"We will be keeping the majority of the existing trails on the site. However..."
Here’s the latest statement from the FC regarding the long-standing but illicit Wharncliffe trails under threat from Forestry Commission.
The Forestry Commission statement
The Forestry Commission has supported different mountain biking activities at Wharncliffe for many years and will continue to do so. We appreciate that trails are much loved by the mountain biking community, and our approach has been to work with the community to make sure that trails and features have been designed properly, to monitor activity and to make changes where there are concerns that people visiting the forest could injure themselves.
We will be keeping the majority of the existing trails on the site. However, a small number are inappropriate and could be dangerous or obstruct other visitors and ourselves. When this occurs, we have a duty of care to remove trails that we consider are a risk.
We have engaged with the mountain bike community at Wharncliffe for many years through public meetings and identified specific areas where we want to avoid trails being built, and to highlight appropriate areas for trail building. The area in question is one where riders have for many years been asked to avoid building. Indeed, we removed trails and features from this area three years ago and offered the builders an alternative site. Unfortunately, our offer fell on deaf ears and trail building continued.
The tracks and features due to be removed are in the wrong place. They have been constructed near a National Cycle Route and are inherently dangerous to inexperienced riders who may inadvertently stray on to the course. Nor are the features of a type that we are prepared to accept because the consequence of novice riders getting it wrong could be serious injury – or worse.
Building activity has also led to a number of hazards in the woodland including deep holes close to trails where materials have been taken to build the feature. These are a danger to both mountain bike riders and general forest users who could fall into them. The Forestry Commission could be held liable if any injuries were suffered by forest users, and on these grounds alone we have a duty to remove the trails.
Furthermore, the trails have been constructed within woodland that is being restored to benefit wildlife. The work that has been carried out takes no account of the natural environment. Not only has it destroyed an area of Ancient Woodland, but it has damaged trees by undercutting their roots, piling soil up against them, and has obliterated natural ground flora of bluebells and other plants.
The construction, although looked on favourably by some parts of the mountain biking community, has caused great upset to other visitors to Wharncliffe. The local team has received a number of complaints referring to the damage to the environment and the perceived eyesore presented by the extensive digging.
The Forestry Commission has a long running history of supporting mountain biking and it is our intention to continue this approach. We are always inspired to see so many people being passionate about visiting and enjoying our forests, and we are happy to work with responsible members of the mountain biking community in Wharncliffe, where we will continue to manage the forest for the benefit of all visitors.