Trails for Wales: Ally Campbell

Ally Campbell is one half of the well-regarded Campbell Coaching and works with mountain bikers in two different parts of Wales. She’s also a keen supporter of the Trails for Wales campaign, so we thought it’d be interesting to get her opinion on the issue of increasing access in the country…

Ally Campbell and family
Ally Campbell and family

First of all, tell us a bit about yourself?

I have been focused on teaching MTB skills here in Wales for over 10 years now. Based in the Afan Forest Park in South Wales but also have another private skills area based in Llangollen, just 15min from Llandegla. Mother of a crazy three year old and wife to Bob! Ride a Juliana Furtado and Rubion.

What do you think of the current access system in Wales?

We have a great system of trail centres and there is OK access to public rights of way however most if not all riders will end up riding something that is currently ‘illegal’ in some way most of the time. If we can open up more of it as per the current proposal then there is a great opportunity to expand the network massively with minimal real costs. We also have to ensure that people are being responsible too though and play our part more in looking after the network and the environment – however the potential is truly amazing if we can all play our part and actually make this work.

How does it compare to other places you’ve ridden?

I have been really lucky in that I have traveled quite a bit and ridden and paddled all over the World from Central Europe to Norway, Canada, Chile, Equador, Turkey and Iran. Most of these other locations manage to reduce the conflicts between user groups to a level where they can all ‘ tolerate’ and get on with each over. We were in Livingo in Italy the other year and Norway last year and shared the trail with walkers, horses and MX bikes who all seemed to work out who was at ‘most risk’ at the time of meeting and gave way appropriately, really nice to see.

Also you can often see that local authorities and businesses really ‘valued’ the additional tourism benefits of having a fairly open access policy. Local business often helped out waymarking the trails and helped out with maintiance etc.

Unfortunately here in the UK we have been ‘segregated’ so much that a lot of people have forgotten how to ‘share the trail’ and lots have never been taught it yet!

How do you think the country would benefit if the access system was changed?

Well, for a start I am sure my business would grow, there are more and more people getting in to cycling and MTB, expanding the available network through additional PROW access will importantly allow more people to get out ‘locally’ from their homes here in Wales and hopefully start to help reduce our terrible activity levels across all age groups but especially among both our younger and older generations and also help reduce some current barriers to off-road cycling like travel and costs.

From a tourism point of view there is an obvious enormous potential to massively expand the available riding network, map it and publicise it and really make Wales an even more attractive proposition to riders, both within the rest of the UK and also importantly Globally.

What would be the main benefit for you personally if it was changed?

As well as also expanding the local riding here outside the official trail network in the Afan Valley there would be a great opportunity to go and explore some other areas of Wales that I have not ridden in.

How do you feel it would affect your coaching business? With more trails opening up, do you think more people look for coaching to improve their skills?

Yes I do, from a business point of view I would feel confident investing in more ‘entry level’ courses for people to get in to riding initially and also expanding the current courses to give riders a slightly wider range of skills – as well as bringing in a strong ‘responsibility’ section in each course to ensure we start to educate riders to ‘share’ the outdoors with everyone and to not treat every trail they ride on like it is in a ‘bike park’.

And how would you celebrate if these proposals were implemented?

Hmm not sure, think I would ring round some friends in North Wales and arrange a family day out someplace really different, there are too many to chose!

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