New Forest pony maintenance cancelled due to cycle sportive

Latest battle between locals and cyclists sees Commoners blame sportive organisers for failure to reschedule sportive

by Sarah Barth   October 6, 2013  

New Forest Spring Sportive 2010, the first in the Wiggle Super Series and sponsored by Verenti Bikes

Organisers of a New Forest pony round-up say they have been forced to cancel a 'drift' - essential maintenance of the semi-wild pony stock - due to a mass participation cycling event.

The Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive, organised by UK Cycle Events, today saw up to 3,000 cyclists descend on the area, meant that the New Forest Verderers made the decision to cancel the drift on safety grounds.

According to the Forestry Commission: "round-ups, or ‘drifts’ are held throughout the forest by the Agisters to treat any health problems the ponies and cattle may have, and to keep a count of the stock roaming the Open Forest. Mares and foals are marked during this time – foals are branded and the tails of mares are cut in distinctive patterns – enabling the Agisters to see that the grazing fees have been paid and to indicate in which area their owner lives."

The Verderers have urged members of the public to avoid certain parts of the forest on the days of planned drifts.

A spokesman for the Commoners' Defence Association told the Bournemouth Echo: “Faced with the determination of UK Cycle Events and the New Forest Show Society that the cycle event should go ahead, the Verderers had no alternative but to act responsibly and cancel the drift to avoid the obvious risk if both events were to go ahead.

“Drifts are planned at least a year in advance and always include Sundays to minimise disruption to both residents and commoners' jobs.”

Martin Barden of UK Cycling Events said that due notice had been given of the event, which was planned last year.

He said: “Despite offers of altering our event and working with the drift to ensure it was safe and could continue, the Verderers have made the decision to move it to another day.”

“We hope that with better communication from the Verderers, future clashes can be avoided.”

CDA chairman Dr Graham Ferris said: “Commoners are angry and appalled that a commercially-motivated event should take precedence over drifts, which have been part of the cultural heritage of the Forest since time immemorial.

“Drifts are vital for our members to manage their livestock, which have shaped and maintained the unique landscape of the New Forest.

“We fully respect the responsible decision taken by the Verderers but believe that organisers of mass events in the Forest should take adequate steps to prevent clashes of this kind.”

The row is the latest in a series of clashes between cyclists and New Forest residents.

The Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive was subject to sabotage, with in excess of 1,000 signs vandalised, drawing pins scattered on the road and motorists driving slowly to form a kind of rolling road block, reports the Southern Daily Echo. The event has been the subject of vociferous opposition from some locals.

Huge fields of riders taking part in organised sportives in the New Forest scare horses and should be limited, the New Forest Equestrian Association previously said.

Dr Tony Hockley from the Association told the Daily Mail: "The concept of sportive events is totally new.

"The biggest problem is speed and volume. When you have 5,000 people riding against the clock they aren’t going to slow down for horses on the road.

"We have always had cyclists and races in the New Forest but with the numbers of them involved now it is a constant stream of bikes racing that goes on all day."

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Ah, I got a little confused, because of the bit right before.

“Drifts are planned at least a year in advance and always include Sundays to minimise disruption to both residents and commoners' jobs.”

Martin Barden of UK Cycling Events said that due notice had been given of the event, which was planned last year."

I thought that meant that UK cycling events had been told the drift was taking place that day. Not that they had told the Verderers.

So in that case, its fuss about nothing, they choose to change their day to drift.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8151 posts]
6th October 2013 - 21:26

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The New Forest roads are simply not suitable for the Wiggle ride; commoners are a small but hugely influential pressure group and local residents are notoriously bad drivers and intolerant of any disruption to routine. Provision for off-road bike riding is poor and mainly on disused railways lines and aimed at holiday makers and their children. I feel the Wiggle organisers are spoiling it for local cyclists who get the backlash for the antics of large groups of riders who behave very selfishly and take risks to get fast times.

New Forester

posted by Forester [72 posts]
6th October 2013 - 21:29

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I was on the ride today and have to say the ponies didn't look in the least bit scared of the cyclists - they were casually ambling down the middle of the road towards us, and approaching us when we stopped (presumably looking for an energy gel).

I did unfortunately see two dead ponies by the roadside - but I doubt either of them were hit by a cyclist.

posted by Oshsan [1 posts]
6th October 2013 - 21:37

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As far as I am aware the New Forest Pony 'drift' round-up is mainly an off-road event, so it is not clear how cyclists on the public highway are causing a problem.

If cyclists are a problem, so presumably is the normal motor vehicle traffic?

The Verderers produce extensive statistics of animal deaths in the New Forest here.

http://www.verderers.org.uk/roadaccs.pdf

In 2012, 82 animals were killed or seriously injured, all by motor vehicles and mostly at night, and quite often by local drivers.

Since the 1990s the percentage of animals killed/injuried has been steadily declining, to 0.73% in 2012.

Cycling levels have been steadily increasing since the 1990s so therefore I would conclude that animal safety improves with the volume of cyclists. Smile

posted by seanbolton [110 posts]
6th October 2013 - 22:40

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Given that the cyclists probably spend some money in the local area on the day (food, fuel for cars, the odd souvenir) perhaps Wiggle should just say "fine, not bothered, plenty of other places to go" and see if they're asked back?

Just a thought.

posted by mulgabill [8 posts]
6th October 2013 - 22:54

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Have to say I did the Sunday ride and thought Wiggle/Uk Cycling Events had sold way to many places for the ride. Quite frankly that number of riders on the small roads of the New Forest is quite ridiculous and some of the road junctions were very dangerous. Have to say I am with the locals on this one and they should drop the number of places by at least half.

posted by Saint Mikie 41 [36 posts]
7th October 2013 - 7:30

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The event organisers 'giving notice' is a very different thing to the event organisers speaking to the verderers.

Drifts happen a couple of times a year and have done so for a very long time, they are the traditional method of rounding up the stock for identification (I don't believe ponies are hot branded any more), separation, medical check etc. So it's not just the verderers involved, all the owners are there, as well as vets and other staff.

As stock grazes all over the forest, it is almost impossible to know beforehand whether the drift would have encountered the sportive, so I think the verderers have done the most sensible and safe thing in delaying this drift.

But, given that the relationship between sportives and the commoners is pretty shaky (at best) having to delay the autumn drift will have done the cycling communities reputation an awful lot of harm.

posted by Grubbythumb [24 posts]
7th October 2013 - 7:57

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I felt a huge amount of negativity as I read the headline and clicked. I thought to myself "not more conflict between cyclists and the public who seem to hate and want to kill us with their cars".

When I read the article, all I saw was a scheduling conflict, and then I spotted the words 'Daily Mail' and all became clear. Pointless scaremongering.

Why are you recycling Daily Mail stories? Aren't there more deserving stories?

posted by nod [60 posts]
7th October 2013 - 9:16

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People are being shot and killed every day in Syria and in the New Forest this is all they have to worry about?

posted by wildoo [24 posts]
7th October 2013 - 9:40

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^^

That's the end of the thread right there.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [519 posts]
7th October 2013 - 10:06

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Hey Forester....interestingly UK Cycle Events are based in the New Forest...and are, the few I have met, local cyclists.

posted by ct [26 posts]
7th October 2013 - 10:18

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nod wrote:
I felt a huge amount of negativity as I read the headline and clicked. I thought to myself "not more conflict between cyclists and the public who seem to hate and want to kill us with their cars".

When I read the article, all I saw was a scheduling conflict, and then I spotted the words 'Daily Mail' and all became clear. Pointless scaremongering.

Why are you recycling Daily Mail stories? Aren't there more deserving stories?

the reference to the daily mail is to another, earlier story that's relevant as background to this weekend's shenanigans

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
7th October 2013 - 10:18

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nod wrote:
When I read the article, all I saw was a scheduling conflict, and then I spotted the words 'Daily Mail' and all became clear. Pointless scaremongering.

Why are you recycling Daily Mail stories? Aren't there more deserving stories?

It appears to be mostly from the Bournemouth Echo, which is a pretty ropy rag too but not a patch on the Mail Wink

I'm in two minds about all this. On the one hand, the likes of Graham Ferris are clearly a bunch of reactionary NIMBY bumholes who'll use any excuse to have a go at people enjoying themselves. On the other hand, I'm starting to think that actually there are too many big sportives in the New Forest. This one was the fourth from the same organiser this year (although one of them was only partially in the NF), with a couple of them running over two days. It worries me slightly that these large-scale commercial events make things harder for long-standing, not-for-profit rides (like next weekend's Gridiron, which has been running for over 20 years).

I'm also finding the "here's the rider times in alphabetical order only because it's not a race" increasingly disingenuous -- took me all of 10 seconds to paste the PDF into a spreadsheet and order it by time...

Very much on the fence on this one, TBH.

posted by David Portland [68 posts]
7th October 2013 - 10:38

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ct wrote:
Hey Forester....interestingly UK Cycle Events are based in the New Forest...and are, the few I have met, local cyclists.

The UK Cycling Events website doesn't have the company's details on it (which is somewhat naughty, given it's a limited company). The registered office is in Poole, the phone number appears to be in the Portsmouth area. I guess some of the staff could conceivably live in the New Forest, but there appears to be no sense in which the company is "based" there.

Yes, I'm being monumentally pedantic today Wink

posted by David Portland [68 posts]
7th October 2013 - 10:46

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Use a route with some hills and that will cut the numbers in half the southern softies.

posted by Leodis [120 posts]
7th October 2013 - 11:45

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As per Nod's comment, 'cycling wars' is overstating it somewhat, and a little sensationalist.

Still, it drew me into reading the story!

posted by 700c [485 posts]
7th October 2013 - 12:20

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I did the Sunday one and have to say there were too many people on the road at any one time. There were also too many people not following the rules of the sportive - single file traffic. Overtaking is fine, but on one of the more main roads I often saw groups running 3 or 4 abreast, and they were giving the poor motorists who were unnecessarily delayed dogs own abuse when they honked to remind them of the law of the road.

All cyclists who enjoy the sport like I do need to work with other road users and show respect to each other. One bad experience with one driver doesn't mean all drivers are bad. Same as one bad cyclist doesn't mean all cyclists are bad.

posted by stuie78 [3 posts]
7th October 2013 - 12:34

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David Portland wrote:
ct wrote:
Hey Forester....interestingly UK Cycle Events are based in the New Forest...and are, the few I have met, local cyclists.

The UK Cycling Events website doesn't have the company's details on it (which is somewhat naughty, given it's a limited company). The registered office is in Poole, the phone number appears to be in the Portsmouth area. I guess some of the staff could conceivably live in the New Forest, but there appears to be no sense in which the company is "based" there.

Yes, I'm being monumentally pedantic today Wink

The company is based in Fordingbridge...as stated to me during the long journey in their van after my back gave out in Chepstow [or far outside of Cheptstow in actual fact]. Job vacancies on their site are based in Fordingbridge also...I was surprised myself to be honest.

posted by ct [26 posts]
7th October 2013 - 12:39

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They've actually had to go and create controversy with this story.

UKCE listed their 5th-6th October event back in October 2012. A year ago. That means that to open ticket sales, they'll have already had permission from the Police and the New Forest Show Society to hold the event on that date, they'll have booked the showground.

Now I don't know when the drift was planned but surely, someone, somewhere along the way brought this up? But the Verderers had to go and make a huge song and dance about how they've been "forced" to change their date - I'm sure that their world has fallen apart by having to shift one weekend either way...it reads like making a story for the sake of it.

Quote:
There were also too many people not following the rules of the sportive - single file traffic.

To be honest, on some of the roads that the ride goes over, you can't fit a car plus a single file bike on it anyway so where that's the case, I don't see a problem with riding 4 abreast - it's no different to a car being there. But yes, you're entirely right, other times cyclists do themselves no favours whatsoever. I rode in the New Forest a while ago (outside of any Sportive) and I have to say looking at some of the Strava segments, some of the speeds on there could be described as "irresponsible"...

posted by crazy-legs [437 posts]
7th October 2013 - 12:45

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stuie78 wrote:
Overtaking is fine, but on one of the more main roads I often saw groups running 3 or 4 abreast, and they were giving the poor motorists who were unnecessarily delayed dogs own abuse when they honked to remind them of the law of the road.

what law of the road would this be....

I'll give you a hint , you won't find one, because there isn't.

The relevant bit of the highway code for you.

Quote:

66

You should
keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear
keep both feet on the pedals
never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends
not ride close behind another vehicle
not carry anything which will affect your balance or may get tangled up with your wheels or chain
be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Let them know you are there when necessary, for example, by ringing your bell if you have one. It is recommended that a bell be fitted.

Note the abscence of a MUST anywhere in that item.

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posted by mrmo [860 posts]
7th October 2013 - 13:13

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Sportives have grown very fast and are in desperate need of regulation. It's crazy that anyone can organise one which sends any number of riders along a route on open roads and make a profit on it. This has groups of riders all over the route which can make it very inconvenient for other road users.

Think about the large amount of regulation there is for actual road races where the riders are all experienced and the only disruption is a group travelling all together at a fast speed along a long circuit of fairly quiet roads. Compare this to sportives which have different sized groups of riders all over a very long route, many of whom seem to think they're in a race but may have very little experience. Yet there doesn't seem to be much regulation about what is allowed and sportives have been organised that have caused road races to be cancelled.

Losing a large number sportives would not be such a huge loss, the ones like ride London have there place in promoting cycling but most just seem to be a publicity and profit making event seeking to corporatize cycing when anyone could ride the route of there own or with friends and clubmates anyway.

Although going by past reports the new forest residents are clearly anti-cycling. In this case they have a point, but can you make clear which was organised first the drift of sportive over a year ago? The best thing to do would be have riders come down to ride the new forest for free under their own steam rather than part of a corporate event.

posted by cub [16 posts]
7th October 2013 - 13:17

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ct wrote:
The company is based in Fordingbridge...as stated to me during the long journey in their van after my back gave out in Chepstow [or far outside of Cheptstow in actual fact]. Job vacancies on their site are based in Fordingbridge also...I was surprised myself to be honest.

Fordingbridge isn't in the New Forest either (although it's very close) Smile

posted by David Portland [68 posts]
7th October 2013 - 13:54

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+1 for more regulation of sportives. Other than filling the pockets of the organisers I still don't really understand the point of them anyway.

posted by Matt eaton [0 posts]
7th October 2013 - 13:56

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David Portland wrote:

Fordingbridge isn't in the New Forest either (although it's very close) Smile

You win Applause

posted by ct [26 posts]
7th October 2013 - 14:11

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Aren't the locals the ones who stand the most to benefit from the success of the sportive? I mean if it draws 3,000 plus people they are clearly traveling from outside of the area and bringing new tourism dollars into the market

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
7th October 2013 - 15:34

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There is a randonnee over a similar 100km course this Sunday, limited to 1000 riders and fully subscribed.

New Forester

posted by Forester [72 posts]
7th October 2013 - 15:43

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I have done the Rattler and numerous charity rides like Orchid on the forest, and my son had a near miss with a spooked pony near Brockenhurst; he left a 2 metre stripe of rubber on the road (despite being told to be careful). I think most riders who use forest roads regularly are very wary with animals ( currently pigs are running out to eat the acorns). It does annoy me that Wiggle advertise the roads as quiet and with a 20mph limit; all the forest roads are either 40 or 30 limited and locals tend to ignore the limits. On the latest Wiggle there was a drinks stop at the local football ground, on a match day and near temprary traffic lights; we saw a rider try to overtake a car and then pull in abruptly to the drinks station (incidentally there was anothe off/on road charity ride going on as well on the Sunday). I ride in the forest daily and rarely have a problem with bikes (apart from Wiggle); lots of near misses with cars of course. Don't know how to solve the antagonism.

New Forester

posted by Forester [72 posts]
7th October 2013 - 15:56

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jarredscycling wrote:
Aren't the locals the ones who stand the most to benefit from the success of the sportive? I mean if it draws 3,000 plus people they are clearly traveling from outside of the area and bringing new tourism dollars into the market

The locals who object aren't the ones who run tourism-related businesses. They tend to be retired oil company executives and landowners and the like. Although in the interests of balance I'm not convinced that that many local businesses benefit directly. Most participants seem to drive in, ride around and drive out again. I expect some stay over or have dinner or something, though.

posted by David Portland [68 posts]
7th October 2013 - 16:02

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Saint Mikie 41 wrote:
Have to say I did the Sunday ride and thought Wiggle/Uk Cycling Events had sold way to many places for the ride.
stuie78 wrote:
I did the Sunday one and have to say there were too many people on the road at any one time.
So I take it you will happily forego the opportunity to ride it again to reduce the numbers?

stuie78 wrote:
There were also too many people not following the rules of the sportive - single file traffic.

Sportive riders don't follow rules, only The Rules.

IMHO if an event is on public roads and isn't formally designated as a race (BC, CTT, TLI etc) then they should not publish finishing times, only at the event. People who want to race should MTFU and enter a real race!

And I don't understand the attraction of paying through the nose to ride narrow roads in a massive group of riders of wildly differing levels of competence. Sounds like a recipe for misery or even disaster to me.

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posted by Simon E [1779 posts]
7th October 2013 - 16:40

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I honestly think that everyone belly-aching needs to just use some imagination, get a few mates together over a pint and a map, a plan a route of their own. Far more fun and challenging. What are we? Cyclists, sheep, or lemmings?

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posted by Low Speed Wobble [137 posts]
7th October 2013 - 18:12

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