New Bridleways!

OK, pick yourself up off the floor, I know it’s a shock.  Those two words don’t coincide nearly often enough but that’s exactly what we’re going to get – new bridleways.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAnd quite a few at that.  Already, the Eastern Moors Partnership is in the process of opening up a brand new route through Barbrook Valley on Big Moor with the potential for further expansion onto Cubar and Froggatt Edges in the near future.  However, the big news is at Longshaw Estate where the National Trust’s enthusiasm for introducing people to the great outdoors is to be backed up by two new permissive bridleways.  What the hell is a permissive bridleway?  More of that later.

Myself and fellow volunteer Martin Clist recently spent a pleasant evening at Longshaw Estate discussing the proposed routes.  It’s a sign of how things have moved on that there was no opposition to the plan and the only real discussion was about the practicalities of introducing bikes to an area that has been the sole preserve of walkers and families.  The proposed routes can be found on this map.

The practical effect of these new trails will be to allow access from Burbage to Totley Moor and Froggatt Edge, reducing our reliance on roads to get us from one area to another. Bearing in mind that discussions are under way to decide whether Burbage Green Drive should also become a bridleway, the implications for mountain bikers are obvious.  We are slowly beginning to improve the links between different hot spots and reducing the time we spend acting as moving targets for motorists.

To coin a cliché however, with rights come responsibilities, which brings me back to permissive bridleways.  These are routes where the landowner retains the right to revert to footpath status if they feel it’s necessary.  So the moment these bridleways are open we will be under the microscope and it’s important we prove just how responsible mountain bikers are.  This isn’t going to be a problem for the vast majority of us, but it only takes a few bad apples to spoil it for everyone.

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Which is where you come in because, brothers and sisters, we need to spread the word.  It’s important that everyone understands that these routes will be a means of getting from one established mountain bike area to another, not an excuse to tear through at high speed.  At busy times, Longshaw is full of senior citizens and kids and we have to understand that the introduction of bikes will be, quite literally, a shock to the system for some of those users.  Gently riding through, talking to everyone will do much to improve our image and ensure that this experiment is a big success and leads to further improvements in the bridleway network.  It’s worth remembering that the National Trust are one of the biggest landowners in the Peak District and their enthusiasm for outdoor sports is the genuine article.  Goodwill generated at Longshaw could translate into new tracks on other NT landholdings as well as further expansion of the network at Longshaw.

The ambition is to open the trails before autumn and, when that happens, let’s prove just what lovely, cuddly folk mountain bikers are, eat lots of cake and drink gallons of tea in the excellent Longshaw cafe and give the National Trust every reason to open even more trails for bikes.

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