Ribbesford Bike Park
Forestry England has made the difficult decision to close Ribbesford Bike Park. We are disappointed to have to close the facility as we know how popular it is with riders, and our team have spent many years managing the site. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and this web page explains our reasons for this closure.
Ribbesford is a small ‘grass roots’ facility and was not designed with high numbers of riders in mind. If we were building a bike park now, Ribbesford would not be the place that we would choose. It is simply not in the right location and whilst it has been able to exist when being used by a handful of riders, its growing popularity has meant that it now needs to be closed. This is to protect the woodland and its other users, to avoid disruption to our neighbours and to prevent any serious accidents occurring on trails which are not maintained.
Condition of the trails
The bike park has been temporarily closed for the past few months. It was originally closed to support social distancing, but has been kept closed because the trails are worn out and are unsafe. A lot of work is needed to repair and maintain them. We had planned on bringing in an external contractor to carry out a formal assessment of the trails, but this has not been possible. All of our contractors are currently facing a huge backlog of work due to the pandemic, and so we have struggled to find one with any availability.
We are passionately supporting mountain biking in many of our woodlands and we only deliver high-quality trails. As we emerge from this global pandemic, we have had to reprioritise how to invest our limited resources and funding has been diverted to our other sites experiencing huge growth in visitor numbers.
A lot of money is required to maintain cycle trails, repair them, surface them, update signage, and ensure trails are of a standard that we are happy with. As the landowner, we have a responsibility to make sure that trails on our land are safe for people to use. Increasing numbers of cyclists means that more and more resource will be needed to maintain the trails. More money is also required to tackle some of the anti-social behaviour issues in the nation’s forests, including increased construction of unauthorised trails. We have prioritised trail investment in other places and so we have no plans to invest in the trails at Ribbesford and bring them up to a standard that we would be happy with.
Although there is not currently a formal volunteer group at Ribbesford, we recognise and thank those volunteers we have worked with in the area over the years and we are sorry the park has to close. It would take too much time and resource to establish a group and manage its ongoing work, and this isn’t something we can undertake right now.
The bike park has seen a five-fold increase in popularity since 2018 and this growth is expected to continue. Ribbesford does not have suitable parking for the rising number of visitors and people parking on Heightington Road has caused disruption to our local neighbours, emergency vehicles and other road users. We cannot build parking because of sensitivity of the woodland. The area is a designated PAWS woodland (Plantation on Ancient Woodland) and home to many types of wildlife, including European endangered species. As a land manager we have to take the ecological importance of the woodland into consideration when making any decision.
What happens now?
Ribbesford Bike Park will remain closed, and we ask that riders comply with this closure. The trails will be removed, please be respectful towards our staff and contractors. We also ask that you do not create your own trails elsewhere. We do not tolerate unauthorised digging or construction on our land and doing so may mean that we have to divert more funds to remove these unauthorised trails, jeopardising the future of other official trails which require investment. If you are interested in trail building, then get involved with approved volunteering groups where you can influence and shape new and existing trails. A list of our volunteering groups can be found here, keep checking this page as it does get updated as new groups start - www.forestryengland.uk/volunteering
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please direct them to: firstname.lastname@example.org