The Big Plan: Pedal Progression Moving Forward - Pedal Progression
 

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16 March 2018

The Big Plan: Pedal Progression Moving Forward

For the last five years we have had our home at Ashton Court, where we’ve worked hard to become one of the leading mountain bike skills coaching providers in the UK whilst providing a hire service to match. As tenants of Bristol City Council we’ve seen cuts affect the Estate where we’re based as well as the businesses around us. We’ve also felt the effects ourselves.

This blog isn’t a sob story and it’s certainly not an advert for our business. It’s a plan of how we are moving forward in a time of uncertainty – and we want you to come with us. We believe that community is powerful. We want to solidify and grow Bristol’s riding community, as we find ways for anyone and everyone to connect with it.

If you can’t be arsed with all the (important) details below, scroll to the bottom and there’s a no nonsense summary for you. However, I strongly suggest you read it all!

Difficulties Every Rider Should be Aware Of

When the Nova, Super Nova and Yer Tiz trails were built in 2012, they were backed with a maintenance deal. Local bike supplier Paligap (Marin distributor) took this on, giving £10,000 a year to be spent equally between Ashton Court and Leigh Woods. The deal lasted five years and came to an end with the last of the money being spent in July 2017. Right now the trails are without funding and, as a result, their condition is worsening. We’ve been working with Bristol City Council since January 2017 to try and come to some kind of solution.

I can hear the cynic now saying, “of course you need a solution, your business relies on the trails!” While that is absolutely right, so do so many others. When first built by Architrail, the trails were world class. As a city Bristol has helped spawn world class pedigree, and these trails have been a training ground for this talent. Riders like Matt Jones (European 24hr Champ), Laurie Greenland (current World Downhill #2) and Oli Beckingsale (National XC Champ and Olympic competitor) all cut their teeth here.

The trails have been a gateway for all sorts of people to get into mountain biking too. Do we need to bang on about the health, economic and social benefits of having such a great facility, so near to the city? Probably not, so we won’t. The chances are, whether you used to ride Ashton Court and Leigh Woods, or you still do, you fully understand its value to everybody, not just us.

As I mentioned earlier, Ashton Court is managed by Bristol City Council. Leigh Woods, however, is managed by The Forestry Commission and The National Trust. This has also made things tricky, with each organisation needing to be treated individually due to differences in the way that they operate and approach to mountain bike usage. For some years we’ve had a great relationship with The Forestry Commission. This has led to the continued development of Ashton Hill Plantation (Belmont) and our coaching jump line in Leigh Woods. In time, we hope to be able to secure funds for maintenance and help develop Leigh Woods. But for now, we’ve had to turn our attention to our ‘home’, Ashton Court.

Government Cuts

Over the last few years, government cuts and changes in law have taken their toll on Pedal Progression. When we started, we worked alongside a number of local schools and produced a GCSE syllabus so that students could go mountain biking and learn new skills as part of a PE module. That’s now been stopped and with schools short of money, much of our involvement in schools has ended too, which is truly gutting.

What we wanted to achieve when we set up was a company that would get all kinds of people on mountain bikes, and to offer support and coaching to as many people as we could. We’d like to do more with the over 55’s, schools, disadvantaged children, mental health and mentoring charities. However, we struggle to offer our services at a rate these organisations can afford, with their budgets being slashed too. Luckily, we think that there is a resolution for this as well as the trail issues.

Money

We should point out that the £5,000 a year given to Ashton Court was never enough to sustain the wear and deterioration of the trails. Contractors Architrail found themselves chasing their tails, and in practice only a third of the trail could be maintained on the annual budget. It would take three years until the whole trail had been resurfaced, by which time a third of the trail was two years old. Right now, the trail is in need of a full resurface. It will be costly.

Development

We’re aware that there is a growing demand to see development with the existing trail network in Bristol, as well as concern over the condition that the trails are currently in. With the current situation, there is little hope. Bristol City Council have no money. They are concentrating on ways in which to bring in revenue, rather than maintaining existing facilities such as the trails. While that may sound backwards, it makes sense given their predicament of becoming cost neutral in the next couple of years.

Advocacy outfit ‘Bristol Trails Group‘ have been largely dormant over the last couple of years since founder (and hero) Antony De Heveningham moved cities. Antony and the remaining members back our decision to take the baton and push forwards. They’ll be helping out where they can and will look to maintain 50 Acre woods, as they have been since it was built.

There are several new braids of trail that were planned in the original Nova trail designs. Although planning permission has not yet been sought, there is potential for the trail network to grow within the estate. This will be a time consuming process as Ashton Court’s trails spread across the border into North Somerset Council’s territory. That means there will be two councils to satisfy as well as several other governing bodies who have a say in what’s done on the land. It’s a big task, but not an impossible one.

We’re Stepping In

Pedal Progression some time ago collaboratively decided that we needed to do something to secure the future of what is such a great resource. Our plan is to move from our Limited company status, to become a Community Interest Company (CIC). This is a BIG move for us and will completely change the structure of our business, not only practically but also in terms of our outlook. Bristol City Council have given us their blessing on this and will (once a few more i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed) effectively hand over responsibility to us for trail maintenance.

For us, becoming a CIC has a few huge benefits given the current situation:

  • We can fundraise using charity status
  • We can seek financial support through grants
  • A percentage of our profits must be put back into the community

As a CIC we’d look to co-ordinate fundraising through the local mountain bike community as well as securing grants that will enable us not only to maintain the current trails, but to grow the network too. Some of these grants will also allow us to subsidise the organisations and charities who can’t currently afford our services, meaning that we can get more people shredding bikes.

To become a CIC, there are a number of hoops we have to jump through. It’s by no means a done deal, but we’ve decided to push for it. Neither is a deal settled with Bristol City Council, who currently manage the trails, although we appear to be on the right track and they’re happy with our progress.

In the last 5 years we’ve proved our ability to advocate trail building in Bristol through our partnerships with The Forestry Commission and Bristol City Council. The work we’ve done at Ashton Hill Plantation (Belmont) and the jump line in Leigh Woods serve as evidence for this.

Over the last few months we’ve met with the Mayor and his sports counsellors, British Cycling and a whole bunch of organisations who back us in this project. We believe we have the support to push for some sizeable grants and we hope that you’ll join us in fundraising on a local level too.

 The Diggers Are In This Week!

The good news is we’ve secured £8000 from Bristol City Council. We’re working with Architrail to develop Ashton Court’s existing red trail (Super Nova), which has suffered due to having no maintenance in the last five years. The trail has never flowed particularly well, so we’re redeveloping the top section into something a little more flowy and this will most likely become graded blue. The bottom section will get an overhaul too, and will be redesigned slightly with new lines put in for the eagle-eyed, whilst keeping the rock gardens and drops.

Bristol City Council have entrusted us with this work. With Architrail’s help, we will make these trails far more enjoyable. Massive thanks to Steve Clampin and Tom Southerby at BCC for working hard to secure these funds. Click here to read more on this.

Summary (For Those Who Skipped From The Top)

The trails are going to ruin with no financial support. Pedal Progression are struggling to work with all the groups of people we’d like to work with, due to the current economic climate. To try and resolve both of these issues, we are going to apply to become a charity. This will allow us to apply for funding and our focus will shift to growing the mountain bike community and trail networks in Bristol. After many Council meetings we’ve secured £8000 which is to be spent developing two sections of trail in Ashton Court. The work is starting Monday 19th March and will last two weeks, during which trail diversions will be in place. Now go back and read the whole blog from the top! 😉

Your Support

If you are a trail user (or even if you’re just interested), please keep an eye out for updates. If all goes well and we are granted CIC status and a deal with BCC, there will be opportunities in the future to give financially to the development of the trails and to get involved on a practical level too. Please like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out. We’ll also keep you posted on the current work being carried out in Ashton Court over the next couple of weeks.

Last of all, please share this with your riding friends. We want as many people as possible to be involved with what we’re starting. If your mates ride the trails, they are involved! If you have a skill (or know someone else) that you think will be useful in this process, whether that’s writing proposals, organising fundraising events or hauling stone in wheelbarrows, please get in touch. This needs to be collaborative.

Going forward, we’ll be looking to create some kind of consultation group that can input into how the funds are spent and which parts of the trails get developed. The only reason the current £8000 has been spent without this structure is because there is a lack of time. The funds have to be spent and work completed by the end of March, due to the council’s financial year. The trails will ALWAYS remain free to ride. However, from here on out, any changes and ongoing maintenance will require significant cost. If you want your voice to be heard, speak up and join the conversation. Let’s do this together!

If you’d like to join the Trail Advocacy mailing list for updates, please email matt@pedalprogression.com and I’ll add you on. Alternatively, scroll right to the bottom of this blog, past the video and you can sign up there.

Donations can be paid directly into the trail fund here.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt, Sam & Ollie

 

Email: matt@pedalprogression.com

Call: 0117 973 1298

 

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Matt

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Matt