Like many other Twitter agitators I received a tweet with a link to a DCC page. This was in response to my tweets to Derbyshire County Council about the destruction of the Chapel Gate / Rushup Edge bridleway. It looked like this:
I will be reproducing the full Derbyshire County Council post at the bottom of this page in unalterable, Rosetta stone, screen shotted jpeg format for these things have a habit changing (£70K dropping to £30K for instance) and previous statements being denied. In this post I will address and expose the specious and facile arguments put forward by DCC.
As you can see from Derbyshire County Council’s own illustrative photograph, this bridleway is down to bedrock. the rocks you see in the picture are stable and are not going anywhere. Let us look at what Derbyshire County Council have deemed suitable to resurface Rushup Edge with.
To give you a sense of perspective the smallest of these rocks is the size of a large fist and when you ride a bike over them they undulate like a carpet of marbles. If this is what Derbyshire County Council do in the name of safety I dread to think how they behave when they are being negligent. Now imagine the surface area of a horse’s hoof. Does this in anyway look conducive to the safety and comfort of a horse or rider? My concern is genuine because it highlights the only real question I want Derbyshire County Council to answer: Who are you doing this for?
This is a wide group that encompasses young and old from every section of society. Walking is a unique human trait, one of the cornerstones of our evolution as a species, freeing up the hands to develop the fine motor skills to use tools, write down lanugage, share ideas, poetry and pass on knowledge to the next generation. Walking transcends class and financial means, to do it in comfort costs no more than the price of a waterproof jacket and a pair of boots. The one thing that we can safely assume, without fear of contradiction, is that everyone in this group can walk.
Now that we have established that walkers can walk, and they would have to do a fair bit of it to reach Chapel Gate / Rushup Edge in the first place, I would like you to imagine this scenario. You are standing at the bottom of a steep set of steps that reach up meters into the air, they number 10, maybe 13 and they stand between you… and your toilet. How are you going to conquer this monumental barrier? One approach could be to contact Derbyshire County Council’s PROW department and they’ll pop round and turn your house into a bungalow, not particularly practical or cost effective but that’s how they roll. My point being that most people encounter steps no bigger than those on Rushup Edge everyday of their lives, to say that these steps are impeding walkers is frankly laughable.
Does anyone go walking in the Peak District expecting it to be smooth, even and flat? Isn’t the fact that it’s rugged, exposed and natural part of the attraction of these routes? In September 2014 I rode up these steps on my bike as part of the Hope Valley Moutnain Bike Challenge. I am not especially fit or talented so if I can do it on a bike, I put it to DCC that even those of below average fitness would be able to walk up them at a steady pace. These steps were not impassable they were a unique natural feature that has been carelessly destroyed.
The following is taken from www.peakhorsepower.co.uk and I believe reflects the positive ownership of responsibility felt by the majority of those who use these bridleways.
This is a VERY CHALLENGING but very rewarding ride. The Loop is rugged and strenuous in places so you and your horse need to be fit and prepared. Sections of the route follow rough paths across exposed moorland.
The bridleways used in the Kinder Loop are often stony and steep because of the very nature of the countryside they are set in.
This has been lifted verbatim from Peak Horse Powers website (capitals and all) and what I find most encouraging about the statement is not the recognition that it is a “very challenging” ride but acknoledgement that it is “very rewarding”. This is language I can relate to. I know it would seem to many mountain bikers that horse riders are just ambling along but it seems to me that they enjoy pushing themselves and their steeds just as much as we do.
This one sentence gives me a renewed sense that horse riders and mountain bikers are on the same side despite attempts by Derbyshire County Council to pit our communities against each other with sentences like “Mountain bikers prefer challenging, rockier routes, whereas these might not be suitable for horse riders or walkers.” Hear that walkers and horse riders? DCC think you can’t handle the Peak District’s rugged terrain. Feeling patronised? You should be.
The fact of the matter is that if Derbyshire County Council genuinely want their resurfacing to ensure these bridleways can be “enjoyed by everyone” then surely they have to cater to the one group who are most impeded by these routes. The group they have failed to mention in their post.
If we take Derbyshire County Council at their word and their resurfacing is for the benefit of “everyone” then surely this should mean making the bridleways so smooth as to not impede wheelchairs. To level bridleways sufficiently would preclude the use of rough cut aggregate and certainly involve tarmac or concrete. I doubt even the most ardent wheelchair access advocate would expect Derbyshire County Council to take such drastic action.
So I return to my original question, who are you doing this for DCC? Surely you must have some data? A deluge of correspondence or a petition for improvements from a group of users? A statistical spike in injuries on Rushup Edge that would perhaps support your claim that it is unsafe? What are you basing your decisions on?
Before DCC’s resurfacing we had a bridelway that was suitable for the majority of users and loved by mountain bikers (who apparently don’t count). £70,000 later we have an unstable surface making it more likely to injure walkers, cyclists, horses and their riders. Further more, despite their claims to be championing the right of access to all users we still have a surface that is unsuitable for wheelchair users.
Your arguments and claims thus far Derbyshire County Council have been shown to be contradictory, false and lacking in supporting evidence. The work you have carried out has damaged the character of the Peak District and benefits no one.