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Ashdown Forest bike routes

Discussion in 'Mountain Biking (MTB)' started by cycleGeoff, 10 May 2011.

  1. cycleGeoff

    cycleGeoff New Member

    I live in Sussex, England, and I was wondering if anyone knew good places for mountain/off road biking in the area? I use ashdown forest currently because it has a good range of terrain and if anyone else out there uses routes there do you have any recommendations? There are so many different start points and I want to know which one is good for gnarly/bumpy ride.
  2. TinyMyNewt

    TinyMyNewt An execrable pun

    Location:
    South coast, UK
    Advert
    Hi cycleGeoff - did you know cycling is not allowed on Ashdown Forest? The Conservators have decreed that it's not compatible with what they call quiet enjoyment of the area. There's only one bridleway across the forest, on which it's legal to ride a bike, I think it's the Forest Way. Horse riders have to buy an annual permit to ride on other areas of the forest, at about £75 per horse per year.

    If you Google cycling on Ashdown Forest you'll find all the details, and there's a campaign to get cycling allowed on forest trails (although it might involve having to buy a permit). Horse riders have to wear a disc with a permit number on it, and if the rangers see you without one they get quite shirty (and they do patrol a lot - they even check horseboxes parked up in the lorry parks to see if there's a permit for the registration number!).

    I've done lots of horse-riding on the forest over the years, it's a fantastic place isn't it.
  3. Cubist

    Cubist Pennine hill dweller and willy-waver

    Location:
    Ovver 'thill
    However, the South Downs are on your doorstep. Various web-based clubs to contact, http://www.southdownsmtb.co.uk/ and this page looks worthy of a thorough browsing:http://southdownsnationalparkmtbhub.southdownshosting.co.uk/

    Go here for doing it all on your own. http://www.westsussex.info/mountain-biking.shtml

    There's a bike shop in Brighton that does guided runs.

    If you're prepared to travel you have three or four Trail Centres within day-tripping distance, Swinley Forest, Aston Hill, and two UK bike parks PORC and UK Bike Park I'll leave you to Google them.

    If you're brave enough go natural and ask the guys at Singletrack world (but be prepared to listen to all the chest thumping and product hatred)

    and then there's this little link if it floats your boat : http://www.mudtrail.co.uk/
  4. jnb

    jnb Well-Known Member

    Location:
    In a corner
    Which hopefully will get nowhere. The Ashdown Forest is a conservation area and one of the few realtively untouched areas left in the southeast. I'd no more allow cycles on the forest than I'd ban cycles from the roads.
  5. TinyMyNewt

    TinyMyNewt An execrable pun

    Location:
    South coast, UK
    I agree, jnb, but cycleGeoff might not feel the same.
  6. Muddy Ground

    Muddy Ground New Member

    So what's the environmental differences between a cyclist, a horse, some walkers or doggists leaving little blue poo bags behind? Why allow horses and not cyclists? The difference seems a little oblique and a tad elitist to me. Could you explain your reasoning? I don't cycle there, and never will, but it does seem that if a few [possibly rich and well connected] horse riders are allowed permits, then why not a few cyclists as well? How much damage to the environment there does one cyclist do compared with, say, half a ton of horse shod with effectively four spades on their feet? Seems like the Ashtead cyclists have been a bit dormant in their reasoning?

    I'm not anti-horse; I just don't like them ;¬)

    MG
  7. TinyMyNewt

    TinyMyNewt An execrable pun

    Location:
    South coast, UK
    Yes horses do cause damage, and so do bikes, and the blue dogpoo bags are horrible (why do people do that?) so I can't say why some are allowed and others not - you'd have to ask the Conservators.It does seem unfair. Having had streams of mtbers hurtling past me unexpectedly when I was a horse rider, I am a bit biased against them but that's just my prejudice. Some horse riders do the same to walkers, which is out of order of course.

    But I must answer your accusation of elitism! Not all horse owners/riders are rich and/or "well connected", this is such a corny old stereotype. I am neither of those things, but loved horses enough to scrimp and save to own one. The permit money was a struggle to find, but when free bridleways are in short supply the chance to ride on Ashdown (not Ashtead) Forest was worth every penny. There is at least one riding centre on the forest where ordinary plebs can go and hire a horse to ride on the forest, so not all riders are posh!
  8. Muddy Ground

    Muddy Ground New Member

    I did say possibly. You'll have to admit though, that horse riders generally are clued up to protecting their countryside access, whilst us mountain bikers are a touch behind.

    if Ashdown is being protected, good on them, but permits for mountain bikers as well! He he.

    As for posh / rich, well, you should see some of the bikes around here; £3k seems the norm in some parts of Surrey, and it's not unusual to see £7k carbon bikes being used. I think the "posh" arguement is a red herring personally; I like posh people, as they're generally fun. Snobs, however....

    MG
  9. jnb

    jnb Well-Known Member

    Location:
    In a corner
    Well there are several differences but first of all I'd start by saying that yes horses do cause an impact and if you were starting from a position of no access it would be much harder to justify allowing them onto the forest than the current position of justifying their continued use of the forest.

    How much damage does a horse do compared to a mountain bike? To be honest I'm not sure but they behave in different ways. If I'm on the forest on a horse I might go around a 5 mile circuit once, a mountain bike might go round the same quarter mile circuit repeatedly and so it will cause more intensive but locallised damage.

    There's also a point of enforcement. One might allow as a compromise moutain bikes on set routes or only if they pay for access in the same way as horse riders but you can pretty much guarantee that people would not make the distinction and there would be cyclists on all areas of the forest many of them without paying.

    Another problem is one of making it seem that vehicle access is allowed. How long would it be after seeing mountain bikes on the forest that we see motorbikes on the forest. Maybe that wouldn't be the intention but alowing one would be seen by some as a precedent for the other.

    There is also the point, which might sound elitist but is practical, that horse riders pay for their access which offsets the damage they cause. So by that token if cyclists were to be allowed they should pay.

    So all in all I'd say it should be avoided.

    ... and just so you know my position. I ride bicycles, motorbikes and horses, and regularly walk on the forest (oh and I drive a cars as well). I regard bicycles as vehicles, they shouldn't be on pavements nor on the forest. Horses (by virtue of having legs) fall in the same category as pedestrians and have access both on and off road. Mountain bikes are acceptable if someone has private land that they've decided doesn't matter if it's damaged.
  10. Muddy Ground

    Muddy Ground New Member

    You don't sound like a mountain biker at all? I don't know of any cyclist that does a quarter mile loop over and over again; most do a 20 mile big loop, which puts most horsists to shame distance wise in my opinion. I don't think any horse rider would argue against their animals doing less damage than any MTB'er under normal circumstances. At the end of the day though, we mountain bikers ride Bridleways so do have a debt to the horsists and I'm always polite to them out and about, even if I can't see the point of the activity.

    It's all moot; if the owners of Ashdown have a downer on MTB'ers then there's nothing we can do about it. Lots more places to play.

    Actually it's all double moot for me - I'll never ever ride there. Just feel like pointing out that horses aint exactly that friendly to the trails now are they?

    Quarter mile circuits? How bizarre. Sounds terribly boring - even my 5 year old would give up on such a thing and he's a loon.

    MG
  11. jnb

    jnb Well-Known Member

    Location:
    In a corner
    No I'm not a mountain biker at all so I accept that the impression may be wrong but that's the impression given by the number of heavily worn very short circuits one sees from time to time.
  12. Muddy Ground

    Muddy Ground New Member

    Ha ha; no worries there my friend. Here in Surrey we too have worn areas, but it'd be hard to point the blame for trail damage to any one user, although I suspect that walkers are perhaps to blame just because of the sheer numbers of them. Plus a dog walker will happily forge a new trail through the undergrowth, whereas most mountain bikers are looking for flowing trails; i.e. existing ones honed to pefection.

    If somebody wishes to restrict access to their land, then fair enough, their call. I've no interest in riding my bike on, say, a golf course.

    One suspects this particular discussion is going nowhere? You're not allowed to ride in that area, so don't.

    MG
  13. Cubist

    Cubist Pennine hill dweller and willy-waver

    Location:
    Ovver 'thill
    And why risk getting up anybody's nose when you can get out there on all the BOATS and bridleways and ride to your heart's content?
  14. cycleGeoff

    cycleGeoff New Member

    Whoa a lot of replies here! I had no idea cycling wasn't allowed in ashdown forest, no-one ever said anything the few times i've ridden there and I didn't see any signs.

    Also, I have to agree that if dog walkers and horses are allowed then cyclists should be able to go there too, even if we have to buy a permit or something. Is it because it's a great place for off road biking and bikers would swarm the area? I don't know. I guess it's one of those idiotic rules that don't really mean anything.

    I have tried the south downs, but the only good route I saw is the one that follows the river, a fairly flat ride which is great for speed but not the thrill ride I'm looking for... the hills are full of really long grass.
  15. cycleGeoff

    cycleGeoff New Member

    Also, the comment that mountain bikers just speed past next to horses frightening them is a stereotype, I ride horses as well and i always slow down for them no matter what I'm riding/driving.

    If its a metter of courtesy to other users of ashdown forest then why are MB's being pushed away? But as others have said, there's plently of other places to go. I just don't think that a mountain bike can do much damage to an area that has a mostly rocky/dusty surface if you stick to the roads somewhat. Alot of the roads in the area seem to be made from the rubble of buildings. It's not all really that delicate. But I guess I'll keep looking!
  16. Muddy Ground

    Muddy Ground New Member

    Tend to agree regarding the environmental impact; taken the kids there a few times and personally I can't see how a few MTB's can inflict any damage on an area visited by a million Pooh fans every year. There is a decent bike shop up near East Grinstead [Forest Row?] - per chance they may have a bit of local knowledge?

    MG
  17. Ticktockmy

    Ticktockmy Über Member

    You must use a different South Downs to me, as i find some nice tracks along the length of the South downs, with lots of good bridleways with sheep cropped grass
  18. jnb

    jnb Well-Known Member

    Location:
    In a corner
    I've been doing a bit of googling over the last few days and it seems that on the few studies that are out there (there seem to be two or three which quote the same underlying figures suggesting that nobody has looked at it in detail) it would seem that mountain bikes cause less erosion than horses. So that basis for objecting to them on the forest I accept is wrong.
  19. Doris

    Doris New Member

    So whats the real problem riding your bike on Ashdown Forest then? Can anyone add a sensible argument against it....no they can't. You see it's one of those old fashion laws where modern forms of leisure and sport have excellerated to the point where local bylaws have'nt kept pace. As a local resident, dog walker oh and my wife horse rides (with a permit) on the forest I don't feel any guilt getting on my £2500 mountain bike and going for a 3 hour ride on the forest. Most people are very excepting of this and even say hello and 'what a nice day for a ride'. So even if you give me abuse I will always be curtious and I might even have time to discuss with you the wonderful health advantages and safety of cycling off road.

    Oh and remember THERE IS a Bridlepath (yes that means bikes can legally ride it) from king's Standing down to the Crow & Gate, it's not very well signposted so maybe that's why I seem to get more verbal abuse riding here from ignorant people than anywhere else? One day cycling willl be allowed on the Forest, it's just a matter of time. Finances are very tight as local funding is cut, there are discussions about reducing the number of Rangers and paid parking! What better way to get money coming in if there is a paid permit for mountain biking-I'd pay.
  20. cycleGeoff

    cycleGeoff New Member

    Good for you Horseshit. Love the name by the way. :smile: