Contact between Wiston Estate and mountain bikers predated the Steyning Downland Scheme. Local riders had built some tracks on the hill above the Rifle Range, unaware that these were near to badger setts. Appreciating the effort and endeavour involved, instead of asking them to leave, they were asked to move the tracks to a less sensitive area and become part of the Scheme.
The tracks were moved away from the badger setts and jumps and other features were built and maintained by local riders of all ages. Initially, new routes and features were built in consultation with the SDS Steering Group. The routes vary in difficulty but a ‘blue’, easier, trail allows riders of most abilities to cycle off the Rights of Way, leaving the nearby Bridleways free for horses and walkers.
In more recent years the mountain bike area continued to grow but in an increasingly unplanned way. Jumps appeared to the east of Bridleway 2716 (known locally as ‘The Link’) and communication between the Scheme and local mountain bikers grew sporadic. There were also a series of accidents involving mountain bikers crashing at high speed and sustaining serious injuries.
The Steering Group and Trustees produced a Risk Management Plan and consulted widely on the next steps. Everyone agreed that the Mountain Bikers should be able to continue to use the area, but that the risk to themselves and other users needs to be managed more effectively.
In February 2016, we produced a Mountain Bike Statement which sets out a plan of action to make the mountain bike area safer for all users. Shortly afterwards, Aaron Craigie joined the Steering Group as our ‘Mountain Bike rep.’. We’re now looking forward to a positive future for mountain biking on the Steyning Downland Scheme.