Warning to ‘small minority’ putting lives at risk in woodland near Sidmouth

Harpford Woods. Ref shs 26-16SH 0410. Picture: Simon Horn.

Harpford Woods. Ref shs 26-16SH 0410. Picture: Simon Horn. - Credit: Archant

Ancient Harpford Woods are being damaged by actions of mountain bikers

A ‘small minority’ of mountain bikers are ‘putting lives at risk’ and damaging ancient woodland near Sidmouth.

The police and landowner Clinton Devon Estates have issued a stark warning to people who are breaking the law by digging pits and building jumps in Harpford Woods and say they ‘won’t hesitate to prosecute’.

Walkers have permissive rights through the 180 acres of privately-owned ancient woodland, but cycling and horse riding are only allowed along the designated bridleway.

The estates’ head of forestry and environmental economy, John Wilding, said: “The woods are a particularly beautiful part of the countryside. The Woodland Trust describes them as a quiet and majestic place with wonderful ferns and spectacular trees. But we’ve recently found that mountain bikers have been damaging this precious environment. Whoever is doing this is putting their own lives at risk, as well as posing a threat to forestry workers.

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“If a biker were to have an accident, they could be quite a long way from help. Furthermore, our workers and contractors use machinery which could easily be overturned by unexpected pits, with obvious results.

“We know the woods are loved and respected by thousands of people who visit the area each year, and we’re more than happy to welcome them. It seems a small minority of bike riders don’t share their feelings.”

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Sergeant Andy Squires of Sidmouth’s Neighbourhood Police Team said: “This is a case of criminal damage of private property and we take such activity very seriously. There is a very real risk that a forestry worker or a rider could be injured or worse.

“We will be extending our patrols to Harpford Woods and won’t hesitate to seek to prosecute offenders. The police are not out to spoil anyone’s fun but when a crime is occurring, we will deal with it.”

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or email 101@dc.police.uk

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