Leith Hill – one of the most popular natural-trail destinations for mountain bikers in the UK – is under threat due to plans to drill for oil. Adele Mitchell invites you to join local riders to protest.
As the second highest point in Southern England, Leith Hill’s mighty terrain and vast acreage of wooded, open access is home to a warren of natural trails, jumps and technical climbs and descents. Many consider it the best riding in the Surrey Hills, offering a more challenging and varied ride than the smaller Holmbury and Pitch Hills that neighbour it.
But riders don’t just come for the thrills – this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is also enjoyed by walkers, families, horse riders and runners, offers a rare opportunity to get out into the great outdoors and enjoy the closest thing you can get to a wilderness within thirty miles of the capital. On a clear day you can stand at the top and, beyond the tree tops and valleys, you can see London to the North and the sea to the South, or watch the sun set above the clouds as you ride home (or back to the car park, although that doesn’t sound quite so romantic).
But now Leith Hill is under threat: for beneath it lies oil – possibly millions of barrels worth. Drilling would have a huge impact on the local environment both above and below ground, and prospective drilling tests could start as soon as next year. Check out the following to find out more about the plans and the environmental impact:
- The Leith Hill Action Group is fighting the various planning applications, and have been doing so for the last seven years
- The Leith Hill Protection Camp is sited at the entrance to the proposed drilling site
- Or take a look at A Voice for Leith Hill
Want to support the protests? If you’re riding in the area on 3rd December (THIS Saturday!!!) then head for Leith Hill Tower (the top of the hill) for midday to join other riders as well as those taking part in the Leith Hill Celebration Walk which will converge there. The event is planned to show support for the action groups that are campaigning to raise awareness, fighting planning objections, protesting to delay the drilling and working hard to protect the land. It is a chance to stand up – or ride up – and be counted. Then swoop down the local trails – SL2, Waggle Dance, Summer Lightning, Deliverance or whatever trail takes your fancy – and revel in what we have here.
And for those who are about to accuse Adele of NIMBYism? She says:
“You’re right. I’ve lived nearby and regularly ridden here for more than ten years and consider myself beyond fortunate to be able to enjoy this beautiful place. It has kept me fit, helped me become a better rider, challenged me often, let me win sometimes and, more than anything else, filled me with joy. Now it is facing its own challenges, it is time to head for the hills and give back.”