The launch of a £200 000 bike skills trail in Hamsterley Forest, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, is an "important first step in its bid to become England's first Premier Mountain Biking Centre, bringing with it a substantial boost to Teesdale's tourism industry," said a statement from Forestry Commission England.

£200k Hamsterley Forest MTB playground opens

The rest of statement follows:

Organised by five partners, Hamsterley Trailblazers, Teesdale District Council, Teesdale Marketing, Groundwork West Durham and the Forestry Commission England, the trail boasts an unrivalled skill-testing area, the size of two football pitches, as well as a specially-designed cycle route through the forest.

One NorthEast has backed the project with funding of nearly £75,000 through the County Durham Economic Partnership and believes it is an important part of its tourism strategy for the region.

This will be the first time mountain bike enthusiasts of all abilities can learn how to climb steps and ramps as well as a host of other challenges within Hamsterley. At weekends cyclists can be helped round the course with some of the forest’s Trailblazers, the intrepid team of enthusiasts, who have been instrumental in the creation of the trail.

Bill Oldfield, Chairman, Teesdale Marketing said:

"We want to position this beautiful part of the North East as a cycling attraction of national significance, one that will attract not only local riders, but will bring riders and their families and friends from throughout Britain and overseas."

Open all year round, the Hamsterley Mountain Bike Centre aims to emulate the growing success of two existing centres at 7 Stanes, Scotland, and Coed-y-Brenin in Wales. The Scottish project, with other similar bases north of the border, confidently expects to bring in over £6m to its rural economy over the next few years. And it is this boost to rural tourism the partners are hoping to encourage with the Hamsterley centre.

Research has shown the mountain bike cyclists Teesdale wants to attract are often keen to stay in an area with their families and use local hotels and restaurants during their stay. By aiming to be a first-class and unique facility in England the potential boost to the rural economy could be substantial.

John Holmes, director of regeneration and tourism at One NorthEast said:

"The ongoing development at Hamsterley Forest will provide a premier visitor attraction to complement and link with other regional attractions such as Alnwick Gardens, Hadrian’s Wall, Beamish and Weardale Railway based on outdoor activity and the development and promotion of a natural asset. Hamsterley Mountain Bike Centre will increase the tourism offer of the entire North East by adding a unique high quality attraction and boosting the economy in Teesdale.”

Teesdale Marketing is currently undertaking its own economic impact study to assess exactly how much money could come in to the area through the cycle routes and the benefits likely to be seen by nearby towns at Barnard Castle, Wolsingham and Crook.

Hamsterley Forest, managed by Forestry Commission England, is already popular with mountain bikers and leisure cyclists. Over the next two years, there are plans to create more routes up to the international mountain bike standard and in the long term build a trail up to 40km long.

The new mountain bike centre will complement the region’s cycling strategies and support the multi-million UK cycle tourism market, One NorthEast’s cycle tourism strategy and the new Walney to Wear Coast to Coast cycle route through Teesdale opened this year.

John Wearmouth, Chairman of CDENT, which has donated £22,000 through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme to help develop the leading cycling centre, added:

"By funding such a worthwhile project as Hamsterley Trailblazers we are providing people across the region with the opportunity to make the most of outdoor pursuits and their surrounding environment. I am confident that this new facility will attract people from both the local community and further afield."

The Hamsterley Mountain Bike trail development is also supported by the following organisations:

One NorthEast, CDENT, Living Spaces, Barclays Bank, North Pennines Leader Plus, Groundwork, The Countryside Agency, Wear Valley District Council and the Co-op.

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