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Friston MTB and The Forestry Commission Talks On Making Friston Forest Official

Things are having to be made official in Friston Forest. Here is a rough outline of why and how and the story so far.

Why?

Basically the forest land owner’s, South East Water have mainly two concerns that involve MTBers. Protection of the aquifer under the forest and the chances of litigation (them being sued) over personal injuries, loss, damaged property etc by any forest user. This could be walkers, dog owners, horse riders, MTBers or anyone else causing injury to themselves or other forest users.

Around two years ago South East Water approached the Forestry Commission, who lease the land from South East Water, and said it was down to the Forestry Commission to ensure safe use of the forest and protection of the aquifer. In doing so South East Water passed responsibility over to the Forestry Commission.

The Forestry Commission then had two options regarding us MTBers; ban MTBs from using the unofficial trails, remove the trails and not allow any new trails replace them; or, approach local cycling groups/ clubs and work out how to keep the trails ensuring safety for all forest users and protection of the aquifer and the forest itself. The Forestry Commission said "one thing was for sure, things could not stay as they were". Fortunately the Forestry Commission are sympathetic to MTBers needs and want us to still ride the forest trails but they have said measures will have to be put officially in place for this to continue.

 

How?

The Forestry Commission needed a point of contact so asked the local cycling groups/ clubs for representatives to make a group to be the voice for the MTBers of the forest. Each group/ club asked for volunteers. Friston MTB Facebook group put up a post on their page asking for riders to represent the group, other clubs did similar. From these a committee was formed with representatives from Friston MTB, Sussex Muddy@rse, Cycle Seahaven and Whisper Bikes. Amongst these are XC, trail riders, downhill riders and also riders who attend the regular trail maintenance days.

 

The story so far...

The interim committee has been formed just to get things up and running. Future committees will be made from elected people chosen by Friston MTBers. How the elections will be done is something that needs working out. Several members of the current interim committee are veterans of other committees. This has been very helpful in the complicated set up procedure.

Friston MTB have set up a company limited by guarantee as advised. This just covers anyone involved with running Friston MTB to make sure they are not exposed to financial loss. Friston MTB are probably also going to register the company as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC). This will make it easier for Friston MTB to apply for funding from councils, authorities, corporations, etc.

 

Things the Forestry Commission Have Asked For So Far...

1. The Litlington car park area of the forest to be a walkers’ only area. No bikes please. So this is the area that includes the bottom part of the trail Stumpy and the feature ‘Four Drops’ also known as ‘Devil’s Staircase’ or ‘Shit Creek’. The cut off point on Stumpy is everything after the bridleway that runs from the junction of the Snow Run and the Final Descent up to the field known as One Tree Hill and the all the forest west of this.

2. No more trails to be built until the proper agreement is in place. Maintenance on trails that have become dangerous to ensure safety is fine.

3. Jumps must not cross and rights of way or footpaths. Existing jumps that do should be removed.

4. An official inspection and record of all trails must be made soon.

 

The changes to the forest mentioned earlier will happen. Not engaging with the Forestry Commission at this point could end in the loss of the wonderful trails Friston has to offer. Meeting with the Forestry Commission and talking with them will help to keep what we have and may be develop the forest, making it more fun for MTBers and safer for all forest users.

Everyone involved with this so far has put in a lot of free time and are trying their best to look after the interests of all Friston’s mountain bikers.

If you wish to have a say and/ or help with the negotiations then please use our ‘Contact Us’ page.