Notorious B.O.G: How a damaged trail is bringing outdoor tribes together in the Peak District

Posted by Carey Davies on 08/02/2018
Riders on Cut Gate. Sim Mainey / Radventure.cc

It’s a trail described as “one of the jewels in the crown of UK mountain biking”, but the campaign to repair it is being backed by horse riders, runners, ramblers – and the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign. We speak to mountain biker Chris Maloney about why it's so important.

Compared to the likes of Kinder Scout, Stanage Edge or Mam Tor, it is not exactly one of the Peak District’s ‘household names’ – but among some people, it’s as famous as it gets.

Cut Gate is a four mile long, sinuously winding trail connecting the Langsett and Derwent reservoirs via wild valleys, tumbling becks and high heather moorland. It’s a bridleway, and so legally accessible by mountain bikers and horse riders, but this is no heavily engineered highway – for much of its length it’s a rugged ribbon no more than a couple of feet wide.

The long, out-and-back nature of the trail means it can get overlooked by walkers and the general public, but for many mountain bikers its combination of challenge and wildness makes it a revered singletrack route (see this video to give you an idea.)  It’s also highly valued by horse riders, forming part of the Kinder Loop, and often used by fell runners. But this popularity has come at a cost.

Grassroots coalition

Mountain biker Chris Maloney is the man behind the Keeper of the Peak Twitter feed, which shares information about the condition of biking trails across the Peak District. Along with Peak District MTB and Ride Sheffield, he has been instrumental in raising awareness of the parlous condition that sections of Cut Gate have descended into.

Parts of it are boggy morasses and erosion of the surrounding heather moorland has become a serious issue.

Following the initial efforts of Chris and his fellow campaigners, the BMC and its charity have now thrown their weight behind the campaign to repair Cut Gate and it is one of the 13 main projects featured in the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal, which aims to combat erosion in iconic landscapes across the UK.

Over the next year a grassroots multi-user coalition, the Peak District National Park and Moors for the Future will work with the Mend Our Mountains team to drive a £70,000 fundraising campaign for Cut Gate. In common with the wider appeal, it will launch publicly at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival on March 9 – 11.

It is an exciting example of different outdoor users coming together behind a common cause. Campaigns like this represent an opportunity to promote dialogue and understanding between outdoor enthusiasts, whose interests are more often aligned than opposed. We spoke to Chris to find out more about he sees this vision unfolding.  

 

Cut Gate is one of the most readily accessible yet remote trails in Britain. You get up there and there is just a feeling of huge isolation; it’s as far removed from civilisation as it’s possible to be on a mountain bike in the Peak District on legally accessible tracks.

The route itself is a single ribbon of beautiful, technical, scenic singletrack across high moorland. It is one of the jewels in the crown of UK mountain biking. Almost every month it pops up in the mountain biking media in ‘Top 10’ listings and the like, and barely a week goes by without someone asking about its condition on Twitter.

But it is also a very significant route for other users. It’s regularly used by fell runners and as a bridleway it’s very important to horse riders. That popularity has taken its toll.

Back in 2016 I said to Peak District MTB ‘shall we do something about Cut Gate’? Then together with Ride Sheffield we put together the ‘Cut Gate Path’ booklet. Then we bounced that around ramblers, climbers, horse riders and so on. Just to say what ‘do you think’? What would be the ideal solution?

Cut Gate passing above Mickleden Beck. Photo: Sim Mainey / Radventure.cc

People unanimously said ‘yes we need to do something’. Then last year the BMC and the Access and Conservation Trust came on board and put their weight behind it by incorporating Cut Gate into the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign, which we’re thrilled about.

Mountain bikers started off the conversation. But now the fundraising campaign is bringing together bikers, walkers, climbers, horse riders and runners. I don’t think we have seen anything quite like it before.

About three quarters of Cut Gate is rocky, resilient, gravelly track about a foot wide. A lot of it is on bedrock, which is really nice to ride over. But as you go over the crest of Margery Hill it levels off and two streams cross it. There is a natural bowl in the landscape here where the water pools and you have a peaty bog about six metres wide.

What people do is work their way down the streams then jump over it. But in the process the erosion is spreading over the heather moorland through braiding and we’re seeing really bad damage.  

Cut Gate never seems to dry out anymore. In the past it used to dry out in the summer, but in recent years there has been a lot more wet weather which has exacerbated the erosion. There is a permanent wet line on it and two particular sections are just boggy morasses – we have names for them like ‘The Bog of Doom’ or ‘Notorious B.O.G’.

It is vitally important that the repairs don’t harm the character of the trail. All we’d like to see is the lightest of touch of repairs to the boggy sections, a thin ribbon of slab work. It is vitally important that the character of the trail remains intact and that it doesn’t become sanitised.

The mountain biking community is developing a growing awareness of the impact we cause. We work closely with Ride Sheffield and Peak District Mountain Biking (PDMTB), and we all work together to promote responsible behaviour.

The BMC is a great blueprint for what we’d like to be achieving in the mountain biking community. The advocacy model the BMC has championed for many years and their approach to improving access is what we’re aiming for.

Mountain biking is growing in popularity. As it does so we recognise there is an increasing potential for conflict, tension and misunderstanding with other users. We want to promote good behaviour because it is complimentary to achieving better access and makes for more harmonious relations with other outdoor users.

Part of one of the notorious bogs. Photo: Sim Mainey / Radventure.cc

The mountain biking community is at the heart of a lot of good work in the Peak District. Peak District MTB does loads of advocacy and volunteer maintenance work such as the Cutthroat Bridleway, which Moors for the Future have just started doing professional work on. Ride Sheffield has crowdfunded mountain biking routes around Sheffield like Lady Canning’s and has developed partnerships with the likes of Sheffield City Council and the Eastern Moors Partnerships.

I’ve never met a mountain biker who goes out wanting conflict with people. Where there is bad behaviour it’s usually through lack of understanding.

There is bad behaviour from all types of outdoor user. I was riding my bike by the side of Ullswater once and a walker held out his two poles so I couldn’t get past. I wasn’t going fast. All he did was get our backs up and no one came out of it happy.

If two kids are fighting over a piece of paper it tears. But if we work together we can have a greater understanding of the aims and intentions of other groups and we can work collectively to drive more responsible behaviour and better, sustainable access for many.

The Cut Gate campaign is an opportunity to unite behind a project. I don’t think anything quite like this has happened before. It’s about bringing the outdoor community together. We’re all out there because we love the place, after all.

 


Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million

Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million is the new BMC campaign to raise £1 million to repair paths across the UK's 15 National Parks.

If you love the outdoors, we're asking you to support your favourite mountain by taking part in our crowdfunder.

You’ll be helping to heal the hills – and get some amazing rewards.

WATCH: Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million 


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 2454 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Mend our Mountains crowdfunding is back - and it's bigger than ever
3
Mend our Mountains crowdfunding is back - and it's bigger than ever

It's back. It's bigger. And it's better. We've launched a massive crowdfunding drive for Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million. It's your chance to get your hands on incredible rewards, while helping our flagship campaign.
Read more »

Loretto pupils step out for Mend Our Mountains
0
Loretto pupils step out for Mend Our Mountains

Pupils from Loretto School in East Lothian, Scotland, will be donning their boots next week to raise funds for the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal to look after the country’s upland foot paths.
Read more »

Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million hits major milestone
4
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million hits major milestone

The BMC is proud to announce that four months since its public launch, the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal has passed the one third mark, having raised over £330,000 so far.
Read more »

Post a Comment

Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
7
1) Anonymous
09/02/2018
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
2) Anonymous User
09/02/2018
A pity the "rocky resilient " part of the track isn't being used in your main photo
3) Anonymous
16/02/2018
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
4) Anonymous
17/02/2018
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
5) Anonymous
18/02/2018
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
6) Anonymous User
23/02/2018
“I’ve never met a mountain biker who goes out wanting conflict with people. ”
I walked across Europe last year, and got fed up with all the bikers who expected me to step off the trail so that they could carry on at speed. Almost none showed any consideration for walkers.
7) Anonymous User
24/02/2018
I've walked around Edale and Kinder for years and the rate of erosion has escalated over last few years. Walkers, horseriders and mountain bikers all contribute to erosion for sure but the rate and extent caused by the latter far out weighs the former two. The bridal path across Stanage Edge is clearly marked and is the road side of the edge yet bikers persistently use the inner path to Edale Valley which is now getting badly scarred. The decents off Mam Tor are badly eroded owing to the bikes getting impassable at points for walkers. I was walking up to Hollings Cross when a decending biker came past complaining that the V-shaped ruts were too deep he couldn't turn his pedals. I thought wow what do you think it's like to walk on! Walkers do not cut deep V-shaped groves! It's the rate of the erosion that's concerning but I don't get the feeling in the peaks anyway that bikers actually care about the countryside. They want to hurle themselves down hills thrill chasing in self indulgence they aren't there to BE in the countryside they are there because they offer a hill! Sure there are bad walkers and good bikers but bikers will consume these paths then move on when they are too badly scored to pedal. Without action be it expensive paving or education the paths will be destroyed and it isn't far down the line it's happening now. Yes it's public access to everyone and not just walkers but walkers just don't consume the land at the same rate as a train of bikes do thundering through it.

RELATED ARTICLES

Mend our Mountains crowdfunding is back - and it's bigger than ever
3

It's back. It's bigger. And it's better. We've launched a massive crowdfunding drive for Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million. It's your chance to get your hands on incredible rewards, while helping our flagship campaign.
Read more »

Loretto pupils step out for Mend Our Mountains
0

Pupils from Loretto School in East Lothian, Scotland, will be donning their boots next week to raise funds for the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal to look after the country’s upland foot paths.
Read more »

Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million hits major milestone
4

The BMC is proud to announce that four months since its public launch, the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal has passed the one third mark, having raised over £330,000 so far.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £16.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »