Sunday, 12 January 2014

Are we destroying the thing we love?

My plans for running the Trigger were cruelly snatched away from me by my better good sense this year. I have an exam on the Monday morning, and have spent the best part of today doing some very necessary revision.
The decision was not made until about 3 weeks ago, by which time I had already done my reccying for the route, all of 2 forays across Bleaklow and Kinder looking at very specific points of the route that I wanted to make sure I got right. Beyond that, I was just going to pretty much head south.

Obviously it wasn't just me going out and having a quick look around Bleaklow and Kinder, and that was very evident as I went for a quick blast over the moor as a mid-revision break last week on a route that took me past Herne Stones and Wainstones, and an increasingly large trod - more of a muddy path now- of footprints in a swathe across the moor.
Much the same could be seen on the line up from Wildboar clough to the Pennine way.

No- not a trigger line. Just a trod to grinah
I may have been a little facetious a couple of days ago when I described the Trigger race route across Bleaklow as a "muddy trench", but to be brutally honest, it isn't all that far from the truth.

If you get 300 participants in a race all wanting to look out the best lines across a Peat bog in the middle of a particularly sodden winter, there is going to be erosion. The same can be said for the Derwent watershed line - I'd imagine between now and February there will be a fair few people hacking across there as preparation for the High Peak Marathon.
It's just that this erosion seems to be getting worse year on year, and I'm afraid that maybe I am one of the ones that is helping it to get worse.

(As an aside - funnily enough, if you look along the line of the Metropolitan boundary around Outer Edge - a boundary, not a footpath - and then look at exactly the same place on Google earth, its uncanny how a massive peaty line is exactly in its place- almost as if people have looked at a map and thought- Oh! a footpath- thats a good place to walk! - and have turned it into, well, not a footpath, more of a peaty, muddy ditch, really).

When I first came to Glossop, I could barely make out the line of the Shelf Moor race route - it was a bit of a mystery to me as the line itself roamed around between groughs and peat hags. Now it seems to have become a trade route and away from the race day I try and stay off it as much as possible to avoid further erosion. Ditto the trod up from Wildboar clough. I remember coming up there with a couple of other Harriers on an evening run and making our way across unmarked moorland. No such luck now. As a part of a race route, there are places where it might even be better to put down some paving slabs to prevent more of the moor being broken away.

Am I being nostalgic?

I don't think I've been here for long enough for that. I wonder if lines of muddy prints appeared in random places across the tops as people recced for Tankys Trog in years gone by, which then faded away over the rest of the year? I don't think I've ever really come across any Tanky-specific trods. Or is the gradual popularisation of offroad and fellracing a part of the straw that is breaking the back of our countryside? Creating muddy trods in the winter, which then can't recover over the summer and continue getting worse, year on year.

Normally we like to blame others- those on quadbikes and scramblers, the cyclists straying from their bridleways, the large parties of ramblers and such like. Yes, to a point they may be to blame, but, in the same breath, so are we. And I'm not sure what to do about it.

Beautiful. Fragile. 
Would banning people from reccying specific lines of races work? Trying to prevent excessive footfall on exactly the same bit of ground, creating trods, then paths, then a quagmire in need of the dreaded paving slabs? Maybe changing race routes and not telling people the route until the day? But then what happens to the classics? Do they even have this problem in the Lakes, or is this very particular to the Peak District, with its specific and fragile environment?
Perhaps we should take more care over where we are running?

Maybe we should think a bit about the kind of erosion we are causing by doing the same thing over and over again? If you know a route, why do it again? Why not go and find somewhere else to explore? Use a different bit of the moor, spread the footfall over a wider area. We are in danger of getting a tracked out quagmire in places on the tops, and a bit of personal responsibility might not go amiss.

If you think I'm talking about you, you're probably right. But I'm also talking about me. Bleaklow is my adopted stomping ground and I'd hate to stop people from going up there and enjoying it, running, walking, whatever. I'm not suggesting banning people from the moors, and not in anyway suggesting more rules and regulations - there are already enough of them. However, I look on in sadness and disbelief as areas of previously quiet and mysterious areas of the moor are turned into veritable sludge packed motorways. I certainly don't want to see more places turned into a paving slab lined path like the Pennine Way - but what if that was the best way of preventing considerable erosion without banning people from the place? What then?

Are we being careless as a community, or is this simply a march of the times, an inevitable process as outdoor pursuits, racing in particular, become ever more popular?
Are we destroying the thing that we love?