From a mountain biking point of view, Stanage is fundamentally just one trail, admittedly a corker, the wonderfully varied packhorse route. But in common with climbers, hang-gliders and fell runners, we see Stanage as so much more than a place to enjoy a sport. It is one of the most important landscapes in the Peak District, a place we feel very protective about and guaranteed to generate a deal of passion whenever change is mooted.
That passion was clearly evident at the recent open meeting in Hathersage. Every conceivable user group was represented from local people to climbers, members of the Derbyshire Soaring Club, dog walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers with both Ride Sheffield and Peak District MTB in attendance.
What could possibly be so important it would drag outdoor people indoors on the first sunny Saturday of the year? Stanage and the North Lees Estate is in line for a new management plan due to emerge, eventually, from the joint deliberations of the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) and the Stanage Forum Steering Group. All those present were determined to see any new plan build on the excellent progress that North Lees Estate has made in the past few years managing the conservation needs of an internationally significant landscape which is a magnet to outdoor pursuit enthusiasts.
Many of the questions centred around the necessity of reducing the financial burden of Stanage on the PDNPA in these austere times. Ride Sheffield was keen to ensure that whatever financial constraints were placed on the estate, the necessities of looking after a unique habitat should always be the first priority. We received several assurances to that effect. We were also determined that nothing should be done to deter people from enjoying Stanage as they have always done. Any parking charges should be voluntary in nature and Ride Sheffield has proposed that those keen to see Stanage protected should be able to buy an annual Stand Up For Stanage car sticker that entitles them to park for free. The inevitable suspicion generated whenever change is proposed to a much loved landscape was partly eased thanks to the excellent impartial facilitator.
It is fair to say that the PDNPA was left in no doubt that outdoor enthusiasts care passionately about Stanage and that the evolution of the new management plan will be examined very carefully. Much is yet to be decided, but Ride Sheffield intend to be fully involved in the process. Watch this space.
Inevitably the question of Stanage Causeway, Derbyshire County Council (DCC) and their seemingly limitless supply of crushed gritstone reared its ugly head. We were keen to emphasise that in spite of our belief that, with a little imagination, the work could have taken more account of the needs of mountain bikers with a little imagination, our primary objection is the detrimental effect on the landscape. Unfortunately, the PDNPA has as much trouble influencing the work of DCC as we do. However, we were approached after the meeting by Rachel Gillis, a senior member of the PDNPA, who was very interested to hear about the recent Rider Survey conducted by Ride Sheffield. We have been able to provide her with the data collected by Ride Sheffield volunteer Will Blomfield and it is hoped that she will be able to use it to influence DCC in the future. It is only through forming alliances such as this that we can influence those who maintain the trails we care so deeply about.