Follow the Dog starts and finishes at Birches Valley Forest Centre, near Rugely (WS15 2UQ) The trail is well waymarked from the off, and the whole route is graded red, with the occasional black-graded deviation. The surface, while well armoured, does feel a shade slippery even on a dry day, so lose a bit of tyre pressure to increase your contact patch.
After a brief fire-road climb you find yourself starting a sustained singletrack descent complete with rollers, berms and a couple of small drop-offs. It’s at the end of this section that you find yourself presented with the option of going left and taking the Monkey Trail, or going right and sticking with Follow the Dog.
Keep on Following that Dog and you’ll find yourself climbing a bit, still on singletrack, up to a road crossing. There’s a bit more flat and uphill from here, through a campsite, before the final descent begins, and boy is it a cracker. There are berms aplenty, plus a fair few blind bends that will have you hauling on the brakes. The last hurrah sports a series of rollers that had us scratching our heads — they look like jumps, and the speed you carry into them suggests you’re supposed to jump them, but if you do get your wheels off the ground, you’ll find yourself going face first into the next roller. Check your speed and make sure you roll them — you may be near the end but it’s still no place for heroics.
The Monkey Trail
starts at the end of the first sustained descent of Follow the Dog and is easily spotted due to the HUGE signs. The first section is much the same as Follow the Dog, being relatively smooth and pretty much what you’d expect from a red-graded trail. The descent to the railway line is a highlight and an easy addition to Follow the Dog if you’re pushed for time.
Upon crossing the railway line (now a lovely safe bridge over the line) and then crossing a main road (caution), things step up a gear or two and really start to get interesting. The descents on this side of the road are what sets the Monkey Trail apart from most English trails. The surface on the monkey trail is less slippery than on FTD as there are fewer stones embedded in the surface, allowing you to carry more speed through the turns.
The whole Monkey Trail is a hard and technically demanding ride and not really appropriate for beginners — just because you found Follow the Dog easy doesn’t mean you’re qualified to ride the Monkey.