MTBers invited to a ride and rally at Whinlatter this weekend to oppose plans to transfer forests out of public hands.

Mountain bikers urged to join Whinlatter ‘save our forests’ rally

Mountain bikers are being encouraged to take part in a Ride to Save Our Forests protest as part of a rally in England’s only mountain forest. The event on Saturday 19th February is being organised by Save Lakeland’s Forests and Friends of the Lake District. 

The organisers are suggesting that riders start off from about 11am and either do the 19 kilometre red grade Zyro-sponsored Altura Trail or the 7.5 kilometre blue grade Quercus Trail from the Visitor Centre. The rally will then get underway next to the main car park at 1pm. 

Mountain biking is one of the activities most threatened by the Government’s plans. The plans were recently shelved, but only temporarily. The Government made it clear the delay would have no affect on their plans to transfer all public forests out of public hands.

Alex Kemp, a mountain biker from Brampton who will be helping at the event on Saturday, said:

"The trails in the Lakes are definitely among the best in the country. I ride at Whinlatter or Grizedale at least once a week and always meet people who have come from all over the country, and even the world to ride there. These trails contribute a lot to the area both socially and economically. 

"If the forestry land got sold, it would be unlikely we would see trails of this calibre in England again. Private firms would have no reason to develop or even keep these trails open. 

"And the worst thing about it for me is that if clauses 17 and 18 of the Public Bodies Bill go through, the people of England could lose these amazing places for ever due to the decision of one person." 

Volunteers who help to protect the Lake District’s famous ospreys are also planning to turn out in force for Saturday’s rally.

The volunteers help guard the osprey nest at Dodd Wood near Keswick and also provide information at a public viewing point and at Whinlatter Visitor Centre, where live pictures of the birds can be seen on a big screen. 

Keith Fitton is one of the contingent of volunteers heading to Saturday’s rally. He was seen by millions of people challenging a government minister to justify the sale of public forests on the BBC’s Question Time when the programme was broadcast from Workington earlier this month. 

Fitton, who will speak at the rally, said: “It’s completely inspiring to be part of the Lake District Osprey Project, but seeing these iconic birds back in Cumbria hasn’t happened by accident. It’s the result of the hard work, dedication and commitment of the volunteers and staff of the project, working together with the Forestry Commission and other partners. 

“The Forestry Commission’s role has been absolutely crucial to the success of the project. It must continue in order to provide the stewardship which is vital not just to ospreys but other endangered wildlife."

Nearly 600,000 people have signed an ongoing national online petition against the Government plans. 

Lord Clark of Windermere, a former chairman of the Forestry Commission, said:

“The campaign against the Government’s plans has brought people together from across the political spectrum and from every walk of life. Ministers are clearly very nervous about the reaction to their plans but if we are going to persuade them to change course we need to keep the pressure up, so a big turnout at Whinlatter will be vital.” 

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