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New Forest Verderers 'forced to cancel' pony round-up due to cycling event
MASS cycling events in the New Forest are today at the centre of a new row.
The Verderers say they have been forced to cancel a pony round-up to prevent accidents involving thousands of cycle enthusiasts due to descend on the area at the weekend.
The annual round-up was scheduled to take place on Sunday at New Park, Brockenhurst - home of the New Forest Show.
But it would have clashed with the latest Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive, which is being held on neighbouring land throughout the weekend.
About 3,000 cyclists are expected to take part in the event, which features three routes ranging in length from 41 to 102 miles.
Last night the Commoners' Defence Association (CDA), which represents the owners of the Forest's famous ponies, criticised Wiggle organisers in the wake of the decision to axe the round-up.
But UK Cycling Events hit back, accusing the Verderers of failing to give enough advance warning of the round-up.
Also known as drifts, round-ups are held at various locations each year to enable experts to inspect ponies and assess their condition.
A CDA spokesman said: “Faced with the determination of UK Cycle Events and the New Forest Show Society that the cycle event should go ahead, the Verderers had no alternative but to act responsibly and cancel the drift to avoid the obvious risk if both events were to go ahead.
“Drifts are planned at least a year in advance and always include Sundays to minimise disruption to both residents and commoners' jobs.”
CDA chairman Dr Graham Ferris added: “Commoners are angry and appalled that a commercially-motivated event should take precedence over drifts, which have been part of the cultural heritage of the Forest since time immemorial.
“Drifts are vital for our members to manage their livestock, which have shaped and maintained the unique landscape of the New Forest.
“We fully respect the responsible decision taken by the Verderers but believe that organisers of mass events in the Forest should take adequate steps to prevent clashes of this kind.”
But Martin Barden of UK Cycling Events said organisers booked the venue late last year and informed the authorities.
He added: “Despite offers of altering our event and working with the drift to ensure it was safe and could continue, the Verderers have made the decision to move it to another day.”
“We hope that with better communication from the Verderers, future clashes can be avoided.”
A National Park Authority spokesman said subsequent clashes were unlikely to occur, thanks to a new charter under which event organisers would liaise with New Forest District Council.
The row involving Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive is the latest in a series of controversies about cycling and its impact on the area.
Activists tried to sabotage this year's New Forest Spring Sportive by sprinkling tacks in the road.
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