Campaigners Hope To Save Wyllie Bike Trails, Wales

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In a good illustration of how ‘we’ve always ridden there’ doesn’t mean ‘we’ve got the right to ride there’, campaigners are hoping to save Wyllie Bike Park – and the surrounding Sirhowy Country Park. The area is subject to a proposed development by ERI Reclamation, but since the Wyllie Bike Park trails fall into that ‘tolerated but not official’ category, they have little legal standing. Indeed, so far as we can tell, there’s no mention of the impact on the trails in any of the documentation produced by ERI Reclamation so far.

The Wylllie trails – or Wyllie Bike Park as it is sometimes known – are official enough that there’s an Instagram account, some established local trail builders, and riders who have been riding the trails there for 30 years. The local riders and diggers are established and organised enough that during felling, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) managed to communicate with them to facilitate rider access around the felling operations. We’re told that this was so successful that forestry works were never disrupted due to riders getting in the way of felling operations – without the need for a blanket forest-wide closure. It’s even been used by British Cycling for Team GB training sessions. It’s the kind of place that many of us ride and think is surely safe and secure for generations to come.

Illustration showing the proposed access road and the position of the Wyllie Trails

However, it’s all informal. There’s no lease between land owners and a trail association, no Public Rights of Way, and no ‘official’ bike park. Which means that when ERI Reclamation produced its assessment of potential access routes to the nearby Bedwas Tip site, the access to the trails wasn’t considered. A brief mention was made of the existing forest track being used by cyclists and walkers, but that’s it. We asked ERI Reclamation where the impact on the trails had been assessed, and were told:

We are this week into public consultation and are gathering feed back on our proposal. The most concerns are around the proposed haul route and we are listening to people’s concerns. The trails are hard to map as many are unofficial but we are conscious we need to maintain and where possible improve these around their crossing of the haul route.

We would welcome the opportunity to enter into discussions with the organisers of Wyllie Bike Park, to hear their concerns and see if we can find a way that enables them to develop with our help.

ERI Reclamation
The Bedwas Tip area earmarked for cleanup.

It’s a complicated situation: an area known as the Bedwas Tip that contains spoil from old mining operations has been said to pose a safety risk – mostly around potential water contamination and fires on the site due to the presence of coal, rather than a risk of collapse as is an issue at some sites. ERI Reclamation hopes to process the spoil heaps and extract the coal, before redistributing the cleaned spoil safely so that the land can be reclaimed or regenerated. The sale of the coal will then offset the cost of the works. But an access road to the processing plant is needed, and ERI Reclamation has deemed the options on the Bedwas Tip side of the mountain to be unsuitable. Instead, they’re suggesting a more appropriate access is up and over the mountain, and down through the adjacent valley and Sirhowy Country Park.

Residents in this neighbouring valley aren’t impressed. They say the access road will bring dust and contamination down into their valley, through the nature reserves, Country Park, and even a Covid Memorial garden. While most of the road already exists as a forest track, some additional construction would be needed – and the operations would close this forest track to all. The route up to the start of the Wyllie Bike Park trails would be lost, as would the access through the forest that forms part of a popular ‘4 Peaks’ route in the area.

Petitioners are seeking to route the access away from the Country Park (in yellow)

Led by local rider and trail advocate Joanne Atkinson, the residents have started a petition to oppose the route, which you can sign here. They want to see the processing plant placed adjacent to the Tip and on the former colliery site, with the access route kept on the other side of the hill so that the Country Park and forestry area remains as is.

Caerphilly County Borough Council is keen to emphasise that at present the proposals are at an early stage, and that it is ERI Reclamation that is doing a consultation – not the council. The council has issued the following statement:

The council is aware that there is some concern and confusion in the community about the reclamation of Bedwas Tip, so we are keen to set the record straight about the current position.

Firstly, it is important to stress that no permission has been granted for any such reclamation scheme to progress. Indeed, if such a major project was to go ahead, it would be subject to detailed scrutiny and public consultation as part of the formal planning application process.

A scheme of this significance would also be subject to approval and permissions from a range of other statutory agencies before any work could start.

At this moment in time, no formal planning application has been submitted to the council, however we are aware that a developer is currently in the process of undertaking a ‘pre-application consultation’.

Developers proposing major schemes are required to undertake this type of statutory pre-application consultation prior to submitting a planning application to the Local Planning Authority. It is important to clarify that the Local Planning Authority is not involved in this process. Therefore, residents should respond directly to the developer (ERI Reclamation) and not the Local Planning Authority if they want their comments to be taken into account as part of this pre-application consultation process.

The Leader of Council, Cllr Sean Morgan is keen to provide reassurance to local residents, “If a formal planning application is received, then appropriate consultation will take place so that all stakeholders in the community have the opportunity to provide feedback, before the matter is determined by the Planning Committee.”  

“I hope this helps clarify the current position and please be assured that any such scheme would be subject to robust scrutiny and would also require a range of conditions and control measures to minimise the impact of any planned works,” he added.

Caerphilly County Borough Council

For anyone who rides trails that are tolerated but not official, it’s a good reminder not to take what you’ve got for granted. Without legal status – or even much of an official national governing body to advocate for riders – your trails are at risk. If you’ve got a local trail association or advocacy group, perhaps it’s time to go and lend a hand?

Also, look out for the upcoming survey from the UK Trails Project – it’s due out in March and will be seeking views of riders.

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Hannah Dobson

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Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • Campaigners Hope To Save Wyllie Bike Trails, Wales
  • radbikebro
    Full Member

    Thanks for sharing! These are some of my local trails and to have no access would suck

    Full Member

    The guys at Wyllie are asking everyone – whether you’ve ridden their trails, want to ride their trails in the future or just if you’re a nice person – to sign this petition, and then share it with all of your mates and ask them to do the same.

    They need to get to 5,000 signatures in the next week, so they can show the people behind the project, and the local council who’ll be making the final decision about whether the project goes ahead, how much people care about losing access to the trails.

    So, please, start signing and sharing!

    Full Member

    Never been, but it’s on my “places to visit” list.  Signed (and shared to my local biking group)  Good luck!

    Free Member

    Signed and contributed. Have ridden there a number of times and is a great venue. Will be very sad to see it go – although, this is what happens

    Free Member

    It doesn’t sound like the trails are going though – the comments from the environmental reclamation company say they’ll maintain access to the trails and consider how they cross the proposed haul road. It’ll be a big project but it’s only temporary.

    Free Member

    I shared this on my FB and my sister in law in the mid-western USA said everyone there has heard of the place!

    Full Member

    @munrobiker the existing documents show that the ‘temporary’ access restriction is to last 7 years. Quite a long temporary!

    Free Member
    There is another chance to learn about the planned reclamation of the Bedwas Tips tonight at Bedwas Workmens Hall. Also tomorrow at Haven Hill in Cwmfelinfach.
    I went along last night an specifically asked about the haul route and how the proposal would affect access.
    I was told that;
    Access along the route will not be closed to cyclists and walkers at all.
    There will be a speed limit in place (15 mph was suggested, but not confirmed) and signage/trianing to alert drivers that the route is popular with recreational users.
    There will be no lorries using the access route on Sat/Sun although there may be work on the tips themselves on Saturdays.
    There will be no lorries using the access route after 6pm.
    Wylie ‘Bike Park’ will not be affected, but there may be need to modify trails which cross three mile climb from a safety perspective. Not close them! but to alter how the intersections work.
    There may be an opportunity to work with the developers on the development of new bike trails on the land which is currently filled with the tips. (IE building some runs down towards Bedwas.) – If you would like to be part of a group who engage with the developers on this opportunity please DM me.
    So overall, while I know this will cause some disruption, it appears to be less disruptive than logging operations which have taken place recently.
    Do I take all these answers on trust – no, and I will be scrutinising the actual planning application when submitted and responding to it appropriately.
    If you have concerns, please go along to the public meeting and make sure they are heard – the more people who make the effort to go along and speak to the developers the more likely they are to make specific provision to allay our fears and to minimise disruption to access.
    Full Member

    Thanks gearfreak, that’s really good to know – I did think it’ll be less disruptive than logging just based on how it is – main access route vs being on the trails, but knowing that they aren’t closing it for cyclists and walkers is a bit of a relief.

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