Winchester is a beautiful place and it is great for mountain biking and cycling. Mountain bike wise we don’t have the same technical terrain you can find in the Alps or some of the big national parks in the UK. However, it is a perfect location to introduce people to the joy of mountain biking. Cycling is a sustainable and incredibly efficient way of transport.
Getting to different parts of Winchester expose often cyclists to unnecessary risks as the cycling routes and the complex mosaic of rights of access are not clear as they should be and often less important than the next development planning application. The result is a lack of consistency that mines the willingness to use our bikes to travel into the town centre or across our beautiful countryside. And cycling lanes just aside a busy congested road with traffic lights are not the answer. We should leave that to big cities like London. We are Winchester. We are the King City and we must have a vision and a great exemplary execution.
During the pandemic of 2020, I had to become more “local”. I discovered the joy of the adventure outside your door and Winchester was perfect for this. However, I found myself often surprised by the lack of a consistent and sustainable plan to incentivize local residents to ride more bicycles and to attract tourists to ride between the beauties in our town centre and in the countryside.
I have a lot of friends that are road cyclists (strange creatures!). We mountain bikers call them ‘dark siders”. It is a nice banter with our fellow road cyclists. Unfortunately, almost each of them had severe accidents due to car/truck drivers hitting them or potholes on the main roads. Almost all of them had an accident and some of them unfortunately even died. If then we factor in our narrow countryside lanes and our nice “wet” and “windy” weather we can see a recipe for disaster.
I then add that I’m a father of three girls and I’m so reluctant to allow them to ride to School as the simple act of cycling in/out of the Oliver’s Battery junction is dangerous for a cyclist.
When I speak about it my answer and one of several friends is: this should be addressed better at the country and city council level! But then I recollect John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961… “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
So here is why I feel the need to create this personal “Winchester Mountain Biking and Cycling Vision” based on what I learned in the 15+ years I have been living in Winchester.
I will try to share some ideas here and evolve them with the input of the local authorities and other people’s feedback. My/our objective is to create/agree and quantify a series of ideas/proposals that then we can bring forward together with the relevant local public authorities.
Here are my first thoughts and ideas:
1 – Badger Farm Road: in the local Ordnance Survey map for Winchester there is a bridleway that is linking Oliver’s Battery “Maybush” and the local primary school to the main J11 roundabout. See the picture here:
The Western part of the bridleway is consistently poorly kept, and often overgrown and there is a dangerous part paved with big stones and bricks that can easily cause injuries to both cyclists and horse riders. The eastern part however does not exist! I have plenty of friends that are riding to work or ride to enjoy the Southdown. It is such a pity that we can’t bring back this beautiful bridleway to its splendour and possibly find funds for a small over/underpass.
2 – Oliver’s Battery to Kings School: better cycle routes/lanes IN/OUT of Oliver’s Battery are a critical priority. Today we are putting cyclists at risk, particularly in bad weather. We should prioritize opening Mountain View Road to the cyclists, we just need a 50cm opening on the current bars. And then build a cyclist’s overpass to link Oliver’s Battery to Winchester City Village and then to Kings. This will allow students and residents to cycle to school/town avoiding congestion and traffic.
3 – Oliver’s Battery to St.Peters School. At the junction, there is an underpass but reaching it from Oliver’s Battery is risky as the footpath is very narrow and once you are there it can be ridden only on one side as coming into Oliver’s Battery you have stairs. Again I think an over/under pass starting possibly closer to Mountain View road would be much safer and more convenient.
4 – Oliver’s Battery Texas Field is an Area of Community Value however I believe that between Texas Field and Compton Down we definitely have an Area of Outstanding Beauty. The fields are always full of people enjoying the sunrise and the sunset and the paths in Compton Down are simply outstanding. We should define three/four mountain biking trails between Texas Field, Compton Down and Hursley. This will involve a dialogue with the landowners and the support of the local authorities to create something that is not mining but creating value for both the landowners, the residents and shops.
– I have several other proposals. Some of them are ambitious like creating an independent cycle/walking path linking Compton Street to the Winchester Station starting in Attwoods Drove and ending up in Lower Stanmore Lanes passing through Bushfield Farm and Camp. This will cross Proposal 1 starting to create an amazing network of cycle routes linking together our beautiful countryside. I have several plans for linking Oliver’s Battery to Compton and Hursley as well as linking Hursley to Fairley Mount again without hitting any tarmac.
I’m inviting other cyclists/residents to join, comment and discuss these priorities to make them happen. I know this can create conflicts and discussions but I’m sure we can find a solution together also with the landowners to identify behaviours and personal returns to support making Winchester the best place in England to cycle.
Please visit my website again in a few months or send me your email if you want to get more updates on this personal vision and if you want me share the beautiful rides I discovered and created over the years here in Winchester. More people should be enjoying our beautiful countryside while being more healthy and active.
We can make it happen together.
Title: “Winchester Mountain Biking and Cycling Vision”