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Beyond New Forest Sportive cycling event cancelled as fears for New Forest habitats revealed

A MAJOR cycling event has been called off after Forestry England threatened legal action to stop participants pedalling through the national park.

The Beyond New Forest Sportive was set to take place on 15th-16th May with up to 500 people signed up to a 62 or 100-mile circular route around the area.

However, Forestry England, which manages the off road cycle tracks in the New Forest, warned it would seek an injunction if necessary to prevent the event from going ahead.

The agency also contacted New Forest District Council in a bid to prevent cyclists from using the local road network as a major part of the route.

The New Forest is a popular spot for cycling events
The New Forest is a popular spot for cycling events

For a fee of £35 per entry, organisers had promised participants the opportunity to take in “lots of the stunning New Forest”, as well as finishers' medals, timed results and support stations on route.

The Beyond Events website has since been updated to say the event will instead take place in 2022.

A spokesperson for Forestry England’s New Forest team said the network of cycle tracks was unsuitable for major sporting events.

They said: “Off-road cycling is only allowed on specific routes in the New Forest and these are shared paths for people to cycle, walk and horse ride on tracks that avoid sensitive wildlife habitats.

“It’s unfortunate that this event was promoted before the organisers had discussions with Forestry England, as land manager’s permission is required for any events or organised group activities on the Forest before taking place.”

The event cancellation came as the Verderers' Court was warned that habitat destruction and illegal cycling races are increasing in the north of the Forest.

In a presentment to a recent meeting, Hyde resident Peter Rejchrt said he had observed more cycling away from permitted tracks due to a lack of any “obvious enforcement or visible deterrents”.

Under Forestry England bylaws, cycling is allowed in the New Forest but only on the network of approved cycle tracks.

Mr Rejchrt claimed that it was not just visitors he had witnessed breaking rules but also local people.

He said: “It appears there is a small, but nevertheless significant, local and 'near local' cohort of cyclists that feel the code does not apply, as the problem, whilst significantly worse in the summer, persists throughout the year.”

Turning to damage he had witnessed at Ockwell Plain, Ditchend Brook and Pitts Wood, Mr Rejchrt said off-track cycling was destroying habitats for wildlife.

He continued: “In the wet winter conditions, cycling off permitted paths also causes such damage it makes pedestrian life harder with gouged out tracks in mud, sand and wet gravel.”

Mr Rejchrt warned that smartphone technology, such as the Strava app, was allowing cyclists to conduct illegal races "blatantly and flagrantly”.

He continued: “The commons, particularly Ibsley, Gorley and Rockford seem particularly favoured for destructive cycling, or it may simply be more evident in the sandy terrain, and it seems there is particular appeal in these for the off-road [mountain biking] crowd.

“Certain routes seem popular 'short cuts' by cyclists on longer tours, such as cutting across from Ocknell Plain via Broomy, Hasley and Abbotswell to rejoin the track to Fordingbridge, thus eliminating the loop via Moyles Court and Mockbeggar and again causing particular damage in the sandy track from Broomy to Hasley.”

Forestry England recently announced that it has appointed four new rangers to deal with issues such as off-track cycling, out-of-control dogs and verge parking.

An additional team of volunteer rangers will also restart when Covid restrictions allow.

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