The first in a series of three dedicated mountain bike trails has opened at Brechfa Forest, near Carmarthen. The opening of the technically challenging Gorlech Trail is part of a long-term regeneration partnership project between Forestry Commission Wales, Carmarthenshire County Council and the Welsh Assembly Government (supported and funded by the European Objective 1 programme) which aims to establish Brechfa Forest as a premier mountain biking destination in Wales.
The purpose-built Gorlech mountain bike trail is 20km long and takes riders over a wide variety of terrain, incorporating existing forest track with sections of technical singletrack which features drops, tabletops, berms and off-camber sections that have been carefully designed by Rowan Sorrell (accomplished rider and trial designer) to maximise the contours of Brechfa Forest. The second mountain bike trail at Brechfa, set to open later this year, promises to offer families and novices an introduction to the popular sport of mountain biking.
The Gorlech Trail takes in three challenging climbs of up to 2000m where bikers can take in the stunning views that lie beneath, and rewards riders with plummeting descents through larch, oak and beech trees down the deeply cut Gorlech river valley. Rowan explains, “The sheer scale of Brechfa Forest makes for longer trails, something that no other mountain biking centre in Wales has to offer.”
The project will also involve the development of improved cultural heritage interpretation boards and waymarking, promoting Brechfa Forest’s significant place in history. Brechfa was an important royal hunting ground in the middle ages and was responsible for producing timber for the industrial needs of South Wales during the industrial revolution and the First World War, when timber was taken from the forest to produce naphtha for making explosives.
Ed Sanders, FC Wales Local Area Manager in Llandovery, said, “Brechfa Forest has embraced change in its long history, and we’re very pleased to be able to announce the opening of the first purpose-built mountain bike trail at Brechfa. These trails have been designed to be used in all weathers, in all conditions and we hope that this facility will encourage more people to enjoy what the forest has to offer.”
Being only eight miles from the M4/A48 corridor, Brechfa Forest is accessible but also offers the remoteness, peace and wilderness that make it an ideal retreat for visitors to Carmarthenshire. The initiative is set to attract 55,000 visitors over the next five years, contributing approximately £2.5 million to the local economy, following in the footsteps of similar success stories such as Coed y Brenin, near Dolgellau which has established itself as one of the best mountain bike and outdoor recreation centres in Europe.
Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration and Leisure, Cllr Clive Scourfield, said, “This is an excellent opportunity for us to strengthen the local economy by developing and promoting an existing natural resource such as Brechfa Forest. Developing Brechfa’s mountain biking facilities will undoubtedly attract more visitors to Carmarthenshire as well as providing a first-class leisure amenity to the local community. We have always considered that the development of this world class facility will encourage young people to stay within the county whilst it is yet another means by which people can keep fit and healthy.”