Woods and Wildflowers

buttercups

Enjoying nature has always been one of the pleasures of cycling. This week we hear from two organisations working to protect and improve Britain’s natural places. Andy Byfield of the charity Plantlife explains his charity’s new campaign about road verges while Garfield Kennedy of the Woodland Trust, which manages hundreds of woods and forests across the country, explains why mountain-bikers and other cyclists are welcome in their woods.

  • mike

    Heartwood forest is five minutes away from i ride there at least once a week.
    Based on experience I’d temper the WTs comments on MTB panacea in Heartwood for anyone but familes or leisurely riders.
    There are two areas of Ancient Woodland in Heartwood with well established paths which been ridden forever (16 years for me), but now MTBs are banned (though to be fair access was never really *legal* in these woods).

    The fairly small amount of MTB traffic caused far less damage to the woods than walker’s feet do now, but given the huge increase in walkers in the woods it’s fair enough to discourage MTBing. As a bike campaigner I’ve done what I can to dicourage MTBs from going into the woods, even though they’re some of my favourite signletracks.

    We are now left with a few statutory bridleways which are wide, straight and pretty dull and a few permissive bridleways which are equally boring.

    When the WT took over Heartwood I contacted them to suggest that since they would be denying MTB riders the trails we always used they should take the opportunity of laying out the new forest to plan some more interesting routes before the trees were planted, seeing as Heartwood is a community forest, after all. These wouldn’t be MTB Park full on-trails since the landscape isn’t steep enough, just something a bit more twisty and turny, narrower and generally more interesting than what was planned. Some local MTB riders would also volunteer to help build the trails. The offer was flatly refursed- ‘We aren’t the Foresty comission’ was the tone of the response.

    To be fair, the WT is slowly building out more permissive bridleways and has really helped out by donating land to convert a footpath into a bridleway. With my campaigning hat on I am very grateful indeed because without the WTs support this would never have happened, but with my MTB helmet on even that bridleway is straight and dull.
    Bike access for families and leisure riders is ok at Heartwood but I can’t help but feel that the WT has missed an ideal opportunity to engage with a segment of bike users who use the forest very regularly. For the future I can’t help but think that ‘the yoof’ may tsart to build trails and ride just where the WT don’t want them to.

    http://stalbanscyclecampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/heartwood-forest-bridleways-and.html
    http://stalbanscyclecampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/heartwood-forest-mountain-bike-follow-up.html