Today is ninja trail maintenance day.

Got some odd looks from wife and family as I set off on my bike this morning. Why? Well instead of riding gear I wore gardening clothes. Instead of a Camelbak I took a backpack. Inside my backpack was a folding spade, folding saw and some small garden shears.

Yup, today was trail maintenance day for me. I do this every so often, and have been for years. However I normally do it by stealth and just take the small shears out with me to cut down some encroaching bramble. But I'm guessing the economic situation has meant that the local authority has cut back on general maintenance themselves. Some of our trails had overhanging low trees that were just there to catch out the unwary or poke somebody in the eye; both cyclists and horse riders. So all I did today was a little bit of pruning, nothing too dramatic in and of itself, but the overall effect has been to open up a few trails. Instead of battling through bramble, with the associated risk of torn arms, legs and clothing, there is a clear sight line.

Now before you suggest I've ruined the trails, which is a fair point, let me stress that I don't go mad. I just do a bit here and there, generally making sure that it's very difficult to see where I've been or what I've done. I fully appreciate that at times a boring trail is made through having to dodge a bramble or low hanging tree. I certainly don't want to straight line everything. Indeed my pruning is more to encourage the use of the existing trail way and not to carve new alternative routes. I never prune beyond the limits of the existing trail, I never dig up plants, and I certainly don't make new pathways. Bramble I attack, everything else I leave alone.

It's also prudent only to enhance what is already there and not to undertake actual trail maintenance. Here I mean not to start digging up the trail or shifting earth or rocks about. My folding spade is simply to push back bramble so that I can cut closer to the base. I fully appreciate that I have no idea how to make, improve or repair the trail itself so that I leave to the people that actually own it. It's one thing cutting back a bit of bramble, but another entirely to start bulldozing away or hauling rocks about.

And seeing as how I had to take a rucksack, I also cleared away some of the rubbish that we get here and there. Well why not?

My own personal trail maintenance rules:
  • Pick up rubbish where you can.
  • Bramble is fair game.
  • Just move branches; never cut.
  • Leave the actual trail bed alone.
  • Leave no trace.
  • Only prune on public land.
  • Do as little as possible.