Froggatt, Curbar and Birchens will be managed by the RSPB and National Trust for the next 15 years, and this partnership might also manage Burbage, Houndkirk and Hathersage Moors. To find out exactly what that means for climbers and walkers, Mike Innerdale - National Trust General Manager for The Peak District - was invited to a recent BMC Peak Area meeting.
At the Peak Area meeting in February, we were extremely lucky to secure the attendance of Mike Innerdale, the National Trust (NT) General Manager for The Peak District for a detailed Q&A session. Mike began by explaining just what The NT is and how it is involved with the Peak District. In summary:
- It is a charity which is answerable to its members
- With 3.85 million members it is the largest conservation party in Europe
- Its aim is to protect the nation’s heritage, natural and otherwise
- It owns 13% (40,000 acres) of The Peak District land, including Southern and Central Limestone as well as the Dark Peak Edges and moorland (Bleaklow and Kinder) and over 300 buildings
- One of its guiding principles, developed through public consultation, is equality of access
- It wants to develop its involvement in outdoor activities, including; walking, cycling and camping. In the Peak District specific focus is on climbing and caving.
We asked him to attend because of current and future change of ownership of some of our much loved crags that the NT is, or may be, involved with (and potential access changes). This has arisen from the land asset review of The Peak District National Park which started five years ago and is in the process of inviting tenders for lease or sale of areas which include The Roaches and The North Lees Estate (Stanage to you and me).
The Eastern Moors
In 1982 The Peak District National Park bought the Eastern Moors (2,700 hectares). In 2009 they invited expressions of interest from organisations to manage it. The NT and RSPB joined together and formed the Eastern Moors Public Lands Partnership. Both the BMC and Friends of the Peak District supported the RSPB and NT bid to manage the Eastern Moors. They were successful and now have a 15-year lease (with the possibility of a 30-year extension).
North Lees Estate (Stanage)
The tendering process for its sale or lease is scheduled to begin in Spring 2011. The meeting welcomed the NT’s clear interest in this Estate, and indeed supported the prospect in the management of Burbage, Houndkirk and Millstone too, not least because all these areas form part of the same specially protected moorland. Members were particularly concerned at any risk of fragmentation of North Lees since this would threaten the biodiversity of the moorland fringe habitat. The BMC said it was already lobbying for continuance of the current style of management of the North Lees campsite – a unique haven for climbers.
The NT has just put in an expression of interest and is discussing how they might manage it, that is to say, as a sale or as a lease. They have three months to prepare a bid. Eight different organisations have expressed an interest (including two shooting clubs and The Land Trust). The NT is unlikely to go into partnership with another Non-Governmental Organisation. The NT wants to manage The Roaches both as it owns little land in that area and as it sees it as a perfect opportunity to develop its Outdoors Programme that it has just launched. This programme focuses on young people with a specific interest in supporting and protecting the resource for the next generation.
After this overview, a question and answer session took place.
Q1 What areas does The Roaches Estate cover?
A Hen Cloud round to Backforest (including Hen Cloud, The Upper and Lower Tiers, Skyline, Five Clouds, The Cube Bouldering area, Backforest and Luds Church but NOT Ramshaw, Gradbach, Baldstones, Hanging Stone, Nth Cloud or Gib Torr).
Q2 The Conservative Party has said the National Trust has approached them regarding the ownership of forests, which is currently in the news. Is this true?
A Sure, we own some small forests, however they are not their main concern, but we are interested in expanding management of forests for recreation purposes.
The BMC advised there was particular concern about Black Rocks, Cromford (under threat with regard to sale). Wharncliffe was seen as less potentially problematic, because it is classed as ancient woodland.
Q3 In 2041 the lease of the Don Whillans Memorial Hut at The Roaches runs out. What is the National Trust’s attitude of the use of The Hut?
A If they bid and are successful the NT is interested in preserving the Hut because of its iconic role at The Roaches and wants to keep it as a resource for climbers and walkers. The NT would support the BMC in continuing to lease the Hut and may help to resource it if needed as part of the experience of The Estate.
Dave Bishop stated that the BMC has a forthcoming meeting with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust who, in partnership with Moorlands District Council are potential bidders. He has already met with most other potential bidders.
Q4 Surely The Roaches is protected under the CRoW Act. Is access really under threat?
A Access on foot and for climbing is protected by the CRoW Act. Other permissive access is not. Concern was also expressed regarding shooting rights. Depending upon whose tender was successful, alternative management styles could have significant impact, for example, on paring arrangements, land closures for management purposes and bird restrictions.
Q5 Land has been donated to Sheffield City Council by the Graves family. What happens if land is donated to The National Trust?
A If the NT gets donated land, it has to come with an endowment, for example, a 50-year endowment for its operational management. The Roaches was bought by The Peak Park to protect it for climbers. North Lees was also bought principally for recreation and it is anticipated that the ex-owner will support the NT’s bid.
Q6 What is the process now for buying the crags in question?
A Due process has to be followed. It is important to raise people’s awareness along the way.
Q7 Is there a limit to the amount of land that the National Trust will own/buy?
A This is a concern in terms of affordability and management. However, it is interested in connecting existing areas, as this makes land management easier and in gaining land in new area that are of key importance (like the Roaches). The NT is clear as to which are the iconic land areas for climbers in The Peak.
Q8 What can the BMC learn from the National Trust with regard to public liability. How does the National Trust secure itself against such things?
A It’s all about good land management. We have continuous discussions with regard to risk and play. You need the right risk management policies and procedures in place. Under the CRoW Act the user is responsible if the hazard is obvious, for example, lakes and cliffs, of which case law has been tested. Case law supports the principle of open access.
Q9 How do you balance access and conservation?
A Again, it’s about good land management. It’s about talking to people/users of the sites. Implementation of the CRoW Act has shown that the majority of people want to and do follow the waymarked ways.
The NT will set up a stakeholder forum for the Eastern Moors which will include an Access Sub-group. The NT doesn’t see the process of the Stanage Forum as sustainable. It was good at the time for Stanage, but maybe not for the future, as paid staff will be needed to manage it. The principle of stakeholder involvement will be maintained through new arrangements for the Eastern Moors. More people are needed to be involved in access work – please contact BMC Peak District Access Co-ordinator Henry Folkard if you are interested: email@example.com
Q10 How can we influence people that the National Trust should manage The Roaches (win the bid)?
A When the tendering process is under way we could write letters. Mike will give the contact details of who to write to.
The BMC will produce a template letter, in support of the NT buying The Roaches, for members to use, but it was thought that an individual letter would be likely to have more weight.
Q11 What is the National Trusts view on 4x4 vehicles on bridleways for example on The Causeway at Stanage?
A Bridleways do not hold vehicular rights. They are the responsibility of the Highways Authority. Designation of status is through a complex legal process and is not in the gift of the NT. The NT can influence the designation of rights of way but can’t legally enforce. The use of 4x4 vehicles on The Causeway is legal and they have equal access rights; however access must take sustainability and other users into account and a conversation with 4x4 users with regard to the conservation of The Causeway is required as current usage appears to be far too heavy to be sustainable and is causing concerns for other users. Chapelgate is a good example where The National Park Authority is putting in place a temporary closure whilst repairs and proper drainage is put in to preserve it. There is increasing pressure on these issues as council budgets are decreasing and they will have to start prioritising their resources to repairing main roads as opposed to green lanes with comparatively small usage.
Q12 Does/would the National Trust employ wardens?
A Yes, we employ 16 wardens (to be rebranded as ‘rangers’ in the near future). However, staff are stretched over large areas and they are very reliant on volunteers. They currently have 180 NT volunteers covering the Peak District.
Mike concluded by saying he has recently been promoted and will be moving to the Lakes, however the NT remains committed to working with the BMC on the important issues discussed. We wish Mike all the best for the future.