06 Sep Meet Tony Skirrow
“Just some random bloke asking for half a million quid to build a bike park” – Meet Tony Skirrow
The much anticipated Northampton Bike Park is officially open. The Park, formally an unused golf course has been transformed into a 40 acre urban Mountain Bike facility. While construction began earlier this year in April, the project started six years ago when bike enthusiast and local resident Tony Skirrow identified the unused site as having great potential for cycling. We caught up with Tony to find out a bit more about him and how the idea for the Bike Park began.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Tony, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I spent 35 in the automotive industry before retiring a couple of years ago. I’ve played many sports over the years, the main ones being swimming, judo and cricket. I started mountain biking in 2000 and haven’t looked back. There’s something about riding off-road that is completely absorbing, probably because around every corner, there’s something trying to kill you!
The Northampton Bike Park project has been six years in the making, how did the journey start?
I was riding with a local club (TreadsCC) at the time and we were aware that the golf course had stopped being used and noticed what an ideal spot for a mountain bike trail it would be. A few other riders had the same idea, so we put our heads together and started to hatch a plan. Nothing much happened, other than talk, until the beginning of 2019 when a local jump spot was demolished. This was the catalyst for me to take the project forward and give Northampton an official mountain bike site. British Cycling had just launched its Places to Ride scheme, so that was the first port of call for funding and the hard work began.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
There have been numerous, but I think the biggest challenge is trying to motivate people and organisations to help when you have no authority. When speaking with potential sponsors or funding bodies, I was just some random bloke asking for half a million quid to build a bike park! Fortunately, West Northamptonshire Council and Northamptonshire Sport shared my vision and brought the required level of credibility to the funding bid.
What advice would you give destinations looking to do something similar?
Do your research and find your potential site before approaching anyone for help. Have a rough plan of how the project might work. Speak with your local Councillor, MP, and Parish Council and put your plan forward. You need to find people who share your vision. Finally, ask for help and be patient but persistent.
How does it feel to have the Park open?
A massive relief, but I’m excited to see the smiling faces as riders accept the challenge of getting to the bottom of the trails we have created.
How would you like to see the Park develop in the future?
I’d like the Park to become the centre of a strong cycling community in Northampton. In my 20-plus years of mountain biking, I’ve made some great friends and shared some amazing times with them. I’d like as many people as possible to experience the same feeling of community as I do when I ride with like-minded people.