New lease of life for BMX bike track as forest school plan is approved

PUBLISHED: 08:28 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 08:28 19 October 2018

Hilly Bumps in 2010. Picture: Michael Boyton.

Hilly Bumps in 2010. Picture: Michael Boyton.

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A woodland site in Saffron Walden which has been used as a BMX track for the last eight years has now been designated as a forest school.

On Tuesday, Uttlesford District Council’s cabinet approved the allocation of Clay Pits, known locally as Hilly Bumps, as a forest school for Katherine Semar Infant, Katherine Semar Junior, RA Butler, and St Thomas More schools, along with Bell Nursery and Meadow’s Nursery.

The wooded area is beside Herbert’s Farm, in Saffron Walden, and leased to Uttlesford District Council by Audley End Estate. The lease sets out that pedestrian access is to be given to the whole of the land for “quiet informal recreational or education purposes”.

In 2010, an agreement was reached with Audley End Estate to allow a group of BMX riders to formalise the unofficial BMX track that they had developed. This was on the basis that they maintained the jumps to the cross-country biking standards and undertook the necessary Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) checks.

The BMX group installed a shed and maintained the site in accordance with the 2010 agreement. However, in recent times there had been significant vandalism to the shed along with other anti-social behaviour and the group became disillusioned and left the site.

Uttlesford District Council decided it could either enter into a new agreement with another BMX group, let the town council manage it, or designate the site as a forest school.

The council decided that the school proposal was more in line with the original lease between the council and Audley End Estate.

The schools option requires the existing BMX jumps to be flattened and the area returned to woodland and would cost approximately £3,000.

Once established, it is anticipated that the forest school site would be used several times each week by local schools and nurseries, and the woodland would still be available for use by the general public.

The proposal to allow local schools to use the woodland as a safe environment to explore nature was approved unanimously by cabinet at Uttlesford District Council on Tuesday.

Councillor Simon Howell, cabinet member for finance and administration, said: “This is a wonderful thing for school children to be able to enjoy the outdoors. Before, they had to be transported far away to enjoy a forest school, but now they have it on their doorstep. It’s a really positive thing.”

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