New cycle routes for Swinley Forest after damage caused by mountain bikersBy Julie Spencer
November 20, 2012
New formal cycle routes are being built through Swinley Forest to stop mountain bikers riding on unofficial tracks and damaging the protected woodland.
The Crown Estate, which owns the forest, claims unrestricted biking on informal trails is putting the forest and rare breeding birds at risk and must be regulated.
It will start work this month on a 24.2 kilometre cycle network starting at The Look Out Discovery Centre to create ‘a centre of excellence for mountain biking’ for all levels of rider.
The new trails will be ready by March and bikers will be banned from riding in other areas.
The Crown Estate is also ending the permit scheme which allows bikers access to marked trails within the forest which is a Natural England designated Special Protection Area.
John Deakin, chief forester, said: “Swinley Forest has become increasingly popular with mountain bikers and extensive informal routes have been created through the forest.
“With a conservative estimate of more than 170,000 cyclists using the site each year, the sheer volume of unrestricted biking is having a detrimental impact on this protected environment.
“The Crown Estate plans to reduce this impact while creating a centre of excellence for mountain biking.
“We will be introducing green, blue and red cycle routes in line with the International Mountain Bike Association industry standards.”
A mountain biker, who did not wish to be named, said that he did appreciate that damage could be done by off-trail riders.
However, he added formal tracks would change the nature of the sport at Swinley and might send experienced riders to other locations, such as Surrey Hills.
He said: “There are far more trails there than are marked on the map, so if access were limited down to just 24km it would be a sad reduction.”