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Must Watch: Trails on Trial – A story on the legitimization of wild MTB Trails across the UK

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Trails are the lifeblood of mountain biking. Communities across the UK are benefiting economically from the recent massive uptake in the sport. Trail centers have been key to that growth, introducing new riders in a safe environment that offers achievable progression. Up and to a point. As our skills improve and our desire for ever more challenging singletrack increases, we move away from the trail center to what many call “wild trails”, also known as unauthorized trails. 

In Trails on Trial, Manon Carpenter takes us on a journey across the UK, documenting the past, present and future state of these wild trails. From the Tweed Valley in Scotland, where access laws are generous, to the Valleys in South Wales where access laws are somewhat more restrictive, Manon shows us how mountain bikers, government agencies, land owners and businesses are mobilizing to ensure the future of these fundamental facilities is secured.

How are wild trails managed in your local area? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.


Riders the world over have developed a language of love for trails. Be it seasoned shredders or newcomers to the sport, we all understand the feeling of entering the elusive “flow state.” Often, this is how we interpret the trails we love to ride—they’re defined by their nuanced, unique traits, like gnarled set of roots or perfectly poised berms. They’re memories and moments we all cherish.

But behind the layers of soil, rock, and cambers lie ingredients that are integral to the trail​’s being. We might not even understand their role, or existence, but the combination of hardy people, little-understood laws, and collaborations between builders and land managers are crucial to the very soul of the trail. Without them, trails sit on the knife’s edge between continuation and destruction.

manon carpenter trails on trial film documentary trail adoption stewardship uk

In this documentary, the former World Cup downhill and World Champion, Manon Carpenter, undertakes a journey of discovery. Visiting riders and builders from across mainland Britain, she uncovers what it takes for mountain biking to become an accepted, thriving part of communities. Along the way, managers of large swathes of land where trails are situated share their point of view about why trail existence, and management, is a complex undertaking. When tensions arise, they share how they can be diffused, and eventually transitioned, into collaborations for the benefit of all.

Follow Manon on IG: @manoncarpenter
Follow DW Agency on IG: @dwaco

You can learn more about the trail associations and groups featured in this film by visiting:

Ride Sheffield 
Developing Mountain biking in Scotland
The Tweed Valley Trail Association
Risca Riders

You can read the current national guidelines from agencies we visited by clicking the following links:

Forestry England
Scottish Unauthorised trail guide
Natural Resource Wales

trails on trial tvta golfy caberston trail maintenance adoption

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Tobe G
Tobe G
2 years ago

It’s a fragile state between landowners and mountain bikers. Where we’re based on the edge of the Peaks, South of Manchester, there have been some fantastic, responsibly built, trails that have unfortunately fallen foul of social media. YouTubers, Instagrammers etc have popularized them and they’ve become over ridden, worn, rubbish left behind etc and the landowners have quite rightly kicked back. The kind of people it takes to build and maintain a status quo between users and owners aren’t the ones who are causing the issues so misunderstanding, and sometimes animosity grows both ways.

2 years ago

Good film although obviously biased, and an important topic. Scotland is a great example of where access to the countryside is taken seriously and where there are some fantastic examples of multiple stakeholders working together to enable it – however Scotland has a low population density compared to many countries, including England. I live in the Lake District National Park and see an explosion of people riding mountain bikes on footpaths – some which are arguably fully suitable for riding and others which are clearly not. Partnership between riders and all stakeholder groups is the obvious way to move forward harmoniously.

John Drogan
John Drogan
2 years ago

I’m a mountain biker but also recognise the need to protect sensitive areas for nature. The issues I’ve seen in my area are where protected woodland has been damaged so that the water runs down the hillside eroding the soil making it sterile. Bushes & trees have been hacked away across badger setts… it’s their trails at the expense of the wider community and the environment

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