Will Wales spurn chance to become an off-road haven?

“I don’t think we can over-exaggerate what an amazing opportunity for mountain biking this is”
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Those with an interest in MTBs have been urged to join the calls to turn Wales into an off-road haven.

The Welsh Government has proposed to adopt similar rules to countryside access as those in Scotland. The government is running a consultation on the proposal “Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation” until October 2nd. CTC Cymru, Open MTB, Welsh Cycling and British Cycling have joined together to praise the move and urge the trade and off-road fans to join the Trails for Wales campaign. 

Currently in Wales the Rights of Way system is based on recorded historic use of routes instead of suitability. As a result, cyclists have rights to use just 21 per cent of the network, with permission to ride along narrow rocky sheep tracks on steep ground but denied access to thousands of miles of public footpaths lying on metalled farm and forest roads.

Scotland’s Land Reform Act 2003 has helped the country become an off-road hotspot. Scotland now enjoys ‘presumed access’ so there is a presumption of “responsible access”, subject to exemptions laid out in the Outdoor Access Code (eg forestry operations). Now Scottish off-road and leisure cycle tourism are booming and contribute between £236.2m and £358m per annum.

Research indicates outdoor activity in Wales contributes almost ten per cent of the Welsh tourist economy. The group argues that changing access in Wales could dramatically boost this, with social, transport, leisure and health benefits for locals and visitors.

Tom Hutton, Snowdonia-based MTB journalist and guide, speaking on behalf of Open MTB said: “I don’t think we can exaggerate what an amazing opportunity for mountain biking this is. A change in access laws in Wales could potentially open 1,000s of km of currently out of bounds trails.

“It would put Wales back up there with Scotland as one of the best off-road destinations in the world, and at the same time, would increase take up of the sport and local participation. It would also potentially pave the way for future changes in England.

“We urge all off-road enthusiasts, in England as well as Wales, to add their voice to our joint Trail for Wales campaign.”

Gwenda Owen of CTC Cymru added: “This green paper provides another opportunity to realise the ambition of the First Minister Carwyn Jones to make Wales a cycling nation. I recommend everyone with a passion for the outdoors to show their support for our joint campaign, Trails for Wales.”

Find out more at ctc.org.uk/campaign/trails-wales

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