Why Houndkirk Moor is seeing a succession of cyclists, walkers and runners
It’s been a wet winter, say country folk. There’s so much mud out there it’s worth restoring some old words for the clag and slurry left by passing Outdoor Citizens: mountain bike ‘gutters’ on the Dark Peak, for example, or the ‘stabble’ from hundreds of walkers’ boots.
“We love this area,” said David Holmes. “And we’d encourage more people to enjoy the wonderful things the Peak District has to offer, without loving it to death.”
David, a fell runner and race organiser, was discussing responsible trail use and other sources of countryside tension with fellow walker, conservationist and climber John Horscroft from the nationally famous Ride Sheffield mountain bike advocacy group.
“Anybody in any group can be an idiot,” said John “and teaching everyone how to use this national park is going to be a massive ask for all of us. But people like David and I agree on much more than we disagree on.”
Standing on a frosty Houndkirk Moor as a succession of cyclists, walkers and runners passed every minute or two, John said: “This is the Natural Health Service out here. This is where we want people, we don’t want them in gyms.”
Sheffield is the only UK city that includes a national park within a large part of its boundary, noted David, thus bringing wealth to hotels, restaurants and an increasing outdoor industry. It’s also a big challenge to the organisations trying to both manage the land and promote even more people benefiting from it.
“We need to be smarter about how, when and why we encourage people to enjoy the countryside,” David said. “If its traditional custodians and protectors at the National Park Authority are so starved of resources that they struggle even to put signs up, if investment has to come from private enterprise, I’d like to see more people putting their hands in their pockets.” Signs at popular car parks explaining legal trail use and good practice, funded by Strava and the leisure industry, he suggested.
The primary challenges are seen as safety and erosion. David and John agreed that everyone causes erosion, with walkers’ stabble spreading out over grass or heather, while bike wheels cause gutters in soil and peat. Better education on how to use the trails is needed, said John, along with more Peak District visitors volunteering for conservation work.
“Hats off to the mountain bike community for setting the benchmark on trail work,” said David. Last weekend saw two sides of Peak District mountain biking. On Saturday John and twenty Ride Sheffield colleagues spent a day maintaining trails on Blackamoor to the benefit of all users.
Meanwhile, on access land (usable by walkers and runners only) above Ladybower, 45 mountain bikers were listed hurtling down a once little-known track to post their ‘segment’ times to the Strava app. Last week’s fastest time (of over 7,000 posted so far) was just under 24 mph, which could seriously hurt and definitely frighten someone legally walking the route and its blind corners, said David, who recently met several women who’d had just such an experience laughed off by bikers in a nearby pub.
“That’s unforgivable,” said John Horscroft.
“People talk about rights in the countryside, but I say it’s a privilege to be out in a national park. If you’re on a bike you ride safely, you ride within your own limits and in my opinion if you see a walker you should stop, or if you’re behind say ‘hi’ or ring your bell and say ‘is it ok if I come past’? You’ll often end up in conversation with that walker and you’ll both have enjoyed your day better.”
Ride Sheffield’s ‘Be Nice Say Hi’ campaign and ‘Peak Bike Code’ are supported by the county-wide Love to Ride cycling initiative of (so far) over 2,000 South Yorkshire participants cycling recreationally or to work.
“We’re keen to get behind Ride Sheffield’s work to help everyone get on together in the Outdoor City and the Peak District by supporting the Peak Bike Code,” said Jack Windle of Love to Ride.
“You should always think about other people when you’re out there and, just as importantly, think about how and where you ride affects the wildlife and the trails. We want everyone who loves to ride to make sure they keep loving the Peak District too.”
* Ride Sheffield Trail Advice: Ride Sheffield