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 bristoltrailsgroup@gmail.com 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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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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We are a small group of dedicated people whose goal is to return Still Woods to its former status as a top class mountain bike area for Bristol and the South West.

Danny, or Hamish as he's more commonly known, is the current president of Bristol University Bike Club.

Rob is a past president of the Uni Bike Club and was a member of the Still riders' committee in 2004-5.

Dan K was a Still regular prior to the demolition.

Jamie is editor of Wideopen Mag and a former committee member of Foel DH.

Antony is chairman of Bristol Trails Group and edits the Stolen Bristol Bikes blog.

Mart is a long time user of the site and is currently manager of Mud Dock.

If you want to get involved too, just get in touch with us. We need support and we'd also welcome advice from anyone who's been in a similar situation. In the long term, if we can agree terms of use with the site's owners, we are going to need people to help redevelop and look after the site, as well as deal with the extra issues raised by going official. This ain't no closed shop, just drop us an email and we'll try and involve you in some way.

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Posted by Dan K on Thursday, 1 October 2009
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If you wish to get involved or would like to offer any help then please get touch.

At present you can contact us directly using this email address:
bristoltrailsgroup@gmail.com

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Posted by Dan K on
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What's next for Still Woods?

At present things are a bit uncertain. The existing trails are in ruins, and it's been made clear that any unofficial attempts at rebuilding will be dealt with in the same way.

However, the landowners (Bristol University) have said that they would be willing to work with riders and keep the site open if use can be formalised in some way, and they have a central point of contact to turn to if any issues arise.

There are indications that they would like to limit use of the site for riding, with just three main tracks. Beyond this, we're still not certain what they are prepared to agree to, but we'll let you know when you hear more.

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Posted by Dan K on
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UPDATE: Steve Douglass, the "St" in"Still", has got in touch to say that he remembers starting riding over there in 1997/98, and the first DH tracks were built soon afterwards by riders taking inspiration from the KIS BSX races. We've updated our presentation to include this info. Box from Bad Ass Bikes says he remembers riding over there even earlier, around 1992! The oldest photos we've seen of the tracks are from 2002, but there must be some older ones out there - apparently MBUK did an article which featured the place back in 2000.

If you have any photos or info that can help us show the history of the site, please get in touch.


2001 - 2002 The site starts being used for mountain biking unofficially. At first the site is used for XC riding, then two riders, Steve and Phil, begin making adding features to the routes and eventually purpose-built tracks for more advanced riding are created.



2004 - 2005 In response to concerns over safety, litter and uncontrolled building at the site, members of the University Mountain Bike Club and local riders begin liaising with George Griffith, the University Estates Manager, and Long Ashton Parish Council. A Code of Conduct is agreed for users of the site, there are organised build days and litter picks, and the University club receives a sports development grant from Deloitte which enables tools to be purchased and some of the track to be surfaced.


2006 - 2009 The trail network continues to expand, but the lines of communication between the riders and the University are broken, due to key individuals finishing their education and moving away from the City and personnel changes at the University. Problems with litter and user conflict increase. On 30 October 2009 it is reported that notices have been placed at the site saying that mountain biking will cease. Four days later, all the existing trails are demolished.

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Posted by Dan K on
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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.
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