Peak Horsepower are an advocacy group whose primary goal is to improve bridleway access in the Peak District National Park (www.peakhorsepower.co.uk). Meeting with two of their representatives back in October it was clear we can work together towards common goals. We were invited to attend their December committee meeting to share what we’ve been up to in the last few hectic weeks and to share more ideas on how we can work together.
The PHP committee consists of horse riders from in and outside the National Park, White Peak and Dark Peak. They do not specifically represent carriage drivers, which is one of the user groups Derbyshire County Council have argued they need to cater for on Rushup Edge (the British Driving Society represents such users).
After giving the PHP committee an update on the Rushup Edge project, we demonstrated how much support we’d generated not just from our immediate – growing – membership but also the likes of Friends of the Peak District, the BMC, Ride Sheffield, The Rucksack Club, Keeper of the Peak and others. It was encouraging to see nods of approval. We also gave a brief summary of the types of user group who responded to the recent Rushup survey and how we would have liked more horse rider representation. The advice from PHP was to contact the British Horse Society (BHS) for a wider viewpoint and we will make sure we contact them for future projects.
It was interesting to learn more of the distinction between the riders represented by PHP, endurance riders and carriage drivers. It is likely these riding groups have different preferences for the routes and surfaces they like to ride so we need to engage with them all.
On a less positive note the PHP secretary said they’d received some abusive emails from mountain bikers pointing the finger at them for the Rushup Edge works taking place. We should reiterate how hugely counter-productive it is to our aims when even just one mountain biker lays unsubstantiated and ill-informed blame on user groups we are – for good reason – trying to forge alliances with.
PHP were not consulted over Rushup Edge and – like many user groups and authorities – discovered the work was going on via the coverage and attention generated by the Peak District MTB Rushup campaign. PHP used to get regular notice of works by DCC but this is no longer the case. Even at Parish Council level the flow of information has become patchy at best.
Two of the PHP committee members sit on the Local Access Forum (LAF) and have valuable experience in working within these consultative forums. We hope to use this experience to help PDMTB get involved with the LAF and this is something we will follow up to get crucial mountain bike representation on this important forum.
PHP commented on monitoring the rights of way to collate empirical usage data to help guide the consultation process. This has taken place on Cherpitt Lane near Great Longstone in the past and is a simple – if time-consuming – process of standing at the end of a right of way and taking notes on who uses it, how and when. The data this generates could be very valuable and it may be something we’ll ask our membership to assist with.
We discussed helping out on each other’s trail maintenance days so we can each get a better understanding of what our respective members like to ride. This is something we will be arranging with PHP possibly as early as the New Year.
PHP were grateful for us publicising their annual Black Harry ride and we agreed that mutual promotion of events that either user group organises would be beneficial for “spreading the load” across the rights of way network.
On a lighter note we also shared a few ideas about a joint event for mountain bikers and horse riders. Breaking down perceived user group boundaries by not only working together but riding together makes us a powerful collaborative voice.
When multiple user groups share the public rights of way network, they need to be considerate to each other. Horses are big animals that can be spooked easily and it’s likely a cyclist will come off worse in such a situation. Whilst it is hopefully common sense for most of us, here are a few key points worth reiterating.
• Make your presence known clearly and early. A simple shout of “bike” will suffice, but don’t wait until you are close to the horse
• Try and keep a distance of 2m between bike and horse where possible
• If more than one bike, move to the same side. If the horse is startled it has nowhere to go if cyclists are on both sides of the trail
• If approaching a blind corner or brow of a hill you should expect to encounter horse riders (or walkers, other cyclists, cows, sheep etc) and adjust your speed accordingly.
There’s more information on this in the BHS Leaflet (click to download pdf) we’ve previously shared.
We’re grateful for having the opportunity to share what we’ve been doing face to face with PHP and once more have come away very positive about the benefits of working together to forge bigger and stronger alliances. Plenty to do…