|The man was standing there, looking at me. Maybe
in his late forties/early fifties, he was dressed like Xmillion security
guards in his navy sweater/tie combo. In the same instant it took
to register him came the immortal words that must send shivers up
the spine of every Street rider making the most of some railings in
a concrete jungle full of dinosaurs:
"YOU CAN'T DO THAT HERE".
I've never really ridden 'Street'. I like trials,
though I'm pretty bad and my bike's just too big for it, but I always
went for logs over park benches. Grass banks over wall-rides. But
now I feel some empathy with them. Feeling persecuted like an outlaw
when you're just trying to have fun on your bike, not trying to
hurt anyone or anything.
"I didn't realise this land was private"
I responded. I didn't want a fight, I couldn't judge his mood and
he had a rather menacing looking turf cutter in his hand. Still,
I didn't want to just ride away from my spot without knowing why.
"ALL LAND IS PRIVATE" came the reply. The
statement washed over me for a second. There may be some truth to
it, you certainly can't assume you can ride somewhere because there's
nothing stopping you, but hundreds of people walk by this place
every day, it's just a few feet from the path. How can that few
feet make all the difference when there is no physical boundary,
no signs, no reason to believe it's anything but open land?
"I'M THE PARK WARDEN. THIS LAND BELONGS TO THEM"
He pointed at the building in the distance. It belonged to a global
computer company. The company were responsible for the huge business
park wher the building stood which brought jobs and prosperity to
many in this area.
"THIS IS A NATURE RESERVE BUT THE KIDS ON BIKES
HAVE CUT DOWN ALL THESE BUSHES AND DAMAGED THE BANKS".
Oh, I forgot to say- in order to provide all this
prosperity they built over acres of countryside, forcing hundreds
of species to move from their habitats and increasing polluting
emissions in the area. Shafting nature would seem right up their
street wouldn't it? Far from it. To balance the wholsale destruction
of ecology in the area they developed a beautiful nature reserve
in the grounds of their complex. It's a haven for birds, water fowl
and all sorts of creatures and is a really nice place. But I'm afraid
nature will always be the best landscape gardener and it looked
a lot bigger and a hell of a lot nicer before they got involved.
Given that they have put so much money and effort
into the nature reserve, I was intrigued to learn that this piece
of scrub land was a one too. I wonder, is every green bit of the
map owned by them a 'nature reserve'? Could this be a handy justification
for kicking anyone off their land that they don't want there? Who
knows, and anyway, it doesn't matter if it is an excuse because
they don't need one- it's their land and if they don't want you
there it's tough.
It's true that there must be animals and birds that
live around the trails. Just as there are animals and birds living
off every bridleway in the UK. I would never advocate destruction
of natural habitat to enable us to ride there. I consider myself
'nature neutral'- I will fit in with the countryside and not the
other way round. But what these 'kids on bikes' have done, does
it even register when compared to what this and many other huge
corporations have done to once beautiful green areas? I can see
no evidence of chopping down, The whole area is awash with bushes
and foliage and I can see nothing in the run-off from the banks
that looks like roots. Whatever they did to it, It didn't have much
impact on the wildlife.
The banks- well they have been shaped. The only obvious
difference to me is the lack of grass. I can't see the need for
cutting into the banks, but I also can't see that it could possibly
have caused devastation to the surrounding ecosystem. It certainly
pales into insignificance compared to several million tonnes of
I got the impression the park warden was being honest.
He's not the face of a giant corporation, I think you have to appreciate
nature to do his job. But would he do this to someone walking their
Would he buffalo. If big companies want to put something
back into the community, above and beyond the contractual obligations
that came with the planning permission, how about somewhere for
local kids to ride their bikes? You've given us miles more tarmac,
how about liberating some dirt for us to ride on? We don't have
forests in in my town, we have business parks. They create jobs,
feeding our children with one hand and robbing them of space to
be free with the other.
Maybe "ALL LAND IS PRIVATE" is a little
dogmatic. So here's some more dogma:
ALL PROPERTY IS THEFT.
It's not true either, but when I can't ride this dirt
on my doorstep and have to drive fifteen miles instead, I can't
help feeling a little robbed.
The shutter clicked, and the final photo was
taken. Not quite the all action image I had planned, it showed my
feet and a lot of dusty bank. I may go back, but if I never visit
my trails again that photo will be a fitting reminder of an opportunity
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