The cyclists giving back to National Parks

For many years, mountain bikers in the Peak Park had little or no representation, making it almost impossible to get their opinions heard or for them to work alongside other user groups and stakeholders.  Not any more!  Two local groups, Peak District MTB and Ride Sheffield are now leading the way in mountain bike advocacy, showing that mountain bikers can be a responsible group of fellow outdoor enthusiasts, caring for our National Parks.

Although the two groups are separate entities, their work areas overlap and many projects are carried out collectively.  That isn’t just as two mountain bike groups, but forging links with landowners and managers, Wildlife Trusts, Councils, other user groups and of course the Peak District National Park Authority.  In almost all cases their work has been welcomed with open arms, leading to the two groups partnering on various projects in and around the Peak Park.

Examples include working with the Eastern Moors Partnership on opening new access routes, opposing unsympathetic works by Derbyshire County Council, or trail maintenance work days with Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Peak District National Park Authority and the National Trust.  The two groups have worked hard to challenge the assumption that mountain bikers aren’t interested in giving back to the areas that they use.

Ride Sheffield volunteers on a maintenance day at Lady Cannings. Photo credit: Sim Mainey/Radventure.cc

Just inside the Peak Park, Ride Sheffield recently crowd sourced funding to develop and build two purpose built bike trails on Sheffield Council land at Lady Cannings plantation at Ringinglow, Sheffield.  These blue grade trails are beginner friendly - proving popular with families as an introduction to the rougher, wilder trails found in the Peak District.  Ride Sheffield is working again with Sheffield City Council on a similar second site at Redmires Reservoir, with a hope to open a Red grade trail in late 2018. 

Peak District MTB are represented by mountain bikers across the Peak District National Park and have an ongoing program of trail maintenance, including the well received work on Whinstone Lee Tor, Greenlands and Aston. Maintaining Peak District rights of way benefits not just mountain bikers, but walkers, fell runners and horse riders too.

Peak District MTB committee members working alongside National Trust staff to maintain a muddy bridleway on Mam Tor. Photo credit: Peak District MTB

Gaining huge support following their campaign to protect the much-loved Rushup Edge, Peak District MTB are one of the first ports of call for mountain bikers, land managers and key stakeholders who want to further the cause of sustainable mountain bike access in the Peak District.

Peak District MTB members peacefully protest against unsympathetic surfacing works at Rushup Edge.

Peak District MTB also campaign for opening up more rights of way for mountain bikers across the Peak Park, not just in the “honey pots”, but in the quieter corners such as the Staffordshire Moorlands. This gives mountain bikers more choice of where to ride and spreads the load across the National Park.

Most recently, Peak District MTB and Ride Sheffield came together to identify a particularly boggy section of bridleway on a route known as Cut Gate and bring this to the attention of the wider user network.  After presenting their findings to the Peak District and Sheffield Local Access Forums, strong support was gained and this led to the British Mountaineering Council including this project within their Mend our Mountains campaign.  This National campaign is aiming to raise 1 Million pounds by October 2018, with projects spread across all of the UK’s National Parks.  Initial interest in this campaign has been phenomenal, with local and national support from the wider community - all on a project kicked off by mountain bikers!

It’s still early days for the two groups, but they’re leading the way in showing the rest of the UK what mountain bike advocacy can mean.  Their example has inspired other groups to form along similar lines, so here’s hoping that we see even more mountain biker collaboration in the future.

By Simon Bowns.

Click here to find out more about Ride Sheffield and the Peak District MTB.