Longer days, warmer days, Spring is a great time to be out in the Countryside. It’s also a pretty busy time for everyone who makes a living in the great outdoors. We caught up with Northumbria TRF member Brian Shepherdson to find out about some of the ways the TRF work with farmers to minimise disruption at this important time of the year.

TRF:

Hi Brian, thanks for taking time to chat to us. What is your role in Northumbria TRF?

Brian:

I am our Rights of Road officer (I’m actually not a big fan of the officer bit!). I’ve been a member of Northumbria TRF for about two years, at our last AGM I put my hand up and volunteered and now here I am. When I joined the club I began to research the situation with NERC and the ‘anti’ groups who are still pushing to ban any sort of MPV use on unsurfaced roads. As an individual you have little chance of fighting back so being part of an organisation like the TRF is really important.

My role in the club is to make sure that I know of any planned TRO’s, the condition of our network and importantly, communicating info to and from our members. Like this voluntary restraint in the north of the county for lambing season.

TRF:

Northumberland is the most northern of the TRF groups. What’s the riding like up your way?

Brian:

Northumberland has so much to offer both on trail bikes and road bikes. You can ride from sea level to elevations that make your ears pop (well mine do!). Northumberland is England’s least populated county and in parts it could be argued the most remote. A lot of our Green Road network takes you well away from any areas of population, you do feel that you are in the wilderness at times.

We can ride from sandy beaches through rich farmland pastures, hill farms, forest and moorland. It’s not all roses though, as with other areas in the country we have our share of illegal riders and 4x4 users who make it difficult to keep good relations with our neighbours. Where we can we try to promote responsible and respectful use of our countryside.

TRF:

So it’s fair to say, that whilst you have a lot of land on your doorstep, Spring time would bring you into contact with a lot of local farmers and livestock? How do you work to minimise impact at this time of year?

Brian:

We come into contact with many other trail users that include farmers and their families, as well as local residents. Some byways go through peoples front yard and we encourage members to ride with particular care in these locations. For the most part this contact has been largely positive. I’ve been offered cups of tea and help when one of the group has broken down, especially from farmers.

Making a living from the land has never been an easy job and I’ve got a huge amount of respect for farmers in Northumberland, many of whom are tenant farmers. Hill farming must be next to being a trawler man in terms of being a tough way to make a living.

This year Northumbria TRF have taken particular steps to identify sensitive areas that we are encouraging voluntary restraint during the months of April and May. These include:


Plantation House UCR + Prendwick to Ingram UCR

Ingram to Fawdon UCR

The Eastern edge of the Cheviots, between Rothbury and Wooler, West of the A697


TRF:

I guess it’s important for trail riders to remember that the field of cute lambs they are riding through is actually someones livelihood and business.

Brian:

Spring time is make or break time for a lot of farmers with livestock in the fields about to give birth. A pregnant ewe might have two lambs inside, that’s about £100. Times that by 100 sheep in a field and you realise you’re riding through £10,000 worth of livestock waiting to be born. You can understand why farmers would want us to either avoid lanes with pregnant ewes, or at the very least ride with utmost care and minimise disturbance to vulnerable livestock.

Trail riders ride for leisure, farmers need to earn a living. When we are on our bikes we are part of the rural community and as such we have a social responsibility to make sure we operate within the countryside code of conduct. It doesn’t take much to slow down and ride with care when close to livestock both in fields and farmyards. The payoff is not just happy sheep, but a greater respect between rural communities and trail riders, which can only be a good thing.

TRF:

Thanks Brian. Enjoy your riding in the spring sunshine!


 
 

How you ride this spring not only has an impact on farmers, but also the conservation of Green Roads. Riding with extra care protects livestock and helps the TRF maintain access to the countryside for all trail riders.

Click here to download 'Go Slow' posters to place in your region.

Thank you.