Hitting the trails

Take yourself back to the big debates of your childhood.

Chopper or BMX? Silver tassels from the handlebars or iron pegs on your back wheels?

We’ve all got memories of cycling as a child: from the moment the stabilisers come off to the first cycle ride to school. They’re etched on the mind.

But for how much longer?

Yesterday, sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, launched their Campaign for Safer Streets. Arguing that every child has the right to a safe journey to school, they’re calling on government to impose 20mph limits in built up areas, invest in cycling and walking routes, and give more support for cycling and walking in local communities.


“Giving children the opportunity to walk, scoot of cycle the school run is vital to their health and wellbeing so making our roads safe enough that they can do this must be a top priority”, explained Sustrans’ chief executive Malcolm Shepherd.

Cycling and walking makes sense. It’s good for people and good for the environment.

We’re trying to do our bit to make jumping on the saddle that bit more attractive; from working with Sustrans to link our properties to National Cycle Networks and rewarding for those who arrive by bike, to developing dedicated cycle trails on our properties. In Yorkshire and the North East they’ve developed a cyclists’ charter, telling cyclists what they can expect from us. In Plymouth, a Sustrans National Cycle Network links the historic house of Saltram with the woodland trails of the Plym Valley.

Whether you’ve got silver tassels on your handlebars or iron pegs on your back wheels, cycling is really good fun when you’re a child. You’re not that interested in the benefits to your health or the way it’s reducing your carbon footprint. Mostly, you just want to go fast; preferably somewhere muddy.

Cycling’s fun – as well as good for you. That’s why going on a really long bike ride is number eleven on our 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾. Like all the 50 things, it’s designed to be done anywhere – not just at a National Trust place.

That said, we’re investing in new trails at our places, introducing families to off-road biking with fun, family friendly paths. At Leigh Woods on the edge of Bristol, a new purpose built trail has seen visitor numbers rocket eightfold since it opened at the beginning of the year. Clumber Park boasts 20 miles of traffic free trails that have proven popular with residents of nearby Nottingham.

Buoyed by this success, we’re keen to do more to promote cycling to and at National Trust places, opening up more of our land to cyclists.

Like Sustrans we’re concerned about a generation of ‘indoor children’, growing up without a connection to the natural world. And like Sustrans, we’ve joined new movement the Wild Network to connect with other organisations who want to get kids in the UK back to nature.

With recent news that the number of people cycling regularly is falling, it’s never been more important to get people out of the house and onto the saddle.


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