Not far from where I live, walking distance to be honest, there is a grassy hill surrounded by farmland. Down one side there is a well established hedgerow and down the other there is a small wood. The area is blessed with a good variety of wildlife from Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus), Badger (Meles meles) and Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) not to mention the many different species of birds. however there is one bird missing that used to inhabit the woodland and that is the Barn Owl (Tyto alba). They used to hunt in the woods and the surrounding fields but these days there is a blight on the landscape, that of Mountain Bikers. Although there is a natural gully running through the woods these ‘people’ have created runs with bumps and jumps. To do this they have cleared scrub and cut back many of the young trees, now while this is not generally a problem, many woods are managed in a very similar way, due to the ‘perfect riding conditions’ that have been created there are regularly a good number of people going up and down making so much noise that those of us that want to sit and watch or photograph wildlife do not get the chance because the wildlife stay away from the area. Admittedly the moment the mountain bikers have vacated the area the wildlife come out to play and I am able to get some wonderful photographs, however the one picture I can’t get is that of the barn owl hunting. There have been many attempts to lure them back to the woods but to no avail.
I’m not against people having fun and enjoying themselves but there are plenty of clubs around that these mountain bikers could join and race around properly built and maintained tracks with all the right safety equipment instead of just turning up to a wooded hillside and racing down said hill risking serious injury. As if this wasn’t enough they have now built a couple of ramp jumps right at the bottom of the hill in full view. It annoys me that they feel they have the right to just turn up and take over an area of countryside without thought or care for other users of the area. The local council have now decided that a local field closer to the town center will be turned into a ‘bump and jump’ track for mountain bikers. I’m not sure the local residents will be too thrilled at having vast numbers of people traipsing by there homes every day nor will they be pleased about the level of noise that will inevitably accompany the bikers. However I do hope this will deter them from using the woodland and thus give the area the chance to once again see the magnificent Barn Owl make a much welcome return.
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