Sheffield's Wharncliffe Trails at Risk

Oct 29, 2018
by Pinkbike Staff  
Towing the legend in - Steve Peat

We have recently learnt that Wharncliffe's famous 'Wharncouver' area is under threat of being closed down by the Forestry Commission because of potential tree-felling in the near future and some safety concerns. If you'd like to find out more or sign the petition to help persuade the Forestry Commission that they are a valuable asset follow THIS LINK.

UPDATE: We reached out to the Forestry Commission for comment on the matter, and here's their official statement:

"The Forestry Commission has supported different mountain biking activities at Wharncliffe for many years and will continue to do so. We appreciate that trails are much loved by the mountain biking community, and our approach has been to work with the community to make sure that trails and features have been designed properly, to monitor activity and to make changes where there are concerns that people visiting the forest could injure themselves.

We will be keeping the majority of the existing trails on the site. However, a small number are inappropriate and could be dangerous or obstruct other visitors and ourselves. When this occurs, we have a duty of care to remove trails that we consider are a risk.

We have engaged with the mountain bike community at Wharncliffe for many years through public meetings and identified specific areas where we want to avoid trails being built, and to highlight appropriate areas for trail building. The area in question is one where riders have for many years been asked to avoid building. Indeed, we removed trails and features from this area three years ago and offered the builders an alternative site. Unfortunately, our offer fell on deaf ears and trail building continued.

The tracks and features due to be removed are in the wrong place. They have been constructed near a National Cycle Route and are inherently dangerous to inexperienced riders who may inadvertently stray on to the course. Nor are the features of a type that we are prepared to accept because the consequence of novice riders getting it wrong could be serious injury - or worse.

Building activity has also led to a number of hazards in the woodland including deep holes close to trails where materials have been taken to build the feature. These are a danger to both mountain bike riders and general forest users who could fall into them. The Forestry Commission could be held liable if any injuries were suffered by forest users, and on these grounds alone we have a duty to remove the trails.

Furthermore, the trails have been constructed within woodland that is being restored to benefit wildlife. The work that has been carried out takes no account of the natural environment. Not only has it destroyed an area of Ancient Woodland, but it has damaged trees by undercutting their roots, piling soil up against them, and has obliterated natural ground flora of bluebells and other plants.

The construction, although looked on favourably by some parts of the mountain biking community, has caused great upset to other visitors to Wharncliffe. The local team has received a number of complaints referring to the damage to the environment and the perceived eyesore presented by the extensive digging.

The Forestry Commission has a long running history of supporting mountain biking and it is our intention to continue this approach. We are always inspired to see so many people being passionate about visiting and enjoying our forests, and we are happy to work with responsible members of the mountain biking community in Wharncliffe, where we will continue to manage the forest for the benefit of all visitors."
- The Forestry Commission

Image credit: adamsarr.

Posted In:
Industry News


  • 8 0
 To my knowledge the FC leased the woodland out to a Timber company for felling..... So it's not actually the FC who trash the woodland. I spoke to a few of the machine drivers when they were previously felling and the main reason they didn't totally trash Wharncoover is that is was too much of a risk to the safety of the machine drivers due the steepness of the terrain. I'm just hoping that the FC delegate has a bit of sense about him and see's what Wharncliffe is all about.They tried this before about 15 years ago and look where that got them. lol... . I've been riding these woods for over 20 years and can truly say there's no place home. Wharncliffe will never die! It will just come back stronger!
  • 11 3
 I've said this before, and I'll say it again...and again...

As someone who is at the sharp end of the forestry industry I can say that we owe a lot to the FC, NRW and other forest and woodland owners/managers. If it wasn't for them we wouldn't have half as many of the trail centres that we have now. At the end of the day commercial forests are crops and there to make money, end of. Having trails go through them is a nice money spinner however the trees have to be the priority once they hit maturity. I would imagine that the demolition of these trails in exchange for some ££ (log prices are sky high at the moment) may actually help secure the existance of more established trail centres around the UK so there is a silver lining. So while it would be a shame to lose these trails it wouldn't be as if the FC weren't within their rights, or being particularly unfair either.

Also the FC,NRW, etc are forest owners/managers and as previously stated, they will sub out the harvesting of the trees so in many ways it may be a smart idea for someone to find out who the company is who will be doing the extraction, and determine their plans- if it is steep maybe they will skyline some of it which may be less damaging than driving harvesters and forwarders etc through. Unlikely, but possible.

As a caveat however, I have signed the petition- having only ridden there a couple of times about a decade ago they were tremendous fun and it would be a shame if they were completely lost whe careful planning could in fact save them.
  • 6 1
 Fair point, I totally agree with the FC doing a lot of good regarding management of woodland, trail centres etc and I'm not bashing them or the work they do at all. That said, I'm saying this as it seems you and a fair few others have missed the point of this particular proposed works. It doesn't fit into that very valid remit.

Yes FC woodland is managed sustainably to harvest timber and make profit, that's fair. From what I gather that happens every 5 years in this woodland, and was done here extensively about 18 months ago, meaning no more felling is due for another few years at least. When that work was done some trails were destroyed to allow machinery to access trees, but otherwise it was left largely intact. A few of the larger features were destroyed on safety concerns too.

What seems to be happening here is not related to timber at all, but simply destruction of trails because they don't want them there. The safety question has been raised, but no-one is talking about felling or accessing trees here. What we want is a dialogue allowing both parties to work together; trails to built and maintained in a way that will allow the FC to continue to use the woodland profitably at no cost to them. That doesn't seem unreasonable to me, or in any way getting infringing on the interests of the FC or other stakeholders.
  • 5 1
 This is not good news, theirs a lot of great trails there. The work the trails guys do is amazing. Hopefully the Forrest Commission see sense.
  • 3 1
 Thanks for posting this! We need as much help as we can get to help save these sick trails. I'm fortunate enough to live about a 2 minutes ride from here and it's probably the best spot in Sheffield. It would be a shame for them all to go.
  • 2 1
 Big props to Alex for sharing this to the PB community. The petition had barely 100 signatures at the start of the weekend, now on 15k! Please all share and sign, show how strong our collective voice can be. I've been digging and riding trails at many places for years, many of which have been trashed but this place is different - for those that don't know this steep woodland is covered with hundreds of trails, all hand built over many years by many many many riders, not least Peaty, Craig Evans, Max, Loose as well as the 50to01 and Clayspades crew. People travel far and wide to ride this place - there are races, jams, parties, coaching sessions and even families and kids riding here alongside DH bros. This place is the soul of a huge riding community, I know I'll be crushed if it gets flattened.
  • 1 0
 I see FC have now released a statement...if it is true then it is hardly surprising they are removing the trails. Absolutely infuriating, but there are 'guidelines' that need to be work within - once the trails are built, the landowner is then responsible for them, so anything that is built needs to be maintained - which costs money. Stuff that is inherently dangerous is likely to get knocked on the head (at some point).

Nice to see so many people stating that we (public) own the forests...having had many a skirmish with the FC, we (the public) very clearly don't as they seem to be a law unto themselves. So although the sentiment is correct, the reality isn't.

A real shame it has come to this, but it seems to be inevitable these days.
  • 5 4
 Forestry commision are an absoloute joke, at my localthey have destroyed the trails for years claiming wev been damaging the woods then last week they just clearfelled the entire area destroying half of our trails.
  • 8 1
 They own or manage the lang. they have a right to do what they need to do...
You wouldn.t go and dig a set of dirt jumps in the middle of a farmers field and expect them to stay there????
  • 4 2
 @earthwormjim007: while technically correct, FC are a government body and as such are owned by taxpayers - ie you and I. Yup they should be able to manage the land as they need but on the occasion where ignorance or bloody mindedness causes friction, they should be consulting with their owners (us!) not running roughshod.
  • 2 0
 @sourmix: Why cant the FC just grow hemp instead of pine trees?
  • 2 2
 having ridden most trails in England and Wales FC is a postcode lottery.

My FC (Haldon Forest) is unfortunately a bad one, in 10 years there's been tonnes of logging, no planting and only volunteer patchwork repairs to the trail, shame because the potential for Haldon forest is vast.

FC here seem more interested in making short term money than long term enjoyment for users of the woods.
  • 3 0
 It's my local as well. It may of escaped you but most of whats been cleared actually blew down, has taken nearly 5 years to clear, and has been replanted (with the exception of some bits of heath land they are restoring). But lets not let facts get in the way of posting ill-informed nonsense.
  • 1 1
 @owwmyface: Where are they planting these trees you mention? I haven't seen them, what I have seen is huge areas cleared in the last 10-15 years, you can't tell me that ALL those trees blew down, seriously, the open spaces there now are vast compared to the dense woodland that used to be there. I simply write what I see, i'm not 'informed' by anyone, maybe they are planting these trees out of sight, in which case that's fair enough and I accept being wrong... You also overlooked my comments regarding trail maintenance, can you honestly say you are happy with the trails and their upkeep over the last few years? Maybe I shouldn't be comparing Haldon with other FC trail centres I have visited that are better maintained and updated.
  • 4 1
 @matwilliams: I agree with Mat. Dalby used to be my local trails and i went back last month for the first time in a while. It used to be a hive of mountain bike activity but now they don't even get enough use to keep the bike shop open so they've moved out of the forest. The logging has been noticeable but I wouldn't say excessive. However, spending £9 a day in parking to ride trails that have barely had any money spent on updating them in years and are maintained by volunteers annoys me.
  • 1 1
 @curly93: dalby is a great example of creating a trail network too large to manage.
The irony is the off piste stuff there is very rideable but the forestry seem to have little interest in progressing from the lengthy dated official loop
  • 3 2
 uk's forestry is on the ass.
highest income of the forest industry comes from ... parking areas!
but please keep on doing that smart and super valuable monoculture + clear cut plantations.
  • 1 0
 what's the basis of these statements? Happy to acknowledge a genuine source but I don't believe that could be true.

I'll admit log scarecity and replanting is an issue however the industry itself is bouyant (we normally see a dip around this time of year but its cyclical).

While not necessarily that appealing a monoculture and clear fell is the only way to sustainably and efficiently produce timber in the quantities that the timber industry (i.e. housing, landscaping, paper, manufactured board, energy, farming, etc) requires. Remember, it is a crop, through which we are graciously allowed to ride through, which we should be thankful for. Also remember that only when you are willing to sacrifice a great deal of the things in life that you take for granted should anyone be crying out for a reduction in commercial forestry planting.
  • 1 0
 Signed. It is so awkward that all forests in the UK are owned by private people or companies. Surrey Hills same issue. Come to Italy, the land is publicly owned. Not sure other countries.
  • 4 0
 Good Luck Guys..
  • 7 8
 Forestry Commission are the worst thing to happen to forests across the uk. They have a blatant disregard for cyclists, leaving their trails an accident waiting to happen. Ballycastle forest in Northern Ireland had a load of logs dragged across trails, wood with nails going every direction and a whole mess left behind when the FC went in to wreck everything. Foxhunt track in rostrevor, which is advertised as a world class trail, gets CLOSED the minute the race is over, its a joke considering the talent coming out of the uk at the minute
  • 3 0
 Is FC land logging land in the UK?
  • 3 0
 @dthomp325: yeah, it's mostly commercial woodland, but they do other stuff with the land too and have built quite a lot of mtb trail centres up and down the country. Having had some dealings with the Forestry Commission in regards to local 'gorilla trails' it seems that their attitude towards biking is different from one area to another. Some regions seem to be very supportive of biking, i.e. the Scottish Borders where they had the EWS, and other areas don't want to have anything to do with biking.
  • 6 0
 The forestry commission existed long before mountain bikes in the forest. They are commercial enterprises. look at it like a crop. Wheat for instance. Many trails are not legal, and for safety and also to prevent litigation in the event of an accident leading to injury or worse, the FC have to protect themselves and others.
The moment a successful lawsuit falls on the FC all trail centres will close literally overnight.
We have worked with our local FC for a long time and understand a fair bit more of what goes on. We have a "legal" trail and work along side them to look after it and maintain it's safe to use for all. And it is in a working forest, which has lead to the trail being rebuilt and re modelled a few times as felling has took place.
  • 4 1
 @doe222 You are extremely ignorant, here's a quick quote from Wikipedia on "the worst thing to happen to forests across the UK"

"The commission was set up to increase the amount of woodland in Britain by buying land for afforestation and reforestation"
  • 3 0
 @toad321: The FC doesn't even operate in Northern Ireland...that's how awful his post is.
  • 3 0
there's a fallacy there Jim, there is no such thing as illegal trail, no more than there are illegal trees or illegal rabbits in that forest. "Official" trail centres and the infrastructure around them, built with public funds are all well and good but IMO they're irrelevant to the issue around use of trails like these.

The issue seems to be the destruction of trails to prevent public access/use of them. No different from some quango removing every bolt on the Eiger and telling Joe public "nah this one's too dangerous, go climb somewhere safer"

I think we should oppose every attempt to prevent public access to and responsible use of forests. I also think there should be absolutely no liability for anyone injured on FC land either on official or unsanctioned trails. This should be made law and FC should not have to protect themselves as you say. I'd like to see big signs with disclaimers and legislation backing this.
  • 1 0
 signed and shared , love wharmcliffe , some amazing tech trails and to have this close to a major metropolitan city is priceless
  • 3 1
 Wharncouver is a work of art. But I’m not surprised it is getting this unwanted attention as it is by no means subtle
  • 1 0
 Signed, hope all goes well.

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