Between the much-loved Tweedlove Festival, downhill and enduro events, trail centres, extensive road riding, and an impressive roster of fast locals, the Tweed Valley holds a special place in British riders’ hearts. Despite its renown, however, the area’s trail riding has recently slipped from the rankings of the UK’s top trail centres.
Constituted in 2008 following a large community consultation, AimUp Ltd aims to move Tweed back to the top of the tables. The result of eight years’ worth of volunteer time and effort, AimUp has presented a vision to the local council and MSPs that they feel would “sustain and develop the community and economy of Innerleithen, Walkerburn and Traquair by growing off-road cycling and tourism by developing a cost effective programme to build a mechanical uplift, bike park and visitor attraction at Innerleithen for the benefit of the local community and Scotland.”
What AimUp call the “game changer” is a proposed low-environmental-impact mechanical uplift (Weili), alongside a family-oriented alpine coaster run attraction, providing all-ability, all-age access to a beautiful part of the Scottish Borders. Not just a mountain bike project, AimUp feel that the proposed uplift would be “about allowing people that may not otherwise be physically capable to also access the multitude of trails or walking paths within the Traquair Forest.” Revenue from the proposed attractions would be returned to the centre for use in developing new and maintaining existing runs.
Earlier this week at Innerleithern Memorial Hall, AimUp chairman Gordon Donald presented summary of the group’s vision to fifty members of the public- as well laying out the obstacles they feel have been placed in front of them by those charged to act in the best interest of the communities they represent. The Tweed Valley Mountain Biking Stakeholder Group have concluded that “the uncertainty of the visitor numbers makes [AimUp’s proposal] high risk for investment.” While AimUp is represented in the group (as one of seven voices), it is AimUp’s position that the Stakeholder Group have based their decisions not to proceed on the proposed plan without proper market research and on an unreleased consultant’s report commissioned by the Group. The project’s prospects are further weakened by EU legislation reducing tax relief for social investments, which have caused a previously-interested private investor to withdraw interest.
Local businessman Steve Treacy was “appalled at the lack of any political or council representation at the meeting and the apparent apathy of the Stakeholder Group and local political arena to progress anything tangible”. Local bike shop owners Gordon and Anna Hardie, whose son was part of the Scottish Downhill Academy, were “stunned that figures and statistics presented numerous times [by AimUp] have seemingly been ignored by elected members of the government, councilors and the publicly-funded Stakeholder Group”. Although invited, no representatives from any of the public bodies attended or were available for comment.
The consensus among Tweed Valley cyclists and the businesses they support is that action is needed to reinvigorate riding in the Valley and to attract riders whose attention may have drifted elsewhere in the region or towards Wales. A local guest house owner focused on the economic benefit it would bring; “it is a shame that the public agencies haven’t been as supportive as they might be, and seem to lack the vision and determination to make this happen. Clearly it would help to fill the spare capacity in our business, boost the numbers we employ, and provide year round business.”
Overall, the members of AimUp and their supporters come across as exhausted and frustrated by lack of support from public officials. Riders and others in the community who would like to see more support for the development plan should visit the AimUp Facebook Page for instruction on how best to express support.