The increasing numbers of mountain bike and road cyclists using the New Forest is continuing to cause conflict it seems.
The New Forest Association (NFA) has joined calls from the Commoners’ Defence Association (CDA), which represents the owners of livestock that roam the area, for stronger regulation of cycle use in the Forest by the Forestry Commission. The New Forest Association is one of the oldest conservation organisations in the world and holds a lot of sway over policy on the upkeep of the New Forest area.
The NFA has recently called on the National Park Authority (NPA) to criminally prosecute riders who go off designated routes (prosecutions leading to fines).
The NFA has also pointed to a recent BBC’s Countryfile programme on March 18 that highlighted the practice of “adventure racing” by large scale organised groups on New Forest land as damaging the “fragile” lands of the New Forest.
The Countryfile programme showed footage of competitors racing over mires and heathland that should be protected by the Forestry Commission, according to the NFA. A report on adventure racing showed the BBC’s Countryfile reporter Ellie Harrison participating on a race on such land.
The Forestry Commission admitted it had given the BBC permission to film “adventure racing” in the New Forest but said the programme makers were only given permission to film on approved tracks.
“Unfortunately, the feature did not promote the use of the cycle network sufficiently clearly, or the avoidance of sensitive sites,” the Forestry Association said.
Objections to cycling
The NFA presented its objections on current off-road cycle use in the New Forest to the Verderers Court of the New Forest on March 22. The Verderers Court, which consists of elected members, is a body that was set up to preserve the New Forest’s unique agricultural landscape and is the voice of the many stakeholders who use New Forest land (much of which is still owned by the Crown). Their concerns are then presented to the Forestry Commission.
The NFA want action taken against any business promoting this illegal use of the Forest and want the Forestry Commission to withdraw permission for adventure racing or ensure that it is adequately monitored and does not damage the protected habitat of the New Forest.
Review of cycling activity
The NFA said now more urgent than ever, there had to be a full review of cycling activity on Crown Lands.
In a statement, the NFA told us: “The Association regards the lawful use of cycling not only as beneficial to health but as a means to appreciate the wonderful wildlife and scenery that the New Forest offers.
“There are other forests with off-road tracks that are much better suited and appropriate for high speed mass cycling events. We ask that cyclists and those supporting cycling in the New Forest show consideration and respect for other users and work to protect and enhance the area that they value so much for their recreation.”
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