Cycling ban angers Groombridge cyclist
A CYCLING ban introduced by a charity running Broadwater Warren has angered a Groombridge cyclist who has used the area for nearly 10 years.
Melanie Clarkson, of Withyham Road, was shocked to find signs in the forest saying cycling was no longer permitted in the area and has criticised the RSPB for the decision.
Mrs Clarkson said: "There are quite a lot of cyclists in the area and we can't cycle on the Ashdown Forest."
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She added: "My initial reaction is that it goes against what the Government is encouraging people to be doing – which is getting out more, staying fit and healthy, and using our bicycles."
The RSPB acquired the land in 2007 and has undertaken a 10-year programme to turn the area of conifer plantation, heathland and ancient woodland into a nature reserve.
Communications manager Adrian Thomas said the decision was not an easy one, and the policy was implemented ultimately to protect wildlife in the reserve and benefit pedestrians. Mr Thomas said: "It's a decision that we have really agonised over, but it's unfortunate that some people should come off adversely, although there are going to be some people whom this will really benefit."
He added: "For those few people within the local community who have been using it for cycling, that hasn't been an easy decision to take."
The spokesman explained that Broadwater Warren is viewed by the RSPB as having potential to be "one of the most special places for wildlife in the South East". But Mrs Clarkson has also hit out at the charity's decision to clear part of the wood to make room for a car park, saying it contradicts the reasons given to her by the RSPB for the cycling ban – to protect wildlife in the vicinity.
Before the RSPB took over, the land had permitted pedestrian access with no rights of way for cyclists, Mr Thomas said: "If we hadn't acquired the site it's likely that it would have been sold in chunks privately and that access would have been lost completely."
In restoring the area and making it a nature reserve the RSPB will create nature trails to allow guests to walk around the area, leaving some parts undisturbed for the benefit of wildlife.
The charity said that if cyclists were allowed to use the area they would have to create separate cycle routes which is difficult as the reserve is quite small. Mr Thomas said: "For most people enjoying the wildlife is done on foot. Pedestrians contacted us complaining that they had been intimidated by cyclists so we have a really complex situation."