New BMX jump track for Barnstaple

Some of the many people that build and ride at the BMX dirt jump track that until now had informally

Some of the many people that build and ride at the BMX dirt jump track that until now had informally existed in Barnstaple, but is about to become official. Pictured are Lee Parker, Ben Hommell, Ryan Crook, Toby Parker and Jess Pearse. - Credit: Archant

‘Kids with shovels’ work with council to create an official BMX freestyle jump area at Rock Park.

BMX bikers in Barnstaple have taken their feet off the pedals and picked up shovels to turn their dream of the town’s first official dirt jump track into reality.

The riders themselves have been working with the authorities to make it possible for a new freestyle jump area to be created on an unused part of Rock Park – and the first turf cut is set to take place within the week.

It all began when the Rock Park skate park opened in 2009 – plans had been proposed for a BMX jump track, but it never came to fruition.

Instead, local riders began using the old pitch and putt bunkers as jumps, and then adding to them to create a series of ramps.

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“For all those years people have been building, riding and adding – it was literally built with shovels by the local kids,” said Toby Parker, one of the first to start using the site.

“It’s a freestyle side of riding, but there’s literally nowhere in Devon – I think the nearest is at Portreath in Cornwall.

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“After a while everyone took it on as their own patch of land, cutting the grass, picking up litter, it was a little community up there. It became more popular, more was built and even professional riders have used it, including a few Red Bull riders who stopped off last summer and did a video there.”

Eventually the authorities did take note, and North Devon Council sent an email worried about a lack of insurance, but rather than conflict, the two groups began meeting to work out a solution.

The ‘kids with shovels’ are now adults and formed the new Barnstaple BMX Club, arranging insurance, risk assessments and working closely with Richard Slaney of NDC’s sports and leisure department.

A professional track designer was asked to check the site’s safety and although it was mostly approved, there was concern it was too close to trees and it was proposed to rebuild the jumps further across the field.

The council, which owns the land, has approved a licence for use, and Phil Vanstone of Phil Vanstone Contractors Limited has offered use of heavy earthmoving equipment for the work.

“Now we can build something for all age groups,” said Toby.

“Richard Slaney has been the one who has stuck with it, because it would have been so easy for us just to be told to take it down.

“The club are riders who have been meeting up there for years, a mix of ages and backgrounds – we have younger kids, college students, tradesmen and even firemen.”

Weather permitting, it is hoped the new jump track can be completed by the spring.

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