Cycling at Hindhead Commons

A cyclist splashes through a muddy puddle

Our rangers and volunteers have seen an increase in unofficial mountain bike trails in nature reserves and woodlands, following government restrictions on travel during lockdown.

At a time when people need the beauty and fresh air of their local green spaces more than ever, we are glad to be open for local people to exercise. But we ask that our visitors are mindful of the rare habitats they are in.

We are appealing to mountain bikers not to create new trails in local nature reserves but to stick to official off-road trails, bridleways or tarmac.

Landscapes are more susceptible to damage at this time of year due to the colder and wetter weather. Excessive erosion to routes doesn’t just leave a visual impact on the landscape, it also affects wildlife. Once vegetation is lost through erosion, soil and stone can quickly wash off from fragile heathland habitats.

We know how important it is for people to get out in nature for exercise and wellbeing at the moment. Equally we are hearing from neighbouring communities in the South Downs and Surrey Hills, who are concerned that new ramps, berms and downhill trails are appearing on heaths and in woodlands.

By sticking to official bike trails you are helping save our rarest nature habitats.
On road cycling
By sticking to official bike trails you are helping save our rarest nature habitats.

In some areas, off-road cycling is causing the ground to be churned up and compacted, with damage to bluebell woods, heathland heathers and wildflowers, which are key food sources for butterflies.

" We want to do the right thing for everyone who uses and cares for these places during lockdown; and the wildlife that depends on them."
- National Trust countryside ranger

SSSIs (Sites of Specific Scientific Interest) are designated as unique habitats for nature. Any new structures require licensed permission from Natural England so we are obliged in many cases to remove them.

We’re appealing to our local cycling groups and shops for their help in advising people how to find approved trails. And not to share social media content which has been filmed on unofficial downhill tracks on nature reserves.

Check where you can cycle by finding the bridleways on an OS map or way-marker signs.
Way-markers and OS symbols explained
Check where you can cycle by finding the bridleways on an OS map or way-marker signs.

The best way to check where you can cycle is by looking at an Ordnance Survey map and finding the green dashed lines showing a bridleway. Rights of way markers, on signposts onsite, are also a good guide. Stick to the blue waymarked bridleway trails and don't accidentally stray onto a yellow waymarked footpath. 

In some SSSI nature reserves there are no listed bridleways or permissive paths for cyclists, so we are kindly asking people not to create trails here. The only way that these precious wild places will survive is if we all pull together to preserve them.