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Conservationists blame "anti-social" cyclists for New Forest damage

The New Forest Association (NFA) says it has recorded 550 instances of cyclists riding off designated tracks

A New Forest conservation charity says the national park has been adversely affected by "damaging and illegal activities" and accused off-route cyclists of anti-social behaviour and disturbance of habitats.

The New Forest Association (NFA) is the second oldest conservation organisation in the world and outlines its goal of "protecting, conserving and enhancing the flora, fauna and heritage of the New Forest" since 1867.

Now, it says it has gathered evidence off anti-social behaviour during "stay-cation season" and highlighted problems with off-route cycling, dog mess and feeding livestock.

The NFA said its volunteers recorded more than 2,700 breaches of New Forest bylaws during a six-week period, including 550 instances of cyclists riding off designated tracks.

> Threat to axe New Forest’s off-road cycle network as court criticises “out of control” cyclists

Vice chairman Dr Gale Pettifer said publicity campaigns alone were insufficient to protect the forest from harm.

"The education aspect is there, but there also does need to be the 'stick'," he warned. "Or we just admit it's a free-for-all. The volunteers, rangers and keepers are incredibly passionate about looking after the forest but they do need the tools to enforce the bye-laws."

In addition to off-route cycling, the NFA highlighted 500 cases of cars parked on verges, 150 cases of livestock being fed, 50 reports of livestock being chased or attacked by dogs, as well as litter issues, drone flying and wild camping.

The National Park Authority, the legal body in charge of maintaining national parks, dismissed the severity of the NFA's claims, saying its 'Care for the Forest, Care for Each Other' campaign had led to 10,000 hours of patrols, a BBQ ban, and educational signs which "significantly reduced" verge parking and animal feeding.

Executive director Steve Avery said: "Most people behave responsibly but we recognise that there are a minority who through their thoughtless actions can harm the local landscape and wildlife.

"As a result, we put a joint action plan in place with other New Forest organisations last year to ensure that people don't inadvertently damage the place they have come to enjoy."

Anthony Climpson, chief executive of Go New Forest added: "The clarity of messages was really successful. That's not to be complacent, it's about working very hard to improve the quality of visitor experience and it highlights the need for New Forest organisations to work together."

Last year Forestry England was told to "toughen up" action against "gangs of hardcore bikers"

The Verderers Court – a body dating back to the 13th century which carries out similar functions to a magistrates’ court in relation to certain matters related to the New Forest – told Forestry England its three-year extension of access to the network of waymarked tracks would be dependent on tougher action against "out of control" cyclists.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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20 comments

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peted76 | 2 years ago
5 likes

If they really 'cared' for the forest I feel as if it'd be more useful for someone to measure the levels of pollution at points in and around the A337 as in summer the whole area is basically a idling car park. 

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David9694 | 2 years ago
4 likes

Hullo! Welcome to the The New Forest is Getting Worse Every Year Survey 2021

But just how bad? Let's find out: we want you to share YOUR anecdotes - how many cyclists do you think YOU have seen on non-designated tracks over the past year - think hard now...

The alternative is to keep some kind of Birdwatch diary of sightings.
This subjective nonsense has now appeared in the Salisbury Journal, but least the Lymington Advertiser has a better headline.

 

 

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andy_d_t | 2 years ago
0 likes

The report only mentions 550 cyclists riding off "designated" tracks. Given the access issues in the Forest, it would be useful for this to have been broken down into how many were on tracks that weren't designated for cycling, and how many were "off-piste".

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muhasib | 2 years ago
2 likes

The article last year said that the Verderers had only granted a one year extension to allow bicycles on tracks in the New Forest. Does this mean it is up for renewal at their next meeting this Thursday?
https://www.verderers.org.uk/announcements/new-forest-verderers-court-th...

Anybody fancy applying for access to the meeting as it's virtual?

Their last meeting in November 2021 included a report that said the number of accidents involving animals was down from 51 to 45 over the same period last year.

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wtjs | 2 years ago
3 likes

Last year Forestry England was told to "toughen up" action against "gangs of hardcore bikers"

Unfortunately, there is no agency telling the police to 'toughen up' action against 'hardcore BMW drivers' crashing through red traffic lights. 

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wtjs replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
1 like

Normally, I just post one image, but this BMW PJ14 LBE was so far away when the lights turned red that I have to use two

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Hirsute replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
12 likes

That's very interesting but what has it to do with the New Forest topic?

Have you thought about starting your own thread in the bike forum for all these pictures?

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David9694 replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
0 likes

Car runs red light - catchey?

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
18 likes

What damage are these off track cyclists doing?  The only research I'm aware of on the subject, showed that boots were more damaging than wheels, and horses have to be worse than both.

I live in the Forest of Dean, and apart from several fenced off nature reserves, cyclists are free to roam, without apparently destroying the forest.  Methinks the verderers drive 4x4s, ride horses and hate cyclists; but I could be wrong.

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Muddy Ford replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
6 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

What damage are these off track cyclists doing?  The only research I'm aware of on the subject, showed that boots were more damaging than wheels, and horses have to be worse than both.

I live in the Forest of Dean, and apart from several fenced off nature reserves, cyclists are free to roam, without apparently destroying the forest.  Methinks the verderers drive 4x4s, ride horses and hate cyclists; but I could be wrong.

You are not wrong. I cycle and walk through the forest at least 4 times a week, both for pleasure and commute. When I walk, some of the tracks are impassable due to the damage caused by gangs of 'go-anywhere we please because we ride horses and own the forest don't ya know'. When these horse riders have finished their jolly (I doubt any horse rider commutes by horse) they then charge around the forest roads in their 4x4s with scant regard for any other road user, especially ones on bikes. They own the forest so they can go as fast as they want, and they know all the animals will recognise their masters and undoubtedly yield to them and get off the road to avoid being ploughed down by them. The Verderers are out of date and out of touch. They need to literally climb off their high horses, and the power they believe they have should be taken from them and passed to Forestry England. 

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Shake replied to Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
7 likes

I'm sure someone on here once posted a video of someone on a horse galloping over the heathland in the New Forest. Given the ground nesting birds in the area this shouldn't be allowed but hey, it's not a bike. 

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Muddy Ford replied to Shake | 2 years ago
9 likes

Shake wrote:

I'm sure someone on here once posted a video of someone on a horse galloping over the heathland in the New Forest. Given the ground nesting birds in the area this shouldn't be allowed but hey, it's not a bike. 

I've seen many riders galloping across the heathland in the Forest. It's quite impressive, but also scary when they are charging towards you. The ground shakes and there is turf etc. flying up behind them (presumably the flora, fauna, lizards and snakes they claim cyclists are damaging). There is literally no way that a 10kg bicycle on air filled tyres does more damage than a 300kg horse on iron shoes, and if these Verderers claim that is the case they are talking utter bollocks in my opinion. Considerate behaviour is all that is required, from all users. Don't be blasting past dog walkers and families at 25mph even if it is a designated cycle track, and we won't get exagerated reports of gangs of bikers terrorising everyone in the Forest. If you are going to be doing ~25mph, be prepared to brake hard on a slippery surface. 

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Captain Badger replied to Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
4 likes

Muddy Ford wrote:

.....Don't be blasting past dog walkers and families at 25mph even if it is a designated cycle track, and we won't get exagerated reports of gangs of bikers terrorising everyone in the Forest. .....

A good post, and I agree (almost) entirely. But, in answer to this sentence, I think we will.....

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60kg lean keen ... | 2 years ago
7 likes

perhaps a proper Map would help, is there one available? if so then sorry for the question, but if not why not publish a proper one that shows all access.

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Muddy Ford replied to 60kg lean keen climbing machine | 2 years ago
4 likes

60kg lean keen climbing machine wrote:

perhaps a proper Map would help, is there one available? if so then sorry for the question, but if not why not publish a proper one that shows all access.

This is the official map https://www.forestryengland.uk/sites/default/files/documents/New-Forest_... and as you say, it's woefully inadequate. Many of the designated cycle tracks are not actually on it.

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Oldfatgit | 2 years ago
8 likes

550 ... Out of how many riders that used the area.

If it's 550 out of 560, then yep there's a major problem; but if it's 550 out of 55,000 then it's hardly representative of a larger issue.

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peted76 replied to Oldfatgit | 2 years ago
2 likes

Oldfatgit wrote:

550 ... Out of how many riders that used the area. If it's 550 out of 560, then yep there's a major problem; but if it's 550 out of 55,000 then it's hardly representative of a larger issue.

I love a bit of fag packet maths.. 

1) Six weeks of reports - when? Probably the six businest weeks of last year of course, which are lkely the six busiest weeks that the new forest has seen ever as the country couldn't go abroad and every hotel, b&b, campsite and bed from the coast to Sailsbury was booked from June to October last year.. 

2) Seven prominent bike hire shops, cycleexperience in Brok has 200 bikes, call it 1000 bikes a day hired out. 

3) How many cyclists who don't hire, ride in and around the whole of the NF on a daily basis last summer holidays? 200, 300, 500, 800?

Extrapolate it and I reckon your about right with your guess.. I get between 50,000 and 75,000. 

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iturner2 | 2 years ago
16 likes

There are many authorised tracks where there is a mile of gravel track between them or  2 or 3 miles on road. The same people who complain about cyclists are probably the same ones who try and kill you on the road with their horseboxes. Also it is difficult to see why bicycles are more damaging than people riding their horses anywhere they like.

If the tracks were linked up I am sure it would reduce unauthorised cycling. 

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Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
15 likes

Unfortunately the vested interests seem determined to ring fence the NF for horses in spite of the fact that they do more damage to trails than anything but a motor vehicle. 
TBF the Road.cc article doesn't mention that the worst offenders were dog walkers dropping poo bags everywhere. 

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Ride On | 2 years ago
12 likes

There could be many more designated cycle paths in the new forest. Many of the advertised cycle routes include a significant amount of riding on the road, which is not very good for a family bike ride with children.

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