Looking Back & Looking Forward

As one year draws to a close it’s a good time to look back at what has passed, and onwards to what is to come.

2018

2018 has seen a tentative meeting with DIO fizzle out to nothing, in spite of the meeting minutes recording further contact. We have witnessed the imposition of fences and locked gates when the lands behind them seem underused and empty. Granted the gates have been unlocked at times, but its fair to say 2018 has been a difficult year for access. We now wonder if the tentative meeting with DIO was not conducted with good faith, just a box ticking exercise? We will continue to remind MOD of their obligations to open the gates when the land is not in use for military training, and a lack of manpower to lock and unlock gates must not be used as an excuse to restrict or limit public access.

2019 And Beyond

Looking forward the community may well be faced with significant changes in 2019. If the planned review of the Bylaws that govern the land are on track then we will see the draft laws published for consultation. TAG have no idea what changes are planned, but with MOD in charge of authoring the laws we can predict who they will favour – and as we have seen with fences encroaching on access, MOD have demonstrated imposition is their preferred means and consultation with the local community as unnecessary. The laws will be subject to consultation, but will this be meaningful? Or a box ticking exercise?

We are all part of a community that shares a love of the Military Lands. We all need to get along and remember it might be a dog walker/jogger/cyclist/equestrian that could be the one who steps up and helps when things go wrong. Would anyone refuse to help or be helped by the others? No, of course we wouldn’t. Everyone I pass is greeted with a “Hi” or “Hello” and very few fail to return the greeting…helping a fellow rider with a broken chain or a dog walker locate their missing pet is all part of small gesture intended to make the world a slightly better place. The community is better for it.

So as we head into 2019 perhaps now more than ever the joggers, equestrians, dog walkers and MTB riders may be forced to work together for a greater good; ensuring the Bylaw review maintains or extends the right of recreation on the lands. The vast majority are not opposed in any way to military training and no one wants to disrupt troops at work. The TAG guidelines make it clear such activities take priority. But when the lands are empty of troops responsible recreation for all must not only welcomed, but also required for the physical and mental health of all of us.

It’s a bit of an old cliché, but it’s nice to be nice. Lets make 2019 a happier, more community spirited year. As we ride, it’s worth remembering that we are all ambassadors for the sport we love, and to be mindful of others who use the land too.

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5 thoughts on “Looking Back & Looking Forward

  1. Thanks for your efforts Simon they are appreciated by many! David Turner

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Simon, I found your comments, as ever, both very relevant and balanced in terms of thinking through how we can get the DIO to be more responsive and open minded to options to allow recreational users safe access to Army land when the troops are not using it. Taking your point that the Army sometimes claims that it doesn’t have people available to unlock and lock gates, I wondered if you’d considered the possibility of a rota of volunteers to carry out those tasks. I’m also conscious (having lived in Ash) that the Army publish dates on line when the Ranges there are in use. Could we try to get teh DIO to publish dates (even a week or a month in advance) when the Army land around Aldershot and Farnborough is open to the public? That would enable us to organise a rota of volunteers.

    • This idea of a community-lead team to help DIO achieve its aim of enabling a safe place for the army to train in – namely supplying free labour to secure and unlock gates/warning signs etc – has been considered within TAG. We think its not only workable but would likely be embraced by the local community as a positive thing, supporting join aims.

      With DIO currently not engaging with TAG we see very little point in sending another email or putting another phone call in only to see it remain unacknowledged, let alone responded to. It is regrettable such a position is taken by a public body but to present such an option now would almost certainly be a waste of our time.

      As for publication of when lands are in use, this again has been mooted. Many persist with the concept of a security risk, yet the TAG report has questioned this argument and its validity. To date, no rebuttal has been given. Its all about risk management, with the risks of and to recreational users balanced against those who may wish to do harm…right now we are left wondering if the risks posed by us are not as great as the unknown, what harm are we really doing or what risks are we really exposed to? “Not much” seems to be the logical answer.

      Looking forward it is all to easy to see the local community become frustrated with DIO’s approach to engagement and will simply tire of the status quo. How this frustration may be expressed is currently unknown, but an unfavourable bylaw review – one perhaps that seeks more control/less access/more restrictions – may prove to be a tipping point that causes long term damage to the very healthy relationship between troops and locals? Time will tell on that score.

      • Thanks Simon. If you’re putting together a rota, I’d be happy to offer to participate in opening and closing gates to everyone’s advantage, as you say

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