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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reader got in touch to share their experience of over-zealous security at Longleat stately home, complaining of an "outdated and frankly pathetic attitude" towards cyclists.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
dave atkinson replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
0 likes

Remind me never to go on one of your 'tours', doesn't sound like they'd be that extensive

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
2 likes

On balance I say I'm with you.

I grew up on a small holding with a bridleway running through it. For some reason, the fact that the path ran through our land, some people thought that gave them the right to wander across all our land, and even be so bold (on one occasion) to have a picnic in our front yard. 

It was 'only a few metres off the path', but it was also our private property. 

Taking the 'its just off the path' mentality further, less than 100m off the path, you could be in through the front door and having a sit down on a futon, but I'm sure there are not many that would think that OK. 

Reminds me of the White Stripes song, Take Take Take

 

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
3 likes

But presumably you didn't let 500,000 paying visitors wander over your small holding every year, if you had any claims that your privacy was being invaded might have seemed slightly ridiculous?

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
1 like

So your argument is basically akin to... because a hotel has 1,000's of paying visitors, its a bit rich of the hotel to expect a non-guest in the hotel bar to buy a drink? 

Or, because a prostitute sleeps with 100's of men a year, its a bit rich that she moans about someone randomly groping her bosom? 

Just because cyclists have a right to use a road for free, it does not automatically give them right to take advantages of privileges that normally cost money to access. 

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
5 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Or, because a prostitute sleeps with 100's of men a year, its a bit rich that she moans about someone randomly groping her bosom? 

Yes, that is exactly like my argument. Going a little way off a road for a quick snap of a statue is exactly like assaulting a prostitute. EXACTLY.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
1 like

Yeah I know, I'm taking the premise of your argument and applying it to a different scenario in order to test that argument.

You argue that it's ridiculous for someone to have an issue with people accessing their private property for free because that someone is quite happy to sell access to that private property.  

All I've done here is swap a person's property with a person's body. I appreciate that its a crass comparison, but as you've quite rightly called out, this behaviour is assault. Similarly, accessing someone's private property without due cause or permission is trespassing. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
1 like

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

You argue that it's ridiculous for someone to have an issue with people accessing their private property for free because that someone is quite happy to sell access to that private property.  

No, I was arguing that it was a ridiculous comparison to make between your family smallholding and a massive estate which is open to the public for a fee. You really can't see the difference? If you want to trade analogies, that's like saying that somebody doing 72 mph on the M1 is just as bad as someone doing 72 mph down a residential street. 

Avatar
Jetmans Dad replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
2 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

So your argument is basically akin to... because a hotel has 1,000's of paying visitors, its a bit rich of the hotel to expect a non-guest in the hotel bar to buy a drink?

I have no skin in this argument ... both sides seem to be coming across as unnecessarily arsey, to be honest but in the interests of balance, I have been in plenty of hotel bars as a non-guest that didn't require me to buy a drink. 

There is one in a town near my home that happily lets me use the toilet and fill my bidon when out on ride without expecting me to pay anything for anything (although I do usually put something in their charity collection box). 

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