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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reader got in touch to share their experience of over-zealous security at Longleat stately home, complaining of an "outdated and frankly pathetic attitude" towards cyclists.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
Mybike | 2 years ago
1 like

It private property so yes he should not be allowed I don't know this place but a private residence is still someone house no matter how big it is If it was a public place then yes ride your bike take a photo

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Rendel Harris replied to Mybike | 2 years ago
11 likes

You seem to have missed the point that Matt wasn't riding his bike, he had got off and pushed through an area where pedestrians are permitted but was told he was counted as a cyclist even though he wasn't riding a bike.

 

 

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Rik Mayals unde... replied to Mybike | 2 years ago
8 likes

But if you can pay a sum to visit the place then it is not private. Seems like they want to have their cake and eat it. If it is private, close the house to visitors, shut the gardens and close down the safari park.

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

Point me to the place in the article where it says he paid the entrance fee.

He was trespassing without permission - the fact he had a bike with him was irrelevant.

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
2 likes

Secret_squirrel wrote:

the fact he had a bike with him was irrelevant.

Then why did the guard say "You have a cycle. Therefore you are a cyclist. And cyclists aren’t allowed in there."

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Secret_squirrel replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
2 likes

Because Security guards probably on minimum wage aren't paid for their Policy explanation skills?

Having a bike made it highly likely he wasnt a fee paying member of the public, probably just like rocking up in a car would have done. (See also it possible not even being open).

Just because he had a bike doesnt mean it was necessarily about cycling.  That's our persecution complex at work.

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
0 likes

Secret_squirrel wrote:

Just because he had a bike doesnt mean it was necessarily about cycling.  That's our persecution complex at work.

"You have a cycle. Therefore you are a cyclist. And cyclists aren’t allowed in there" sounds a little bit like it's about cycling to me and that even if he had paid for a ticket he would still have been in trouble specifically for having a bike with him.

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TriTaxMan replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
0 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

"You have a cycle. Therefore you are a cyclist. And cyclists aren’t allowed in there" sounds a little bit like it's about cycling to me and that even if he had paid for a ticket he would still have been in trouble specifically for having a bike with him.

Possibly, but given the fact that Longleat is only open 3 days a week just now there is also a possibility that the ticket question is moot.  Why should the security guard ask if a cyclist has a ticket on a day when the estate is not open to the public?

Perhaps @Tass Whitby will confirm what day the photo was taken..... that would clear it up.

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Tass Whitby replied to TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
1 like

Three or four years ago... part of my regular training route for the RAB. Don't think it's ever been closed when I've ridden through (and it is lovely to ride through). 

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matt_cycles replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
3 likes

If there are NCN's going through it, then they aren't trespassing, these are public routes. If there are no signs along these NCN's telling cyclist's the land either side is private/payable to go on, then you comment seems irrelevant to the story and all hearsay.

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dave atkinson replied to matt_cycles | 2 years ago
3 likes

Just so we're clear, the NCN routes go right in front of the house and the lion is just up the drive

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dave atkinson replied to dave atkinson | 2 years ago
3 likes

you can see the lion on the right of the house

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dave atkinson replied to dave atkinson | 2 years ago
3 likes

Also, once you get there it's not obvious that access straight on to the house is restricted in any way

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IanMSpencer replied to dave atkinson | 2 years ago
2 likes

Which means that initially the cyclist (or any pedestrian) was not trespassing, it only became trespass when they were asked to leave, assuming there were not clear demarcations of which roads and paths were private and public. For example, I quite often see "Please remain on the footpath" signs when out walking, and then the landowner has deliberately removed footpath signs, so it is impossible to be sure where the footpath lies. In one case locally, the actual right of way is blocked, there is a fenced off unlawful diversion and yet there is a sign demanding I stick to the path - so I walk through the flower bed (which actually had a footpath reinstated after a complaint a decade ago) after climbing the fence.

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Secret_squirrel replied to dave atkinson | 2 years ago
1 like

Are you sure about that?

Looks pretty clearly marked to me.  The gate and each one of those posts clearly mark the NCN's.  Feel free to circle around them on Streetview.

With a clearly marked No Entry to go straight forward.

 

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IanMSpencer replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 2 years ago
5 likes

The issue comes down to right of way legislation. Private land owners are sometimes reluctant to perceive that a public footpath trump's land ownership - to the extent that if a footpath is blocked you are entitled to stray from the footpath to circumvent the blockage, and you are allowed to remove the blockage,as examples.

In this case, if the site of the lion is not on the footpath, being pedestrian does not excuse the trespass and a pedestrian or cyclist is not entitled to take a photo away from the path, just because it is near the path.

If the lion is on a right of way, then you get into the law, which allows foot passage, but does not necessarily allow anything else apart from incidental things carried - there is a load of case law, but essentially it was accepted in court that a carried bike was the same as a backpack. However, things like sitting to have a picnic even on a footpath is not a right in law, it is a right of way - in other words a right of movement.

Bridleways are different, and in law a cycle has a right to use a bridleway.

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brooksby replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
3 likes

IanMSpencer wrote:

In this case, if the site of the lion is not on the footpath, being pedestrian does not excuse the trespass and a pedestrian or cyclist is not entitled to take a photo away from the path, just because it is near the path.

That's the thing here, isn't it?  Looking at Dave's maps above, the lion is not on the NCN routes.  Sure, it is near them, but it's not on them or even directly adjacent to them.

So, assuming the cyclist did not pay to enter the estate but exercised right of passage along the NCN, it seems reasonable that they could be asked to move on if they went off-piste to take a photo.

And that would probably be the same if the NCN routes were replaced with public footpath and a hiker wandered off the footpath to take a photo with the lion.

That all being said, the security guard was being an @rse, and probably wrong, to blame it on 'being a cyclist, innit'.

IMO.

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OnYerBike replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
3 likes

Looking on an OS map, there don't appear to be any public rights of way - all access is permissive. The landowner would be legally entitled to close public access entirely.

However, the crux of the issue seems to be access being denied to people with bikes (not even riding them) when access to the same area would have been permitted for people without bikes.

I will admit I am not 100% clear on which bits of the estate access is permitted to without buying a ticket, and I note that the streetview imagery posted elsewhere in these comments is dated from 2011, when (as per the articles linked above) Longleat does appear to have reviewed their access policy in 2012 so signage/fencing etc may have changed (I note that access for ramblers appears to have been a contentious issue as well). Indeed, the lion isn't even present in the streetview imagery.

Nonetheless, it certainly seems to have been an unnecessarily heavy handed response - the people clearly were permitted to cycle along the NCN route without buying a ticket; they went <100m off the NCN path down another tarmaced path; they obeyed the "No cycling" sign (which would appear to permit public access on foot given the situation); and they took a photo of a tourist attraction that is clearly visible from the NCN path and not (in any immediately obvious way) restricted to ticket holders. 

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the_mikey replied to OnYerBike | 2 years ago
0 likes

OS maps seldom list cycle routes, but online the OS map service has a "national cycle" layer that can be imposed upon the map and sure enough it shows routes 25 and 24 crossing the estate.

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OnYerBike replied to the_mikey | 2 years ago
0 likes

the_mikey wrote:

OS maps seldom list cycle routes, but online the OS map service has a "national cycle" layer that can be imposed upon the map and sure enough it shows routes 25 and 24 crossing the estate.

I think you missed the point - being part of the National Cycle Network is not equivalent to being a Public Right of Way. 

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brooksby replied to OnYerBike | 2 years ago
0 likes

OnYerBike wrote:

the_mikey wrote:

OS maps seldom list cycle routes, but online the OS map service has a "national cycle" layer that can be imposed upon the map and sure enough it shows routes 25 and 24 crossing the estate.

I think you missed the point - being part of the National Cycle Network is not equivalent to being a Public Right of Way. 

So NCN routes are basically a recommendation for people without local knowledge ("We'd suggest you might prefer to go along this route, m'kay") rather than an actual route like a road or a footpath?

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Gog replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 2 years ago
0 likes

biker phil wrote:

But if you can pay a sum to visit the place then it is not private. 

Absolutely 100% not true.

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a1white | 2 years ago
6 likes

Similar in Windsor Great Park. Since Covid they have banned bikes from many of the routes (even wide roads). You aren't even allowed to push your bike! I was following one of Jack Thurston's Lost Lane rides a couple of months ago, and had to detour on to a busy main road (with all the massive SUV's that drive in that area) and miss another section out completley. Rules like this are utterly pointless, and just look vindictive..

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Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
4 likes

Non-story of Cyclist being an arse tbh.

Longleat charges for admission (its a stately home & safari park) - presumably he didnt pay.

Having permission to cross someones land doesnt mean you get to take a tour of it FFS.

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Boopop replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
9 likes

Speaking of arses, what crawled up yours?

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Secret_squirrel replied to Boopop | 2 years ago
2 likes

Since I just misread your user name as Boopoop I'm going to suggest you.

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
6 likes

The lion statue is literally fifty yards off NCN 25, is there really any harm in the guy nipping a short distance off the road, getting a snap and going away again? Not as if that's something people pay for. If he'd gone for a jolly through all the commercial parts of the estate, fine, throw him off, this seems a ridiculously heavy-handed way to behave and one specifically aimed at cyclists (as the article and links note, the estate has form with anti-cyclist hostility).

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Boopop replied to Boopop | 2 years ago
1 like

Savage burn, misery guts

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Tass Whitby replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
9 likes

Bit OTT there - hardly taking 'a tour'. Route 24 goes right past the front of the house... a very slight detour off it to reach the lion. You're not going to take your bike into the safari park, or the adventure playground, or gardens...

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Benthic replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
2 likes

Give that as the reason then, not an anti-cyclist diatribe (Longleat security's, not yours).

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