County council says new surface will improve year-round access

Some local residents are concerned that if an Olympic legacy project is carried out to improve a path to the 2012 mountain biking venue at Hadleigh Farm, cyclists might actually use it.

Essex County Council plans to close Piggery Lane, which enters the Salvation Army-owned park from the north-east, on Monday for five days while the path is widened and resurfaced.

Widening the path to 2.5m — from its current 2m — and hardening the surface will make it easier for wheelchair users and people with pushchairs to use, and prevent it from turning into a quagmire after rain.

But according to the Echo, residents are worried that more cyclists will use the improved path.

David Hurrell, 59, told the paper: “This pathway is historic. It’s beautiful.

“Dog walkers love it. It’s a haven for wildlife and billowing with wildlife.

“They’re putting a surface down that will be ideal for mountain bikers.

“Changing it will appeal to the cyclist and, to all intents and purposes, it will become a main road for anyone coming from the Southend side. They will come down Castle Lane and Piggery Lane.

“This will become a main thoroughfare for the thousand of cyclists Essex County Council said will use this site. I’m keen on wildlife and I’m very keen our community is not shafted.”

But the county council says the path is sometimes impassable for months at a time because of bad weather, and trees and shrubs next to the path will not be removed.

Hadleigh Farm residents prepare for an onslaught of cyclists (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licensed by Howard Russel/Flickr)

Mountain biker Pete Shrimplin, 48, from Eastwood, said: “It’s a great thing for cyclists. The works at Hadleigh are fantastic for the area and will put Hadleigh on the map.

“The path is great for everyone. It’s not just for hardcore mountain cyclists.

“It’s shared space for walkers, the leisure cyclist and children.

“If it means more cyclists, that can only be good.”

A county council spokesman said: “Residents have been consulted on all aspects of the redevelopment, including Piggery Lane.

“Piggery Lane is a key trail which will now allow easy access for pedestrians, cyclists, people with push chairs, wheelchair users and those with mobility issues.

“The only visual changes will be an improved surface and wider path to accommodate an increase in visitors.

“These minor changes will make the path more accessible, safer and will ensure visitors are able to use it all year round.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.