The downhill mountain bike trails at Penshaw Monument, Sunderland, were closed last weekend and local riders believed it was due to the placing of trail traps.
The trails have been been open for the past three years and the Monument has even hosted bike festivals, but it seems the bubble may now have burst. While the influx of riders to the woodlands has caused a recent outburst of trail traps being laid (primarily in the form of nailed boards pointed upwards), the National Trust claims it has also caused significant damage to the woods themselves.
Local riders complained about the traps last week and the closure was announced yesterday evening.
Helen McDonald, the head ranger, said: “We are very concerned that traps have been found on the track at Penshaw and have reported them to the police. Since then, the rangers have been checking the trails for any further vandalism. However, the closure of the track is entirely unrelated and the timing of the two is completely coincidental.
“We first realised that we were going to have to remove the track in November last year after a visit to the site with a team from Natural England. We made several attempts to contact the cyclists that we’d spoken to previously, and who were involved in setting up the track. I would have liked a chance to speak to them in person to explain our decision. Unfortunately we had no response. We sent them a letter earlier this year to inform them of the closure and the reasons for it, and we left a couple of weeks for a response, but then we had to start planning the removal of the track.”
“We are asking people to stop using Penshaw Monument for mountain biking and we’ll be erecting signage clearly advising that it is no longer permitted. As the site is protected through SSSI status and has a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement with Natural England, anyone still using the track would be trespassing.
“We completely empathise with the cyclists and have looked at other options for trails at the site but unfortunately there is nowhere else that we could relocate the track at Penshaw. We are trying to work with current track users and would have liked to have worked alongside local organisations to try and find an alternative option for mountain biking to continue in this way in the Sunderland area. The National Trust has a partnership with Sport England that has helped to create opportunities at historic places to encourage people to try different sports and activities. It is a commitment to helping people enjoy the outdoors in different ways, and we want to try and find a positive solution to the closure of the bike track at Penshaw.”
Whatever the cause, it seems like there is little chance of a return for Penshaw trails, let’s hope that a new venue can be found for Sunderland’s mountain bikers in the near future.