The road that never was

Walna Scar Road, the bridleway that connects Coniston to the Duddon Valley, forms part of one of my favourite routes on the bike in the Lakes. It is also an excellent example of the nonsense that surrounds access rights in England.
Between 2005 and 2012, a series of claims, orders and appeals dogged Walna Scar (and Garburn Pass) - ultimately the threat of legal costs prompted appeals that the passes should be open to motorised traffic, already proven invalid, to be dropped. Both passes were then confirmed as restricted bridleways.
Which means, by default, that they are open to mountain bikers as well as horse drawn vehicles. What relevance the historical use of horse and cart has to mountain biking today is beyond me. The point of course is that England's access rights and the classification of its RoW are hopelessly outdated and enforcement is largely absent.
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act - the law which set out what our National Parks would be like - was passed in 1949. Use of and life within the parks has changed beyond recognition since then. Scotland has since shown what can be achieved. Could 'responsible access' work in England? In the Lakes?
The reasons for adopting a more enlightened system are well documented from health to economic benefits while arguments against, based on the premise that mountain biking inevitably causes greater environmental damage, are spurious at best. Think about any of the popular walkers' routes in the Lakes. Or Stac Polliadh in the north-west Highlands for instance, if you want a more remote example to illustrate the changes wrought upon our mountains, beneath the walker's heel. Of course riding waterlogged tracks causes damage...
...but education is the answer for all camps from the 'athletes' racing through, discarding energy gel wrappers enroute, to the camper's fires started in the most unlikely places and yes, to the riders who pay little heed to the ground conditions of a given route, be it footpath or bridleway. Consider the way in which the 'ethics' of winter climbing have evolved in the UK. It is a community which largely polices its own activity - climbing out of condition / poorly frozen winter routes, thereby causing damage to the flora in what are often environmentally sensitive areas, is taboo. Offenders are publicly condemned by their peers. Remarkable really, when one considers how difficult it is for the average weekend climber faced with the vagaries of British winter conditions, to find a chosen route in good nick, on one of the few days available between the competing pressures of modern life.
Education. And access.
Access that reflects the nature of the way in which people engage with the such landscapes - along with education that teaches the value of these spaces, in all its forms, will protect the interests of all, infinitely more effectively than is the case currently.
The alternative is to ignore an issue that will only grow as pressure on these spaces increases, spending years in pointless, archaic debate - or funding others to do so on our behalf - protecting our rights to travel by horse and cart, on a road that never was.

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