In the past, Friends of the Peak District have campaigned against 4×4 drivers and trail bikers carving up Houndkirk Road near Sheffield. While Houndkirk is a legitimate byway and open to motor vehicles, off-roaders often drive recklessly and have caused extensive damage to the road especially in wet weather. Of still greater concern was a trials circuit they had created on an area of open moorland at the highest point on the road (just above Parson House Farm). Damage to such a Site of Special Scientific Interest is illegal, an eyesore and an invitation for drivers to go further onto the moor. We worked with Natural England, the Peak District National Park Authority and Sheffield City Council (SCC) to find ways to prevent further incursions and protect the land. As a result a team from Moors for the Future fenced off the area, installed access gates for walkers, repaired the battered ground and spread heather brashings.
As a result the heather has begun to re-establish itself and the area is returning to something like its former glory. There was some concern that 4×4 users would simply move to a different part of the moor and, sure enough, some irresponsible drivers began to re-open an old track that skirted the bridge towards the Ringinglow end of the track.
Large boulders deployed by SCC soon put a stop to that however and there have been no further serious incidents. In March 2011 SCC resurfaced the eastern section of Houndkirk Road with gritstone aggregate. Large boulders were installed to stop vehicles widening the road. The response from many users was negative – not helped by the fact that although the changes had been discussed by the Local Access Forum, more could have been done to gauge the feelings of the large number people who see Houndkirk as a vital gateway to the Peak District. Some felt that the boulders were an eyesore that fundamentally compromised the impression of open moorland.
In spite of these reservations, SCC carried out further work on the central section of the road. It’s only fair to point out that SCC’s Rights of Way Team were in something of a cleft stick. They have a legal responsibility to maintain the route in a safe state for all users and installed the boulders in an attempt to create safe havens for walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers. Unfortunately, all it succeeded in doing was reducing the width of the road and forcing users into even closer proximity. It’s safe to say that the discussion is ongoing.
Luckily, every cloud has a silver lining and the Rights of Way Team has now embarked on a policy of minimal work wherever possible and lines of communication between them and FoPD have never been better.