Growing numbers of cyclists a 'danger' to people (and horses) in New Forest

They're scary too, says Chair of Commoners' Defence Association… he's not scared of large packs of dogs though

by Simon_MacMichael   November 20, 2011  

Welcome to the New Forest

The chairman of a body representing the rights of Commoners in the New Forest has claimed that an increase in the number of cyclists there is posing a danger to pedestrians and livestock.

Dr Graham Ferris, chairman of the New Forest Commoners’ Defence Association (NFCDA), established in 1909 “in response to the increasing conflict between the spreading urban populations around the New Forest’s fringes and the commoners’ animals,” insists that a rise in the number of people riding bikes there poses a risk to people and animals.

However, official statistics show that it is motor vehicles, not cyclists, that are responsible for the deaths of dozens of ponies in the National Park each year. has discovered that while Dr Ferris is critical of bike riders over the alleged threat they pose to animals and the “much vaunted tranquillity of the Forest” apparently he does not feel the same way about hunting with hounds – he is joint honorary secretary of the New Forest Hounds Hunt Club, which supports a repeal of the Hunting Act.

Although he doesn’t give specific examples of any incidents that may have happened, among the general issues he highlights is an increase in the number of mass rides on the New Forest’s roads; several of the events in the Wiggle Super Series, for instance, are held in the area.

According to the Southern Daily Echo, the matter was raised by Dr Ferris at a monthly meeting of the Verderers’ Court in Lyndhurst.

Established in medieval times to regulate matters relating to the New Forest, the Verderers’ Court was reconstituted by an Act of Parliament in 1877 to represent the interests of the commoners rather than the Crown.

Nowadays, it has a statutory duty to take the area’s designation in 2005 as a National Park into consideration when making any decisions that affect it.

On the cycling section of its website, the New Forest National Park Authority says “You are welcome to cycle on public roads, byways open to all traffic, public bridleways, restricted bridleways, and dedicated cycle routes. You are not permitted to ride over the Open Forest, or on Forestry Commission tracks which are not dedicated cycle routes. Cycling on public footpaths is also not permitted.”

The National Park’s boundaries roughly correspond to the area of heathland and woodland within which some 500 commoners are entitled to graze livestock including cattle, donkeys, pigs, sheep and, most famously, ponies.

Dr Ferris told the Verderers’ Court that the number of cyclists riding in the New Forest nowadays meant that “The roads are effectively obstructed and confrontations leading to a breach of the peace are likely.”

He continued: “Commoners are increasingly concerned about the explosion in cycling, both casual and organised, and the apparent unwillingness of the authorities to take much needed action.

“The situation on the roads, particularly at weekends, is already critical.

“Organised races, time trials and ‘iron man’ competitions result in huge numbers of cyclists travelling silently at speed on narrow country lanes – at great risk to residents and livestock,” he continued.

“Off-road cyclists are being encountered far from the established cycling routes at any hour of the day or night.

“This represents a major intrusion into the much vaunted tranquillity of the Forest. Groups of cyclists at night with bright lights, shouting loudly to each other, is a level of disturbance that neither commoners’ livestock nor wildlife can be expected to tolerate.

“The Forestry Commission should instruct its keepers to enforce the by-laws and take action against persistent offenders,” he concluded.

Much of the New Forest is still owned by the Crown, whose lands are managed by the Forestry Commission.

A spokesman for the latter, also quoted in the Southern Daily Echo, said that it was working alongside other members of the New Forest Cycle Working Group to draw up a code of conduct for cyclists.

However, one already exists, contained in this leaflet jointly produced by Sustrans, the New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council and the Forestry Commission itself.

Meanwhile, data compiled by the New Forest National Park Authority clearly demonstrate that it is motorists, not cyclists, who pose by far the the greater risk to livestock in the Forest.

During 2009, 24 foals and 41 mares were either killed outright or had to be put down following collisions with motor vehicles in the New Forest. There were no reported occurrences of animals being killed in incidents involving cyclists.

In the most recently published minutes of the court, for October 2011, 15 incidents involving death or injury to an animal were recorded, with three ponies, one donkey, two sheep and a pig killed.

Nine of those 15 incidents involved private cars or light commercial vehicles, with the remaining six classified as hit and run. The Verderers' Court does not record incidents involving deer, which fall under the remit of the Forestry Commission.

The danger to livestock posed by motorised traffic has been highlighted previously be Dr Ferris. In April, quoted by BBC News, he appealed for local garages to report vehicles that had been damaged as a result of collisions with horses and other animals.

"We hope people those who work in garages and workshops will feel just as badly as we do about hit and run accidents to our livestock and that they will be willing to report the accident," he said.

The New Forest itself was established in the late 11th Century as a royal hunting domain by William The Conqueror.

Famously, his son, William II, was killed by an arrow – whether it was shot at him accidentally or deliberately has never been established – while out hunting in the forest, supposedly at the spot now marked by the Rufus Stone.

For much of its history it regularly played host to large, often boisterous royal hunting parties, and on its website the New Forest Hounds Hunt Club, of which Dr Ferris is joint honorary secretary, claims to be “continuing 900 years of tradition in the New Forest.”

The New Forest Hounds Hunt Club continues to drag hunt, as permitted by law, with hounds chasing an artificial scent. Last year, Dr Ferris was quoted in local newspapers including the Bournemouth Echo as saying that trail hunting was “not like traditional hunting because it will never have the same element of the unknown.”

What it does have, however, is a large group of people on horseback, rather than bicycles, and one accompanied by a pack of baying hounds, presumably disturbing the very tranquility that Dr Ferris appears so keen to maintain.


17 user comments

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personally i would keep the hunting out of the argument, just not worth it.

However, if Dr Ferris were to admit his postion on the use of cars, now that is something i would be interested to hear, i find the rumble of traffic very intrusive in the Costwolds and suspect the New Forest is no different. And as has been mentioned cars are responsible for the deaths of a huge amount of wildlife each year, but it seems we accept this as a price worth paying.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1896 posts]
20th November 2011 - 16:44


Yes, I think the great controlling factor for cyclists, and one which also ought to be taken into account whenever discussions come up about interactions with pedestrians as well, is that bicycle riders really have very little desire to collide with dogs, cats, squirrels, pigs, humans and especially horses. I mean, THEY'RE HUGE. It's never going to end well for the cyclist. I remember being admonished as I picked myself up off the gravel on the canal tow path years ago by a walker whose dog had just darted under my front wheel, "WHY DID YOU RUN OVER MY DOG?" Smile

posted by nick_rearden [864 posts]
20th November 2011 - 17:04


Dr Ferris has indeed spoken in the past about the risks posed by motor vehicles - I've added in a quote from him from earlier this year about hit and run incidents, as well as some more recent stats.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9526 posts]
20th November 2011 - 17:15


why did i read the comments on that first article, makes me want to nuke the new forest as the only way to be sure the numpties are eliminated Sad

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1896 posts]
20th November 2011 - 17:32


Dr Ferris, If cyclists are not riding in accordance with the parks laws then prosecute those who are caught. Please do no t use that as an argument to ban cyclists altogether. Also hunting and air of the unknown. Rather like not knowing what is around the corner for a pedestrian isn't it. Death is death after all!!!

Angelfishsolo's picture

posted by Angelfishsolo [130 posts]
20th November 2011 - 17:43


You have to laugh at his comments when the New Forest website states this

The New Forest is a popular destination for many different forms of cycling, ranging from off road cycling for family groups, cycling as part of club, or providing opportunities for disabled young people on ‘all ability’ bikes

Whilst most cyclists explore the New Forest in small groups, the last few years has seen an increase in the popularity of cycle ‘sportive’ events. These are organised cycle events for between 200 and 1200 participants, where riders follow a signed route of between 20 and 100 miles. These events are not races.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9374 posts]
20th November 2011 - 17:55


mrmo wrote:
why did i read the comments on that first article, makes me want to nuke the new forest as the only way to be sure the numpties are eliminated Sad

The article is deliberately biased and inflammatory though (at least, I hope its deliberate otherwise it's genuinely shocking "journalism"), designed to get a response. Most local papers are only too aware of how anti-cyclist rants like this get spread through the Twitter-verse and on websites like this, it was on singletrackworld as well. They know that their website will then get thousands of hits from outraged cyclists and a thriving discussion/argument can be had on their boards. Makes the paper look popular.

The sheer stupidity of the road tax argument never fails to amaze me though and the problem with the internet is it gives those morons a voice they really don't deserve to have... Thinking

posted by crazy-legs [658 posts]
20th November 2011 - 17:57


People from the new forest are selfish b****rds, against anything apart from being allowed to keep their many horses. The roads are not swarming with cyclists, and I say this with the authority of being a selfish new forest resident!


posted by cslattery [84 posts]
20th November 2011 - 17:59


Ride in the Forest? Send in a letter defending your position: Wink

I've sent one as I know many who cycle out from Southampton and have witnessed more from drivers than cyclists (and this includes the drivers I know who drive through it).

From the people I know cyclists have witnessed:
-close overtakes
-drivers too impatient to allow cyclists to single up, or get into passing places
-drivers getting irate, beeping horn or verbally abusing cyclists

From the drivers I know:
-overtaking drivers who are doing the speed limit
-overtaking when other drivers have slowed down for ponies, livestock

As said in the article - there have been no deaths or injuries recorded to livestock from cyclists that I'm aware.... but from motorists.. sheesh. One case that I remember involved a decapitated pregnant pony. They never found the head and Police assumed the driver's speed must have been extraordinarily excessive and that they had driven off with it still in the car.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
20th November 2011 - 21:58


So he doesn't like people riding bicycles in his forest as this messes up his hunting?
What a jerk.


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
20th November 2011 - 22:23


crazy-legs wrote:
The article is deliberately biased and inflammatory...

Leaving aside your own preconceived view, how many animals and indeed humans have been killed by cyclists? And by cars? Exactly.

posted by nick_rearden [864 posts]
20th November 2011 - 22:39


nick_rearden wrote:
crazy-legs wrote:
The article is deliberately biased and inflammatory...

Leaving aside your own preconceived view, how many animals and indeed humans have been killed by cyclists? And by cars? Exactly.

TBH I thought Crazy-Legs was aiming that at the Southern Daily Echo..? Thinking

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
20th November 2011 - 22:49


downfader wrote:
nick_rearden wrote:
crazy-legs wrote:
The article is deliberately biased and inflammatory...

Leaving aside your own preconceived view, how many animals and indeed humans have been killed by cyclists? And by cars? Exactly.

TBH I thought Crazy-Legs was aiming that at the Southern Daily Echo..? Thinking

Now I'm embarrassed...sorry crazy-legs, thanks downfader. Shouldn't dive into comments without reading the context, should I?

posted by nick_rearden [864 posts]
20th November 2011 - 22:52


Dr Graham Ferris does sound like a man with a large bike shaped chip on his shoulder. Plenty of noise, very little facts.

I'm also sure that no IronMan events are held in or near the New Forest. Big Grin

posted by thereverent [357 posts]
21st November 2011 - 1:54


Interesting that he complains about groups of silent cyclists and then groups of cyclists shouting loudly to each other. He should make his mind up.

awkward's picture

posted by awkward [64 posts]
21st November 2011 - 10:25


Yes, sorry, just to be clear, my comment about the article being biased was aimed entirely at the "news" in the Southern Daily Echo. One page of drivel going off on tangents with three lines at the bottom given to the opposite viewpoint. Hardly fair or balanced.

posted by crazy-legs [658 posts]
21st November 2011 - 10:59


I do pretty much all my riding in the Forest & I can correct the article as I have witness the tragic demise of at least one New Forest animal. The creature in question was a squirrel which recklessly threw itself at one of my friends front wheel. Fortunately for him he's a robust ex rugby playing type & he was travelling down hill at teh tiem so he had enough momentuum to not get thrown over the bars. that was slightly less fortunate for teh sqiurrel as he went around the wheel through the forks & out again...

and yes his bike was fine.

Other than this I've never become aware of a cyclist causing serious injury to livestock. Otherway around maybe,I've nearly come off a few times due to pigs with a deathwish.... OH and watch out for the donkeys, they wait unitl the last minute to step out in fornt of you.

I guess Dr Ferris may have an different opinion if he was aware of how much cycling contributed to the local economy. Just go to the New Forest Tea Rooms in Burley on a Satuday morning to see (be careful with ou bike, there are several instances of theft for outside.

Let's not even get into the debate about access & Hunting...

Carpe Diem ab absentis: seize the day off

Coodsta's picture

posted by Coodsta [110 posts]
21st November 2011 - 15:55