Trust defends clampdown on paragliding at Sheffield nature reserve

Mountain biking on Blacka Moor
Mountain biking on Blacka Moor

Managers of a Sheffield beauty spot have defended a crackdown on paragliding and hang-gliding - claiming breaches of the rules are risking people's safety and disturbing wildlife.

Signs have appeared on Blacka Moor, which is looked after by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, informing visitors that gliding is 'prohibited at all times' on the heathland, classed as a site of special scientific interest and home to red deer, migrant birds and cattle.

The sign on Blacka Moor

The sign on Blacka Moor

The trust claims it is trying to ward off an operator that has attempted to use the nature reserve to offer a training course in the activity, saying that 'other responsible paragliders do not use the site'.

But the measure has been met with opposition. Rev Mark Smith, a trained paraglider pilot familiar with the moor near the south-west boundary where Sheffield meets the Peak District, said the signs were 'disappointing'.

"I totally accept it is reasonable at certain times and places to restrict paragliding activity, and clubs will aid you to do this when they are consulted and a good case is made. But to suggest these activities present a danger to the general public is without evidence.

"For the most part paraglider pilots are outdoorsmen, country lovers and defenders of nature, in particular birds - there is something about the experience of flight that does that to us."

He added: "Sadly, I recently heard one acquaintance and long-term supporter has cancelled their direct debit to the Wildlife Trust, which is a real shame. There is no need to set people who are on the same side against each other."

A trust spokesman said: "We are aware that a Derbyshire business has for some years tried to use the site to offer a training course in learning how to paraglide. While we appreciate that many people enjoy paragliding, we do not feel it is an appropriate activity for this site.

"We have made this clear to this specific operator over successive years but he has repeatedly ignored all of our requests to desist. We have not given permission for him to use the site in this way. We believe it has contributed to disturbance to ground nesting birds such as lapwing.

"Despite our efforts to discourage this paraglider from running his operation on the site he has chosen to continue. We know other responsible paragliders do not use the site."

The spokesman said the trust's management plan for Blacka Moor bans activities that damage the reserve and its wildlife, contravene the law, or 'conflict with its quiet usage by others'.

"These activities include, but are not limited to, paragliding."