AN angry actor from Ringwood claims visitors to the New Forest should learn the Countryside Code.
Emma Wyndham Blake, who played the title role in the 1974 TV hit show Heidi, says that many people, who “flock” to the Forest each year, treat it as a “playground”.
And she goes onto criticise the mass cycling events, claiming that Lycra-clad cyclists are playing at being “Bradley Wiggins” rather than admiring their surroundings.
She said: “Hordes descend on forest fords, paddling, eating ice-cream, throwing soiled nappies in the bracken, and parking on any unprotected verge.
“Possibly the most noticeable feature of the open arms policy for tourism in the New Forest are the large, competitive cycling events that run year-round. Most notorious of these is the New Forest Sportive, an aggressive ride in which literally thousands of cyclists pay upwards of £30 each to event organisers to descend on Forest roads in large groups, defying anyone to overtake, and literally annexing vast swathes of the place for days at a time.
“These massive events have begun to test local patience and it’s not hard to see why. There is an appreciable difference between the weekend family on push-bikes enjoying a much-needed lungful of green air, and swarms of riders, heads down on thousands of pounds-worth of performance bikes playing Bradley Wiggins, and seemingly more interested in getting around a course in record time than admiring their surroundings.
“Of course, the cycle clubs are anxious to refute that any of these events are races, calling them instead “rides” or “sportives”. Whatever organisers may claim though, it seems clear that many of the participants have other ideas.”
She added: “In all too many cases, the attitude of those who misuse the forest tends to be one of bewildered entitlement when challenged.
“The woman caught throwing nappies into the undergrowth and stones at a pony who had wandered near her family’s picnic said that the animal ‘shouldn’t be here’. The couple with the large dog snapping at the pregnant mare said they ‘didn’t know’ it should be kept on a lead and under control.”
Ms Wyndham Blake added: “It seems pretty clear then that education is what’s needed. Education that reminds us all that to enjoy places like the New Forest is not a right, it’s a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility.
“It’s time to put the Countryside Code back on the National Curriculum.”
Martin Barden of Uk Cycling Events, which runs the sportives, said: “We organise two non-competitive cycling events in the New Forest each year, which appeal to a wide number of people from working professionals to families. We believe that everyone has the right to enjoy the New Forest National Park in a considerate manner. This year our events will support the local charity ‘Oak Haven Hospice’ as well as Prostate Cancer UK.
“We have taken a number of steps this year to ensure our events have minimal impact on the local communities. These include: a reduction on numbers by nearly 30 per cent, increased marshalling, a new venue, new route avoiding pinch points and an increased starting period to spread out riders on the course.”