Council looks to puts brakes on illegal mountain biking at Thurstaston Hill

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Thurstaston Hill is being damaged by mountain bikers who have taken to building their own courses at the beauty spot.

The area is designed a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England due to the habitat and wildlife it contains, meaning cycling is not permitted.

The ‘track’ which cyclists have built at Thurstaston and other protected sites involved them digging up some of the land, causing damage that is in breach of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act for England and Wales.

Now, Wirral Council is promising to work with local mountain bike enthusiasts to identify suitable alternative locations for them to enjoy their hobby and hone their skills.

Thurstaston Common has previously also been damaged by fire. Photo credit: Mark Irvine

Thurstaston Common is underlain by Triassic sandstone and the varied habitats include wet and dry heaths, acidic marshy grassland and deciduous woodland with birch and oak.

Birds that breed include the sparrowhawk, tawny owl, great spotted woodpecker, lesser spotted woodpecker, Eurasian jay, redpoll and linnet.

Cllr Liz Grey, Chair of the Environment and Climate Emergency Committee on Wirral Council, said: “We are extremely blessed to have so many special areas of unique, natural beauty on our doorstep – there are 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Wirral in total, and many more designated nature reserves.

“It is fantastic that residents and visitors alike want to enjoy them and indeed our sites regularly attract people from all over the world to come over and analyse the rare habitat and species that are found here.

“But while we want as many people as possible to enjoy Wirral at its finest, in some areas we have to prevent certain activities in order to protect nature. That is the case at Thurstaston Common and other sites, such as Caldy Hill and Heswall Dales.

“We recognise the benefits of cycling and we recognise the importance to people’s health and mental wellbeing to be outdoors exercising, particularly in the current climate. It is easy to see why these areas are attractive to people who love the sport of trail biking, but it just cannot be sanctioned in nature reserves or SSSIs.”

Wirral Way sign
Off-road riding is permitted along the Wirral Way

Officers from a number of departments within the council will be on site regularly, engaging with those looking to take part in mountain biking.

Staff from Parks and Countryside and Sports Development will be looking to work with cyclists to identify potential alternative sites for off-road cycling in the borough, including the kind of trail riding that people had tried to establish at Thurstaston.

There are already a range of cycle routes along Wirral’s network of bridleways, where off-road riding is permitted.

A list of public rights of way and paths suitable for off-road cycle tracks in Wirral can be found at https://www.wirral.gov.uk/parking-roads-and-travel/public-rights-way/public-rights-way-wirral.

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