The woodland/open space along Six Fields Path has been used by youngsters in the town for some 20 years as a site for riding BMX bikes. It has developed as an exciting informal activity area which draws youngsters over a wide age range from 5‐6 year olds up to late teens and beyond.
Currently there are at least four age groups who use the area ranging from 5-6 year olds biking under the watchful eye of their parents to 12-14 year olds with an older contingent (18-20?) who drive to the woods with their bikes in the back of their cars.
Over the years the youngsters have moved well over 100 tonnes of soil to create a series of “dirt jumps” and turns for their riding activities. All this has taken place without any formal agreement with the landowners.
During the last year there have been discussions at several of the TENT1 Steering Committee meetings seeking, amongst other things, to secure continued use of part of the woodland for the BMX bike riders. TDRA Chairman Alan Bates (who lives immediately adjacent to the BMX activity area) has sought to ensure the continuing use of this area for the youngsters under its new ownership as part of the designated “Open Space” associated with the TENT1 development.
However, sadly there are concerns that the use of this area for continued BMX riding would present difficulties in respect of insurance against potential liabilities in the event of accidents and injuries by riders and the public. This decision, and the consequence of flattening out the jumps, will be met with dismay by hundreds of children (and former children) who have over the years used the area for their fun. Some would soon be bringing their own children here as we move on to the next generation.
There are so few opportunities these days for children to enjoy informal outdoor activity in a relatively safe environment such as the Six Fields Path woodland. The freedom to build their own track – and they have often spent many more hours digging and building the jumps rather than riding – is an opportunity which is seldom available. They have spent time planning new jumps and banked corners and then set out to build and ride on their own creations. Flattening the jumps will deprive many youngsters of their innocent pleasure.
What is needed is the vision to see the benefit of informal outdoor activity for the development of our children. Tenterden already has a formal playground with slides, swings roundabouts etc that caters for smaller children under parental supervision but we need to have space for children to develop a sense of independence and challenge. TDRA believe that this can be done by allowing part of the woodland area at Six Fields Path to be allocated as an informal activity space. The area could be delineated by simple post and rail fencing with a simple notice advising parents and children of any conditions of use and limitation of liability. Youngsters can learn from managing their own space.
Is the answer for youngsters (and their parents) to get together to form an informal BMX club with a view to approaching the developers to request a short‐term lease (say 12 months initially) for use of the woods for BMX? On their part the BMX riders would need to give an undertaking to use the area responsibly and their parents to contribute to meet the cost of the insurance cover required.
If you support the use of the Six Fields Path woodlands for BMX riding, or if you have objections to this, please contact Tenterden and District Residents Association or email direct to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your views.