DCC strike again with works ‘not in keeping’ with surrounding areas or indicated plans.
Derbyshire County Council have once again resurfaced an historic pathway to the surprise and frustration of users.
Hollowford Road, the sunken pathway that leads from a lane out of Castleton to Hollins Cross on the eastern flank of Mam Tor has been filled with stone and according to contractors working on site, will be topped with a finer layer of material.
2/2023. Photo credit: P. Booker
“It’s tremendously disappointing to see what has happened to the pathway at Hollowford Road,” says Chris Maloney, Chair of Peak District MTB. “We understood that the path would be repaired with stone pitching, a far more suitable approach.
“To see loose stone and gravel once more used to such an extent and an apparent late substitution in lieu of stone pitching is a surprise and makes us question whether the county council is actually listening to the concerns of users or simply going through the motions.”
The work on Hollowford Road follows similar unsuitable methods used on Rushup Edge, Chapel Gate and Pindale – which have previously raised significant alarm amongst users for their lack of sensitivity to the area, beyond just the mountain biking community.
Technically having the status of ‘adopted highway‘, this short (~170m) section links the ‘metalled’ (tarmacked) section of Hollowford Road to the bridleway to Hollins Cross, although it’s width wouldn’t permitted road traffic and it being much more akin to a bridleway in appearance.
Annotated screenshot from DCC’s map, showing rights of way and adopted highways, 2/2023. Bing OS map location.
Accordingly we and others had believed DCC’s plan was to use stone pitching (as in their documented plans, extract below) on this short section before continuing further work on the footpath to Hollins Cross.
However, it’s been reported work on the ground will actually involve a “ramp” rather than stone pitching. Could this be of the same style of the concrete and ‘crazy paving’ we’ve previously seen on Rushup or the quickly undermined and crumbling concrete of Chapel Gate?
Chapel Gate & Rushup Edge, 11/2021
This part of Hollowford Road is an ancient hollow way a on ‘coffin route’ from Edale to Castle and in our belief deserves a more delicately handled approach. Indeed, user groups – including horse riders – had offered to support stone pitching work financially, but this was declined by DCC.
Peak District MTB is always willing to support sensitive, necessary repair work; potentially financially (as on Cut Gate) where possible, more typically with volunteer time, or a combination of both.
But is there a more concerning trend emerging here? Or is it just same old same old?
WE’VE KEPT OUR END OF THE BARGAIN
We at Peak District MTB have worked hard to build a relationship with an, at times, resolutely stubborn county council. We’ve performed every task required of us as a volunteer group to ensure our voice is heard officially, right back to the start of Peak District MTB’s creation; we’ve set up as a formally constitutionalised group, we’ve attained a regular representative at the Local Access Forum, we’ve invited open and transparent dialogue with officers, we’ve built relationships with other user groups and we’ve helped raise tens of thousands of pounds to improve rights of way in the national park.
And all we’ve asked in return is to be given a clear steer on work to be undertaken and for our voice to be heard in discussions on how paths are maintained across the Peak.
Last year we had some promising discussions with Derbyshire County Council in the wake of the Pindale debacle but little has happened since. Until now.
Having been on site visits to trails in the plan where we’ve given expert* guidance on how something should be done, only for that advice and guidance to be completely ignored is demoralising. To see the same happen to people in a professional capacity who are paid to advise and guide is shameful. We’re frustrated on behalf of the individuals unwillingly put in that position, despite their best efforts to build relationships.
And after Rushup and Pindale and countless other gravelly, sandy, silly infilly repairs, there are seemingly no lessons being learned. – What was is Einstein said?
But we’re in the dark. After more digging around than there should have been, we’ve found the list of paths earmarked for maintenance in the Derbyshire Right of Way Improvement Plan (RoWIP). And yes, the majority of these make perfect sense – trails need looking after. We’re not naive enough to think they don’t and we’re certainly not the only users of those trails. This list is shown below.
So what can we see here? Well, a lot of things that need doing are being done. A lot of things on here are more alarming. They’d be less alarming if we could see the specification for the works planned. We’ll be asking Derbyshire County Council for clarity and ask that you do too. We’ve highlighted some which are of interest. Get on to the council. Chase the clarity. If you live in the Peak it’s your money being spent on these. There’s an election round the corner too.
We know DCC have plans to work on Cave Dale, on the other side of Castleton. The latest response on this we had previously been able to get last September, was that dates for the works were being scheduled. We have previously campaigned vigorously against a heavy-handed (or more likely cack-handed) approach on this unique and popular Peak District bridleway, with our petition for proper plans and consultation with users having gained over 1,500 signatories to date.
We’re in the uncomfortable position of seeing a list of proposed ‘improvement works’, a precedent of what those improvements look like, and no reliable detail on work will involve nor clear timescale of what and when things are going to be done. And, not for the first time with DCC, we’re questioning if we can trust what we’ve been told.
Time to make our voices heard again everyone. On all the forums and places you can – we need clarity on this work and we need to be listened to. We need your help. We’ll try our best but we need the power of our members to drive this clarity – and a commitment to stick to a plan – into the process.
Again, our request is simple: transparent dialogue and proper respect for our insight. We know what we’re talking about. And if you say you’re going to do something; do it.
The latest list of forth coming DCC maintenance works to the best of our knowledge, with those of most concern highlighted in yellow:
DCC Maintenance Works 2023-02-18 [PDF]
*our LAF representative is a qualified geo-morphologist. He knows his shingle.