowner and adjust to their needs. We also commit to using existing trails where possible. This requires careful mapping and scouting. We have had many scouting rides that end up as a long hike a bike and we have the scratches to prove it.
Myth 2: Building the right flow on a trail is easy
We are experienced riders and thought it would be easy to site the correct line. It’s not and it takes trial and error to get it right. Sometimes you don’t know until it’s ridden and it takes a lot of experience to be able to see if it is rideable from site. Just because you can ride a trail perfectly does not mean you can built it perfectly.
Myth 3: Trail permit fees are too expensive
The cost of building good trail varies from R2 000 to R10 000 a km. So if we average at R5000/km and you ride a 30km trail that can be R150 000. This cost excludes the ongoing trail maintenance (repairing signs, clearing bush, fixing fence bridges, talking to landowners). That’s a lot of money to allow you to shred the trails for a few hours. So, if you like the trails ….pay your permit fees and if you really want more trails… consider an extra donation.
Myth 4: Mountain bike trails are elitist and bring few social benefits to the rural poor
Trails create significant social benefits to rural communities. Our trails create employment which changes lives. One of our trail builders was an alcoholic and is now completely dry because of the work and self-esteem created through the trail building. Through the local church, he is now mentoring other alcoholics. Trails can also boost local tourism (see myth 7) which creates more indirect jobs. Our cross country track in Heidelberg is part of our network and is used by the local youth. The track is part of the pumpkin festival race so when you ride it this weekend, just imagine the joy of an 8 year old who used to only be able to ride on a patch of dirt next to the municipal dump.
Myth 5: When I ride past a farmer, I am more important than anything else that he or she may be doing
The farmer is not receiving any direct income from your presence. He’s just being incredibly generous by letting you pass by. He may have a guest house which benefits from the trails but his main income is from that broken tractor that he is trying to fix or the milking stall that he has been in since 4am. Most farmers are incredibly friendly and happy to assist if you are lost or feel a bit tired BUT don’t be offended if he can’t help and is angry at the tractor and takes it out on you. You are not as important as that tractor. Fixing that tractor and making food for the nation is at the top of his/her list. So whatever you do, treat every farmer with respect (don’t tell him/her how to fix the tractor) and just be grateful for the generosity in letting you ride across his/her land. It only takes a few ignorant mountain bikers to close a trail network and then you may also just be riding that piece of dirt next to the municipal dump.
Myth 6: If I see a lovely piece of un-marked single track it’s cool to just ride it
We have done it so we know. You are riding along and you notice a sweet piece of track off the marked route and you think “That trail will be awesome and I don’t understand why it’s not part of the network so I’m going to ride it and let people know on strava how flipping great it is so everyone will come ride it” Please don’t. There are really good reasons why some trails are open to ride and some are not (See myth 1). It might be awesome but it could also result in a close encounter with a buffalo, a cliff, a gun or all of the above. You are only allowed to ride on marked trails. Don’t mess it up for others.
Myth 7: When I ride the trails, I’m doing a huge service to the community just by being there even if I have not opened my wallet since I left CT or George
It’s important to understand that the main reason why trails are built is to encourage people to visit. Permit fees only cover part of the trail use (see Myth 3). We want you to come out and support rural areas (and tel your friends about it). This means buying a great coffee in the local town coffee shop (#Delish) and staying over a night or three in a local guest house. Instead of buying all your chow in Cape Town before you leave, arrive early and buy your goodies at the local spar that (in our case) is sponsoring the trails in the first place.
Myth 8: Mountain bike trails have an environmental impact and don’t support conservation objectives
Badly built trails can have an environmental impact but well-built trails have little impact. We have been incredibly careful in how we build the trails and we have (where possible) used and improved existing cattle tracks and trails. We have built the trails with the support of Table Mountain Fund and the project has had considerable conservation benefits. The funds helped establish the conservancy and we have now built stronger conservation partnerships with local landowners and communities. The trails truly showcase the beauty and diversity of the area and will be combined with environmental signage. We also believe that one day, with your help (see Myth 9), it will create direct funds for conservation.
Myth 9: All trail building costs can be covered by hosting a mountain bike race
All the big races sell out within a few seconds and if you do the calculations, they are making a lot of money. I fully salute these races that are now proper businesses that give back to communities. The problem is that there is now a lack of imagination in the mainstream mountain biking crowd. There are many small races that struggle to cover costs because no one wants to try something new. Everyone rushes to pay for the top races that now need 3 or 4 events to meet the demand. I also enter these big races and I know that they are fabulous but I’ve recently done some awesome unknown races. These races really deserve more support. Instead of supporting the same races over and over, enter a few that no one has heard of. They may not be super slick and you wont get another massive tog-bag but they will be cheaper, more of an adventure and you will be helping to build more trails. On that note...come out to Heidelberg this weekend and ride the pumpkin festival race. Remember to pack your tog-back with your helmet and your dancing shoes to celebrate our new awesome trails.
The Grootvadersbosch Conservancy trails will be launched at the Heidelberg Pumpkin festival. The day will involve fun for the whole family. Sign up for the mountain bike race with different options of 7km 35km, 63km and 82km. Dont like mountain biking?.... there is golf, beer, spit braai and live music. Bring your dancing shoes too....You can sign up at: www.pumpkinfestival.co.za/
Awesome early morining ride on the conservancy blue route around #skeiding and #grootvadersbosch farm. Lovely wildlife on route and early morning light. Thanks Skeiding for assisting with the bike and we look forward to more European guests enjoying the trails.
The GROOTVADERSBOSCH conservancy has just finished building the new cross country track with funding from pedal power. The 3 km fun track will be used by a schools. Permits at Delish. Also includes a new marked route through Heidelberg opening soon. The route links to the grootvaderabosch trail network through a 55km back road loop. Plenty to ride this holiday.