The Forestry Commission in the Lake District are planning to develop a network of MTB trails in Whinlatter Forest Park, and they’re looking for feedback. Anyone with an interest in the plans is invited to a public meeting (Rawnsley Hall, Keswick, 20 May, 7.30pm) to view the draft map of the proposed routes and meet FC representatives.
We might be being overly paranoid, but there’s a couple of slightly uncomfortable turns of phrase in the press release. “The aim is to provide cyclists of all levels with a network of first-class
trails at Whinlatter,” it says. So far so good… “which will separate them from other recreational visitors to the forest…” Feeling a bit singled out? Detecting a hint of ‘mountain bikers menace to other trail users’? Or is that just us? “…and encourage them away from more sensitive areas of the Lake District.” These “more sensitive” areas presumably being the interesting upland bits that are what people travel to the Lakes for? Like, for example, Skiddaw, one of the few proper mountains that you can ride all the way up and down and recent “beneficiary” of some fairly heavy-handed trail “maintenance”?
There’s always been a body of opinion that says that the development of purpose-built trails dilutes mountain bikers’ rights to be out in the countryside. We’ve never had a great deal of time for that argument, being very much of the opinion that more trails are good, but stuff like this does make us wonder. We’d certainly like new trails, but do we want new trails at the expense of existing ones?
Anyway, this is what these consultation exercises are all about. The FC have carried out a two-month feasibility study, investigating impacts on the forest environment and benefits to the region, and come up with the draft proposal that will be proposed at the meeting. There’ll be 28 days following the meeting for interested parties to formally put their views to the Forestry Commission, with the final decision being announced at the end of June.