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No bikes allowed: Longleat confirms restricted access for cyclists after security unhappy with rider near stately home

UPDATE: Longleat says all non-National Cycle Network areas of the estate are off limits to cyclists "for the safety and enjoyment of staff and guests"...

*UPDATE: Longleat Estate provided a statement (below) to road.cc on 21/03/2022 commenting on the incident and outlining the Estate's cycling policy*

Longleat welcomes cyclists who want to use the official National Cycle Network routes across the estate. The multiple routes allow users incredible free access to designated private roads, providing unique views of the landscaped grounds and estate countryside.

Whilst we are happy to continue to allow this access, we have taken the decision to restrict cyclists in areas of the park which sit outside of this, including the front of Longleat House. These areas are designated for ticket holders and emergency vehicles only. This is a decision which was taken after careful consideration and review, after a number incidents over the past few years. We therefore have decided to have a consistent approach when it comes to all cyclists.

We understand the vast majority of cyclists respect the estate, however for the safety and enjoyment of staff and guests who have purchased tickets to see the attractions, we have sadly had to limit access only to the agreed National Cycle Network Routes.

A road.cc reader got in touch to share their experience of over-zealous security at Longleat stately home, complaining of an "outdated and frankly pathetic attitude" towards cyclists.

Two National Cycle Routes (24 and 25) pass through Longleat, access Sustrans has previously successfully fought to uphold following a short-lived ban in 2012.

road.cc reader Matt accused staff of treating him with no respect after he was told to move on from the Lion statue, at the front of the mansion dating back to the 16th century, despite obeying 'no cycling' signs by wheeling his bike.

As he left, the rider was approached by a "huge security vehicle" with a security guard responding to a report of a cyclist in front of the mansion.

"I explained that I had just wanted to take a photo of the lion, so I had got off my bike and pushed. Then came the killer line: 'You have a cycle. Therefore you are a cyclist. And cyclists aren’t allowed in there.' 

"I pointed out to him that as I wasn’t on the bike I was technically (and legally) a pedestrian, and the poor man looked a bit embarrassed about the whole thing. I completely understand that Longleat is private property and that cyclists are only allowed there by permission, but this outdated and frankly pathetic attitude speaks volumes about the people who own and run the place."

Matt's story was backed up by a road.cc contributor who was moved on from the front of the house (but not before snapping the picture above next to the lion statue) while thinking about using the cafe for coffee, another part of the Estate cyclists are seemingly unwelcome.

Having contacted Longleat Estate for comment, road.cc received the following statement outlining the Estate's cycling policy.

Matt added that prior to his security encounter he was enjoying the "truly breathtaking" scenery, and suggested that if the Estate took a more welcoming approach to cyclists they could "probably make a fortune".

"If they were more welcoming to cyclists and opened a cycling-friendly cafe they could probably make a fortune," he said. "It’s a wonderful place to ride through. If you and your family are staying at Center Parcs and rediscovering or indulging the joy of cycling, please think carefully about whether you want to visit Longleat.

"Take your kids for a bike ride around Shearwater instead; it’s just as nice and you won’t be funding aggressive, regressive hatred towards a group of people who are simply doing something they love."

road.cc has contacted Longleat for a comment, and will update this story when we have it.

In 2012, Longleat briefly barred cyclists from two Sustrans routes which pass through the estate home to the UK's oldest safari park.

Staff at the Estate removed blue signs that pointed out certain 'private' roads as part of the National Cycle Network (NCN) Routes 24 and 25.

A few days later, Longleat Estate confirmed that cyclists would continue to be allowed to use sections of National Cycle Route 24 and 25, with signage to be reinstated.

Last May, Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire was at the heart of an access row after the Duke of Devonshire employed security guards to keep cyclists off his estate.

The Abbey then denied using security guards to keep pesky cyclists off their property, saying restrictions were due to coronavirus, before a guard told a cyclist he was in fact there to stop people riding bikes through the estate.

One rider reported the "chap would be more suitable at a nightclub on a Friday night."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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98 comments

Avatar
HoarseMann | 2 years ago
1 like

There is a similar situation at Woburn Safari Park, albeit a bonafide public right of way that goes past some of the animal enclosures. The estate have been trying to get the path re-routed away from the park after it became popular during lockdowns. I'm not aware of any issues with people straying from the path though, just that people were using it a lot.

The path at Longleat seems to be only a permissive arrangement negotiated by Sustrans that can be cancelled by the estate with a months notice. I think Sustrans ought to put a sign up at the begining of this path outlining it's permissive status (by kind agreement of the landowner, as they usually say) and asking users to not stray from the route. Also could do with improving the route marking.

You don't have to stray from the path to get a photo of Woburn's lion, but it's not as good as Longleat's!

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IanMSpencer replied to HoarseMann | 2 years ago
2 likes

Frankfurt Zoo is even odder. It is a paying attraction but has public walkways right through all the enclosures. Nobody made a fuss of us getting all excited looking at the animals up close for free.

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hawkinspeter replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
0 likes

IanMSpencer wrote:

Frankfurt Zoo is even odder. It is a paying attraction but has public walkways right through all the enclosures. Nobody made a fuss of us getting all excited looking at the animals up close for free.

Copenhagen Zoo borders onto Frederiksberg Gardens and you can freely watch the elephants from there by design:

Quote:

When Norman Foster, in collaboration with the Danish landscape architect Stig L. Andersson, designed the new Elephant House for the adjacent Copenhagen Zoo, it was done as an extension of Frederiksberg Gardens. A three-metre high wall that once separated the two has been replaced by a simple fence, so that visitors to the public park can now watch the elephants, while affording the elephants distant views as well. The enclosure steps up slowly away from the park, rising to the height of the domes. From a distance, these appear to be buried in the ground, surrounded by ferns and trees

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
2 likes

Not quite such largesse in London but when cycling round Regent's Park I always stop for a look at the giraffes, which can be seen from the road - took this in summer 2020 but can still be seen most days unless it's really cold when they sensibly stay indoors.

 

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Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
4 likes

I don't know how the security guard could have got confused about you being a cyclist, with you stood over your bike in your bike gear having your photo taken in a place you shouldn't be.

/SARCASM

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brooksby replied to Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
5 likes

Adam Sutton wrote:

I don't know how the security guard could have got confused about you being a cyclist, with you stood over your bike in your bike gear having your photo taken in a place you shouldn't be.

/SARCASM

Except that, legally, if you are not actually sitting on your bike and pedalling then you are a pedestrian.  Case law applies.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
2 likes

1: That is not Matt in the picture. He could have been wearing jeans, trainers and a coat for all we know. 

2: If someone who is walking pushing a cycle a cyclist, is someone who is pushing a pram a Pramist?

/NOT SARCASM

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Rendel Harris replied to Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
2 likes

He wasn't having his photo taken with it, he was taking a photo of it. That picture is of another road.cc reader and, if I'm not mistaken, a lady. 

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mdavidford replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
4 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

...a lady. 

Presumably there visiting the Marquess and Marchioness of Bath?

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Adam Sutton replied to Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
0 likes

Christ on a bike. Lighten up.

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Rendel Harris replied to Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
5 likes

Adam Sutton wrote:

Christ on a bike. Lighten up.

You appear to be addressing yourself. You should, and stop trying to take over as the site's resident anti-cyclist.

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vthejk replied to Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
3 likes

Adam Sutton wrote:

Christ on a bike. Lighten up.

No, no, you want @chrisonatrike

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alansmurphy replied to Adam Sutton | 2 years ago
3 likes

Adam Sutton wrote:

Christ on a bike. Lighten up.

 

What I love here is that you've come for a little trolling, failed to take the time to even read the article, got a little confused, went for a sarcastic comment, got shown up as being totally wrong, told others to lighten up.

 

Think you need to quit your membership of troll club based on this effort!

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pockstone | 2 years ago
3 likes

I took a ride through Longleat a few years ago. I didn't see any security guards but the fields were full of some scary looking sheep.

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TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
5 likes

I'm erring towards the fact that the cyclist is wrong with this one.

At the moment Longleat is only open to the public on weekends, and given the fact that the picture taken by the cyclist doesn't show anyone else in the background, it seems from my perspective that they passed through the grounds on a day when the estate was closed.

It seems to me that the security guards were referring to the fact that they had gained access to the gardens by virtue of being a cyclist using the NCN routes, but veered off the permitted routes on a day when the estate was closed to visitors.

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wycombewheeler replied to TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
2 likes

TriTaxMan wrote:

I'm erring towards the fact that the cyclist is wrong with this one.

At the moment Longleat is only open to the public on weekends, and given the fact that the picture taken by the cyclist doesn't show anyone else in the background, it seems from my perspective that they passed through the grounds on a day when the estate was closed.

It seems to me that the security guards were referring to the fact that they had gained access to the gardens by virtue of being a cyclist using the NCN routes, but veered off the permitted routes on a day when the estate was closed to visitors.

all sustrans routes are essentially shared use, so a pedestrian could have accessed the grounds by the same route, and would likely not have been challenged. Or the challenge should have been "the grounds are closed today, go back to the permitted path" with no mention of bikes

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Tass Whitby | 2 years ago
6 likes

At the safari park end, the staff don't seem to have been given the 'be officious to cyclists' memo. No problem using the loos, and one chap happy to fill up my water bottle - though I didn't see where he got the liquid from... 

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dassie | 2 years ago
9 likes

Cyclists (who have not paid the estate entrance fee) would be required to remain on the public rights of way, so that deviating a short distance to the lion statue at the front of the house, is technically accessing private land without permission.  However petty security staff enforcing this may seem, it is not surprising, or unexpected.  The fact that a cyclist dismounts, to be a pedestrian, on said private property is actually irrelevant.

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Rendel Harris replied to dassie | 2 years ago
3 likes

dassie wrote:

The fact that a cyclist dismounts, to be a pedestrian, on said private property is actually irrelevant.

Well, it would be if it wasn't for the fact that the security staff appear to have made it quite clear that he was being turfed specifically for being a cyclist.

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dassie replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
6 likes

My guess is that the vast majority of, if not all, cyclists are simply using NCN routes, and have not paid for 'full' Longleat estate visitor access.  So it's likely, yes, that security are making an assumption 'cyclist = non paying visitor', but probably not far wrong in that assumption. 

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mdavidford replied to dassie | 2 years ago
1 like

dassie wrote:

Cyclists (who have not paid the estate entrance fee) would be required to remain on the public rights of way, so that deviating a short distance to the lion statue at the front of the house, is technically accessing private land without permission.  However petty security staff enforcing this may seem, it is not surprising, or unexpected.  The fact that a cyclist dismounts, to be a pedestrian, on said private property is actually irrelevant.

But it was the security guard that made being (or not being) a cyclist an issue. Had they said "Excuse me - have you paid for a ticket? No? Kindly hoppit back on to the right of way then.", they would likely have just departed and there wouldn't even have been a story here.

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TriTaxMan replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
4 likes

mdavidford wrote:

But it was the security guard that made being (or not being) a cyclist an issue. Had they said "Excuse me - have you paid for a ticket? No? Kindly hoppit back on to the right of way then.", they would likely have just departed and there wouldn't even have been a story here.

Should the security guard have asked if the cyclist had paid for a ticket on a day that the estate wasn't open to the public?  The picture of the cyclist with the Lion is entirely devoid of any other people in the background, so is it perhaps indicative that the estate was actually closed the day the cyclist visited.

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mdavidford replied to TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
1 like

TriTaxMan wrote:

Should the security guard have asked if the cyclist had paid for a ticket on a day that the estate wasn't open to the public?

No - in that case they should have said ''Ere! This 'ere area is currently closed - kindly hoppit back on to the right of way!'

But again, bringing up whether or not they're a cyclist was irrelevant, since anyone who'd been walking along the right of way and strayed off it would also have been in an area they shouldn't have been in.

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OldRidgeback | 2 years ago
0 likes

The UK has so many amazing places to visit. I'll go elsewhere.

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Tattoojunkie30 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Yeah that crap dont fly with me - ive more than once picked up my bike and put it on my shoulder and gone "now what am i?" And when theres no answer walked off still toting bike on shoulder. I know everyone cant do this but if you can its worth it

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Crippledbiker replied to Tattoojunkie30 | 2 years ago
2 likes

You don't even need to pick it up - the moment your feet are on the ground, you're a pedestrian.

Crank vs Brooks, 1980.

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Rik Mayals unde... | 2 years ago
15 likes

I rode into Preston City centre a few years ago, to visit a shop in the St. Georges shopping centre. I obeyed the signs stating 'No Cycling', and pushed my bike through. A security guard stopped me and told me cycling wasn't allowed in there. I pointed out I was pushing the bike and was therefore a pedestrian. He looked confused, pointed to the bike and told me I would have to leave it outside the shopping centre as bikes were not allowed. As it was a Colnago C60 I was understandibly not too thrilled at the prospect of locking it up with the beggars sat outside, so I left the centre, rode home and ordered what I wanted online, the family owned shop losing the sale sadly.

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Crippledbiker replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 2 years ago
2 likes

Crank v Brooks - The moment you step off, you're a pedestrian.

You are not required to carry the 'cycle or any such nonsense you sometimes hear, either.

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Hirsute replied to Crippledbiker | 2 years ago
1 like

Are you on twitter as Heavy Metal Handcyclist ?

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Crippledbiker replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
1 like

That's me, yes.

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