Usually, a new bridleway is a cause for celebration but, in this case, the question mark in the title above is well and truly warranted. At a recent consultation and much to the surprise of nearly all Blackamoor user groups, it was revealed that a new bridleway is planned in a quiet corner of the reserve.
Planned to run from 100m down Devil’s Elbow to Whitelow Lane, the new path was originally envisaged as a footpath only, but after pressure from the horse riding fraternity, it has been upgraded to bridleway. Ride Sheffield was present at the meeting and sounded out many of those present to gauge opinion and found that misgivings about the new bridleway were pretty universal.
The objections are numerous. There has been no consultation with users through the Blackamoor Reserve Advisory Group and, thus far, the Local Access Forum has not been consulted. We also found that the Sheffield Wildlife Trust feel as though this decision has been somewhat forced on them and even the representative from Natural England had misgivings but, unfortunately, insufficient grounds to veto the scheme.
Ride Sheffield has three main objections. The path will pass through one of the few remaining quiet areas in the reserve and we feel that, as a responsible user group,we have a duty to point out illogical decisions even if they appear at first sight to provide some benefit to our members. Secondly, the terrain through which the path will run is wholly unsuitable for the purpose. Some sections are extremely narrow and a number of trees will have to be felled to facilitate the BW. We feel it is almost inevitable that the path will deteriorate rapidly with use and that the horse riders will then, inevitably, call for “two metres wide of crushed gritstone”. Thirdly, the complete lack of democratic oversight of such an important decision must be challenged. One of the main reasons for forming Ride Sheffield was that those who manage the land we ride on felt that they had no one to talk to if there were issues affecting mountain bikers. For Ride Sheffield (and all the other user groups to be ignored now seems perverse.
This has all happened in the last few days and we’ve had top react quickly, so we now need to hear what you think. Are we reflecting the views of our members?