In 2005/6, the Forestry Commission was awarded funding under the Active England programme to increase community participation in physical activity at Bedgebury Forest in Kent, with a particular emphasis on young people, as a key target group. This initiative was one of five Active England funded woodland projects. Mountain biking, as a popular youth sport, was promoted under the scheme and provides the case study for this research (completed in 2010) on young people’s experiences of countryside leisure. The findings show that certain wooded spaces are important for youth leisure, as they afford a space away from the gaze of adults and from the conflicts associated with some other (urban) leisure space.
”I prefer woodland stuff ‘cause you’re out in nature, open space, fresh air and it’s a designated space you don’t have to worry about “ooh I shouldn’t be riding here””. [Male 15, Bedgebury].
Active England projects aimed to increase participation in sport and physical activity generally, but with a particular focus on key under-represented groups. Through Active England funding, Bedgebury has been transformed into a leisure destination orientated towards encouraging active lifestyles, particularly through mountain biking. Funding was used to create a 12 kilometre single track cross-country mountain biking trail, a freeride area with elevated wooden platforms and a section of specially shaped mud mounds for dirt jumping, a family cycle track, as well as bike hire and shower…