I grew up in suburban London, and had to work hard to link the green belt up to make a mountain bike ride worthwhile. More often than not friends and I would hop on a train out to the Chiltern Hills and ride from there.
When I first started riding off road, access wasn’t an issue. Sure, we naively ventured on to footpaths, bridleways and trails without really knowing where we should and shouldn’t go. But being young, the people we’d meet were far more interested in this new sport we were doing, and how impressed they were that we were out enjoying the countryside. A far cry from many other young people in suburbia who bide time smoking and drinking in parks, partaking in urban activities that many deem as vandalism or simply doing nothing.
And so my attitude to the countryside has always been respectful. I choose to enjoy it as I’m interested in the country we live in, and I’m interested in other people that use the country too. I always greet people I come across, be it other riders; dog walkers; walkers or people having a picnic. Some tell stories of amazing views worth discovering and others tip off about great descents to uncover. But some, unfortunately, just don’t get it.
They’re the people that want the countryside to them selves. There aren’t many of them, but there are enough to spoil it for everyone.
A section of woodland I regularly pass through in Bath has a few bridleways and footpaths going through it, but also a lot of steep hillside that’s perfect for riding- and far too steep for walkers to enjoy. I’ve been finding my way through there for over 10 years, and as long as I live here will always pass through. And my nephew’s will too as they’re growing up appreciating the countryside on their bikes- I’m certainly keen to promote outdoor activities as opposed to sticking them in front of the TV or Playstation. But that’s a whole other problem this country needs to address.
Anyhow, someone living on the estate at the bottom of the hill doesn’t like it. They take their dog for a walk every day, and make an effort to block a route used by many riders. And they do it dangerously- only a few steps behind this story. On blind turns this offender has put heavy logs in places you wouldn’t see until you are there, and even gone to the trouble of balancing some at chest height. And this isn’t even on the footpath- we don’t ride on the footpath. Walkers have started using the route we’ve worn in, as it’s nicer than their footpath- and this culprit has decided that the footpath isn’t enough, and he wants this trail too.
Mountain bikers don’t mind sharing the countryside- and bar a few exceptions- will always slow down or stop to give way to others. I know that people don’t ride this section of trail fast as it’s steep and blind. The guy that keeps putting the logs there knows that too. And if I catch him I’m going to find out who he is and report him to the police- it’s a matter of time before someone gets injured. And it’s fairly likely it’ll be an inexperienced kid, which I will simply not stand for.
Being the tolerate kind, I’m not completely fazed by this though- as trail terrorists like my local culprit are a dieing breed, thankfully. Everyday I see more and more older folk out on mountain bikes- and it makes me smile. Not just for the fact that they’re riding mountain bikes, but they’ve realized there’s a better way to see the countryside- and more of it too. Sooner or later, the minority that creates problems will be pushing up daisies whilst the next generation will be out seeing the British countryside in all it’s beauty.
But it doesn’t give you the right to roam where you choose- we haven’t got it as good as Scotland. Yet…
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 5th, 2012 at 11:50 am and is filed under Blog, Mountain Biking Uk. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.