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Pupils at Inverness Royal Academy in bid to develop mountain bike trail with help from sportscotland

By John Davidson

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Jane Chisholm wants to see the trail at Inverness Royal Academy developed into a mountain bike skills loop. Picture: John Davidson
Jane Chisholm wants to see the trail at Inverness Royal Academy developed into a mountain bike skills loop. Picture: John Davidson

Pupils at Inverness Royal Academy are hoping to get their own mountain bike skills course built on the school grounds.

Led by PE teacher Jane Chisholm, the youngsters hope to convert an existing path into a coaching area for off-road biking.

They have begun fundraising and aim to raise £20,000 over the spring and summer to help fund the development, along with cash from sportscotland's Cycling Facilities Fund.

The trail would incorporate bermed corners, tabletops, jumps and drop-offs and help pupils improve their confidence on and off the bike.

Mrs Chisholm explained: "At the moment, it's not technical, it's just a cycling and walking trail, which is great.

"But we've got a little mountain bike club at the school so to have a purpose-built coaching area would be fantastic. The idea is to get in a trail designer and we've already had some ideas about how to develop it."

She said the idea is to use the trail for pupils during the school day, including those who use the Bothy – which offers individual support for pupils who may be experiencing social, emotional and behavioural difficulties or have been affected by adverse childhood experiences – and then outside coaches or members of the community could use the facility in the evenings and at weekends.

The school's Cycle Hub was founded in 2018 and aims to widen access to all forms of cycling to pupils, their families and the wider community.

A total of 16 per cent of pupils now cycle to school and links have been made with feeder primaries to offer Bikeability sessions.

The mountain bike club involves youngsters taking part in coached sessions, led rides and an annual bikepacking expedition. Mrs Chisholm hopes the club will be able to develop pupils in the sport to take on leadership roles as well as providing a pathway to competition.

She also says access to cycling can improve health and wellbeing, particularly for pupils with additional support needs, and wants to encourage more girls to take up cycling through using inspirational role models such as Lee Craigie and targeted activities.

She wants the pupils to take ownership of the facility and they have already started raising cash towards the mountain bike trail by selling paracord bracelets in the school.

Mrs Chisholm said: "It is really important to us that the kids are involved in the fundraising – that it becomes their facility, as part of the community, then they help to police it themselves.

"That's something I'm really impressed with every time I go to the skate park and pump track – the users look after it and they police it themselves, and I really hope that would be the same for our facility."

She said they had to apply for the sportscotland fund by September and aim to raise their side of the cash ahead of that date.

A crowdfunding page has been set up at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/iramtb and Mrs Chisholm added: "Any help towards our £20,000 would be amazing!"

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