Bike challenge cancelled after land wrangle

PUBLISHED: 12:02 07 August 2006 | UPDATED: 09:42 24 May 2010

ONE of the biggest and longest-running events on the Cheddar calendar has been unexpectedly cancelled. The Cheddar Challenge mountain bike race, which attracts hundreds of fans and villagers, will not take place this year. The popular and notoriously

ONE of the biggest and longest-running events on the Cheddar calendar has been unexpectedly cancelled.The Cheddar Challenge mountain bike race, which attracts hundreds of fans and villagers, will not take place this year.The popular and notoriously tough race has taken place in Cheddar Wood, just above Broadway Lodge in Axbridge Road, for 18 years. It marks the end of the mountain biking season and traditionally villagers join in the 'festival atmosphere' and camp near the circuit.But organisers say they have been 'forced' to cancel the three-day event because English Nature has decided some of the land, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is too important for mountain bikers to ride over. Many entrants have already paid their fee to take part in the September spectacular.Promoter David Moore says in a statement on the event's website: "It is with great regret that I have to cancel the Cheddar Challenge."The decision has been forced upon me by Somerset Nature Conservation and English Nature who in their wisdom have decided that I do not look after the SSSI, which is part of our cross country route, sufficiently well enough for them to grant me permission to continue the event even though we are part landowners."English Nature's conservation officer for the area, Simon Lee, said: "From our point of view, our interest is the protection of Cheddar Wood and the SSSI."It is a site of international heritage, has particularly high status and is one of the top sites in Europe."We have not said there should be no Cheddar Challenge, that decision has been taken by the organisers."What we have said is that we are not happy for the event to take place within the woodland but it should take place on public rights of way, such as roads and footpaths."Parts of the race already take place on the footpaths and we are quite happy for that to continue.

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