The commercial aspirations of the Forestry Commission crushed the dreams of an inspirational pair of cyclists last week when it was announced that the owners of the Hub in the Forest are to be kicked out of the Glentress Forest cycling business that they created.

The phrase ‘victims of their own success’ has seldom been so apt – former world-class mountain bikers Emma Guy and Tracy Brunger have built up the Hub in the Forest facility in Scotland over the past ten years into an extremely popular destination for cyclists from all over the country and beyond, paving the way for similar facilities all over the UK.

The Hub has brought in tens of thousands of bikers, walkers and tourists in the past ten years. And from a humble Portacabin, the two women have built up a cafe, bike hire and coaching business that now provides work for around 30 people. It’s taken all of the money, hard work and dedication of Brunger and Guy, with helps from friends and family along the way, to realise the dream.

But now, the two women will have to give up the business that they have worked so hard to create, their dreams colliding with the Forestry Commission’s tendering process for a new £9 million visitor facility at Glentress built to cope with the demand created in no small part by the women themselves.

“Tracy and I are gutted and mystified that we haven’t made it further in the tendering process,” Guy told Cycling Weekly.

“It would be arrogant for us to say that the success of Glentress is up to us, but we’ve helped to make it what it is. Higher management in FC have never acknowledged what we’ve contributed, and that leaves us feeling bitter.

“The new building will cost £9 million to create, and it’s great that FC have made that investment, but why is bigger better? We started it with a passion for mountain biking rather than making money. The new cafe will probably go to a chain with no interest in fixing someone’s bike or taking a group of kids out for free.”

Talking to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, Forestry Commission press officer Steve Williams attempted to justify the move: “We understand the Hub’s disappointment, however, the tendering process is being carried out strictly in accordance with public tendering for commercial opportunities procedures.”

“FCS staff will be inviting the Hub, as with the other unsuccessful bidders, to a meeting to be given feedback. This will be done once the tendering process is complete.”

It’s the cold ‘professional’ response of a commercial business. On the one had, it’s right and proper that business procedures have been followed but those procedures that exist to give the process a false sense of fairness ultimately aren’t concerned with loyalty or soul, rather than of profit and loss.

Understandably, regular users of Glentress have been quick to air their disgust, with the Hub in the Forest’s Facebook page now full of messages offering support and attempts to organise a protest.

Facebook user Richard Thomas summed up the general feeling: “What a terrible decision. Been going to Glentress for the last ten years and have seen what Emma and Tracey have done there over that time to make it what it is today. Also took a training course with the girls earlier this year that transformed my riding – they really are the complete package. So what can we do to make FC reconsider?”

Others were less restrained, branding the decision ‘absolute crap’, ‘plain stupid’, ‘bloody awful’ and several phrases that we won’t reproduce on this family-friendly website.

Guy and Brunger’s lease at Gelntress runs out in March 2012, with the new centre opening in Easter 2011 – it means that the two facilities will run side-by-side for a year leaving visitors free to vote with their feet.

Forestry Commission Scotland is a government department responsible for the protection of forest and woodland. Its mission statement is to “to protect and expand Scotland’s forests and woodlands and increase their value to society and the environment.” FCS is responsible to managing Scotland’s forestry estate, which includes commercial aspects (eg timber production), conservation concerns and public recreation.

Roseanna Cunningham is Scotland’s Forestry Minister. Guy and Brunger sent an email to Cunningham voicing concerns over the new centre at Glentress but have yet to receive a reply.

External links

The Hub in the Forest, Glentress: official website

The Hub in the Forest on Facebook

Forestry Commission Scotland on Twitter

Forestry Commission Scotland website

  • Ospreywatcher

    The Forestry Commission are cutting their own throats with this decision.

    Visiting the Hub is all part of the biking experience at Glentress whether it be to hire a bike or enjoy the home made food at the end of a long tiring ride. Without the two girls there is no Hub and many riders will find the new set up less attractive, more expensive and will stop coming.

    I am not a biker myself any longer but work in the Osprey viewing centre. However I know for a fact that the vast majority of visitors to Glentress do not come to see the Osprey centre or to walk the forest paths. The Hub provides a personal touch which is missing in so many places these days.

    Maybe the Forestry Commission no longer want to attract so many bikers because that is certainly how things will turn out. I very much doubt if the reduced number of cyclists will be compensated for by additional visitors with different interests than biking.

    I hope the girls can set up elsewhere in competition with the new leaseholders whoever they may be and I am sure they will take most of their customers with them. I appreciate that the Forestry Commission have done a huge amount of work themselves towards creating the success of the trails but if the Hub had not existed over the past few years there would have been no need to build a new centre.

  • 5bikesandbellies

    Shocking decision but no one who knows anything about public procurement will be surprised. The people who assess the tenders are bean counting nerds who iron their nylon pyjamas. The winning tender will tick the right number of boxes and will be a chain who understands how public tendering works .

  • Ken Evans

    Why don’t the FC give money to The Hub,
    and work with them to help them expand ?

    The Hub have shown that they know what they are doing,
    and have been successful for several years,
    the FC’s planned big new facilities might be inappropriate for the location.

  • bfergie

    Neither, my father worked in the Forestry for 40 years, my grandfather also but in harvesting, actually working a chainsaw, I too work in the forests but self employed tree felling, not exactly someone who has the earning to invest in very much but I have spent my whole life working in the forests, long before they became a MTB centre. People seem to have the misconception that these places are timeless and should never change, fact is they constantly change. A lot of people are still employed planting and felling, the main purpose of the Forests to be fair, at some point even the trails themselves will have a harvester rip through them. But sad as it is, if you take a lease, once the lease runs out then that’s it. For years people expected the FC to be a soft touch but they are in business to make money, the biking will still be there and folk will still ride, it wouldn’t be a fair open market if others could not tender for a place…it’s fair, put in your best price and if you don’t get the job..tough, try something or somewhere else!

  • Felix The Cat.

    ^^^ Works for the Forestry or has an investment in the visitor center?^^^

  • bfergie

    The Forestry have every right to do what they did, they own the land, 10 years on a site is nothing in the grand scheme of things, things change, for example over at Kirroughtree it used to be lead mines, terrible when that closed, then it was a Tree nursery, oh awful, folk were out of a job or moved on, then is became a FC store area, then a visitor centre with a few walks, now it has Mountain bikes and a cafe but does that mean it has to stop evolving..NO,
    Same with Glentress, the place was open to tender, that’s fair! The Forestry own the land, paid for the routes to be made and people have made a living for 10 years on the back of that!! I’d assume the owners were aware of all the plans and just didn’t win the tender….start somewhere else, if looking long term then it may be wise to own the property outright and develop that rather than on someone elses land, If it was a private woodland/forest that the Hub was sited on and the owner decided to sell up or plant the area with trees there would not be this outcry, The Hub surely was not started solely to benefit riders…I’m sure the main reason was a business oppertunity, 10 years of oppertunity is a good run. I have been riding bikes in the Forests in south Scotland for 30 years(I grew up in Glentrool), long before shops and routes were made specially and would continue if they were not there. People forget the Forestry Commission was started to produce timber, the rest whether walking, fishing, mountain biking, school trips etc are a bonus, don’t expect things to stay the same as they are now, it was certainly different when I was a kid and will be different again when I’m an old man. If folk can’t adapt as fast as the Forest there is something wrong! As for boycotting a visitor centre, go ahead, it’s for “visitors” boycott Glentress if you must, all the 7 stanes for that matter, it wont change the forests, it wont stop folk who were always there from riding and it wont stop the tourists. Remember FC Scotland is not to be privatised, it could have been and become Center Parks or Butlins, it’s still open access for everyone, no hassles…we are very lucky to have this asset on our doorstep, what business or who runs it near the ” start line” makes no difference, if folk like the Hub for the people and the service then re-establishing it nearby should not effect it’s viability! What should be said is “good luck in the future to all those at the Hub in future ventures”

  • David Smith

    The Hub is a real, grass roots success story and Glentress (the trails, the kids who’ve grown up on them, and all the rest of us who consider it our home trail) only exists as an international destination because of Tracy & Emma’s hard work. It is exacty the kind of initiative local and national government should be encouraging – it makes money and that money stays in Scotland, rather than landing in some corprate HQ elsewhere. What’s more the money it makes is mostly reinvested in training and facilities that we all rely on.

    Looks like Tracy and Emma keep their lease through 2012, while the new centre opens in 2011. I don’t think you can call yourself a biker and use the new centre, that’s just not how we do things. Lets see if it survives for a year without customers. In the meantime write to your MSP and raise your concerns with them. Competitive tendering is all well and good but natural justice has to have a place in the process. The FC is 100% wrong here, make sure you tell them.

  • David Gray

    The easy thing to do here is to hide behind the “rules are rules” line, to think “it had to be done this way” and move on, guilt free. But this is about people who built Glentress up from nothing, who faced awful pressures and treatment along the way, and finally, made a success of the business and in a huge way made Glentress the major attraction it is now. Anyone who cares about friends, family and just plain loyalty won’t walk away: this is Scotland, not Wall Street, and we should be ashamed of ourselves if Emma and Tracey are pushed out.

  • barry

    as Gary said same thing happened here in north wales Sian and Daffyd roberts both top racers set up a successful cafe and then got thrown out when FC saw the ££££££ signs, disgusting

  • Gary P

    The FC did the same thing with Coed-Y-Brenin some years ago.

    Success was built on the old cafe and when the FC saw the £s they tossed side the old cafe to build a new visitor centre.


  • Felix The Cat.

    This is terrible! There should be a petition set up, just to show a lack of support for the FC’s unethical business strategy, and any people seen using the new facility while the hub is still open should have their bikes panted Barby pink, with the words “I AM A MINDLESS CONSUMER WITH THE ETHICAL SENSE OF A DEAD MULE!” down the side of their frame.

  • Simon E

    To put this in perspective, bear in mind that the Hub ladies will have known this would happen since day one. As I have seen stated on another forum, it is a possibility that they don’t have the resources to ‘grow’ or develop the centre in the way the FC anticipates / would like. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if the situation for the incumbents appears to be unfair, and we don’t know the facts anyway. I’m not saying the choice is either the right or wrong one, that may become apparent in time.

  • Brian Moore

    How can the FC cash in on the goodwill that Emma and Tracey have built up for them over the past 10 years? Any lawyers out there who can answer that one?

  • PeterLB

    This is unreal. The FC might be following their processes to the ‘t’, but this is not the way to run every aspect of business. They should be ashamed of themselves. Everyone should email Mrs Cunningham and try to get her to step in.