Swinley Investment and Mountain Bike Network

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  • Swinley Investment and Mountain Bike Network
  • So, in summary then – will I be able to ride there tomorrow night?

    Yes

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    The good thing about Swinley was that it was a lot of trail centre quality trails that you could link together with quality natural stuff in endless combinations. TCs are usually a small number of set loops of which you do laps.

    The Crown Estates (is that correct) are hardly going to have the resources or the desire for draconian policing.

    Well that’s just it, isn’t it. They probably won’t be able to stop us, but it still criminalises what we are currently able to do via permit. I don’t want the stress of being an outlaw, tbh.

    Now, it could well be that they are taking this stance in the knowledge that we will continue to ride, to let them off the hook for insurance purposes. If so, it’s not a bad idea. As I understand it, it’d be the same situation as with the MoD land in the area – if I understand the byelaws correctly you’re only allowed on the fire-roads in there, but everyone happily ignores the rule.

    I have only ridden there once recently and enjoyed the contrast. The one with all the work being done then (strickler? nr the tank traps) was certainly different from the more natural stuff that I ride locally, but still fun and good for practicing cornering technique (but wouldnt want to ride that all the time). Still not sure how such a long trail was fitted into such a small area – totally lost my sense of direction on that one!!!

    mol – I think your final para will be close to the truth, hopefully!

    Sorry to resurrect this post again, but does anyone know if there is a contact name/ e-mail address for the person in charge of these alterations?

    I’ve been asked by a local childrens cycling club to pass on some concerns, but there doesn’t seem to be anybody to pass those concerns on to.

    I’m guessing Rowan Sorrell is just the contractor doing the work. I’d like to contact the shady “Mr. Big” who must be in charge. Presumably its someone at Crown Estates?

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    This meeting tonight might be a quicker way of getting your voice heard. Can’t make it myself – anyone going?

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Subscriber

    thepurist – Member
    This meeting tonight might be a quicker way of getting your voice heard. Can’t make it myself – anyone going?

    Mate of mine is going yes. However at this stage he doesn’t have much of an ‘opinion’ …. quite a few worries like the rest of us… but who’s to say the people building aren;t right…. that will only be truely apparent after it’s done 🙂

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Subscriber

    I’d like to contact the shady “Mr. Big” who must be in charge. Presumably its someone at Crown Estates?

    John Deakin is the Chief forester / overseer of this initiative

    I’ve changed my mind, after slogging through ankle deep mud for 12miles/2 hours of whats supposed to be a fairly quick 30mile loop in the Chilterns on Saturday evening, some good all weather trails can’t come soon enough!

    As long as horsey types are banned so I’ve got some rideable trails I don’t care!

    I’ll cope with being an outlaw on the natural trails. And the yellow brick road stuff can always be ridden back to front at night to get some more variety.

    Thanks,

    I know a couple of people who I think will be going to that meeting.

    No direct contact for John Deakin, so I’ve e-mailed the crown estates press office, hoping they will pass a message on.

    While we’re on the subject of cycle paths. Does anyone have a good explanation why the cyclepath allong Nine Mile Ride heading away from Swinely towards TRL gets to the roundabout, crosses the road several times then officialy ends. Whilst if you ignore it and stay on the pavement it carry’s on uninterupted for another mile or so.

    I’m not adverse to riding in the road, but as it’s there I use it.

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    Anyone get along to that meeting last night, or heard anything from those that did?

    martinh
    Member

    [video]http://vimeo.com/54812555[/video]

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    Cheers martinh – being positive it sounds like there’s some interesting new sections going in and only minor tweaks to improve existing stuff. On the downside the ‘grand opening’ he mentions in March could lead to 4 months of further and further restricted riding as each of the existing parts gets closed to be worked on. No mention of the fate of other existing trails either.

    scu98rkr
    Member

    All looks good the only bit that seems a bit of a shame is the fireroad from seagull to the reservoir.

    MAP

    On my usual route I tend to use roller coaster and do seagull the other way.

    Obviously soreen cant consider roller coaster as its on MOD land.

    I reckon the red trail would flow better in the other direction myself.

    Obviously tanks traps/Lab/Deer stalker can only be riden one way, but minor changes to the route could easily sort that.

    Thanks for the post. Seems a very sensible bloke. Glass 3/4 full if not more IMO.

    I didn’t go, but here is a useful summary of the meeting, ripped off another website:

    Swinley is a commercial forest run owned and by the crown estate. Mountain Biking was originally permitted on Fireroads and in the area defined as the Expert Mountain Biking area. However the trails have expanded outside of the original area to cover the forest.

    Swinley Forest is home to 3 types of rare ground nesting birds, Natural England has designated Swinley a Special Protection Area and requested that clear felling take places to provide an environment for these birds, they’ve also requested that access is restricted to these area to avoid disturbing the birds.
    CE has been subject to multiple liability insurance claims by individuals who have had accident on features on the unregulated trails.

    Because of these 2 reasons (erosion is not an issue) CE have had to develop a plan to provide a sustainable method of permitting Mountain Biking, and have been in discussion with Rowan Sorrel for the past 18 Months who has devised the strategy for Swinley. Although members of BOB and Gorrick have been consulted, the plans suggested by BOB and Gorrick we not workble so the original plan has been actioned.

    There will be 3 routes:

    A green run for beginners and children, this is being developed with input from 2 local schools.

    A blue run which will wider than singletrack, fast and flowy.

    A red run which will be mainly technical singletrack with potentially some black features.

    The Blue and Red routes will include some existing trails plus a lot of new tracks, where existing trails are used some work will be done to improve the surfces and flow.

    There will also be a Downhill area by deerstalker/labrynth, and a free ride area in the Gully area.

    Riding on all fireroads is still permitted

    Apart from the above marked trails/areas, the rest of the forest is off limits. Wardens will use a soft approach to illegal riders, reminding them the only permitted trails/areas are permitted, however if this doesn’t work thet may need to take further action.

    Crowthorne Woods (bomb holes, corkscrew) are not included in the Changes to Swinley as it is Forestry Commission land, however FC are watching the development in Swinley to see how to proceed.

    The permit scheme finishes in March, replaced with the carparking charge which applies to all vistors not just MTBers. The new trails will open in March 2013.
    It is envisioned that the new Swinley Access Group (SAG) will help provide voluntery assistance to help perserve,maintain & develop the new trails. It is also stated that the current plans are not the end of trial development.
    There is still a question mark over XC/Enduro racing at Swinley, as all events will be limited to having to use the new trails.

    It should be noted that all users of the forest will be subject to control restrictions over the next few years, with new walking trails developed.

    Premier Icon FieldMarshall
    Subscriber

    Makes for interesting viewing/reading and I’m sure Rowan Sorrell will build some great sections, but there are some long fireroad sections on the Red and lots of good existing trail will be lost.

    And i prefer riding Seagull East to West. So its a shame that it’ll be one way West to East.

    Be interested to know what BOB/Gorrick proposed that was rejected.

    rj2dj
    Member

    John said in his talk that one of the main things they proposed in meetings were two way trails.

    Given that the cycling in Swinley will now be funnelled into just two loops, and that the increased signage and more accessible trails will attract more riders to the forest, it is probably unsurprising that this proposal was rejected.

    It was asked in the Q&A how they intended to police this and whether he’d consider use of steps in the trails to make pushing/riding back up trails harder work – he hadn’t given it a great deal of thought, but said he’d discuss how they’d manage it with Rowan – so it is on their agenda.

    I don’t know of any trail centre that allows two way trails?

    Link to video of presentation: http://vimeo.com/54847938

    MrSynthpop
    Member

    Bit sad to see really, only ridden swinley a few times but enjoyed the variety and the novelty of being able to spot a trail off a fireroad and just point the bike down it. Rode really early in the morning when it was quiet which was fantastic. Spent a happy day just riding about following locals while the other half did the Dirt Divas course in Crowthorne Woods.

    Will probably pop up sometime next year but it all looks a bit motorway from the map.

    rewski
    Member

    Not sad, will be great, rowan talks sense.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Subscriber

    Apart from the above marked trails/areas, the rest of the forest is off limits. Wardens will use a soft approach to illegal riders,

    And so it begins…We’re to be criminalized for riding around a wood on bicycles… Crown Estates…Doesn’t that ultimately belong to us?

    I really can’t see how they are going to identify, find, stop and eject riders straying off these trails without a massive increase in wardens.

    Not about “erosion” my arse…. 🙄

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    nickc – have you actually watched either of those 2 videos posted up there?

    rj2dj
    Member

    And so it begins…We’re to be criminalized for riding around a wood on bicycles… Crown Estates…Doesn’t that ultimately belong to us?

    No, it doesn’t. It belongs to the Crown. Since George III though, all the income from the land has been given to the government – £250m last year. They make a loss at Swinley Forest, which is the only part of the portfolio which does make a loss (They own about £7bn worth of assets across the UK).

    As for identifying illegal riders, they have realised they will need to increase their resources in terms of wardens on patrol. Initially at least they plan to softly educate people about why the changes have been put in place, but ultimately they could get a lot tougher. John Deakin stated he was very much not in favour of this and would only use it as a last resort if he fails to get the buy-in he’s hoping for from the MTB community.

    If it makes you feel any better it’s not just MTBers who will be strongly encouraged away from potential breeding areas, it’s all users of the forest.

    It’s all in the video 🙂

    Reading between the lines they were talking about voulenteer groups maintaining the trails. Hopefully this means new trails can continue to be built as well as long as they’re built to spec so that the liability argument is satisfied? And hopefuly the rules aout only BOB being allowed to be involved will change.

    I don’t know of any trail centre that allows two way trails?

    I think that was the gripe, it’s not a trail center, it was some trails in a wood that you could go and ride freely. Trail centers are good fun, but they’re different.

    nickc – have you actually watched either of those 2 videos posted up there?

    +1, he seems to be getting hot and bothered about things that aren’t true. It’s been explained that walkers will be encouraged onto walking trails as well, it doesn’t make it any better, but it’s not just mountainbikers being singled out.

    I don’t know if “illegal” was the word used at the meeting. I just assumed it was shorthand for “people riding in areas that the landowners didn’t want people riding in”.

    I got a bit depressed about the insurance liability claims by people who have had accidents on the unregulated trails. Rumour has it that there are 5 outstanding claims, one of which will cost 50k to settle. I imagine this is probably the main reason that crown estates are putting their foot down.

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    Rumour has it that there are 5 outstanding claims,

    That saddened me a bit, but seems to be the way of the world these days.

    From Deakin’s presentation it seems like the cheapest/easiest thing for CE to do would have been to ban bikes from the area and get diggers in for a week or two to trash the existing trails. Instead they’re spending 300K on a new network of trails which, while they have some disadvantages compared to the old Swinley, will still be somewhere to go & spin the pedals & I’m sure that with a bit of judicious use of fire roads etc. you’ll be able to make up a few different loops.

    In truth Swinley has always been changing – it must be only be in the last 4 or 5 years that Seagull was armoured (remember the moans about that?), Deerstalker opened and Watsons Wander got even wider. This is just the next step in that process, and apparently not the last.

    FWIW I live practically next door to the place and being apparently terminally unemployed I ride it a couple of times a week, so in many ways I’ve got more to lose than most. I was pretty hacked off with the first announcements but as further details have emerged I can see that the CE just weren’t in a position to carry on as they were.

    ETA:

    And hopefuly the rules aout only BOB being allowed to be involved will change.

    +1

    So what’s closed at the moment?

    I’ve been ill for the last few weeks, last time I went they’d blocked of the north end of stickler but there was a diversion to get tot he rest of the trail.

    Is anything else off limits?

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    I’ve tended to stay away from that area – last time I went the 9 yards section near new england was closed, but the wiggly wooded section that ends up at more or less the same place was fine, the next section of 9 yards from there toward the stickler was also closed, stickler still closed, 9 yards coming N from manhole to the next proper fire road was open but fenced off at the N fire road end (bit of forestry debris on the bermy section), plus anything that crossed the new trail building.

    Also the fire road that goes past the bottom of the double drop & toward the jumps/surrey hill is a bit mashed by logging, as is the one that goes from the bottom of tank traps up toward the manhole.

    And unless it’s properly frozen hard Watsons Wander is just a boggy slog.

    If you were starting a ride at the lookout I’d head over Crowthorne way, do corkscrew etc. then satan’s grotto, seagull, tank traps, jumps, then take your pick of routes toward the labyrinth. On the upside the tougher climb back from the bottom of the labyrinth (turn right) is nicely firmed up & rideable… unless you’re on a SS (waits for someone with better legs to prove him wrong!)

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Subscriber

    And hopefuly the rules aout only BOB being allowed to be involved will change

    FWIW, that wasn’t anything to do with parochialism. It was a liability thing; getting insurance to cover ‘random individuals’ working with plant and equipment was prohibitive whereas getting insurance to cover the club’s members was a workable solution.

    I’ve pushed the odd barrow of dirt up some of those trails over the years and back in the early days when we could flag down passing riders and pressgang them into 15 minutes of dirt shovelling I was all for it!! And my back was 10 years younger then!!

    mike909
    Member

    Swinley Forest is home to 3 types of rare ground nesting birds, Natural England has designated Swinley a Special Protection Area and requested that clear felling take places to provide an environment for these birds, they’ve also requested that access is restricted to these area to avoid disturbing the birds.

    CE has been subject to multiple liability insurance claims by individuals who have had accident on features on the unregulated trails

    This looks like a smoke screen – I mean what they are sayng is that they want to create a habitat? What happens to the poor birds when they harvest the wood? They drive huge vehicles through. Are dog walkers going to be banned? I mean I would guess bird s are more worried by doges chasing around than mtb’ers?

    And given that most of the trails are not in clear areas (and those that are are mainly on the Crowthorne side) what is it that Natural Enlgand are requesting. The forest is far from natural its a man made forest

    Re liability, presumably they are liable for the BMX track being proposed?

    It’s a real shame – I was a Birch Hill local and still travel back because I don’t have to follow a trail – as an ex local I could just ride as conditions allowed – never boring, never the same

    Its like the main trail centres – does anyone go every week to ride the same trails in the same order?

    It’s in a heavily populated area – it will be very busy and not much fun

    This looks like a smoke screen – I mean what they are sayng is that they want to create a habitat?

    They already create habitat, else the birds wouldn’t be there.

    What happens to the poor birds when they harvest the wood? They drive huge vehicles through.

    The birds we’re talking about move into and nest on the areas after felling, before the trees have grown back up again – as one part of the forest is felled, another is growing and the birds can choose their preferred habitat from the many there, like a patchwork quilt of various stages of growth, think back to what you learned at school about the four field crop rotation system, and imagine it on a bigger scale with a fifty year cycle.

    Are dog walkers going to be banned? I mean I would guess bird s are more worried by doges chasing around than mtb’ers?

    What proportion of dog walkers wander more than half a mile from any of the the car parks? Riders go into far more of the forest and further from the access points than any other group of users numbers wise. Thats why they are a significant problem.

    And given that most of the trails are not in clear areas (and those that are are mainly on the Crowthorne side)

    Has it occurred to you that the Forest managers know what the felling plan is, so they know which areas are going to be felled in the future, and are planning the trails accordingly?

    what is it that Natural Enlgand are requesting.

    That the landowners take steps to mitigate the negative effects of mountainbikers on the bird communities by managing the riders in an effective fashion, the CE are doing this by not only giving us better trails that the vast majority of riders are more likely to want to ride, but by creating trails that keep the majority of riders in areas where they do not disturb the breeding populations of endangered species.

    The forest is far from natural its a man made forest

    Yet despite this, has become a haven for wildlife, which shows just what a good job of managing the forest they have been doing for many, many years, so perhaps they deserve some credit for knowing what they are doing.

    Personally, I think its bloody wonderful that I can go out on a bike ride in the evening and see Nightjar hawking, and I wouldn’t give a second thought that my mountain biking should be more important than their survival!

    gee
    Member

    Rode over there tonight. All of 9 yards is closed, as is stickler. The rest is ok but the fire roads are a boggy swamp. Unless it freezes solid I’d avoid.

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