Dalby Forest has come a long way since Ian Dowkes leapt on his bike and followed deer tracks through the trees to try a new-fangled sport called mountain biking.
But 25 years later the retired aerospace engineer is still in the saddle, but now helping to add polish to the 3,440-hectare woodland’s acclaimed off-road network of trails.
Ian, 65, is one of an eager band of volunteers who have come together to re-establish a thriving branch of the SingletrAction trail building group, working with the Forestry Commission.
Off-road fans from as far afield as York, Stamford Bridge, Whitby and Scarborough have stepped forward to help keep the trails network in top shape, meeting together on the third Sunday of the month, and more recruits are being sought.
Ian, who chalks up about 150 trail miles each month, said: “Back in the old days biking in Dalby was rough and ready. There were no purpose-built bike trails and cycling in the winter was a mud slog where you did as much pushing as riding.
"A lot has happened since then and the trails we have now are top notch, but they need to be maintained, and with the opportunity to refine them in some areas. There’s a great buzz working with people of all ages, both male and female.”
After serving in the RAF Ian, from West Ayton, worked around the world including the Middle East and helped maintain iconic British aircraft such as the English Electric Lightning, Vulcan and Tornado.
Stuart Startup, Forestry Commission bike ranger, said: “We have invested about £500,000 in professionally built trails over recent years, but bikers have always played a big part in developments at Dalby. Trail-building sessions help us repair sections of trail or add features and improve the flow of routes. It’s important work and gives bikers a stake in the future of the sport in the forest.”
Volunteers attending more than four trail- building sessions are granted a free Discovery Pass by the Forestry Commission, allowing free all-year round access to Dalby Forest. Trail-building sessions meet at 9am in the Tree Tops café at Dalby Forest Visitor Centre.
For more information, phone Stuart Startup on 07909 880325, or email firstname.lastname@example.org