Wharncliffe's Wharncouver Trail Bulldozed

Nov 16, 2018 at 7:06
by Alex Evans  

We reported on the 29th of November that the Wharncouver area of trails at Sheffield's popular Wharncliffe riding spot were at risk of destruction. Local trail advocacy groups launched a petition that received over 24,000 signatures to help persuade the Forestry Commission to change their proposed course of action and keep the trails in the area. Unfortunately, it has come to light that the trails in this area have been destroyed or partially destroyed by the Forestry Commission.

We reached out to the Founder & President of Ride Sheffield Henry Norman for comment:

bigquotesWe were disappointed to see that the Forestry Commission had gone ahead with the demolition of the Wharncouver trail in Wharncliffe Woods earlier this week. We have been proud to support the fantastic campaign that the trail builders have run to try and save their trails and believed that a sensible chance compromise could have been reached.

We fully understand the FC’s concerned over liability and other matters and feel much of this could have been overcome through constructive dialogue.

There is a meeting planned between The Builders, FC and ourselves and we hope this can be the start of improved relations, more great trails and an even brighter future for mountain biking in Wharncliffe.
Henry Norman

Although this is sad news for the riding community in the area, Henry is hopeful that new discussions with the Forestry Commission can yield positive results. It is also worth noting that the majority of the trails in Wharncliffe have remained untouched and their future isn't under threat from destruction.

Photo credit: James Fearnley Media


  • 45 4
 "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. "
Yeah......I have lots of sympathy for the intellectually challenged.
  • 19 1
 One of our local spots in Derbyshire recently had the same treatment as a well documented and planned part of the FCs management plan. Everyone turns around and calls them pricks for bulldozing their trails. Ahm..nope. They just drove over them in order to harvest the timber. And now they’re replanting natives. They don’t hate the trails so much as they’re just in the way (granted there’s a liability issue but largely around here they’ll overlook a certain amount of trail building until they need to get in there). Sorry but if you build on somebody else’s land - somebody who makes it quite clear their intentions for the land - and seek no dialogue until the very last minute then you’re in no place to call anyone names.
  • 4 1
 PS the one I’m talking about is a SSSI ffs. It’s been a great riding spot for years and I know it will continue to be but sometimes you’ve got to try and see the big picture. There’s plenty more hills to dig on.
  • 1 0
 PPs I’m not saying the situation in sheff is exactly the same. I’ve ridden up there but unsure of the intricacies of the relationship between the riders and the FC up there.
  • 1 6
flag noahr2011 (Nov 16, 2018 at 10:22) (Below Threshold)
 @iqbal-achieve: are you on about ambergate? the area where the trails are isnt actually an ssi most of the rest of the woods is but not there, the issue is that the forestry have repeatedly destroyed the trails there for year with the excuse that its harmful to nature and all that bullshit and then theyv just gone and logged the area anyway which is pretty hypocritical. that and the fact theyv made no effort to try and have a relationship with mountain bikers and are just straight up against them.
  • 2 2
 it's not really as cut and dry as that. They FC haven't given a full account of the actions and alternatives (i'm a local lad but not on of the builders in Wharncouver). It's also not on land that has ruined anything they claim it has too. Unless you know where this particular trail is, you wouldn't find it without a local either
  • 11 2
 If someone started coming into my garden without asking, and building something for their dogs to run up and down (I use that as an example of something I have no personal interest in) I would tell them to GTFO.

If you don't own the land, you have no right to cry foul.

Like Iqbal says, there are plenty of places to dig. It's shit when your local spot gets shut down, but the landowner probably thinks it's shit having a load of uninvited guests who could potentially sue him if they hurt themselves on his land.
  • 5 0
 @iqbal-achieve: Couldn't agree with you more there. At the end of the day, in the long run it is better to keep the FC on side rather than piss them off. Everyone is sad about Wharncliffe, but the way some have acted - as if they are totally entitled to do whatever they want on someone else's land and the FC has no right to stop them - is ridiculous.

Forget the reasons the FC have given for bulldozing the place and think about the many good reasons we have to keep them on side. It's no different to the pricks that keep riding above and knocking down the wall at sheepskulls.
  • 2 2
 @jaame: not really a good analgy because its public land, the forestry commision is part of the government and its job is supposed to be to manage the land and account for all user groups, its funny how some of the people on here are happy to ride peoples unofficial trails without helping dig but are equally happy to slag off the diggers who made the trails for them
  • 5 8
 @jaame: nobody owns the land. It belongs to everyone and no one. How someone thinks they own a part of a planet that’s existed before humans even did is beyond me. Keep building boys.
  • 4 0
 @thenotoriousmic: I applaud the sentiment as I’m sure many others here would but I own my house and the land it stands on and if somebody moved in and built a half pipe in my front yard despite me frequently asking them to refrain...you get the picture. The FC owns vast swathes of land and leases the rest. Yes, it’s a government body and its’ role is generally to improve our lives but I can’t go and build a trail in a hospital without causing conflicts either - no matter how rad I thought that would be XD
The FC has a tough job with user groups, if they’re seen to accept trail building they also assume liability, as would I if I let somebody put up a half pipe in my front yard (hell I’ve been told to cut a tree down to avoid insurance claims from passers by getting a twig in the face, a friend was told by the Police that the glass Intended to deter burglars on his rear wall could become a liability issue if a burglar decided to sue). Then there’s the conservation issue which is equally as real. From my experience digging our trails for years I haven’t met a single area manager or other employee of the FC that has simply disliked the activities of riders, they dislike the difficult situation that arises and they’re usually pretty sound, they’d be stupid not to be. Hostility isn’t gonna help anyone.

Where an agreement can never be reached there will always be this situation where every now and then the trails get knocked down because legally the FC doesn’t see them, they can’t. So they will carry on with their work regardless (and these days what they do is very good work). Agreements will only be reached in rare cases so there are probably hundreds of areas just like the ones being discussed. It’s ok for us to be frustrated but to be pissed at the FC doesn’t help nor is it really where the frustration is best placed imo.
For what it’s worth I’d love to see Wharny become one of those rare cases and I know they’ve got a good group of people at the core of the scene there. Would it be the same though? I mean there’s have to be give and take on both sides...

If it helps anyone reading this we’ve basically been told directly by the FC “no wooden structures and no stand alone, purpose built features”. Essentially what I took from it was they’d let a bit of a single track go. And if that singletrack incorporated ‘natural’ features that definitely weren’t stand alone jumps Razz then we’d be ok. Which is the direction we went while also looking for a new area to dig. We only have a small crew and only 2 main builders who work their asses off. We can’t afford to risk the demolition but completely understand the FCs point of view.
  • 4 0
 @thenotoriousmic: I'll be round digging in your back garden tomorrow.
  • 2 0
 @noahr2011: No one is slagging off the diggers, they are saying that the FC are within their right to demolish them and that in the long term it's better to keep them on side. Big difference.
  • 2 0
 @thenotoriousmic: This.

Dig with respect, dog walkers and horsey types welcome, leave nothing but shovels hidden in the bushes.
  • 1 0
 @Denning76: `best UK post on PB of the year!!! Thank you so so much.
  • 1 0
 @Denning76: he can't have a back garden as against humans owning any land on this planet
  • 3 4
 @Denning76: totally not the same thing. I wouldn’t build a half pipe in someone’s garden out of respect for them and people in general. I wouldn’t build a trail where someone’s going to get hurt or upset ether. Building trails in the woods in the middle of nowhere is not the same as building a mini ramp in someone’s dining room. Shit logic that failed to account for respect. How’s this at some point in history someone took land that didn’t belong to them and now 100’s of years laters you’re all going along with it? How can a human own a hill or mountain that existed before humans? Yeah I’m just going to keep building and riding wherever I want with care and respect but good look asking for permission.
  • 12 5
 They destroyed a trail that was built in a area where they were told not to build on several occasions. Not got any sympathy at all.
  • 7 2
 Its the liability laws that perhaps need sorting, then the FC wont end up getting sued by idiots who fall off in the woods and fancy a no win no fee chance of free money.
  • 7 0
 Only one trail destroyed... Still plenty to do in Wharncover
  • 3 0
 There's a whole bunch of older, less rad trails, that haven't been bulldozed. These approved trails are on an area that isn't forested. Wharncouver is slap bang in the middle of a managed plantation. They're epic trails no doubt that but the Forestry commision isn't geared up to manage, legally, dangerous bike trails. They'll harvest the trees and the diggers will be back, the same thing happened last year a big area was bulldozed through and felled. It was made back up in no time at all. This part of Sheffield has the potential to be a world class recognised trail centre, interested parties just need to come together and make it viable for the land owners to allow it. Props to Henry and the guys who getting involved. It'll work out better than ever, or continue as it was. The FC just don't have the manpower to flatten the trails at the rate the diggers build them back up so worst case scenario is we lose as area of trail for a period every couple of years.
  • 1 2
 Exactly they can’t win. We massively out number them. Just keep building.
  • 3 0
 Bottom Line: Landowners get touchy because nowadays some dickhead sues them for tripping over. The landowner is not the problem, it's the dickheads that sue. If a landowner is getting sued then their insurance costs will multiply. It really is as simple as that.
  • 2 0
 There are at least 15 massively awesome very natural tracks on that hill left... and the potential... with collaboration and engagement of the landowner, is frighteningly brilliant.... time for a new dawn.. where tracks are sanctioned... which they then will be. Time to have a brew / beer and chat this through....we can can do this. I'm happy to help ( old git that was involved in this place pre wharncouver back in the day) *olive branch to all* Cheers...
  • 2 0
 Understanding the organisation is always a good starting point. The FC was set up post first world war to address strategic need for wood and was still being used the same in the 2ww. It is only in the 1990s that they start upon a multi-user approach to forestry management and this was significantly challenged by a lack of funding. Their articles of association dont include the use of their land for recreation and their core business model doesn't either, it is something they are trying to accommodate. Anyone who has looked into buying forested land in the UK will know the liability and insurance side of things is a nightmare to protect against trespassers injuring themselves. Its tough on both sides. I think you would see a better approach if the FC were actually waived of liability on their land for un-authorisated activity.
  • 2 0
 First rule of trail building: Always keep the FC (Landowners on your side).
  • 1 0
 I totally understand why “” are used, I was just being a cheeky bugger.
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