Dig For Victory - Brockham Trails
After two years of helping and hanging out, I’ve learnt that the people behind Brockham Trails are a different breed...
Digging trails is an art form undertaken by very few, and it is one that has been mastered by even fewer. A large chunk of the UK trails scene can be found in the south east of England, a stone’s throw from the capital. Brockham Trails were born here and on the surface they might seem like any other spot, but after spending over two years heading out of the city (where I live and work), helping and hanging out, I’ve learnt that the people behind this spot are a different breed...
From Dirt Issue 139 - September 2013
Words by Paul Haysom. Photos by Chris Adam and Dan Curtis.
People come and people go when it comes to trail building. Each year someone will turn up at your spot and proclaim their future dedication to the cause of piling dirt, but this rarely transpires. The reality is that there are one or two people mindlessly clumping until it gets dark for 80% of the year – only getting the odd visitor lending a hand in exchange for a day’s ride. Dedication is key if you want those two months of sweet British summer to realise the trails’ potential.>>
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Where does this level commitment come from? What motivates a person to dedicate their lives to one location? We’ve finally had a good summer, and days filled with barbecues and dust add to life’s stoke. On the other hand it might be a view that’s been passed from person to person that there is nothing else in life apart from building something.
The crew is pretty large, but the foundations were originally formed by Dom Haigh, a mainstay of the mountain biking community in the area. He was later joined by Jonny Faulkner and Christian Kile before the group grew to the number it is today. Luke, Tom, Dan, Matt, Sam, Adam, Jamie, George, Si and Willson should all get a mention too.
The trails were started around 2003 or so. Dom tells me, “it was me and four other guys who got chased out of a spot called the Nower by the police in around 2000, because of BSE or something. Then Si, who we’d just met, told us about this spot called BK that had like two tiny jumps. But me and a guy called Gill said ‘f–k this’ and started sorting out this place to the point where we had 50 jumps". But then the council ploughed the whole place. Dom was pretty cut up about this, especially as the amount of building he’d been doing meant he’d all but failed his A levels.
After digging in between someone said they had found a patch of land that would be rad for trails. The right slope, good soil and well out of the way of any passing traffic (people or otherwise). “I was so jaded on trails," Dom says, “but I could see it was an amazing space". In the beginning there were around six jumps and they didn’t really develop past that for a number of years. Mountain bike trails were being built and people change… they go to university, move away or even just stop riding all together for whatever reason. Dom split his time between this new spot and helping out near–legendary trail builder and dirt jumper Jimmy Pratt at his own spot nearby. But then he and two others (Si and Wilson) went back to that patch of land and started digging. There have never been problems from neighbours, apart from when the second was being stacked. A local came out and declared he had called the police because he thought someone had committed murder and a body was being buried. No blue lights ever appeared.
This is how it was for the next three years. Just Dom, Jonny and Christian putting in the hours, upping the tally of jumps to eight in the mainline and four in the small. I can’t imagine how they stayed together for so long without actually killing each other. No more recruits were enlisted until a group of kids were found digging just around the corner. From there more were invited and vetted. Of course some then discovered girls and the wild times of underage drinking, but what was different at Brockham was that this was the minority. The manifesto had already been instilled in the youngsters and for them it wasn’t about being good on a bike – it was about being good at digging. I still can’t quite fathom how this is possible, but it means that now there are more than 40 sets, including something pretty special.
Ahh yes… the 11th. A jump that shot to Instagram stardom and is ingrained in online folklore. At 36.9’ long it is one of the biggest in the UK. Dom often reminisces about the amount of work that went into it. “We camped out for a weekend and dug for two days straight and got the bulk of the landing done. Jimmy encouraged Ralph and Digs (another trail building legend) to come down and help then too. It took two years for it to dry out." Photos of it started getting re–posted all over the internet and there was always talk that it couldn’t be jumped. “I was on holiday when Jonny hit it for the first time. I must admit I was surprised. I mean the 11th is bigger than anything he’s hit on his downhill bike, but fair play to him – guts to glory. I’m just stoked it has been hit and wasn’t a massive folly." Christian has also made it over the chasm, but didn’t land rubber down. We’ll see in time if he launches it again.