The last 10 days have been a lot of fun, but not the most comfortable block of work I’ve ever done. When I was asked to run 20 consecutive half day Mountain Biking sessions, I didn’t really consider the implications for my back side! However, the less said about that, the better.
All Army Cadet units run an Annual Camp (usually in the Summer). It’s their best opportunity of teaching chunks of the cadet syllabus in an appropriate environment. With a varied programme of activities, lessons, exercises, expeditions, trips and testing, Bucks ACF made every effort to make their 10 days at Nesscliffe Training Camp at productive as possible for all their cadets, of whatever age and experience. Within this programme, catering for about 250 cadets, was 2 days worth of Adventurous Training, including Rock Climbing, Abseiling, Kayaking and the Mountaining Biking.
The Kayaking and Mountain Biking were both planned to take place at Ellesmere, so that the paddlers could make use of The Mere. This made a lot of sense for them, but left me trying to run mountain biking sessions in an area with no off road access. Thankfully, I managed to speak to a couple of amenable farmers that allowed me to use a dismantled railways line that crossed their land. The brand new Canal and River Trust still seemed to be working out what their policy was going to be on bike access to the canal towpaths, but seemed happy enough for us to make use of them as long as we stayed away from the busy areas. However, this still left us having to use a large proportion of road. Quiet back lanes sound fine, but they tend to gather gravel, be narrow and leave little room for passing tractors.
We made the most of what was available, but with kids going over the handle bars at the sight of a car, slipping on the gravel and one even ending up in the canal, the venue was far from ideal. Ironically, it was the kayakers that decided they wanted to change venue, preferring to opt for the River Severn as it runs along the border of the Nesscliffe Training Area. Consequently, we had to move the Mountain Biking as well, but this was great news for us as it gave us access to a much more appropriate area.
After a long climb on road from the camp, we were able to access a series of trails around the Nesscliffe Country Park, linking together a variety of bridleways with short sections of road. This provided us with ups, downs, bums, mud, short rocky sections and reasonably fast blasts, all on softer ground to fall onto. Some of the high ground also offered fantastic views across the Shropshire countryside. Although I like locally to this area, I’ve never actually ridden any of this area before, but will certainly be back.
When physically demanding activities like this are made compulsory, you can normally expect a good number to be very reluctant and a bit negative about the experience. We did get this a bit, but there were probably only 3 or 4 individuals out of the 250 or so cadets that came on camp. This was a remarkably small number, and a great testament to the positive attitude of the Bucks ACF cadets and staff.
These 10 days have been a lot of fun, but it’s definitely time my legs were given a chance to recover.