Mountain bike route at Penshaw Monument

For lovers of extreme sports, there is an exciting new development coming to the woods at Penshaw Monument.

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Local mountain bikers have been using Penshaw Wood for creating and riding downhill tracks for several years. This has led to a bit of an uneasy relationship between them and our staff. While we have tended to turn a bit of a blind eye to their trail building, they have tried their best to avoid us, knowing they don’t have permission for it.

Happily all that has now changed. We were approached towards the end of last year by Ian, a local bike shop owner and mountain bike enthusiast (check out his website – Sanctuary Bikes). He wanted to see if we would be willing to hold a downhill mountain bike competition in the woods. We said we would, and that we’d also like to work with him and other local riders to create a quality permanent downhill course.

Through formalising the routes in the woods we hope to achieve a few different goals:

Firstly we want to create some quality downhill routes suitable for all levels of ability. At present there is little provision in the area, so it will be well used by local riders.

Along with installing the courses we will include signage that will help make the courses safer for both the bikers and the walkers in the woods.

Finally, we hope by providing these routes there will be much less unauthorised digging in the woods, which will allow them to recover and develop for wildlife.

We started work on the construction of the course this week and have already created our first berm (banked corner) and jump. Ian even lent us his bike to try them out, although only Wayne and Chris were brave enough to try! We’ll be there regularly over the next month or so. We plan to have the first phase of the course completed in time for the big downhill competition on the 14th April. Watch this space for further details!

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Gareth | National Trust

Gareth | National Trust

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6 thoughts on “Mountain bike route at Penshaw Monument

  1. I’ve used Penshaw Woods all my life for walking dogs. Myself, family and dogs have narrowly avoided being hit several times by people riding too fast in the woods.

    How will you ensure the safety of people/dogs/young children walking through the forest?
    Surely bikers have got to ride through the forest to get to this area?
    Will people still be able let dogs off their leads in the woods?

    The forest is used primarily by families and dog walkers, I really hope this has been thoroughly researched and there won’t be any detrimental effects to the woods and it’s wildlife.

  2. Thanks for you comments. We do appreciate your concerns, many of which we hope to address through this project.

    The mountain bikers have not previously had our permission to use the woods. However this has not stopped many downhill runs being created and used with resulting near misses like you have experienced Stephen. Despite attempts in previous years to block off the routes, this has only caused creation of new runs in different parts of the woods, increasing problems with erosion, rather than controlling it.

    Recently there has been a bit of a change in thinking across the whole of the National Trust, and we are now looking to accommodate everyone who enjoys the outdoors where it is possible to do so. A move that I whole heartedly support. By creating a small, permanent area for the bikers to use we hope to address several issues:

    Firstly we want to create a good facility for local mountain bike enthusiasts to use. We don’t anticipate this will attract a large number of additional users. We are not trying to compete with the faculties provided by the Forestry Commission at or Dalby Forest. By creating a few good quality runs, there will be no need for unauthorised digging to take place. This will contain the riding in a designated area and have benefits for wildlife and counter erosion problems.

    Secondly we want to make the area safer for all users. We will be installing signage to warn walkers at points where the runs cross the tracks and displaying a ‘code of conduct’ for the cyclists advising them to place spotters at the path crossing and ensure it is safe before setting off.

    Of course there will be a minority who ignore the rules and abuse the facility, but we are working with experienced riders to create the route who regularly use the site and are happy to speak to those who do so. Most riders don’t like to see litter or irresponsible behaviour any more than we do.

    You will still be able to exercise your dogs as you always have done, and other than the signage I doubt you will notice too many changes in the woods. All we would ask is that you keep your dogs under close control at the far end of the woods when there are bikers around.

    I am happy do discuss any of your concerns further if you would like. The office number is 01642 328901.

    Kind regards,

    Gareth.

  3. Hi,

    Just wanted to give some feedback as a mountain biker and a conscientious one at that. I accessed this wood recently from the footpath entrance slightly downhill from Offerton (I had previously tweeted Sanctuary bikes who have been publicising the trail, asking the best/correct route in, but didn’t receive a response).

    Anyway, I found myself in a right pickle as after entering the woods (at the very bottom) I found myself on a completely sodden almost clay path. I kept going too long probably as I realised it would be more work to go back than to continue forward, but the path I was on just abruptly ended and before you know it I found myself battling through undergrowth. I eventually (somehow) slipped and slid my way up to the top where the main entrance gate is. I was wary of trying not to damage any plants or trees but it seemed to happen so fast that the path disappeared and I was in a jungle fighting my way through. Probably sounds a bit OTT, but that’s how it felt!

    There were a few other blokes cycling around in there and I could see another guy at the top end who was equally as lost/confused as me and clearly unsure of what he should be riding on. I exited via the entrance gate, hoisting my bike over it to some disapproving looks. In all it was a pretty awful experience really for very little enjoyment.

    I appreciate of course what work you guys and others have/are putting into the place, but I would like to nicely suggest it’s either confirmed as closed to cyclists until it’s in a better state of readiness or make it officially open – i.e. get some signage up to say we are welcome and make a designated entry, as lifting a bike over a gate probably isn’t too official….

    I think there may have been a bit of incorrect promotion of this wood. I’ve read bits and bobs suggesting it as a (very) mini cycle trail, but by all accounts it appears to be just a downhill section, which is of no interest to me as an XC rider and in my opinion is far too dangerous a thing to have in a public wood. I can’t believe I’m saying this as a cyclist with few local woods I can legitimately visit, but I do think Penshaw Wood should be closed to cyclists if it’s going to be downhill use only. It otherwise needs to be opened up in full for XC use, with several decent paths running around the place and LARGE warnings at all entrances asking people to respect walkers but also for walkers to keep their eyes open for cyclists. I don’t want to criticise too much, but my impression from my experience (and from the other equally as confused looking guy who looked stuck in a higher part of the wood, well off a path) is that the place isn’t ready for cyclists right now.

    I do hope this feedback helps.

    As a footnote, I don’t want this to be a huge criticism of Sanctuary Bikes, but the fact I tweeted them several times (asking for the best entry point to the trail) and was essentially ignored, despite them tweeting/replying to other tweets during the same time period, does smack a bit of elitism and that they don’t want anyone other than their buddies using the place. Sorry if that sounds like sour grapes, but it’s a public wood and it’s either open to all cyclists or it isn’t.

  4. Hi,

    I read this piece a few weeks ago and finally had a chance to go and investigate the track this weekend. Online information regarding it seems to be very thin on the ground with this blog post seeming to be the only thing that mentions it in more than a passing reference. Having gotten to the monument I spent about an hour trailing around trying to find the track without finding even a hint of it. Where is it!?

    I appreciate and applaud the effort that has gone into making suitable facilities for all who wish to use the woods, but some information on the track’s location, and some signage at the site would be great.

    • That’s the point I was making back in Feb 2013 – there’s no signs to tell you where to go.

      I ended up on the main footpath that cuts through east/west in the middle, the gate I climbed over is on the western edge of the woods. If you go along the main footpath and take a look up/down as you go along you’ll clearly see there are some downhill sections. They’re obvious really, narrow muddy sections, some of which come from the top of the woods, cross the main path and continue into the bottom section. That’s a safety issue as there are no warning signs at all. Bear in mind proper trail centres have warning signs when one path crosses another that tell you to stop and look. That is an environment where you’re expecting cycles, Penshaw ISN’T such an environment yet has zero warnings.

      I wonder what outcome there’d be if a cyclist reads this and assumes (rightly so) that they have permission to rip through the woods, then slams into a kid/dog/old person etc and causes injuries or worse.

      • My mother walks her dog daily in the woods and regularly has to dodge bikers speeding down the main walking route. I complained that this should never have been built in the first place as it would be dangerous and it is dangerous. If you are going to support bikers please clearly sign post the route and ask them to push their bikes in all other areas. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

        Stephen

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