Objecting to a track on a Dark Peak Moor

 

 

Something is not right in the Peak District. You can feel the tension between those that have the information and those that can only surmise. At the centre of this maelstrom is the grouse shooting industry. A landowner is trying to obtain planning permission for a plastic track installed almost 4 years ago without planning permission.

Back in June 2016 I was completing research for my book Dark Peak Walks. A short walk with much interest took me from Cut Gate to Pike Lowe across Sugden Top. It was on that moor that I was stopped by a gamekeeper wanting to know what I was doing. This is open access land and no closure in operation. The keeper refused to give his name or who he worked for. He had arrived on an ATV type vehicle driven along a plastic track that stretched from over Harden Clough way right across Mickleden Brook and Cut Gate and then onwards to Lost Lad. He wasn’t happy that I was there and tracked me all day, making sure I saw him, even waited for me on my return to Langsett reservoir. It was an odd and difficult experience, the first time I had ever been stopped in 40 years.

The purpose seemed to centre around either the plastic track or grouse shooting, or the fact that a member of the public was on access land and the landowner did not want that.

Putting grouse shooting to one side for now, investigation brought to light that the track stretches across an area that falls within the following designations;

  1. Special Area of Conservation
    • Blanket Bog
    • Upland or subalpine dry dwarf shrub heath
  2. Special Protection Area
    • Breeding upland moorland birds
      • Golden Plover
      • Merlin
      • Short Eared Owl
      • Peregrine
      • Dunlin
  3. Dark Peak SSSI

The area is subject to Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and a Moorland Management Plan. The stated purpose of the track is to allow access on to the moors for moorland management and restoration duties. The track also links up two lines of grouse butts with access from the east via the shooting cabin at Sugden Clough. And a third new line of butts in the area of Bull Clough, part of a Natural Zone, installed without planning permission. Developments within a Natural Zone are not granted other than in exceptional circumstances.

A reference in the retrospective planning application states that the track may also be used by estate staff in their daily duties.  It is important to note that the application does not state the track will be used to transport shooting clients up to the grouse butts.

The application was made by Davis and Bowring acting on behalf of Wakefield Farms who manage the moor. Davis and Bowring are land agents who also specialise in operating and maintaining grouse shooting moors. Application Number:NP/S/1217/1304 is the fourth planning application made retrospectively about the plastic track. Two earlier applications were not passed, a third had errors and was replaced by the most recent made in February 2018 (Peak District National Park. 2018)

The plastic matting was installed without consultation with the proper authorities and without planning permission from the Peak District National Park. Changes were made to the ancient Cut Gate bridleway whose surface had been graded to allow the matting to stretch across the bridleway without affecting the travel of  vehicles along the track. This caused the track to slope down to a steep banking causing bikes to falter and feet to walk around the slippery plastic surface up onto moorland, widening the already eroded bridleway. The track stretches across Mickleden Beck, a natural watercourse then up onto moorland to the east and west of Mickleden Beck and Cut Gate. It is plain to see as a wide green strip which is incongruous with the wild nature of this area and not attentive to the ancient nature of the Cut Gate bridleway.

Photographs show that the plastic track is degrading through what the estate claim is “occasional”use by the estate to access the areas for management. Within the area can also be seen stacks of wooden posts to be used as support for vehicles should the ground become impassable on the track.

 

 

Management works upon the moor ceased sometime ago, but the plastic track still exists and has degraded in that time from use. In fact the plastic track was installed after the heavy machinery used on the moor had completed the work and vacated the area. So, clearly the track is not for moorland management but for access. As the track leads on to the moor from the shooting cabins at Sugden Clough there can only be one conclusion, that the track is to facilitate access on a permanent basis for grouse shooting.

Furthermore, and perhaps more potentially serious is the effect on bird life on the moors where the plastic track accesses. In 2015 a pair of Merlin were seen on site in April. The birds could not be located on subsequent visits but there is evidence that gamekeeper’s had regularly accessed the site after the 2015 inspection. (RSPB. 2018)

Finally, a point not directly related to this site but is important. In recent years there have been substantial improvements made to grouse moors for the purpose of shooting birds, these improvements are still ongoing. Tracks from whatever material are an easy and quick way of getting paid guns out to the butts. Several tracks have already been upgraded or appeared within the Dark Peak. Each has a detrimental impact on this special landscape.

In my view the plastic track:

  • is not necessary,
  • impinges on the natural wild nature of the moorland
  • affects a natural watercourse
  • affects the natural habitat of the landscape
  • spoils an otherwise wonderful view for walkers, bikers, horse riders, lovers of wild life
  • was installed without consultation or planning permission
  • contributes in a detrimental way the presence of wild birds due to increased access
  • does not enhance moorland management.
  • Maintenance has not ensured that the plastic track maintains its integrity and this has detrimentally affected moor and watercourse.

I will therefore be objecting to planning permission being given for the retention of the matting. I would urge people to do likewise. At the bottom of this page is a sample letter which can be used or adapted and then sent to the planning Peak District National Park to register an objection. Objections close on Wednesday 14th March 2018

Peak District National Park: Application Number:NP/S/1217/1304 (2018) retrieved from: https://pam.peakdistrict.gov.uk/?r=NP%2FS%2F1217%2F1304&q=midhope&s=0

RSPB:Submission to Peak District National Park (2018) retrieved from: https://pam.peakdistrict.gov.uk/files/57523941.pdf

Where to object:

https://pam.peakdistrict.gov.uk/?r=NP/S/1217/1304&comment

Sample objection letter

Dear Peak Park Planning Body, 

: Objection to retrospective planning application NP/S/1217/1304    Midhope Moor plastic mesh.

I live fairly locally to the Midhope Moor area and regularly visit this ‘ Natural Zone ‘  of the National Park and enjoy the peace, beauty and solitude it provides. I am objecting to the continued presence of the plastic matting track which crosses the Cut Gate path on Midhope Moor. I had hoped that it was temporary as was initially stated and find its continued presence to be an eye sore and completely contrary to what one would expect in an area protected by the Peak Park Authority. One of the key attractions of this area has always been is its open character, wildness and few obvious signs of human influence. 

I had understood that this very obvious sign of human intervention was of a temporary nature, yet it now has a further application to remain.  Having looked at the Peak Park Core Strategy Development Plan Oct 2011  I  note that  Policy LC1  states  –  ‘ development that would serve only to make land management or access easier will not be regarded as essential ‘ .

 Also  within the General Spatial Policy   GSP1 –  7.19  it states  ‘ where there are conflicting desired outcomes in achieving national park purposes greater priority must be given to the conservation of natural beauty , wildlife and cultural heritage of the area , even at the cost of some socio – economic benefits ‘ .

The Peak Park Authority has a stated duty to uphold ‘valued characteristics’ of the National Park, including the natural beauty, natural heritage, landscape character and diversity as well as the sense of wildness and remoteness, clean earth air and water, wildlife and biodiversity.

I understand the supporting evidence to the application indicates that the development does not cross nor is near a water course. I have seen this plastic track/matting and it quite clearly crosses Mickleden Beck which flows from Bull Clough, eventually joining the Little Don downstream. Some of the matting is breaking up and will run off into the water course, causing pollution and being a risk to the animals that drink from it and live in it. This is completely contrary to current views on the impact of plastics on the environment. This is another reason for my objection to the continued presence of this matting.

I do not see how the imposition of the matting can have anything other than a negative impact on the landscape. It is an intrusive feature that can be seen from quite a distance crossing this wild valley. The Cut Gate Bridleway which the plastic track crosses and seen as a key feature on the other side of the valley, is a popular path used by many hundreds of people and the continued existence of this track detracts from their enjoyment of the area and conveys a message that those charged with protecting the quality and character of the landscape are allowing it to be spoiled.

I hope the planning committee will take these points into account when considering this application as this wild area of the Natural Zone of the National Park is worth defending.

Yours Faithfully

 

Letter in PDF format

 

 

Scout trainee search and rescue dog

Scout
Scout. Trainee Search and Rescue Dog. Photo Mark Harrison

Its been a bit of a week for Scout my trainee Mountain Rescue search and rescue Border Collie. On a training exercise Monday night, Scout had to find a hidden person, Paul Richmond, a friend who regularly gives up his Monday nights to act as a body for Scout. He set off searching woodland as he normally does, trying to detect any scent from a human in the air and unknown to me, picked up the scent of two people lost in the woods, without a torch and unable to get out to safety.

Scout still has a year of training to do, but he performed, exactly as he should, returning to tell me he had found some people then making multiple runs between them and me guiding me to their location. They were a little scared and desperate to get out of the woods. Scout an I escorted them out and then Scout continued on with his search to find Paul, eventually locating him and bringing me to his position.

It’s a big moment in his development, he did what he had trained to do, without thought or hesitation. I am so proud of him.

Grindle Barn – Peak District

 

One of my favourite short walks in the Derwent Valley takes me from Derwent Dam, through what remains of Derwent village and up via an old packhorse route onto Derwent Edge. It is not a taxing walk, the ascent up on to the edge a mere 160m along a well marked and in places paved path. What it has that draws me back to it on a regular basis is quietness and contemplation.

Once the crowds have been left behind at the dam I can amble south down the valley along a single-track road, passing along the way a bright red phone box by the gateway to the remaining lodge to Derwent Hall, a terrace of workers cottages and an empty farmhouse. Soon on the left is the old school, no longer in use, the image of the Virgin Mary and Christ above the doorway, telling me that I am on the Roman Catholic side of the valley and therefore on Norfolk land. It is a lovely building; the porch has a beautifully tiled floor with plain black and red Minton tiles and stone benches on either side of the entrance each below a small leaded window. In the garden lays a carved lintel from the Derwent Hall, showing the date and the coat of arms of Henry Balguy a previous owner.

The road continues on through the site of the village, crossing over Millbrook where it becomes a track and soon the way south is barred by a gate. To its left is the bridleway that will take me up on to Derwent Edge, part of the old 14th century packhorse route from Derwent Village in to Sheffield. It begins its ascent by working a ribbon of stone through a meadow, the stone from the old cotton mills of Lancashire, the meadow filled in spring, with Buttercup, Scabious, Saxifrage, Mallow, Cowslip and Cranesbill and more. It is a wonderful and sadly rare sight these days to see a meadow in full bloom. The colours of white, reds, yellows and blues dotted across a huge expanse serves as a painful reminder of what we have lost in the countryside.

The path ends at a collection of stone barns, known as Grindle Barn. The barns are made of coursed and roughly dressed stone with stone roofs. They sit well in the landscape, clustered together on either side of the packhorse trail, the trail having to form an “S” bend as it weaves between the buildings. The first barn is dated 1647 above a doorway and has the initials of “LG”, probably the person who built it structure. A second barn opposite remains closed, but the third around the corner has been converted in to a shelter for walkers and bikers and perhaps horse riders. This is the barn now known as Grindle Barn.

Grindle Barn is one of my main objectives of this walk for it affords a comfortable stopping off point, particularly in inclement weather. There is the best bench in the whole of the Peak District to sit on, placed in such a way as to afford a spectacular view in any season, down the valley to Win Hill on the opposite side. The floor sits high so is not prone to flooding or gathering dirt. The walls are adorned with small tiles, each with a drawing or poem from local children in the villages down the valley. Above the entrance, just a large opening is a carved wooden board, depicting packhorse trains working their way down the trail.

I love to sit here and simply watch. Sometimes people are present or passing by and it is nice to chat about the day, the view, different walks, what flowers are present in the meadow. But it is solitude and watching that I seek most. To find the barn empty is a delight. I can take a seat, and just look. It does not matter about the weather or season. Looking out in winter and studying the old field boundaries, or the long forgotten ways up to the high grounds that snow has now brought back to life, the way it does by laying in the hidden dips long after the rest has melted. In summer the area around the barn is filled with swallows swooping up and down the trail, flashing across the barn opening. Occasionally a mouse will appear, out of the wall, once a stoat suddenly put in an appearance, disappearing as soon as it heard people approaching. I have never seen a horse, much is the pity, and it would be nice to see a small team of horses working their way down into the valley.

A great family day in the Peak District

 

 

This is probably one of the best book reviews I have received, if not the best. Messages like this make everything worthwhile, especially when the young have such a fantastic time out in the Peak District.

Daniel Simpson sent me this message via facebook of a day out with his family. They chose to do PB Walk 5 Grindleford to Higger Tor. If you want to introduce children to walking and have a good time, then this is definitely the walk to do. Thank you to Daniel and his family.

Hi Paul. Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed our walk today. By far and away the highlight was just how much my son’s enjoyed themselves they wee enjoying it every bit as much as me if not more so. So often I feel like I’m cajoling them in to something they’re not massively keen on but the past two Sundays have been an absolute blast. I didn’t really use the guidebook whilst walking last week but we had loads of time today so I let my 10 year old lead the way following the instructions, when we were at the rear of the chapel and he realised where he was stood was the same as the one in your book it blew his mind…it was lovely honestly, he was almost starstruck and later on when we walked past the gritstones he recognised those as well and demanded the book to confirm what he was seeing was the one from the book. I managed to snap him posting and getting good really giddy, it looks contrived but he was going ‘look !…that’s those from the book’. Thanks again, really enjoyed it today.

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Grainfoot Farm – World War Two

Above is Grainfoot Farm in the Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park, as it can be seen today, alongside a watercolour by Kenneth Rowntree from 1940, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the new Ladybower Reservoir. The two Ordnance Survey maps, one from 2018 and one from 1852 show the position of the map in the landscape and perhaps more importantly today the position of the field boundaries and other landscape items.

The farm was, at one time in the possession of the Eyre family, well-known landowners in Derbyshire, still in existence today. It passed through various other hands, by marriage and purchase, before finding itself in the way of the new reservoir and scheduled for demolition.

The farm was painted by Kenneth Rowntree of the War artists Advisory Committee, not because of its imminent demise but as part of a project to record the changing face of Britain. This started in 1939, overseen by Kenneth Clark, father of the Tory MP Alan Clark, and was devised to record important buildings and artefacts of Britain incase they were destroyed by the second world war. It also coincided with a growing realisation that the landscape was changing at a rapid rate, due to urban development, industrial growth, changing agricultural practices and a shift in the social cohesion of the country after world war one. It followed similar projects carried out in America under the Federal Arts Project. It was felt that by celebrating the unique British landscape in art, morale would be boosted during the darkest hours of the war.

V&A Museum Collection

Kenneth Rowntree

War Artists Advisory Committee

Scouts progress in Search and Rescue

Scout training on Eyam Moor, Peak District National Park
Scout training on Eyam Moor, Peak District National Park

Training a SARDA Search and Rescue dog takes time and patience, mainly on the part of the dog, because it is the handler who is most/always at fault. Scout always comes up with the goods, in the way of a find. He worked hard on Eyam Moor this weekend in hard conditions. The bracken is still dense and hard to get through, combined with deep snow, it makes it extra tiring for Scout to get around. He battled his way around to find three hidden bodies, with little scent moving about to guide him, so he really had to work for it. He started to get tired after find number two, I could tell he was needing a break.

Tiredness is something I have been working on with him. Taking him on long moorland walks, he probably runs about three times the distance I walk. It’s good to get him working over rough ground, boulder fields are particularly good, if you have ever tried negotiating a boulder field in summer, think about it under thick slippery snow where you cannot see the gaps.

The other major work is building up the return sequence. This is where he finds a body and returns back to get me then lead me back to the body. It is an important tool, especially when covering large areas effectively. He soon got the hang of the sequence, and then worked out that if he starts returning to me and he can see that I can see him, he doesn’t need to come all the way back, but can just bark his command. Pretty sneaky and clever of him to work that one out. I need him back to me, because we may be out of sight from each other and I need to know for definite that he has a find.

Training is frustrating. Sleepless nights, going over and over what went wrong on the last session and how to correct it. Worrying over whether he will make the grade. But, when it goes right, when he works his socks off and I don’t screw it up, it is the best feeling in the world.

 

 

Derwent Village – Peak District

Brick made by Skyers Spring. Found in the remains of Derwent Village. Peak District
Brick made by Skyers Spring. Found in the remains of Derwent Village. Peak District

Here is a little bit of social industrial history.

I found this brick sat in the remains of the flooded Peak District village of Derwent, it was sat in the mud on what would have been the main street. The brick was made at Skyers Spring brickworks in Hoyland, Barnsley around 1880 and found its way to the village for some use or other. It is an engineering brick, not used for adornment, so probably formed some infrastructure of the village.

It probably travelled over via Penistone, either across Strines along the Mortimer Road and then hang a right at Moscar Cross, up the bridleway to Whinstone Lee Tor and then down via Grindle Barn to the village. Or alternatively via Cut Gate from Langsett over the top and into the Upper Derwent Valley. The brickworks were run by James Smith and had connections to the Earls Fitzwilliam, who still have extensive shooting moors along the Strines Road. There was extensive trade between the two areas which accounts for the routes across the tops. It’s nice to see artifacts around that were from local sources.