UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who came along. It was great to see such a big turnout and there were lots of helpful suggestions and contributions made. I'll put a more detailed write-up on the site this week. In the meantime, if you want to read the draft proposal to the University, click here to see it. If you've got any comments send them to bristoltrailsgroup@gmail.com and we'll try and incorporate them into the final version.

I've booked the Pavilion Room in Long Ashton Community Centre for 2.00 pm Sunday so anyone who's interested can come along and talk about what they'd like to happen at Still, and how they could help with the plan to get it open for mountain biking again.

We've already had loads of good advice, offers of help, and useful feedback from Facebook, online surveys, etc. but there's no substitute for actually meeting up face to face. If you were a regular before the demolition or want to get involved with the re-opening, we'd really like to hear from you.

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Posted by Antony on Monday, 23 November 2009
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Two weeks after the trails at Still were removed, there has been some progress, nothing spectacular yet, but give us time.

First off, we've been flooded with offers of help and support from members of the riding community. Many people have offered to give up their time to help run a formal club, dig new tracks, and so on. A number of professional trail designers and builders have got in touch to offer their services where they can. The CTC's off road officer, Ian Warby, has met with us and given us some really valuable advice, as well making an initial approach to the University.

And we've finished a first draft of our proposal to run the site on a more formal basis, which you can read here if you're interested (748k).

The current word from the Uni is that they have engaged environmental consultants to advise on the developments that are proposed in Long Ashton (you can read more about these here, if you've got a long attention span) and will be asking them to report on the developments at Still as a part of this. So it could be a few months before we hear anything. We'll keep you updated when we know more.

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Posted by Antony on Wednesday, 18 November 2009
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At the start of the week I stuck up a link to a website called SurveyMonkey, which lets you create an online survey. I wanted to get a feel for how much people used Still, what they wanted from the place and whether they would be prepared to keep using it if they had to pay.

The results were pretty encouraging:

  • 36% of the respondents said they rode there most weekends, indicating that we've got a good core of regular users who could look after the place if it was set up as an official venue.
  • An amazing 96% of the replies indicated that they would be willing to join a club, if it meant being able to keep riding there.
  • 97% of the replies said that they would be prepared to pay to ride, with most people saying that between £10-25 was a reasonable figure. Having started to look into the costings, it could be more than this, so we'd also offer discounted membership for junior members, or cheap day membership for people who only ride there a couple of times a year. There's also a possibility that your membership could get you into other venues for free - it's early days yet though.
  • 92% of the people who filled out the survey said they would be prepared to lend a hand with digging and looking after the place.
  • People were also asked what they'd like to see more and less of at Still. About 80% of the respondents said they wanted to have more challenging and technical lines, but 60% of people said they'd like to see more easy and progressive trails too.
  • The biggest complaint was litter, followed by non-riding kids causing trouble. Other users were cited as a problem, but this came a distant fourth overall.
Thanks very much to everyone who responded. I'm planning to add the survey results into our proposal to the University as they paint a clear picture of a riding community who are aware, responsible and not afraid to do a bit of work to keep riding at a spot they love.

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Posted by Antony on Friday, 6 November 2009
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It seems that despite massive support, this campaign came too late to stop the bulldozers moving in. As you can see from the above pictures, the site is a right state at the moment, and I hope there are plans by the University to clear it up before any further development takes place.

It's pretty tempting at this point to write off the attempts to communicate with the University and go back to hiding our trails in the woods and having them torn down every few years. Let's not do this - the University have told me and Hamish that they are willing to work with mountain bikers, and if we can sort the details out, there's potential to have a really good riding venue there that everyone can enjoy.

We've started work on a proposal where riders set up a club, pay a lease to the University, get the building OK'ed with the University and the riders (with input from professionals) still get a degree of control over what they ride. Ian Warby, the CTC's off-road representative and the mastermind behind on of the UK's original DH venues, Aston Hill, has got in touch with us and we should be meeting up wth him to get advice on the way forward. Once the proposal is completed I'll link to it from here and give you a chance to have your comments heard.

There are loads of issues we will have to work through. Can we build tracks that will keep riders and the Uni happy? Who's going to fund this? What if people don't want to join a club? How can we stop local residents thinking of mountain bikers as a nuisance? We're starting to thrash out some of these issues, with the help of people who have been there and come out the other side. It's not going to be easy. But in the words of indie band Stereolab: "I say there are still things worth fighting for".

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Posted by Antony on Wednesday, 4 November 2009
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On 29 October 2009, Bristol's only purpose-built downhill mountain biking venue, Still Woods, a.k.a the Plantation, Long Ashton, was closed to mountain bikers by the and owner, Bristol University.

The first anyone knew about the closure was when the notices went up. Even the University Mountain Bike Club hadn't been informed or consulted.

The future of the site is currently uncertain, but from deliveries of machinery like bulldozers and mini-diggers it looks like the University are gearing up to remove the trails and features.

The University have indicated that they would be prepared to let use of the site continue if arrangements with the mountain bikers can be formalised. They are concerned that they're going to be held liable for injuries that happen at the site, that mountain bikers are endangering other users where trails cross footpaths, and that the site is deteriorating due to erosion, litter and destruction of trees.

What can you do to get involved?

  • Join our Facebook group.
  • Sign this e-petition against the closure.
  • If you know anyone who has successfully secured the future of a DH venue by working with land managers, get in touch via bristoltrailsgroup@gmail.com
  • If you have any contacts in the media, particularly the general media, draw their attention to this story.
  • Subscribe to this blog or add it to your RSS feeds for updates.

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Posted by Antony on Tuesday, 3 November 2009
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Save Still Woods

On 29 October 2009, Bristol's only purpose-built downhill mountain biking venue, Still Woods, a.k.a the Plantation, was closed to mountain bikers by land owners Bristol University.

Help us work with the University to ensure the woods future as a respected mountain bike venue for all.