Cyclists work with conservationists on guidelines for using East Devon Pebblebed Heaths

PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 July 2018

Mountain bike guide Cathy Debenham keeping to the track on Pebblebed Heaths. Picture by Jake Newman, KOR Communications

Mountain bike guide Cathy Debenham keeping to the track on Pebblebed Heaths. Picture by Jake Newman, KOR Communications

Jake Newman, KOR Communications

New guidelines agreed by riders to prevent damage to the landscape or a nuisance to other Heath users

Mountain bike guide Cathy Debenham on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths: picture by Jake Newman, KOR CommunicationsMountain bike guide Cathy Debenham on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths: picture by Jake Newman, KOR Communications

Mountain bikers who enjoy riding along the trails on the Pebblebed Heaths have helped draw up a code of practice aimed at conserving the landscape, and respecting walkers and riders using the same pathways.

The heaths are recognised as one of Europe’s most important conservation sites, with more than 3,000 species of fauna and flora.

The Pebblebed Bike Code, with the message ‘love to ride, love the heath’ has been developed by experts from organisations including the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, the RSPB and the Devon Wildlife Trust, with input from the local mountain biking community. Cathy Debenham from Bike Guide Devon described the code as “a common-sense way mountain bikers can do their bit for nature”.

“The code will help the different users of the commons understand their rights and responsibilities and will hopefully foster understanding about its conservation value,” she said.

Mountain bike guide Cathy Debenham, who welcomes the new code of practice for people cycling on Pebblebed Heaths. Picture by Jake Newman, KOR CommunicationsMountain bike guide Cathy Debenham, who welcomes the new code of practice for people cycling on Pebblebed Heaths. Picture by Jake Newman, KOR Communications

Consideration of other people using the heathland paths is also integral to the code, which asks bikers to slow down and give way to walkers and horse riders, and give them a friendly greeting.

It also requests that they follow the trails, and avoid widening paths or creating new tracks through the undergrowth, to protect the landscape and wildlife. They should not build jumps or modify the trails in any way.

Bikers are asked to make sure they shut gates and be aware of livestock, follow the signs, and report any problems. They must also get the licence required for organised cycling events.

Chris Blasdale runs Execel At Cycling, a company based in Budleigh Salterton which promotes cycling as a healthy and environment-friendly activity and encourages safe and responsible riding.

Mountain bike guide Cathy Debenham, who welcomes the new code of practice for people cycling on Pebblebed Heaths. Picture by Jake Newman, KOR CommunicationsMountain bike guide Cathy Debenham, who welcomes the new code of practice for people cycling on Pebblebed Heaths. Picture by Jake Newman, KOR Communications

“The heaths have a vast number of trails which aren’t too technical, so it’s a fantastic place for mountain bikers,” he said. “We’re lucky to have such unrestricted access to the heaths, but it’s important to be respectful of the landscape and other users – it’s important to look out for one another.”

Other people who contributed to the code of practice were Phil Clayton who runs trail adventures in Exmouth, and Knobblies bike shop in Exmouth.

All the bikers who took part in the consultation have agreed to voluntarily abide by the code of practice.

The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths are mainly owned by Clinton Devon Estates, who set up a Trust to manage and protect them.

A code of practice for dog walkers using the heaths was launched in the spring and another for horse riders will be introduced in the near future.

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