This week we have had mountain bikers, both local and from further afield complain about how they (in this instance “they” are National Trust and Shropshire Council working in partnership) have surfaced the track from Pole Cottage to Pole Bank and down to the Medlicott junction therefore ruining it for mountain bikers. Having ridden the freshly surfaced track I happen to agree, as a keen mountain biker the trail now lacks any real challenge, sanitized of its natural features, a real shame.
However, we need to get some perspective on the matter. Firstly the Long Mynd is not actually exclusively a Mountain Bike centre, we (as Mountain Bikers) are only a small party of users, and many different people use the hill for recreation and a place of work. So why bother re-surfacing? The path is a public right of way and is a bridlepath. The surface was not conducive to horse’s feet with large loose stones. The main issue is that the path is getting wider over time as users move into the heather in order to avoid stones. We have seen this before in the 1990s when two or three paths become opened up and what was once a beautiful looking hillside looks scarred and damaged. The new wider, smoother path will now also allow access to Pole Bank for less active and less able users.
If making a mile of Long Mynd trail less interesting for some Mountain Bikers means that Pole Bank is accessible to wheelchair users and families then what’s the problem? As a consequence of this work potentially more people will be able to enjoy the view from Pole Bank and more people have an introduction to the great outdoors and might be inspired to get into Mountain Biking.
The management of Long Mynd is nothing new, many a trail has been surfaced and maintained to improve access and manage erosion. Many people comment on the natural beauty of the area, however it’s no longer natural, if it was not for the bracken burning and the grazing the beautiful heather would disappear, all the bridleways we ride are manmade, evolved from drovers roads and used for access for many years.
These trails and countryside need to be managed for all users, both people that work the land, and recreational users. It’s a job that requires finding a balance between conservation and development work like this. It’s a job that we appreciate as on the whole we benefit from the work. It’s also a job that we are glad we don’t have to do because you can’t please all of the people all of the time, we just hope that they are considerate and appreciate the common goal.
Sport in the Strettons
20th October 2012 – Church Stretton School