Andrew Edwards, Community Support Leader for Thera South West was approached last winter by the planning team for the Dartington Bike Track to become Chairman. They knew Andrew had an interest in bikes and a background in working with young people with a learning disability.
Andrew was approached to chair the meetings and keep things on track. They thought it would be helpful to have someone with experience of managing projects who also had an understanding of supporting projects that helped individuals with a range of abilities/disabilities.
Mark Stacey, person supported by Thera South West, was a natural choice to become the projects disabilities inclusion officer and will be part of the maintenance team. Mark is a such a hardworking guy and a well-known local shredder.
Mark was suggested as inclusion officer because of his passion for bikes and as Chairman, Andrew felt that it would be good to take a leaf out of Thera’s book. Andrew wanted to make sure that considerations regarding disabilities should be led by someone who had an in depth experience first hand. An accessible track should be represented and developed by someone with a learning disability.
Mark says: “It’s fun and exciting to have a new bike track coming later in the year.”
Mark and Andrew first met through their love of BMX and Dirt Jumping, at the time Mark was supported by Andrew’s wife, Leah. Mark and Andrew then both started the Watcombe Bandits in 2009, which was a collective of BMX and Dirt Jumpers that rode together and maintained the Watcombe BMX track. They also ran a Mountain Bike club for 20 years.
The bike track at Dartington is a new project put forward by the Dartington Recreation Association back in 2019. The bike track is an inclusive purpose-built woodland bike skills facility offering the perfect introduction to off road cycling.
Andrew says: “The track has been designed by our mate BMX legend Kye Forte for kids, weekend warriors and everyone else who loves to ride. The track at Dartington has managed to secure funding to develop accessible cycling trails suitable for bikes, trikes and wheelchairs. We’ve still got a way to go and money to raise but with the help of local schools, a dedicated committee and a team of hardy and handy volunteers, the next few months are starting to look very exciting.”
Andrew and Mark are involved in all aspects of running the project from planning and meeting with councils, to meeting MPs and feeding into the marketing and communications around the track. Mark has a knack for coming up with great ideas!
The community have shown support for the bike track project and local children and young people have also been involved with the track design. A key element of the design is its inclusive nature, with the track providing an opportunity for disabled people to have the same opportunity for outdoor sport and play as their able-bodied peers.
Moving forward, Andrew and Mark will continue to support the project as part of the committee. They will also offer practical guidance and support, such as track maintenance etc.
The new project has now met its funding target of £50,000 and the build of the new track is planned to go ahead in October 2021.
Mark’s involvement demonstrates that people with a learning disability can be leaders and innovators, and participate in projects that leave a sustainable legacy for generations to come.