Forest visitors slated for using area "as a playground"

Emma Wyndham Blake

Emma Wyndham Blake

First published in New Forest News
Last updated
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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.”

Comments (4)

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7:34am Fri 14 Mar 14

Scarecrow52 says...

How true! 2,500 cyclists in an area set aside for quiet enjoyment is a contradiction. Try listening to the sounds of the Forest with these hoards of Lycra clad wannabe Wiggins's hurtling past. Not a chance. Use a velodrome, as you obviously have no real interest in the Forest or your surroundings, or the people that truly understand the Forest!
It's time the NFPA got tougher with Mr Barden and his usage of a national park for his own financial gain!
How true! 2,500 cyclists in an area set aside for quiet enjoyment is a contradiction. Try listening to the sounds of the Forest with these hoards of Lycra clad wannabe Wiggins's hurtling past. Not a chance. Use a velodrome, as you obviously have no real interest in the Forest or your surroundings, or the people that truly understand the Forest! It's time the NFPA got tougher with Mr Barden and his usage of a national park for his own financial gain! Scarecrow52
  • Score: 5

4:34pm Fri 14 Mar 14

DowntonDAN says...

Two whole cycling events a year? Nooooooooooooooooooo
oooo!!!

Leaves 50 other weekends without one.
Two whole cycling events a year? Nooooooooooooooooooo oooo!!! Leaves 50 other weekends without one. DowntonDAN
  • Score: 10

6:46pm Sun 16 Mar 14

TobyB1960 says...

Is it April the 1st again!

Lycra-clad cyclists hordes descend on forest fords, paddling, eating ice-cream, throwing soiled nappies in the bracken???????

What ever she is on, can I have some!
Is it April the 1st again! Lycra-clad cyclists hordes descend on forest fords, paddling, eating ice-cream, throwing soiled nappies in the bracken??????? What ever she is on, can I have some! TobyB1960
  • Score: 9

8:43pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Aethernet says...

"2,500 cyclists in an area set aside for quiet enjoyment is a contradiction."

And yet, neither the article or your comments make mention of the New Forest Show. Which draws around 100,000 people. Correct, that would be 40 times as many as the Wiggle events.

Could it be that, in fact, the New Forest is designated as a National Park so that it might meet the disparate needs of ALL people who want to use it responsibly.

Please just stop whining that other people are using the forest and get on with enjoying it yourself. It's bloody enormous! If a cycling event offends your sensibilities, then visit a different part of the forest that day. After all, that is precisely what many locals do when the New Forest Show is on...
"2,500 cyclists in an area set aside for quiet enjoyment is a contradiction." And yet, neither the article or your comments make mention of the New Forest Show. Which draws around 100,000 people. Correct, that would be 40 times as many as the Wiggle events. Could it be that, in fact, the New Forest is designated as a National Park so that it might meet the disparate needs of ALL people who want to use it responsibly. Please just stop whining that other people are using the forest and get on with enjoying it yourself. It's bloody enormous! If a cycling event offends your sensibilities, then visit a different part of the forest that day. After all, that is precisely what many locals do when the New Forest Show is on... Aethernet
  • Score: 7

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