Trails Video

Check out this cool video of the trails Dafydd designed in the Czech Republic :-)

Singletrek pod Smrken

Barnett's Demesne

Here are some pictures of parts of the new Category 3 (Blue Grade) mountain bike trails at Barnett's Demesne, Belfast - this is a seriously sensitive site which is used by thousands of people every day for taking the dog for a walk, going for a run or just to get a bit of peace and quiet. But it's also very heavily used by mountain bikers who have established a network of single track trails throughout the park over a many years. 

However these trails are a cause of great concern to the park management and they are keen to try and manage mountain biking in the park by providing mountain bikers with sustainable alternatives. We are trying to get these trails into this park in as low impact a way as possible and in a way which is sensitive to the way in which people value this place. So that means the creation of super low impact mellow singletrack trails for the most part (which are shown in the pictures) but the development also includes a number of Category 4 (Red Grade) trails and a dirt jump area. The challenge at this site is to make sure we meet the needs and expectations of the many mountain bikers whilst also having as little impact as possible. Hopefully we are well on the way to achieving this.

As you can probably tell from these pictures the new trails are already being heavily used by riders - it's really important that people stay off these trails as they must be given time to dry out, consolidate and compact. Riding them just makes more work for the contractor and prolongs the trails construction process.

Trails Poem

Trails are not dust and pebbles on a hill,
Nor even grass and wild buds by a lake;
Trails are adventure and a hand to still
The restless pulse of life when men would break
Their minds with weight of thinking. Trails are peace,
The call to dreams, the challenge to ascent;
Trails are the brisk unfolding of release
From bitterness and from discouragement.
Trails are the random writing on the wall
That tells how every man, grown tired at heart
Of things correct and ordered, comes to scrawl
His happy hour down - then goes to start
Life over with new eagerness and zest.
Who builds a trail finds labor that is rest!

HELEN FRAZEE-BOWER, 1896-2000, Trails


Well, there's plenty of activity going on over in Northern Ireland at the moment, not least the Mournes MTB project - here are a few more pictures of the progress being made here :-)




Yes, it's true, the construction of the trails at Castlewellan is finally underway.

Whilst trail building at Rostrevor is all about working in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain with lots of peat, rocks and water, Castlewellan is a whole different ball of wax.

Castlewellan Forest Park has been managed with landscaping and biodiversity in mind for generations and these trails have to take that into account.

The Euroservices guys are doing a fantastic job on Section 18 at Castlewellan, where the landscaping of the trails is so important.

But the crucial thing is that the trail planning and design process that we used at Castlewellan has allowed for all of these issues to be taken into consideration and built into the construction process from the start. This means that Euroservices are able to get it right first time - just take a look at the photos below to decide for yourself if this is the case.


Section 13 of the Rostrevor Mountain Bike trails has taken shape since the helicopter lift of stone the other week.

The picture below shows what little impact the trail has had on the open mountain even though it has only just been built.


Went to Castleward for a bit of a look around again the other day, just to check out some of the trails I missed last time I was over there. 

I’m so pleased with the way these trails look, they have really matured into the landscape in a very short time and I think they really add something to the estate. I was particularly pleased with the trails in Tullyratty which is an ASSI for its species rich grassland and where I reckon there has been no net habitat loss due to the trails. Instead the trails allow people to access this very special habitat in a sustainable way which might just increases people’s awareness of it and change how they value it. The trails in Mountain Wood looked great too as did the old forest road which was changed into a twisty singletrack with landscaping and demarcation and the clear felled areas have greened up nicely.

All in all I am very pleased with these trails. They were never intended to be ‘mountain bike trails’ for people on bouncy bikes, rather they were intended to be a network of multi use trails built around a hierarchy of access.  The all ability trails provide access to the foreshore for all kinds of user, whilst the wider trail network allows for walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders to enjoy this very special Estate.

The above picture shows the forest road that was turned into a nice twisty singletrack to reduce the gradient – pretty easy to do but really worthwhile I think. 

This the equestrian trail through the specials rich grassland – really careful design and detailed construction specifications allowed this trail to be put into this very sensitive habitat with minimal disturbance. 

This picture shows the walking and cycling trail through the species rich grassland. Very carefully landscaped demarcation on both sides of the trail has helped reduce the impact of the trail and its users on the ASSI. The landscaping has effectively led to the demarcation disappearing into the landscape.

Dafydd Davis


The Irish helicopter boys arrived on site at Rostrevor last week and have been making light work of moving the stone out onto Section 13 across the Slinky and up onto Section 10.

Check out the videos below for a close up!!

READY FOR LIFT OFF............

The pictures below show bags of stone at Rostrevor ready to be airlifted into Section 13 on the slopes of Slieve Meel.

This is an exciting, but also slightly apprehensive time for everyone involved with the Rostrevor project.

Hopefully, Euro Services will perfect their airlifting methods, which can greatly facilitate the process of building trails in difficult and inaccessible places.


The fear that many land owners have when considering developing recreational trails is the impact this will have on the commercial viability of their current land use e.g. forestry, grazing, water catchment etc.

Whilst these fears are understandable, with the right approach it is more than possible to develop trails with minimal impact on land use, and where land use has minimal impact on the trails. This is something which is a major part of our 'Sustainability Framework', which underpins all our recreational trail designs.

The key is to start out by creating a frame of reference with land owners and managers which will guide the rest of the project and will establish issues such as aims and objectives, the status of any trail development, current land use and recreational use etc. 

In a great deal of cases official trail development takes place to manage unsanctioned recreation on land, which is impacting upon land use, the aim being to resolve these issues. For example, when considering unsanctioned trails in a commercial forestry setting, it is very difficult for foresters to predict the flow of recreational users when the trails are unsanctioned and as forestry can present a hazard to the public, this can affect the liability of the land owners and managers in terms of reducing risk to the public. 

When official trails are put in place, it is much easier to manage the flow of users and to establish diversions and trail closures for the time required for forestry operations. In addition, the trails are protected by their official status - when harvesting takes place, measures are taken to protect any parts of the trails which could be impacted upon, and during the design process, measures are taken to ensure the sustainability of these trails in every sense e.g. raised trails structures placed on top of the land will be greatly impacted upon, whereas it is much less likely that an effective bench cut, designed with harvesting in mind will be damaged.

The same is true for any type of property or land use. Establishing the Frame of Reference on an individual basis for each project is wholly important, there is no such thing as successful trails when taking a 'cookie cutter' approach - each property and its issues are different.

So once again, the point is this - a prescriptive and considered approach to trail development set within the context of a Frame of Reference agreed upon by stakeholders is the way to go about getting THE RIGHT TRAILS, IN THE RIGHT PLACES, IN THE RIGHT WAY.


The opening of the new 'Mournes Mountain Bike Trails' at Rostrevor and Castlewellan in Spring 2013 is already a much talked about topic. With hundreds of riders already chomping at the bit to get out there (and thanks to all the guys and girls who are being respectful and keeping off the trails whilst under construction) the opening will bring a whole new market to the area which will need to be catered for if the local economy is to benefit to its maximum potential – and the impact could be potentially huge.

A quiet day at Coed y Brenin

Take for example the original trail centre – Coed y Brenin in North Wales. Once the centre opened, so did the floodgates. The visitor numbers to Coed y Brenin increased from around 14,000 a year to in excess of 150,000 a year in 4 years with at least 90% of new visitors being mountain bikers, and 80% of mountain bikers were weekend visitors, resulting in a £5 million a year cash injection into the local economy. 

Local businesses adapted to provide for this new market, including accommodation such as B&B’s and hotels providing secure storage for bikes and kit washing and drying services, the provision of bike hire and repair services, mountain bike shops,  trail guide services and much more.

Rostrevor and Castlewellan together will make for a great weekend’s riding in beautiful scenery and all those mountain bikers will want good grub to eat and a few pints of an evening. If the area really wants to benefit from these trails, local businesses need to be prepared to give mountain bikers the services that they need to make the Mournes a great mountain biking destination.


Below is a selection of pictures showing Section 19 at Rostrevor. The pictures show that it is possible to build a nice flowing trail with lots of features, without having too much impact, and by being sympathetic to the landscape and the setting. However, this could not have been achieved here without a great deal of very careful and time consuming planning and design.

The picture below is Section 20, which links into Section 19 and both sections together should provide a really fun, fast and flowing descent.

The last two pictures show Section 9, which is hidden away at the top of The Fallows. Effective planning and design has enabled a sympathetic approach to be taken to this section, whilst also taking into account very difficult and challenging ground conditions.

Mournes and Slieve Croob Strategic Path Review

In Spring 2012, ' Trails by Dafydd Davis' was employed by The Mournes Heritage Trust to produce a report named 'The Mournes and Slieve Croob Strategic Path Review', which was funded by Sport NI and NIEA. 

The process of producing this report involved very lengthy consultation with stakeholders, including land owners and managers, the Mourne Outdoor Recreation Forum, DARD, Fire Service N.I. and users of the upland paths, and the steering group consisting of Public Rights of Way Officers of local councils, representatives of Mountaineering Ireland, Outdoor Recreation NI (formerly CAAN), Sport NI, NIEA and the Mournes Heritage Trust. 

There is a vast network of paths onto the Mournes, and these were assessed individually, and as a whole, in terms of sustainability and visual and physical impact on the landscape (see trail inspection forms in the appendices to see all the elements that were evaluated), and strategic recommendations made for each. 

To read about the complex issues which surround these paths in their beautiful upland setting, click on the link below. The appendices contain the trail inspection forms, maps and photos and a whole lot more, so be sure to have a read of this also.


This is Section 20 and is part of the last leg of the cross country trail back into Kilbroney. I'm very pleased with this and it's turned out pretty much exactly as I'd envisaged it i.e. fast and flowing with lots of grade reversals and quick little turns. 

This is the same section - note the very limited impact on the ground around the trail. With needle fall and traffic this section should quite quickly start to feel quite naturalistic and that's been the aim all along.

The same section again - showing where the trail has been stone pitched over big roots to give what are almost natural rollers.

This is Section 9 up in The Fallows. The Euroservices boys have done a great job here in truly awful conditions. Winter style rainfall and saturated ground have made life very difficult for them, but their impact is still very limited. I think this trail is going to be a bit of a gem even if it is in a pretty wet and midge infested place!

Dafydd, 06/08/2012