“Be Nice, tread light” – the first meeting of many?

As outdoors folks, we can all be a little guilty of pack mentality, sticking within our own little groups. We thought it was time to look a little further afield, discuss things more openly and try to work together with some different people. We wanted to talk about the impact we all have on the Peak District and what we could do together to help minimise this.

On Wednesday 9th October, we arranged an open meeting at the Norfolk Arms, Ringinglow. Spurred on by the success of Cut Gate as a collaborative project, we invited land managers, conservation workers and rangers to join a variety of outdoor user groups to discuss what we could possibly look to do together to improve our collective enjoyment of Sheffield and the Peak District.

We were frankly chuffed to see a turnout of around 50 people, all keen and ready to crack on with discussions – once they had a drink in hand anyhow.

Henry kicked things off with a discussion outlining what we were hoping to achieve with this meeting. We weren’t looking to focus on Ride Sheffield, or mountain biking specifically – more to look at how much we all had in common and to identify some ideas and plans to push forward.

Si then outlined the recent success of the Cut Gate project. As a collaborative effort, this has shown just how well horse riders, fell runners, ramblers, climbers and mountain bikers can work together to complete projects that might be that bit too big for a single user group alone. This project was initiated by mountain bikers (Ride Sheffield, Keeper of the Peak and Peak District MTB) – but the teamwork was the bit we wanted to highlight. More of the same please!

To follow on, Rachel Thomas from the National Trust kindly agreed to explain what she sees as some of the challenges in the Peak District, from a land manager’s perspective. This provided an interesting insight from another point of view, with squeezed budgets, user education, climate change and rights of way all part of the picture.

For the main part of the meeting, we then split the room into 4 groups, mixing up different users and managers in order to get a decent spread of opinions. We then asked them to discuss the Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities that exist for us as users and managers in the Peak District. Each group then fed back to everyone, as a more open discussion.

Without going into the minutiae, this discussion was mostly positive and constructive – with a few valid concerns raised and debated too! We’d left threats out of the group discussions in order to keep things positive – it’s also pretty clear that squeezed budgets, tight timescales, weather and climate are the main threats for all of our organisations!

To sum up a route forward, several action points were agreed;

– Produce and submit a joint letter regarding the 2019 State of Nature Report
– Share contact details in order to improve communication between different groups/organisations
– Form a working group to organise joint trail maintenance days – teamwork!
– Agree a social media code, to be broadly supportive and understanding of each other’s work and to communicate via phone/email rather than arguments in the public domain
– Share details of any relevant skills that could be shared – are you skilled at writing funding bids and prepared to help other groups, for example.

Ride Sheffield are compiling the wider contact list, so please do email us if you’d like to be included. Let us know if you’d like to be part of the trail repair group, if you’d like articles shared with you – and whether you’re happy to share your contact details with others in the wider group. We can also forward the Be Nice Say Hi artwork on request.

Overall, the meeting was a really positive first step and one that we’re really happy to have seen such wide and varied support for. The ongoing plan is for similar meetings at least annually, but hopefully hosted by a different user group. Fingers crossed that we have some more collaboration success stories to share next time!