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

 

 

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.

 

Peak District Names

Signpost above Chew Valley pointing the way in to the Wilderness
Signpost above Chew Valley pointing the way in to the Wilderness

Getting lost in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District is a very common thing. Most people manage to get back on the right track, or find other walkers to help them out, or maybe a road to walk back to civilisation even if it’s in the wrong direction. Some people have to be found and rescued by Mountain Rescue, generally at night after the person has wandered around for hours trying to extricate themselves from the predicament.

The Dark Peak does give the walker a helping hand. Signs that say, “walker beware”, not in those words but if you study your OS map the clues just jump out at you.

Above is the signpost to the Wilderness from Chew Valley, take care not to go over Lads Leap as you reach the Longdendale Valley. You would want to avoid The Swamp on Alport Moor as you made your way over to Lost Lad above the Upper Derwent Valley. Mind you if you agreed to meet someone there make sure its the right Lost Lad as there is another just off Cut Gate near Langsett. And definitely stay away from the Black Hole on Black Hole Moor, it does exist, I promise you. Hades Peat Pits are possibly the entrance to another world, one of everlasting pain.

Of course if it says, Shooting Cabins, then stay well clear, goodness knows what goes on there. Which reminds me, any area that is called Target, begs the question, target who?And talking of mad things, do not enrage the woman at Madwoman’s Stones on Kinder, there is an ancient altar site nearby, goodness knows what became of people, when the encountered the enraged lady.

 

 

Be Safe

leary17121937

A few years back Alison and I were walking up Cut Gate on a cold autumn day that had a wind cutting in to you with icy strokes. As we approached Mickleden Edge Alison wandered off to have a look at something and I carried on a little then waited for her to catch up. As she approached me she seemed to be walking slowly and a little ungainly. I asked her if she was OK and she said her legs were tired and she had no energy, she said this with a slurring voice. We had not been out that long and the day was dry, but it struck me that she might be suffering from light hypothermia. I got her out of the wind and gave her some hot tea to sip and cake to eat, whilst putting on a few extra layers. I could see the woods around Langsett Ranger Station, it was ridiculous this could be happening, we had hardly walked any distance, Alison had recently run the New York Marathon so was not unfit, but here we were dealing with the effects of wind chill on the human body. Alison recovered quickly and we made our way back to Langsett. It turned out that some medication she had been given had thinned her blood making her more susceptible to cold.

Norah Leary was not so fortunate. The seventeen year old rambler from Sheffield froze to death on Broomhead Moor on the 14th December 1937. A rescue party made up of police, local people and gamekeepers, found her body beneath a 10ft snow drift. The report, above, from the Manchester Guardian on the inquest gives further details. A photo here shows the rescue party bringing the body down Mortimer Road towards Ewden Beck. The clothing on the rescue party would have been very similar to the clothing worn by the ramblers.

A recent rescue of a walker near to the Cut Gate path could have had a very different outcome if Woodhead Mountain Rescue had not found them in time. A day walk in good conditions had turned into a life threatening event in harsh winter conditions with snow and sub zero night time temperatures. Being correctly equipped can make the difference between getting home safe or not at all.

The Dark Peak makes you pay for simple mistakes, especially in winter. The area can be at its most beautiful at this time of year, it can also be at its most brutal. So far the winter has been mild, many of us had wished for better winter conditions, hopefully it will come, for there is nothing better than walking across moorland in snow with a blue sky above.

Professional advice on hill walking from Woodhead Mountain Rescue

 

 

Ordnance Survey Ephemera

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OS Map from 1852 showing position of survey benchmark.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland http://maps.nls.uk/index.html

There are quite a few bits of survey ephemera along Cut Gate in the Dark Peak. Benchmarks are much in evidence if you know where to look.

Just above the words “Lost Lad” on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map of Cut Gate, high above Langsett, there are two benchmarks denoted, the B.M followed by the elevation above Mean Sea Level in feet. Mean Sea Level in them days was taken from the measurements obtained at the Liverpool Datum, whereas today it is Newlyn. The first Benchmark happens just before the ford which is the turn off point for the spot height on Lost Lad itself. It is simple arrow beneath a line, but unusually is on a flat surface and not a vertical one, making it a little difficult to be accurate in the measurement. It is also accompanied by the initials RW, Rimmington Wilson the then landowner, chiselled at a later date and certainly with not as much skill.

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The Benchmark on a gritstone boulder on Cut Gate

Heading down the Cut Gate path towards Langsett a further benchmark can be found on the gate post of the boundary wall at Hingcliff Common.

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Benchmark shown on 1891 OS map on Cut Gate below Hingcliff Common
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland http://maps.nls.uk/index.html

Grouse had been introduced onto the moors for several decades when the benchmark was carved so it would have looked pretty much the same as today with one exception. The Cut Gate track went through the gate posts where as today the line of the path goes someway to the south-east.

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Benchmark on the gate post along the line of the 1891 Cut Gate, Langsett

A surveying team would consist of a surveyor and his assistant. The surveyor took the reading and the assistant held the staff and lugged the equipment around. It was the surveyor who chiselled in the benchmark. I often try to imagine the team out in all weathers mapping the area. Around these two benchmarks are many more plus triangulation points on Hingcliff Hill and Pike Lowe to the east. The maps they produced are remarkably accurate and can still be followed today on the ground. The really interesting thing about old maps are the items marked that are no longer on modern-day maps.