The Roych – It’s going to be OK!

Last week we had a fair number of upset comments on the Facebook group about photos of The Roych being dug up and maintained. This was mainly because it involved Derbyshire County Council and the dread spectre of iconic sections of trail being motorway’d a la Stanage and Wigley Lane got feelings running high.

So, Sue and John contacted DCC and quite out of character actually got a reply! Karen Turnbull is the project officer and offered a site visit. Yesterday (24th October) me, plus John and Tom from Vertebrate Publishing went at met Karen on site.

Note the grit blocks being laid in by hand

Note the grit blocks being laid in by hand

The great news is that this is going to be a great job. Karen explained that although she works for DCC, she’s actually funded by Natural England largely as she is in charge of the Pennine Bridleway of which The Roych forms a part. This means national oversight and funding.

The work is being carried out by a contractor called Terrafirma, who not only did the maintenance job 12 years ago when the section down to the clough itself was pitched, but they were also responsible for the great job up on Cut Gate getting those slabs up there to make it passable most of the year round.

It was great to hear subtleties of trail design being talked about, phrases from the IMBA Trailbuilding Handbook like Rolling Grade Reversals, and also the fact that they aren’t getting rid of drops all together. Basically the tricky line on The Roych where they’re working has eroded to the point where some of the step downs and drops were over 500mm. The liability involved here is too much given that the IMBA guidelines for a black route are blind drops (as in unsignposted) no more than 250mm. What they are doing is filling the larger hole in and handpitching the surface in a similar fashion to the pitching already in place half way down the section and down to the clough. They are also designing in kind of a sliding scale of difficulty. It make it more durable against 4×4’s, they have to make the steps and drops diagonal and also varying height across the width of the trail so 4×4’s don’t just hit the step square on and rip the rock out. What this means for MTBers is that on one side the drops will be 250mm, but on the other side of the trail they’ll be smaller, maybe 100-150mm. So this means less confident riders can pick their way down the proper Roych section on the smaller steps instead of using the graded path on the side which is there specifically for horses and pedestrians. This is proper design, with proper user separation whilst keeping technical interest for MTBers. It should be applauded and I came away feeling relieved and happy.

The only downside I can see is that unfortunately Karen doesn’t work for or have any influence on the highways department at DCC who have committed the recent ‘improvements’ we are so upset about. So whilst The Roych and anything on the Pennine Bridleway is in very safe, sensitive hands, we’re still no further forward in getting our point across to the parts of DCC who are not doing things so well.