Aston Hill Bike Park | Temporary closure FAQs
When does felling work to remove the diseased trees finish?
Extensive felling work has already begun and has seen most of the site worked. We have had to pause operations as we have entered a significant time of the year for nesting birds including Firecrest and Raptors. Work to remove the remaining trees, timber and re-instatement of the tracks will begin in October 2022. The site is still CLOSED to the public, please follow all warning and prohibition signage.
Is the bike park closing for good?
No. Our plans are to complete the felling works and then re-open the bike park with new investment.
However, until the work can be completed the site and the trails are closed to keep people safe. The response from the mountain bike community has been fantastic, thank you for your patience whilst the site has remained inaccessible. We fully understand the disappointment around the closure of the popular trails and would like to thank the community, especially Bike Park Chilterns CIC for the ongoing support and understanding.
Why has the Hill been closed for so long?
Following significant challenges to find contractors to work the site in 2020/21. We have made great progress with the first part of the felling process, unfortunately the difficult terrain and weather conditions that we experienced during this stage slowed the overall project. We have now paused operations as we have entered a significant time of the year for nesting birds including Firecrest and Raptors
Despite the delay in the felling project, we will still be forging ahead with the Tendering of the site, in the aim of awarding the tender in Early Winter 2022. This will allow for an independent expert group or company to work with us to bring Aston Hill back to its former glory, reinstate or create new trails and facilities.
We (FE) see this as a huge opportunity and are fully committed to getting the site back up and running as a Premier Downhill Mountain bike facility and look forward to working with experts in this field to do so.
Aston Hill had one of the highest density of ash in the local area, the ash trees have provided the woodland environment that we all enjoy. However over recent years we've seen significant decline in their health due to a fungal disease called Chalara fraxinea and this has led to safety concerns. Chalara ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. The disease affects ash trees by blocking the water transport systems, causing leaf loss, lesions in the wood and on the bark. This leads to the dieback of the crown of the tree. Trees become brittle over time with branches breaking away from the main body of the tree. If they are not dealt with, trees are at risk of collapsing, presenting an immediate danger to the surrounding area. To protect everyone’s safety, we have been removing trees that are a risk.
To safely fell the affected ash and to thin out the other tree species, to improve the woodland ecology and maintain tree health, we have brought in specialist contractors with skills and experience in steep ground working and until this work has been completed the site must remain closed. During this time we ask everyone to stay safe by adhering to the onsite signage and barriers at trail starts.
Aston Hill as the name suggests is situated on a hill with gradients well in excess of 13%. Therefore standard mechanical felling with powered access and standard mechanical harvesting equipment is unsuitable to remove the trees. We need to work with a specialist company and due to the demand for this specialist work and a growing demand for similar felling across England, we have faced significant delays to the operational start date and wet weather at the start of the works has delayed the completion date. In addition to the complexities of felling the trees, We are working with local utilities to work areas around high voltage power lines. Aston Hill is also home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Some of the species found in the area are internationally significant and receive the highest protected status. We care for more than a quarter of a million hectares of habitat for wildlife across the nation's forests, helping to create healthy and natural ecosystems.
We are working hard to complete the felling and reinstatement works on site. We cannot give exact timings as to its completion date. But are aiming to have the site tendered and awarded for Winter 2022 and open for summer 2023.
Are you going to remove all the trees on site?
No. We have been focusing on the worst affected ash and have also complete planned thinning operations to space out the other tree species, which will help improve the woodland ecology and maintain tree health. Once the facilities have been reinstated or created, we will look to replant the area with native broardleaves.
Why can’t you open the site temporarily and close again in October?
We have explored this option, however following the extensive works across the site several key features have moved or been removed to allow us to safely remove the trees and Timber. In short, the site is not safe to reopen and will remain closed until the full program of works is completed.
Will harvesting damage the trails?
The felling and removal of tree on the steep grounds of Aston Hill was always going to be challenging, the operators have done a fantastic job of preserving significant sections of trail. However, some damage was inevitable. However, we will be working with user group experts and representatives to ensure that the sites trail network is designed to better allow for future tree harvesting operations. The site will be managed by a sector expert through an open tender exercise. It also offers an exciting opportunity of a relatively blank canvas to work from, unconstrained by existing trail lines.
Is Wendover Woods going to close?
No. Dead and dying trees are a natural component of the forest and in the right place are a welcome part of the forest ecosystem. We have undertaken significant works across Wendover Woods this year to ensure the site is as safe as possible. Tree safety surveys along high public access areas (eg facilities, trails, public roads) to assess the risk and identify remedial works. We are aware of diseased ash at Wendover and other sites and will be monitoring and carrying out remedial actions to keep our visitors safe. Unlike Aston Hill, the trails and facilities at Wendover can be accessed by tree surgeons using elevated platforms which makes management easier.
Where else can I ride whilst the bike park is closed?
Suggested sites include:
- Rushmere Country Park - Riders Ridge Bike Park and 6km XC Trail - 15 miles from Aston Hill (AH)
- Woburn Woods - Woburn Bike Park and the Longslade XC Trail - 23 miles from AH
- Chicksands Bike Park - 33 miles from AH
- Swinley Forest - 50 miles from AH
- Surrey Hills - 60 miles from AH
- Rogate B1kePark - 80 miles from AH.
What’s happening to Firecrest Mountain Biking and the Skills Courses they run at Aston Hill Bike Park?
Firecrest Mountain Biking are continuing to run Mountain Bike Courses and have moved their course programme to Rushmere Country Park. Whilst Rushmere Country Park doesn’t offer the elevation of Aston Hill Bike Park there are some fantastic trails for skills coaching both in the Riders Ridge Bike Park and on the 6km Cross Country loop. Firecrest MTB will be returning to run their programme of courses on Aston Hill as soon as the park re-opens. To find out more about the courses they offer, visit their website.
Beyond the felling works we will be looking for a partner organisation or business to work with us to deliver the operational management of Aston Hill and will be seeking this through formal tender Autumn 2022.
Will there be any races and events in 2022?
No. As much as we wanted racing and events to return to Aston Hill Bike Park in 2021 an 2022, due the closure this won’t be possible. As soon as the bike park re-opens, MTB downhill, enduro racing and events will return. We will be hosting some XC races and events at Wendover Woods, please see our webpages for further details. Wendover Woods | Forestry England
I'm a member - what's happening about my Membership?
We have emailed all our members for Aston Hill Bike Park to explain how this affects your Membership. If this has not reached you, then please check your junk folder. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help you. There have been no membership renewals for 2022 and the site will remain closed until the works are completed.
Am I going to take ash dieback home after I visit nearby Wendover Woods?
We all have a part to play in the prevention of the spread of pests and diseases. Though Chalara ash dieback spreads on the wind-borne spores of the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, and so there is little we can do to prevent the spread of the disease, the spread of other threats can be slowed or stopped by:
- Pests and diseases can spread in the mud and debris on shoes, paws and tyres, so simple measures such as cleaning your boots and car wheels after a walk in forests and woodlands can help to limit the spread of diseases.
- Don’t risk it! Don’t bring any plant or tree products back from trips abroad, because these might be carrying harmful non-native tree pests or pathogens.
- Be vigilant! Report any trees that you suspect are in ill-health to the Forestry Commission using Tree Alert
- Join us! You can help us to protect trees against the threat of pests and diseases by becoming a member of Forestry England.