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  • UK Trails Project Launches ‘Right Trails, Right Places’
  • stwhannah
    Full Member

    The UK Trails Project has David Evans in post as Project Manger, and is getting underway with a series of workshops around the country. The project ai …

    By stwhannah

    Get the full story here:

    UK Trails Project Launches ‘Right Trails, Right Places’

    mtbfix
    Full Member

    Will he be able to make the Chilterns drain any better? Right now my ‘right trail’ is anything not under a depth of slop.

    nickc
    Full Member

    While I appreciate that while its accurate geographically to call Staveley “The North West” there’s a huge amount of riders that live in what most folks call the North West (i.e. west Yorks/Lancs/Manchester ) that will find all of those locations pretty hard to get to..

     

     

    Gunz
    Free Member

    South West rider waving his hand at the back of the class.

    mrhoppy
    Full Member

    To do this, we want to meet the riders of Britain and hear your stories first hand. UK Trails Project Manager David Evans will be travelling to riding hotspots around the UK …

    and

    Midlands, Northampton

    Feels like something of a logic leap, and as Nickc says there are some very significant riding areas that are being ignored/left for an online sweep up.

    eatmorepizza
    Free Member

    Sad to see the North East being left out as per usual.

    And as such, all I can speak for is my experience in the North Yorkshire and Teesside area, but the problem with “Right Trails, Right Places” if taken at face value is, if there is no good quality, existing trail structure then the locals will build their own. It’s much easier on a summers evening to ride out from your local area 5-10 miles to get to the trails rather than wait till the weekend to travel a couple of hours by car to get to bigger trail centres. And speaking for my local woods, errington woods, it’s the kids who are up there after school everyday and every weekend in winter out digging, as riding the local is quicker and more convenient than relying on all of their dads with enough space in cars or with enough cycle carriers to ferry them to somewhere to ride on a weekend.

    As a result despite there being some good runs and some mega jump lines, its like a rat race, all too often you can head down a trail and be given an option at a fork of riding 6 other ones which may or may not end up back onto the main trail and some will even be left to rack and no longer used, I think Rat Run is the accurate term, also due to it being a very small and steep woodland a lot of the unsanctioned trails, well infact all of them I think cross over footpaths. One I’ve rode down crosses all 4 paths laden through the woods, part of it’s charm is it’s council owned land so no one really cares.

    So my other local haunt is guisborough, the land is owned by the forestry commission but is of a similiar thing. Years of unsanctioned trails being built all the time by locals. The FC once partnered up with singltraction trail builders and they reworked 3 popular trails into proper runs, but where they went wrong is they tried to CC every other FC area and build green, blue and red routes. Anyone whos rode guisborough knows most of it is just fireroads so getting them to loop together was a challenge and they ended up just using already built trails, sanitising them a bit and saying “good enough” before buggering off. The craziest thing is some of the trails when rode as part of the red route, you were riding up them!

    As a result, local riders criticised the trails, the sanctioned builders got fed up, as did the FC and they were left to decay.
    So now it’s back to how it used to be with weekend warriors and kids after school spending winters up there building their own stuff. And a lot of what was there has now been decimated by commercial logging.

    If Guisboroughs official trail network was done right the first time and done well, and maintained and built upon, most local riders wouldn’t feel the need to build their own.

    The two biggest trail centres near me, Hamsterley and Dalby. Well I guess I can clarify this with what my 13 year old nephew says about them who rides up our local woods all the time “Hamsterley is good but booking into descend and organising it with your mates is a faff and the rest of the trails the jumps arent big enough”, and what he said about dalby was “Boring as”

    nickc
    Full Member

    The irony of calling the project “Right Trails, Right Places” and then not going to where the riding is or by default where the riders are does seem to be a wee bit lacking in joined up thinking…

    spyke85
    Free Member

    If they wanted to add a date at Rivington I am pretty certain I would be able to organise something at the brewery there – got a decent space inside and of course some excellent beers!

    AngusWells
    Full Member

    I will provide a positive perspective.  My reading of the release is that the meetings are aimed at gaining intelligence to design a questionnaire that all riders can contribute to.  That sounds like a good start to me.

    Good luck Dave. With so many differing opinions about so many different styles of mountain biking and so many land owners you have a big challenge on your hands but I am pleased someone is prepared to take it on..

    rsl1
    Free Member

    @mrhoppy just because there are no hills there doesn’t mean there are no riders. A cohesive country wide strategy would be remiss if it didn’t consider the good work done in eg Northampton and Leamington spa to give locals of flat places something fun to ride without getting in the car

    MrAgreeable
    Full Member

    @nickc I’ll probably be going to the Sheffield one if you want a lift!

    Mackem
    Full Member

    North-East / North Yorkshire / Northumberland a huge area but no reasonably close meeting.

    DickBarton
    Full Member

    This isn’t an easy task, so it is good to see areas are getting visited for a meeting – certainly better than asking people to fill an online form in.
    Saying that though, a real shame there is only 1 meeting in Scotland. I reckon 3 would cover most areas better, similarly 3 in Wales would get better results.
    England probably needs 1 or 2 more in each area, but spread in those areas – which then makes this quick a long challenge and less likely to happen…

    oldfart
    Full Member

    Another South West riding feeling left out 😞

    nickc
    Full Member

    Hey @mrA, that sounds cool. It’s probs going to be the nearest one, eh?

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    I’m recording a podcast with Mr Evans tomorrow, so apart from ‘there isn’t a meeting in my area’ is there anything else you want asking?

    DickBarton
    Full Member

    Has he got any ideas on how he will start moving this forward once he hears from everyone?
    Is it going to be starting in 1 location and then spreading out or will there be multiple areas getting started?
    Is there buy-in already from the large current landowners or is he going to be having to work on them as well?

    nickc
    Full Member

    Well, the biggest challenge from my perspective is the obvious difference in trail access rights/legality between England and Wales on the one hand and Scotland on the other. You’re going to be in post for 3 years, what do you really think you will be able to achieve in such a short time frame that hasn’t been attempted before unsuccessfully? Neither major party now support wider access rights, It seems unlikely that without primary legislation forcing the issue, the status quo isn’t going to change, so will you support use of footpaths by cyclists?

    It’s clear that whatever the land management agencies may say publicly, they still; after all this time (that MTB has been a thing in the UK) regard us as at best; 2nd class users and a nuisance to be tolerated, or at worse actively supress use in areas that it should be legal to do so. (see New Forest) how will you tackle them to make access a priority?

    The next issue is that the largest outdoor access campaigning group – Ramblers, don’t want anything to do with mountain bikers, and in fact, actively campaign against our interests. Will you engage with them at all?

     

     

    franksinatra
    Full Member

    I’m recording a podcast with Mr Evans tomorrow, so apart from ‘there isn’t a meeting in my area’ is there anything else you want asking?

    I’d be very interested to hear his views on growth of e-bike market, is this threat or opportunity for access and trails. Especially pertinent in Scotland, will e-bikes start to test rights of responsible access and how is this best managed?

    mark88
    Full Member

    I’m nervous this opens a can of worms – he does a survey of riders and (with good intentions) feeds back about the number of wild trails and riding on footpaths, then all of a sudden they’re officially aware of them so need to go about preventing it.

    Essentially, what is the actual expected outcome of this? Make what’s there official? Educate ‘wild’ trail builders? Open new trail centres? Bring existing trail centres more up to date? Improve access? Help convert footpaths into bridleways? Help gain access to FC land for racing?

    Also, i’ve not seen anything about this role anywhere other than here. So he may need to do more to get word out as none of the trail associations I follow on socials have mentioned it.

    nickc
    Full Member

    I’m nervous this opens a can of worms

    Aye, right enough. I ride footpaths or un-classified paths/trails. I don’t necessarily think my life would be improved by exposing them without the protection of legality.

    radbikebro
    Full Member

    Reading through this, it feels like a lot of people haven’t worked with the trail associations trying to legalise access to their local trails. From my point of view, NRW are really open to it and – in my experience – are being highly engaged with wild MTB trails in Wales and making good in-roads.

    I’d really like to know what level of support local trail associations can have from this – we’ve got lots of big costs and tricky cases for legal & lawyers, so any extra support, guidance or resource in these areas would be a huge helping hand.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Well, the biggest challenge from my perspective is the obvious difference in trail access rights/legality between England and Wales on the one hand and Scotland on the other. You’re going to be in post for 3 years, what do you really think you will be able to achieve in such a short time frame that hasn’t been attempted before unsuccessfully? Neither major party now support wider access rights

    Having been involved with efforts to widen access rights on a national basis, it seems to me that the scope of this role is very sensibly limited to trying to formalise trails on a local, piecemeal basis.

    There’s no appetite or opportunity for wholesale access change in England now, and Wales is still in limbo.

    Burchy1
    Free Member

    Having been involved with efforts to widen access rights on a national basis, it seems to me that the scope of this role is very sensibly limited to trying to formalise trails on a local, piecemeal basis.

    Agree with the above, he’s not going to move mountains in 3 years. Though it would be interesting to hear whether he has any aims around trying to standardise approach from regional Forestry England offices to both wild trails and purpose built trails. A good example being Haldon vs FOD, the trail centre stuff is night and day different.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    The trouble with trail centres these days is they aren’t interested in keen mountain bike riders so don’t build trails for them. They are increasingly focused on green and blue family trails, which I understand from a commercial perspective, rather than mountain biking. Look at all the trail centre upgrades inthe last 10 year at Glentress, Coed y Brenin, Cannock, etc etc. it’s all about attracting families and cafe revenue

    Sandwich
    Full Member

    Another South West riding feeling left out

    How do you think us mystic East riders feel? Rarely considered and from an environmental point of view heading out in the car every (other) weekend is not sustainable. Local trails everywhere should be the focus to stop us collectively fouling the earth up even more with our hobby/sport.

    MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    it’s all about attracting families and cafe revenue

    Which help fund all the trails and facilities at these places.

    There is no easy solution to this. These programmes have to reflect that most off road riders are not God’s gift to enduro. Similarly, you aren’t likely to get an alpinesque black run built in Spalding.

    What we need is information on how to help the majority, not worrying about each individual having their perfect trail out the back door.

    fahzure
    Full Member

    @Burchy1 is on to something there. The process of developing trails is a fairly universal process, especially when dealing with the same land manager. A toolkit/roadmap for each type of land and land management (managed forest; moorland; urban; city adjacent farmland; council owned; riparian; corporate owned; crown lands (!); etc.) would enable eager locals and provide them with a route and best practices in developing and maintaining trails. Beyond that, because all trails are local, its up to Dave to help solve local (stakeholder) sticking points, so I hope he likes puzzles.

    albo
    Full Member

    IMO the only possible route forward is to develop a DMBS (& Co.) backed framework for local volunteer organisations to sign up to which details the how, where, why, when and who for the management of the local trail network. It’ll need to put a lot of the onus onto the local groups to get trained and organised. A clearly defined KPI management system that is realistic for both landowner and groups to adhere to.

    nickc
    Full Member

    There’s no appetite or opportunity for wholesale access change

    I agree, there isn’t. Is it too cynical to suggest that this may well be the sop to that (lost) cause?

    nickc
    Full Member

    There is no easy solution to this. 

    Yeah there kinda is, just ask any of the Scots on this site… But I agree that there’s too many vested parties in preventing wider access (especially bicycles), from campaign groups to landowners in England. 

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Is it too cynical to suggest that this may well be the sop to that (lost) cause?

    Yes, it is too cynical.

    It’s a different thing, and potentially really good.

    nickc
    Full Member

    OK. will shut up. 

    I’m being taken to the Sheffield meeting by Mr agreeable anyway, so will be as positive as I can be. 

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Give Mr A my regards then 🙂

    DickBarton
    Full Member

    Or give him some ear defenders and you can get all the negativity out before you get there… 😉

    It would be amazing if England got its head and shoulders out itself and opened up land access so it wasn’t as restrictive but it would mean an attitude change from land owners as well as councils and estate owners and local government bodies – I can’t see them all agreeing at the same time and if 1 doesn’t like it then it will prevent the rest getting on board. A very easy thing to say, but suspect reality is it is incredibly difficult to achieve.

    MrAgreeable
    Full Member

    This is a timely appointment because, as others have said, there’s no real strategy in the bottom half of our island with regard to the rider-built trails that are currently filling the massive gap between official trail centres and a rather creaky rights of way network.

    As I’ve written on this site, Scotland is leading the way and has repeatedly demonstrated how landowners and mountain bikers can work together. But we’re also starting from a very different place in the rest of the UK, not just with access law (although that was a key factor in Scotland, as landowners can’t just close off trails without restricting access to all). Down here we’ve got a much more mixed picture, not just in terms of land use (I’m struggling to think of a mountain biking hotspot in Scotland that’s the equivalent of somewhere like the Surrey Hills) but also in terms of landowner attitudes. This can be the case within a single agency, where NRW seems to be interested in working with riders, while Forestry England has been making noises about closing any unofficial trail that can’t be passed off as a deer track.

    I’d be interested in Dave’s thoughts about working with larger agencies like these, as well as whether there are plans to engage cycling’s membership groups. Cycling UK has spearheaded some brilliant work on access reform but isn’t interested in rider-built trails at present, and British Cycling doesn’t seem to have any sort of strategy around mountain biking that doesn’t view everything through the lens of racing (Ironically Dave’s post is technically part of Scottish Cycling, and therefore BC!)

    As some folks reading this may know, there is also a new informal group of trail associations which is starting to come together out of this vacuum, and which pre-empted this role by a handful of months. There’s potential for duplication of effort but also an opportunity to work together?

    Finally I’d urge anyone feeling a bit cynical to put that aside and engage however they can, even if it means sitting on yet another Zoom call. This project has been a long time coming and it’s unlikely to happen again soon, so we should try and make the most of it.

    MrAgreeable
    Full Member

    I’m being taken to the Sheffield meeting by Mr agreeable anyway, so will be as positive as I can be.

    Ha, what have I signed up for here?! Feel free to rant about the access situation as much as you like, I’d probably agree with you 95%. But the trails he’ll be focusing on probably aren’t existing rights of way.

    reeksy
    Full Member

    What a **** joke! Surely for England all they need to do is have one meeting in Swindon?
    The clue is in the name: Nationwide.

    JonEdwards
    Free Member

    @stwhannah

    Can you ask him if he either has – or is planning to – talk to existing local trail associations?

    Thanks.

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    @jonedwards sorry, podcast already recorded and I didn’t ask that specifically. But he was in a meeting of existing trail associations on Monday night, so I assume so!

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