Monsal Trail : Essential lighting works is taking place from Mon 13 May for five weeks. Tunnels will remain open but light levels may be lower than usual. Please obey signs and take care when passing the works.
How we work to look after the national park, conservation, ranger services, biodiversity and policies.
The need for and use of public rights of way has changed radically since the last war; they are no longer primary means of getting from A to B: the motor vehicle fulfils that function. Footpaths, bridleways, roads used as public paths, byways open to all traffic and un-classified highways are now the means by which the countryside can facilitate many leisure activities including walking, horseriding and off-road cycling.
The use of the network has dramatically increased over the last decade as people have become more environment and health conscious, leisure time has increased and transport has become available to more people. This has led inevitably to complications for management. The often conflicting desires of many diverse interests in the countryside need to be co-ordinated in order to maintain a degree of harmony and to keep conflict to a minimum and the physical impact on the paths means a need for continual maintenance. More and more the limited extent of the network is becoming apparent, particularly for some types of user and the National Park Authority through its duty to protect the landscape and to provide for public recreation plays a role in assisting the highway authorities with the management and maintenance of the public path network.
The National Park Plan Review states that the objective for the Public Path Network for the period of the Plan will be: To maintain and increase opportunities for visitors and residents to walk and ride in the National Park; and to resolve, so far as is possible, any conflicts that occur between different users and between users, landowners, occupiers and conservation interests."
There are seven highway authorities within the National Park and the National Park Authority works with these on public path matters. The highway authorities are Derbyshire County Council, Staffordshire County Council, Cheshire County Council, Sheffield City Council, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Kirklees Borough Council and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council.
The more routine provision, construction and maintenance of stiles, gates and bridges is a major way in which the Authority assists highway authorities and landowners to maintain the network. The Authority's involvement in practical work has considerably increased since a three person countryside maintenance team was appointed in January 1990; this team has now been increased to seven people following a successful bid for funding from the European Rural Development fund for the 'Gateways' project, a project with the objective of making the public paths network more accessible for more people, chiefly through the replacement of awkward stiles with self-closing wicket gates.
The ranger service maintains a close liaison with farmers and landowners on the condition and repair of gates and stiles. A percentage of the costs of materials used is reclaimed in certain cases from the relevant highway authority. Responsibility for the provision and maintenance of footbridges rests with the highway authorities and bridges are also erected in close consultation with these authorities. The National Park Authority also helps with the clearance of overgrowth and undergrowth from public paths. The Authority also organises volunteers to undertake various types of tasks to improve the condition of rights of way.
The Authority's staff often respond to requests for waymarking and signposting on paths where the route is unclear and walkers need reassurance that they are on the correct line.
The Authority plays an important role in advising both users and landowners about their rights and responsibilities. Certain routes are promoted though leaflets and interpretation boards and the 'Walks Around' series of booklets has proved very popular. For many years the ranger service has also provided on-the-ground advice on public path matters to farmers and path users.
The Authority acts as a co-ordinator between users, landowners and other countryside interests and through this helps to mitigate the inevitable conflicts that arise between the many diverse interests in the countryside.
The vulnerability of many paths within the National Park has been greatly increased in recent years due to the expanding participation in walking and other countryside activities, including the relatively recent concept of mountain biking. The fragile nature of the upland terrain crossed by some of these paths coupled with this pressure has led to numerous problems. This must be qualified however, by its putting into context in terms of the extent of the rights of way network. Erosion is only a problem on a relatively small number of upland paths; the majority of the 2,000 miles of public rights of way within the National Park are free from this type of problem.
There is no definitive means of combating path erosion: solutions have to be fixed to fit the conditions dictated by the particular environment. Factors such as terrain type, flora, degree of slope, height of path, extent of use, proximity to settlements etc, and the particular solution is therefore site specific. The National Park Authority's primary duty is to protect the landscape and this forms the foundation of any work undertaken.
Where it is not possible to allow nature to restore an eroded section of path, it may be necessary to construct some form of surface. As the reason for constructing a path is primarily to protect the landscape from the intrusion of a further scar, the construction technique and materials should fit the environment. Hence, on the Pennine Way, a programme is underway, with funding from the Countryside Commission, to build paths from gritstone flagstones using traditional construction techniques; on slopes a technique employed centuries ago and known as 'pitching' is being used. Local materials are used where possible. These paths are replicas of the old pack horse tracks that traverse the high moorlands of the Peak District. Unfortunately, such techniques are expensive in terms of materials and labour and there are often logistical problems in delivering heavy materials to the site of construction. Helicopters occasionally have to be used.
Where a traditional method is impractical due to expense or some other problem, such as transportation of materials, then other methods may be employed. These often take the form of the building of an aggregate gritstone or limestone (according to the location) surface. Such paths, at least in the early years, tend to have a somewhat urban look and hence are less acceptable than traditionally constructed paths within the National Park.
Funds for path repair work came from a variety of sources; the highway authorities have the legal responsibility for the maintenance of the network. The National Park Authority contributes and so do major landowners with conservation interests such as the National Trust, Water Companies and large estates. Occasionally, funds are contributed by charitable organisations such as the Peak District and Environment Fund.
The National Park is subject to numerous pressures and mountain biking is one of the most rapidly expanding activities in the National Park and the additional and new demand on the path network has brought forth a mixed response from those involved in using, farming, living in and managing the countryside. Generally, and more particularly so as people become used to the concept of off-road cycling, there is no strong opposition to the activity and for its part the Authority welcomes mountain biking on suitable rights of way. One source of conflict is from a lack of awareness on the part of cyclists who are unaware of where they can and cannot go, and consequently cycle on footpaths and other paths where they have no right of way. Cycling is permitted on bridleways and un-classified highways, but not on public footpaths. This can lead to landowner opposition and conflict with other users.
The National Park Authority has a major role to play in mitigating conflict in the countryside and consequently attempts through the ranger service and through the erection of suitable 'No cycling' signs to discourage illegitimate use. The Authority has worked with the Cyclists Touring Club and Sports Council with the objective of producing a guidebook promoting a series of circular and interlinked routes throughout the National Park on bridleways and unclassified roads in an attempt to channel illegitimate use away from problem areas and to encourage people to use suitable rights of way. The aim of the Authority is to attain a degree of harmony between the conflicting desires of the many diverse interests in this extremely sensitive countryside. It has a duty to provide for public recreation within the National Park but in the event of an irreconcilable conflict with conservation issues the latter must take priority.
The demand for freedom to roam unhindered on foot over open moorland was a major force in the growth of the National Park movement in England and Wales. The Peak was one of the main areas of controversy and the scene of mass trespasses on the private land of Kinder in 1932. This demand for access led to a specific part of the National Parks Act of 1949 being devoted to 'Access to Open Country'. Between 1953 and 1970, 19 Access Agreements were concluded with private landowners over a total area of 76 square miles, mainly on the northern moors which had been the focus of controversy in the 1930s including the whole of the Kinder and Bleaklow plateaux.
Access agreements made with the landowners allowed the public the right to pursue quiet activities such as walking and climbing without having to keep to public rights of way. As most of the access land was managed for grouse shooting, the agreements allowed for the moors to be closed for a few days each year during the grouse shooting season (12 August - 10 December).