The following article is written in response to the editorial published on February 28, headed: ‘Trial Bikers have urged Bath and North East Somerset Council to let them to return to Clutton for more than 14 days a year’

Frys Bottom Wood is a semi-ancient woodland listed as an SNCI (site of nature conservation interest).

In 2021 a group of local residents came together to fight a trial bike-riding business operating without planning permission in the woods. The business was set up in 2013 and initially, the use was sporadic and as such residents adopted a live-and-let-live approach.

However, the business quickly grew offering merchandise, camping and a burger van. By 2019 multiple bikes were in the woods from 9am until dusk seven days per week. In addition to the bike activity, modified off-road vehicle events were held. These brought a whole new level of noise and destruction to flora and fauna.

Frys Bottom Wood, Clutton - before the trail biking.
Frys Bottom Wood, Clutton - before the trail biking. (image supplied)

More than 40 residents had to suffer extremely annoying high-pitched noise, seven days per week, making outdoor leisure in their gardens impossible.

In addition to the noise issue, bikes were leaving the woods at high speed arriving on a disused railway line used by walkers and horse riders causing alarm and danger.

Bikes also left the woods to come on to neighbouring properties. In one case to leave the mud of the woods and get a “better grip” on virgin land and in another to intimidate a resident who had complained.

The group engaged a legal expert who presented the situation to the Enforcement Department at B&NES. An officer visited the site and spoke to the residents’ group. In a very short time, an enforcement order was put in place. This was appealed but upheld.

The enforcement document laid out very clear reasons why such a business could not operate at this site and these reasons are still valid.

In December, 2023, the landowner entered a planning permission application in his daughter’s name, to bring bike riding back to the woods Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. From 9am until 7pm. As the woods are also a tree-felling site, Monday and Friday will be used to cut trees with chainsaws.

On weekdays the application states that a maximum of 15 bikes at any one time will be allowed, 25 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. The key phrase here is “at any time”. During a recent parish council meeting held at Chelwood, the landowner stated that some riders only ride for one hour as this is a strenuous sport. When asked what would happen when they left, the landowner said another rider would replace them.

Based not on one-hour time slots but on a more common 2-hour slot basis which was the norm in the past, considering the numbers in the application each weekday there could be 75 bikes per weekday, on Saturday 125 bikes per day and Sunday 100.

As most riders arrive alone in vans or cars with trailers, based on arrivals and departures up to 900 additional vehicle movements per week would occur in small lanes with few passing places used by local walkers’ cyclists and horse riders.

The application would allow for 5 additional events per year with no cap on riders or spectators.

The application states that 25 parking spaces will be provided. Based on the weekend numbers it is clear that this is insufficient, unless before each rider left the site, the next rider would have to wait on the road. As bike washing and food are offered on the site it is clear that the car parking will be inadequate.

Currently, on days when the 14-day per year usage is allowed, the yard is full of cars and vans meaning that constant movements are required. Bikes are also warmed up before the time slot allocation. In a recent event, 76 bikes attended. For one resident living directly opposite the site, these days become a living hell of noise.

The application prepared by an experienced land agent contains some serious mistakes which fail to accurately show the potential impact.

We should now consider the most shocking aspect of this story, that being the horrendous physical and ecological damage being caused to the site.

For the last three years, thousands of tonnes of totally unsorted builders’ waste have been dumped in the wood forming a lucrative business. It is easy to see that the waste arriving contains plastics, metals, fibreglass and other non-biodegradable substances. The topography of the woods has been changed. An entire valley has been filled, a large pond has been filled and diverted to another location, and the land height in this area has been raised by 1.5 to 2 metres, all created with unsorted waste covered by a thin layer of topsoil. The importation of soil has caused non-native highly invasive plant species to thrive.

During parish council meetings in Chelwood and Clutton long-standing residents express their disgust at the state of this once beautiful wood, one saying that it resembled a Somme battlefield.

The application refers to a bio-diversity report written by a leading expert. When a copy of the application was sent to the author she immediately stated, in writing, that she had been misrepresented and would be contacting Banes to put the record straight.

Recent photographs from Frys Bottom Wood show the "ecological vandalism".
Recent photographs from Frys Bottom Wood show the "ecological vandalism". (image supplied )

The landowner received retrospective planning permission for a large steel building to store cut trees from the land where a felling license is in place. The permission contained very clear conditions. These conditions said that the building was for storage only and no further processing could take place. In total contradiction to these conditions, a firewood business is now operating in the barn and the adjoining land using highly automated machinery.

When asked about this situation during the Chelwood Parish Council meeting, the owner stated that “the conditions are stupid, what good is it to store cut trees as they will simply rot.”

The residents group feel that this attitude to planning rules and restrictions is typical of the landowner and if planning permission for motor bikes was approved, they fear that any regulations or conditions stated in the permission will be ignored.

In summary, Clutton and Chelwood are scenically beautiful and peaceful areas. Residents live there to enjoy this area and the peace it offers. Motorcycling outside of the permitted 14 days per year usage is totally out of character for the area and directly conflicts with the 3 ecological priorities stated by B&NES.

Many of the positive comments from riders uploaded to the application comments section, mention improved mental health for riders, who come from all over the South of England and Wales.

These people come to the woods for a short time, have a great time and then return to their peaceful homes. Residents would face the impact of 50 hours per week where their gardens are unusable for any leisure activity and the stress from the knowledge that one person can destroy their quality of life simply to generate income. Can you imagine the negative mental health impact on residents?

If any residents have concerns about the environment and would like to learn more and have their say, they can attend a Parish Council meeting in Clutton village hall at 7.30pm on Monday, March 18.

Alternatively, we invite anyone who is shocked by the photographs and facts above to go to and upload your comments.

You can also contact our local Green Party Councillor Sam Ross by email at [email protected]

S Brimble