‘Mindless’ trail bikers cause nature-reserve damage

Trail bike tracks, looking towards Carter Bar.
Trail bike tracks, looking towards Carter Bar.

A group of trail bikers have been branded ‘mindless’ after they caused substantial damage to an ‘internationally important’ Northumberland beauty spot, which could take decades to recover.

Staff and volunteers at Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) have been left deeply upset and angered at the destruction caused to its Whitelee nature reserve, which is located at the head of Redesdale.

Trail bike tracks on blanket bog.

Trail bike tracks on blanket bog.

The wildlife charity received reports that trail bikes had been ridden on the site over the Christmas break, but didn’t know the extent of the damage until the ground had thawed.

Upon inspection, it is evident that the bikes entered at Carter Bar and were driven directly up the hill onto the blanket bog.

Such an act is extremely damaging to the bog surface – just one pass with the bikes and the vegetation could take decades to recover. The Trust says it is immensely frustrating as it is trying to repair the blanket bog at great expense in this area.

Geoff Dobbins, NWT senior reserves officer, said: “For the past 18 years I have been working on our Whitelee reserve with hundreds of volunteers who have given up so much time and turned out in all weathers.

“To see such wanton destruction of an internationally-important site is heartbreaking; it will take decades to recover from this one mindless act; what may appear to be barren land to some is internationally important for its habitats and the species they support.”

Whitelee Moor is one of Britain’s most important upland nature reserves. A large part of its 1,508 hectares is rare blanket bog habitat which is home to a variety of plants including sphagnum mosses, cloudberry, bog asphodel and cotton grasses.

The site, which is a National Nature Reserve, Site of Specific Scientific Interest and a Special Area for Conservation was bought by NWT in 1999, following a public appeal and assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Steve Lowe, head of conservation at NWT, said: “This is such a mindless act on an extremely fragile habitat which the Trust and its hard working volunteers have been trying to maintain for the public benefit.

“Peatlands counteract the effects of climate change by locking up carbon, but this is a gradual process which has been destroyed in a few seconds by a selfish few trail bikers.

“Unfortunately, we are starting to see this kind of action more frequently, especially along the coast – it needs to be stopped as it is vandalism and incredibly anti-social.”

The lower slopes of the reserve, the heather moorland is home to birds such as red grouse, merlin, buzzard, peregrine falcon, hen harrier, skylark, stonechat and meadow pipit. Insects such as the northern eggar moth and ringlet, small heath and green veined butterflies.