The Verderers of the New Forest have urged cyclists and walkers to stay away from areas where pony round-ups are being carried out over the coming months. ‘Drifts’ are carried out regularly between mid-August and early November and one clash next weekend has already resulted in route changes to the Wiggle New Forest 100 sportive.
Martin Barden from UK Cycling Events, who organise the sportive, said: “We have been aware of the drifts since the beginning of the year and have worked with the Verderers to ensure there is no clash with our event.”
Another clash this Sunday will see the start of the Burley Lawn drift postponed due to the Orchid charity ride which would have been in the area at the same time.
For those planning on visiting the New Forest independently, dates and locations of drifts are published on the Verderers’ website on a weekly basis.
Sue Westwood, Clerk to the Verderers of the New Forest, said: “We always ask members of the public, be they on foot, bicycle, or on horseback, to stay away from drift areas if at all possible because we always seek to minimise the possibility of any interaction between running ponies and the riders who are on the drift and people not involved in the drift. The fewer people there are in the area of a drift, the more efficient and successful the drift will be.”
“In order to reduce the risk of accidents, the police assist us with directing traffic. Cyclists and walkers are obviously more vulnerable than people in vehicles, but vehicles are obviously more hazardous to the ponies and those on horseback who are trying to round them up. It is always advisable to keep away from the area of the drift, just for the few hours in the morning when the ponies are being driven to the pound.”
In January, the board of the New Forest National Park Authority voted to approve the New Forest Cycling Events Charter. Drawn up by its Cycling Liaison Group, the charter was intended to be a set of guidelines that organisers would voluntarily follow. However, there was opposition from cycling event organisers for the requirement that cycling events in the forest be limited to 1,000 riders with entrants obliged to wear identifying numbers front and back.
UK Cycling Events, which organises the Wiggle New Forest 100, said that it would not be following the recommendation for a 1,000 rider limit. It is instead continuing to work with the district council's Safety Advisory Group to safely run its events.