Tring parkrun calls on public power to help change Woodland Trust's decision to cancel 5k events at Tring Park

Woodland Trust has cancelled all mass events to protect the Tring Park site

Friday, 21st May 2021, 1:37 pm
Updated Friday, 21st May 2021, 1:40 pm

The organisers of Tring parkrun are appealing for the public's support to help change the Woodland Trust's decision over the use of Tring Park for the 5k events.

Parkrun organisers say they are disappointed that the Tring event will not be returning when the regular 5k events resume, as The Woodland Trust, which manages Tring Park on behalf of Dacorum Borough Council, has withdrawn all future permission for Tring parkrun to continue within Tring Park.

The Woodland Trust has decided to cancel all mass events at Tring Park, including the Festival of Light, saying they were having a detrimental impact on it.

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Tring parkrun before the pandemic

Wes Ball, one of the Tring parkrun directors, said: "We have had a long running arrangement with the Woodland Trust for us to use Tring Park for the parkruns.

"That was up for renewal and in September they said they would not renew it and we were shocked and surprised, it was a very disappointing decision.

"We have been working with them for six years and it has worked well. The change in the nature of the relationship was shocking for us. We tried to speak to them about it but have only had a zoom meeting.

"Some of the reasons given were that the parkrun route has potential to cause damage to Tring Park, specifically sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) located within the park and that the site holds ancient monuments that have to be protected.

Tring parkrun before the pandemic

"We recognise that Tring Park is a beautiful and special place, and that elements of the park are designated as SSSI.

"Each of the routes we have used over the past six years has been fully agreed with the Woodland Trust in advance and, for the avoidance of doubt, our existing route does not cross the SSSI area.

"Our participants would not pass through the SSSI on arriving or leaving the park. In fact, our volunteers go out of their way to make sure participants treat the park and surrounding area with respect.

"We recognise Tring Park has two historic monuments located on site but refute any suggestion that Tring parkrun has caused or may cause damage to these.

"There is no evidence at all of Tring parkrun negatively impacting either of these historic monuments.

"Also, 3km of our 5km route is on the Ridgeway National Trail, managed by Natural England, with whom we’ve spoken to and had positive conversations with.

"One of the aims of National Trails is to enable as many people as possible to enjoy a wide variety of walking and riding experiences. The key point is that Tring Park is the public's, it is a community park, for everyone to use.

"The park is within walking or cycling distance for most people in Tring. They talk about climate change, but by not allowing us to use Tring Park, they are making people get in their cars and drive to park runs in Hemel or Luton or to Dunstable Downs.

"We are a family event, it is about getting people out into the parks and exercising, we welcome everyone.

"We hope that the strength of public feeling will persuade the Woodland Trust to reconsider its decision and engage positively with us to support the continuation of Tring parkrun.

"We hope that they will recognise that they have made a mistake and that Tring and Tring Park run are an important part of the community."

The Woodland Trust says its main priority is to protect the Tring Park site for future generations.

A spokesperson for Woodland Trust said: "We have been working with Tring parkrun for a number of years and this was not an easy decision to make.

"It's been a really difficult decision taken with much consideration not to renew the licence for park runners to use our Tring Park site.

"The site is particularly special and contains several sensitive and significant ecosystems including one of the biggest chalk grasslands left in Hertfordshire and it's very important that we protect this and that it doesn't degrade for future generations to enjoy.

"As a conservation organisation, our priority is the site, and unfortunately the mass events - including our own Festival of Light - were having a detrimental effect on the site, so we have made the difficult decision to cancel all mass events.

"We tried different routes and options, but they all had an impact on the site.

"It is a big site but parkrun attracts a lot of people on one route regularly, parts of it is rare chalk grassland.

"The growing success of the parkrun and the numbers it attracts put more and more pressure on this precious habitat so much so that it makes it unsustainable for us to accommodate an event of this scale and regularity at Tring.

"We had to look at the impact the parkrun events was having on the site.

"We are not just cancelling Tring parkrun, it's all mass events, including our own.

"Tring Park is open for people to visit. What we are saying is that the site can not take the mass events, and we do understand people are upset about this.

"We have to base our decisions on what is best for the site and Tring Park as a whole.

"People can come down here with friends and family, and walk or run, but it's just the mass events that we can't continue.

"Sometimes there could be up to 300 people running the same route, that is bound to have an impact on the site.

"We have made a decision and it is hard for all of us, but we believe it's the right one for Tring Park.

"We very much understand the need for people to have access to green spaces for mental and physical wellbeing and the site remains freely accessible to everyone 365 days of the year and has been throughout the pandemic, as have all Woodland Trust sites.

"There are also a number of parkrun events locally should the social aspect of parkrun be the key motivation: Wendover Woods (2.7m), Dunstable Downs (7.5m), Gadebridge (8.2m) and Aylesbury (8.2m).

"We are sorry for the disappointment that parkrun will not be resuming at Tring, but we are dedicated to ensuring the site remains a fabulous place for people and wildlife into the future."