Photo by Paul Hobbs

On Sunday 29 November we had a public meeting in Long Ashton Community Centre to discuss the future of Still and the issues raised by turning the place into an official riding venue, rather than the secret underground spot it's been for the past few years. The place was packed, with around 40 people in attendance. In the wake of Still being shut down a sort of semi-official campaign committee has come together and me, Rob, Danny and Dan K were in attendance.

The story so far

I started by explaining a bit about the purpose of the meeting and how we were looking to come to a more formal arrangement with the University that would enable us to keep using Still for riding.

Danny has been in touch with the University already and they have said they would be prepared to let riding there continue, subject to certain qualifications such as there only being three main tracks, people only using certain areas of the wood, riders having insurance and no unauthorised trail building.

Club Issues

I explained that the current plan was to form a club and turn Still into a membership venue, as other DH tracks have done in places like Tavistock, Chicksands, Aston Hill and Longleat. It's fair to say that there will be a few issues with this, as it will involve membership fees, setting up a club, and making sure that non-members are politely asked to ride elsewhere.

Club structure is going to depend on how the Uni are prepared to let us run the site. I said that I felt the best thing would be to involve as many riders as possible on the club side, and make sure that all the disciplines of riding at Still were represented - DH, DJ , FR and mountain board. It would also be good to have a position like Youth Rep to involve the younger local riders. We did a quick poll of people in the room to ask who would be prepared to be on the committee of a club, and between ten and twenty said they would.

One problem with forming a club to address the issues with Still is that non-members wouldn't be bound by any ground rules, and worse still wouldn't be covered by third party insurance, which is almost certain to be a condition of us continuing to use the place. Someone asked how we would keep non-members from the using the site. I said that we can make sure everyone knows the score by putting up signs, asking non-members to buy a day or annual membership, and asking our members to have a quiet word with any non-members they see using the place without permission. Woodland Riders at Tavi have a pretty good system where regulars carry a few day membership cards in their pockets, and if they spot a non-member they sell them a day membership on the spot. A general point is that if we really put some effort into the club and the site, it could be a step up from the underground spot it was before, and justify paying to ride there.

Steve Worland from WhatMTB magazine, who does longer distance XC rides through the woods, asked whether any tracks there would be closed to riders who were just passing through. I hope I didn't come across as too much of a weasel in my response to this - basically, there are rights of way (footpaths) crossing the area so we can't close it off completely, but hopefully everyone will understand the reasons for making it a members-only spot and respect that.

Unauthorised building
has been a problem in the past. There used to be a system where riders would OK the stuff they wanted to build with a committee who were in touch with the Uni, but this was a bit confusing at times and eventually fell out of use. The plan is for any new club to have a construction and repair team who do monthly safety inspections and "decommission" any cheeky building at the same time. New building might be pretty limited but at least it will be more organised and not upset landonwers, residents or other riders.

There was a suggestion that approval of new building could be devolved to part of the club, with just an OK from the building committee required. My feeling is that this is pretty close to the old system, which didn't really work very well as people tended to dig first and ask questions later. Other people felt differently.

Membership fees
are a bit of a thorny issue it seems. There are some places, like Chicksands, which charge £50 and up for riding there, but the general feeling seems to be that for a small spot like Still £30 or so is the most a lot of people would pay. I said that we wanted to keep membership fees reasonable and offer day memberships, discounts for youth members, possibly even shop-subsidised memberships for good riders who were hard up.

A representative of mountainboard club Team BAD pointed out that they already have a membership fee that covers stuff like insurance at the spots they use, so paying another separate fee to ride at Still would hit them harder than most. The University club are in the same situation. The obvious solution is for pre-existing clubs to join a Still club as an affiliated body, paying a contribution that covers their members as a whole, and we're going to do some asking around and see if this is possible.

Building and digging

As you will know if you got Danny's Facebook message, the University are talking about limiting the building there to three main tracks. I said I thought that gave us a fair bit of scope - for example, we could have an all-abilities trail, a freeride trail with some big gaps and drops, and a techy DH line. One thing missing from this set-up is dirt jumps that were formerly such a big draw at Still. Nearly everyone at the meeting felt that a range of dirt jumps is an essential ingredient for the place, and that we should be pushing to get these included.

There was some discussion of how the track is going to be planned and built. We have had offers of help from professional trail designers and it might be good to take these up. On the other hand, a user-built site would make people feel involved and there is no shortage of enthusiasm - when asked how many people would be prepared to help with digging, almost every hand in the room went up!

The meeting ended with an agreement that Danny would submit our written proposal to the Uni (this has now happened) and follow this up with a face to face discussion (this hasn't happened yet, but they have promised to get back to us early in the New Year).

This isn't everything we talked about at the meeting, but it covers some of the main points. If you were there and think I've left anything out, drop me an email at You can also add your comments below. The next stage is actually talking to the Uni and seeing how we can work with them to get the place open for riding again. This is hopefully going to happen early in the New Year, so keep checking this blog and the Facebook group for the latest news.

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Posted by Antony on Sunday, 20 December 2009
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As you may already know, we've drawn up quite a detailed proposal to the University, explaining a bit more about the history of the site, the benefits of keeping it open as a venue for mountain biking and mountain boarding, and how we would address any problems with liability, litter and safety. If you haven't seen it yet, you can have a look here.

This has now been sent to the University's Estates Manager, who has said that he will be discussing it at preliminary talks next week, and will come back to us in the New Year with a decision.

Now seems like a good time to give a shout out to all the people who have helped or supported us in some way:

  • The 1,100-odd people who've signed up to the Facebook group.
  • The other downhill clubs around the country who responded to our request for help and advice - Woodland Riders, Rob at Esher Shore, Cliff Barbeary, Steve from the Woods Behind Nationwide, and Andrew from the Black Canon Collective.
  • Ian from CTC and Chris from IMBA South West for support and advice.
  • The super-helpful people at North Somerset Council.
  • The pro trail builders who've got in touch with offers of help.
  • The local bike shop owners and managers who've supported us - Box at Bad Ass Bikes, Bolt and Adam at Bike Workshop, Lurch at Bike, Robbie and Tony at Psyclewerx and Mart at Mud Dock.
  • Dan, for sorting out the website.
  • The photographers who have allowed us to use their images in the proposal and the website - Pete Tiley, Paul Hobbs and JB.
  • Everyone who came to the meeting at Long Ashton last weekend.
  • Everyone else who's been in touch with ideas, suggestions or just expressions of support.
For now, we'll just have to sit tight and see what the Uni say, but with so many people pulling together to get the place open again, things are looking good.

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Posted by Antony on Friday, 11 December 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.