Long Way Down
In 2019 ourselves and NDH organised a new event in the downhill calendar called The Descendant. This was a 3 stage enduro that would stick in the memory for all the right reasons. Of the three stages there were two which linked up various bits of existing man made trail centre stuff. The latter 2 had fast flowing berms mixed with some bumpy and rocky sections that needed full attention. However the other trail, stage 1 in 2019, was an absolute animal.
Two of the stages went from the summit of Deadwater as their starting point. Deadwater stands high in the English side of the borderlands and gets its name from the fact that water on the top can fall into one of two rivers. The water left at the top goes nowhere i.e. dead water. This starting point makes them some of the longest continuous enduro stages in England. Serious riders would be left out of breath by the time they hit the valley floor. The special stage we’d like to delve deeper into was the one which had riders eyes out on stalks and more than one rider hugging trees on the way to the bottom.
The trail was built by Carl Davison and his crew and originally came into being around 7 years ago. It cut away from the main Deadwater black descent to scythe its way through conifers. It’s almost like he actively acquired rough and steep sections to make something that can test the skills of seasoned riders ready to take on a proper challenge. This trail then had to be shelved as forestry operations destroyed most of the course and years had to pass before they could be made good again. It was 2019 when work began once more with the trail building. If you picture some trail builders sitting round a cauldron making schemes then you’ll not be far wrong.
Once complete the run in its entirety can be broken down into distinct sections:
- Deadwater black. If you have the nerve then you can pin it flat out or as fast as you dare along this section. Don’t be fooled though, it looks benign but it can suck you in and spit you out. Confession – it was this section of trail that caught me out and put me in hospital, oops. Just keep it together on here and look for the cut-off to begin the next section.
- Crags n drop offs. For the uninitiated rider this section can be described as “proper scary”. Plenty of travel in your suspension is a must. Tyres that grip like vices make a huge difference also. There are bits of this which are hard for marshals to even walk up and yet riders seem to have the nerve to tackle it. Hats off to them all.
- Red road with red trail. The gnarly section spits people out onto the forest track for a brief respite before dropping down onto the only bit of man made trail here. The berms seem serenely flat and fast compared to the brain rattling riders have just encountered. This doesn’t last long though.
- Back on to the off piste juice. Jinking through the trees people are soon forgiven for thinking that these massive rocks punctuating the trail are someone’s idea of a sick joke. There are lines for confident people and lines for survivalists, pick the one that suits you best. By this time the heart rate will be sky high and concentration levels will need to be maintained before riders are popped out on the main road to Newcastleton.
That’s enough about the course, now it’s time to find out the thinking behind the route design from the brains behind the construction Carl Davison:
“I build trails with my pals in a way that suits what we do. Really it’s just stuff we want to shred ourselves. You can see from the trails at the Naughty Northumbrian and this one at The Descendant that they are made for real riders. People want to be tested, they want their rigs to be tested and they want to know that they’ve done something special when they reach the end. Hopefully we tick all the boxes.”
In 2020 The Descendant becomes (coronavirus allowing) a stage of the British National Enduro Series and expands to have 5 stages. Expect at least one more hand crafted run to really test those skills and jangle the nerves. There will be a main marquee with drinks, food and entertainment should the world get back on track. Fingers crossed we’ll all be back to normal and this multi stage enduro with custom trails will become a classic must-do event on the UK calendar.