Staffordshire County Council’s repairs to Hollinsclough Rakes are well underway and it looks like there will be a lot less challenging riding in this quiet corner of the Peak District.
We’ve reported previously on the long-running closure and consultation on the repairs to Swan and Limer Rake near Hollinsclough, but only recently have Staffordshire County Council (SCC) answered some of our outstanding questions and concerns.
“(the photo on this article) is a typical photo of the works completed so far, we are in consultation with Peak District’s Ecologist to agree how to encourage growth to help consolidation of the surfaces, this may involve lightly soiling and seeding.
The National Park Authority have been consulted and kept updated throughout the whole scheme.
Extensive drainage works have been carried out by working closely with the adjacent land owners, to find solutions to the water erosion issues.
Positive systems have been installed which discharge into various outfalls, please see the attached plan.
The attached photo shows free draining aggregate at the Rake sides which drain through to porous carrier drains to various outfalls.
After returning to site after a break for the winter months and a particularly wet March, it is evident that the drainage has performed well and the surfaces have not been eroded (the majority of Limer Rake was surfaced before the winter).
Both Rakes were closed under a TTRO (Temporary Traffic Regulation Order) a result of us being made aware that they were in an unsafe condition. Severe erosion of the surfaces of the Rakes had occurred through a combination of surface water run-off and general wear from use including by four-wheel drive vehicles and trail/trial/enduro type motorcycles. The surface had been eroded to the extent that it was unsuitable for many users, there were exposed and undermined boundary walls and foundations posing a threat to both highway users and the landowners property.
Works have been designed with permanent solutions to address the above issues and to protect the rights of the public to use and enjoy this section of highway and remove the danger from undermined boundary walls.
It would not have been possible to keep the rocky and challenging terrain for mountain bikers without it posing a potential danger to other users, who have raised concerns over the condition of the surface and their difficulties in accessing these routes.
The final surfacing is therefore determined by the complex drainage situation/solutions and will accommodate a wider range of users of the route, suitable for pedestrians, cyclists, horses and physically impaired.
Motorised vehicles will not be permitted and barriers to prevent their use will be installed, the exact designs and locations will be determined in conjunction with adjacent land owners who will have access rights to allow maintenance works when they require.” – Neil Cook, SCC
SCC ran a consultation on the repairs back in 2021. The report from that consultation has recently been uploaded to the SCC website and is worth reading to understand the various representations from different user groups.
Whilst the repairs are disappointing for those mountain bikers who enjoyed the very challenging riding on Swan and Limer Rakes, it’s hard to argue that repairs were not necessary. When asked the multiple choice question “Who do you think should have access to the rakes after the remediation works?” there were 1201 consultation responses for ‘Cycling’ and this was fairly evenly split with pedestrians (1268), Motorised (1275) and Equestrian (1141). The Rakes in their previous state could not have been described as rideable by most cyclists.
Which raises the perennial problem for Peak District MTB advocacy for mountain bikers. We have a hobby based on riding dilapidated rights of way. Those rights of way need repairing periodically, and SCC felt it was not possible to retain the challenge of Hollinsclough Rakes loved by mountain bikers and meet the needs of all user groups reflected in the consultation.
The process of the consultation has been slow, selective in who was kept informed and has not provided the information it said it would (the report from the 2021 consultation was uploaded to the website only this week despite communications from SCC that it was to be published months ago), but we respect the outcome and understand why SCC have needed to take this approach.