Does the trail end here?

Posted: November 9, 2008 in random
Tags: ,

sunday-0581

One of the highlights of my recent holiday in the South of Spain was the day I spent trailbiking in the Andalucian Mountains and foothills. It really was one of the best days out I’ve had in ages. I own a road bike and would consider myself a fairly capable rider but I’ve never really done much off road stuff (unless you count riding round my garden on a scrambler when I was 12).

I booked with an English run company, Andalucian Trailtours and on the day it ended up being me, another English guy and our English guide. We rode for basically the whole day and covered approximately 130km of off road tracks and trails with only small bits of tarmac connecting them. The scenery was fantastic and the experience was made all the more exciting (and tricky) by the flash floods which had affected the area 2 days earlier. For example we arrived at the crossing pictured above and the guide said “Oh..eh…this river isn’t normally here…..I’ve no idea how deep it is……let’s just go for it anyway!”

What amazed me was the extent of access for trailbikes though these mountains. It would be a bit like me turning up to Donard park (Mournes, Newcastle) and riding up to ‘the saddle’.

Which got me thinking. This is a sport I would love to be able to do locally. Sadly there seems to be little opportunity for any extent of trailbiking in Northern Ireland and a general dislike of any off road vehicles. Trailbiking does not seem to be considered to be particularly ‘PC’. Most areas are ‘protected’ and access is restricted to hiking only. Even access for mountainbikers seems poor and lags well behind other European countries.

But why should this be – is what I’m looking for really all that bad? I’m all for protecting the environment but I’m also all for the countryside being accessible to all sorts of groups to enjoy it.  Would it really be such a bad thing to have certain tracks and trails designated for different activities -some for hiking, some for mountain biking and some for motor vehicles – perhaps even for 4x4s so that all those city folk could let their cars stretch their legs. And relatively speaking, I’m talking about a small controlled area. I understand the environmental argument but let’s be realistic – the impact on nature would be minimal and would be outweighed by the benefits – an increase in tourism, potential revenue for local authorities etc and most importantly people having the freedom to enjoy themselves in the great outdoors. Take skiing for example – no-one seems to complain about the environmental impact of this sport. But the continued use of pistes damages the underlying vegetation and disturbs the natural wildlife, and think of all the coal that needs to be burned to create the electricity to power the ski lifts. But who cares?! In the scheme of things it’s on a relatively small scale, it makes excellent use of the land and people love doing it. A trail biking area wouldn’t need to be nearly as big as a ski resort.

The locals in Andalucia seem to totally accept & welcome the trailbikes which if nothing else brings more tourists to the area. Having designated tracks or areas would also be likely to reduce maverick motocrossers who illegally ride on protected land giving the rest of us a bad name.

How amazing would it be to be able to ride up to the Hare’s Gap for example. Unfortunately unless I’m elected first minister I’m unlikely to see it in my lifetime. In the meantime I’ll just need to look into significantly increasing my carbon footprint by travelling to the mainland or across to Europe if I want to satisfy my appetite for my new found hobby. Shame…

sunday-0511

sunday-0731

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Comments
  1. Here’s a deal for you – back my campaign for First Minister and you can be minister of the DOE…

  2. I’d be there if it wasn’t for that 1 photo all those yrs ago…

  3. And with that, the house of cards came tumbling down…

  4. qmonkey says:

    count me in.. sounds like great ole craic!

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