Cyclists leave a ‘river of mud’ at Bury St Edmunds park

Stuart Allison at Hardwick Heath
Damage on Hardwick Heath caused by cyclo-cross event (muddy tracks everywhere)
Picture Mark Westley
Stuart Allison at Hardwick Heath Damage on Hardwick Heath caused by cyclo-cross event (muddy tracks everywhere) Picture Mark Westley

A well-used Bury St Edmunds park has been likened to a ‘World War One battlefield’ after ground was churned up by a cycling event at the weekend.

Swathes of Hardwick Heath were turned into a river of mud after the Eastern Cyclo-cross League event on Saturday.

Dog walker and nearby resident Stuart Allison, who uses the 55-acre heath twice daily, contacted the Bury Free Press after seeing the ‘total mess’ there.

“This is the second year it has been held at Hardwick Heath. I complained to my local councillor about how it was left last year,” he said.

“This year it was raining and, to be honest, it is a total mess. The local people who use the heath are up in arms. The damage up there is terrible and in some places the mud is inches deep.

“Near the pond there is a slew of mud that looks like a World War One battlefield and there is one path used by people going to the hospital which has been turned into a river of mud.”

Mr Allison said it had taken until the spring of this year for the heath to recover from the damage caused in 2016.

“At the moment it is a hazard. This morning I met probably 10-20 other dog walkers and every one of them complained about it. For the council this is a money-making exercise, but that shouldn’t overcome the objections to the event. If they have to hold it there, they should do it in the spring,” added Stuart.

A St Edmundsbury Borough Council spokesman said: “While we have received a number of complaints and we do acknowledge that some of heath is a little damaged, it is not dangerous and should be back to normal in a few weeks.”

He said the organisers had been charged approximately £200, which would be spent on upkeep of the borough’s parks.

“We have listened to residents’ concerns and we will explore alternative options with the organisers of the event for next year,” he added.

Michael Lawson, secretary of West Suffolk Wheelers, which hosted the event, said several hundred people had enjoyed the day and 366 competitors took part, while the Scouts raised money by providing catering for riders and spectators.

“Obviously the wet weather on Saturday meant the grass on the heath was cut up and we can understand that people may be concerned, however from our experience at our previous events and those others across the region, the grass will recover nicely over the next few weeks,” he added.