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Mountain bikers damaging Exeter woods

Ancient woodland threatened by trail-builders

A surge in mountain bike trail building is damaging a protected beauty spot on the outskirts of Exeter.

Stoke Woods, a legally protected ancient woodland with sensitive wildlife that includes dozens of types of nesting birds, is being churned up and disturbed by irresponsible visitors. It's a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the large number of breeding birds supported by the carefully managed habitat, much of which is ancient woodland.

Any illegal interference can easily damage sensitive soils, disrupt the wildlife, and cause lasting harm. Forestry England carries rigorous checks and processes before carrying out any forest operation or creating any new walking or cycling trails, including monitoring for protected species, such as badger setts and nesting birds. The individuals who are damaging the nation’s woodlands have no such regard for the wildlife that calls the forest home.
Rob Greenhalgh, Forestry England community ranger, said: “As we’re coming out of lockdown, it truly saddens me to see some people using their increased freedom to create new mountain bike trails which are damaging this special habitat, destroying and disturbing wildlife. It is unacceptable and illegal. We know that outdoor exercise is important for our physical and mental wellbeing, which is why we provide professionally-designed and challenging mountain bike facilities at Haldon Forest Park and numerous other sites around England. There is no excuse for the damage that we are finding on a daily basis.”
If anyone has any information about illegal trail building the forest, please contact Forestry England on

Damage at Stoke Woods Exeter is said to have been caused by mountain bikers (courtesy: Forestry England)

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