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13 November 2014

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Wildlife, walkers and wheels

Deepcut D1 Military Training Area is fast becoming a battleground between local residents, wildlife groups, and motorcycle enthusiasts who pay to use the land for scrambling events.

The heathland is situated on the Maultway in Camberley and is owned and managed by Defence Training Estates.

The area boasts some spectacular views towards Guildford and London. It is bisected by two public bridleways and is popular with local walkers, cyclists, dog owners and wildlife enthusiasts.

Although the use of private motorcycles is strictly prohibited, organised scrambling events are officially allowed, and bike clubs pay the MOD for using the land.

UNDER THREAT

Recently, the number of these events has increased and locals say that the resident wildlife is under threat and the land is being damaged.

View

The view to Guildford from the heath

The MOD say they spend an enormous amount of time, effort and money preserving and restoring the conservation interests of the estate. They consider the land as a public amenity land and told BBC Surrey "it is enjoyed by many for all sorts of activities from orienteering, to dog walking to motor sports."

In a statement they told us: "We work in partnership with Natural England (the Government agency that champions the conservation of wildlife) and other Non Government Bodies to conserve the estate and where and when we can, we take pride in allowing the local community to enjoy our estate."

Although they say the land is "not designated for conservation purposes", it is immediately adjacent to Lightwater Country Park, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA). 

The MOD are keen to point out that "We do not allow non military activities to take place on designated sites during the bird breeding season", which according the RSPB, runs from early March to late June.

Dartford Warbler

The Dartford Warbler

Residents argue that the close proximity of area D1 to the country park, means the resident wildlife is the same, and therefore should be protected in a similar way.  The heathland in the Borough supports significant populations of Dartford Warbler, nightjar and woodlark, as well as the Silver-studded Blue butterfly, deer, adder, bats and other species.

There are at least six scheduled motocross events between the 5th April and the 22nd July 2009, which locals say is too many.

TRADITION

However, this area does have a long history of motocross.

The sport is believed to have originated on the heathland, when on the 29th March 1924 "a rare old scrambles on Camberley Heath" took place. The event was called the Southern Scott Scramble. 

Although motorbike enthusiasts were riding off-road years before, it is generally recognised to be the first official competition in the sport of scrambling. There were 80 starters on the 2.5 mile course, but only 40 finished.

Early motocross

"A rare old scrambles on Camberley Heath

The earliest motorcycles were little more than bicycles with small internal combustion engines attached and would be no match for today's machines! Recent results for one motocross event in the area show over 100 bikes took part and a similar number crossed the finish line.  

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IN PICTURES

Have a look at the pictures of Training Area D1.  Have your say on the situation below.

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LISTEN AGAIN

Local resident Nick Hudson talked to BBC Surrey Breakfast Show, about his concerns for the heathland and the resident wildlife. You can listen again to the interview here.   

last updated: 05/05/2009 at 11:03
created: 30/04/2009

Have Your Say

Are you involved in motocross on this land? Are you a walker? Can both activities continue side by side? Tell us your views.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Jackie Pyle
I have been walking on this land for over 20 years and until the last 12 months have had no argument with the regular motor bike events. However these events are now opening up animal tracks into paths several feet wide. Previously these areas were completely people free leaving the deer and other wildlife somewhere to escape to. I am not against the biking events, I just want them to be more considerate and appreciate that some of the other users are not able to protect themselves and their environment. Incidently the reason that most of the complaints come from dog walkers is simply the fact that they basically know this environment very well and therefore notice any differences.

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