After two years planning, it’s finally here. The men’s Olympic cycle road race is at Box Hill, and so are the crowds. This normally relaxing green haven is heaving with a multi-coloured heaving mass of lycra-wrapped excitement – and we love it. It’s quite overwhelming to be surrounded by so many happy people, it feels a bit like throwing your home open to all-comers; nerve wracking but exhilarating.
Of course a lot of people have been asking us how we can possibly allow so many people to trample all over one of the most sensitive and heavily protective nature areas in southern England. Well the answer is, it wasn’t easy. Today’s scenes of happy crowds lining the route are only possible because of months of meticulous planning. Over the last year, Box Hill has been surveyed literally metre by metre to get an incredibly accurate picture of what wildlife lives in what areas. A carefully planned series of segregated zones have been created to make sure people are only walking in the areas where it won’t do any damage. If you want to know where the rarest and most fragile plants and insects live, just look for the bits of the route which aren’t lined by crowds.
There’s always a small element of risk in inviting so many people into this delicately balanced environment but that’s something act the National Trust has to deal with every day. One of our core aims is to open up beautiful places to as many people as possible. The crowds who are visiting today might not know anything at all about Box Hill’s rich array of flora and fauna. They might not have heard of Adonis blues or dormice or kidney vetch and frankly they might not care – but if even a small number of them remember the wonderful time they’ve had today in this beautiful place, and they come back again to enjoy it another time, then our years of effort have been worth it.
Right – I’m just off back to the track side to catch the last lap – come on team GB!
For a taste of the atmosphere, watch our video below: