Mountain biking and cycling can help restore these landscapes and eco-systems by helping finance, and by taking direct action, to stimulate ecological restoration.
An example would be land that is intensely farmed and close to a river. This can amplify the river health and flooding problems mentioned earlier.
Currently, the economics of farming push farmers into intensification. Bad policy, public disconnect with the good that farmers do and the odd rogue, bad-actor farmer have all contributed to this.
Diversifying what rural landscapes do economically might help alleviate this situation. We could then potentially work with landowners and farmers to restore landscapes to lush pasture (using ruminants), clover meadows, forest or heathland and rivers could be protected, carbon-sequestering topsoil could be rebuilt and public access could be promoted.
Far from being a non-functional landscape, it would very much be functioning, albeit in a different way. The same principle can be applied to all land types that are marginal or denuded.
The proposed ELMS subsidy scheme goes some way to making this a realistic goal, as does what farms like Ingram Valley and College Valley are doing on the ground. When you speak to a lot of farmers, they really know their stuff but the economics are a stymying factor.
If, as mountain bikers, we could follow the BMC’s lead and partake in tree planting days, montane scrub restoration, help make regenerative agriculture financially viable, heather planting - or whatever is appropriate for that land - we could also make a very strong case for getting access to land, based around more than just a social equity level. We are becoming part of a transformational agricultural system.
We would be combining social benefits, environmental benefits, and economic benefits in one move.
The case for projects like this has often unraveled due to economics and scope complexity. We should also ensure they are driven by communities and are not top-down investment heavy vanity projects.
But we now understand that to ignore nature is to jeopardize our economy and live’s for the long term, and a wide scope should not scare us.
Looking beyond the thrill of the ride and assessing how we can benefit the environment, rather than treat it is as just a playground, we can not only help protect and increase our access, we can help protect the very world that we rely on for our health, and our fun. That's exciting.