In July this year Kirklees issued a contract to an external company called Haskoning DHV UK Limited. The contract is to review the council’s out of date Public Rights of Way Improvement Plan . In all honesty the plan was outdated and clunky when published in 2010, so if done thoroughly this could be a good thing. The value of the contract is some £20k .
There is no mention on the council’s website of the review and how the public and user groups may comment or be involved. The only reference to the Rights of Way Improvement Plan is a link to the outdated version. The plan is, or should be, an important document which should seek to resolve the many issues surrounding the poor management of public rights of way in the district.
When landing on Lancashire County Council’s Public Rights of Way-What to expect website page you may well opt to have your flask and sandwiches in the safety of your own home rather than visit the red rose counties path network.
The opening salvo of the county councils project fear is a presumably non satirical – “In general the countryside is not designed for walking or riding on”. The “what to expect” page continues in similar doom laden tones warning of the “great variety of potential hazards on Lancashire paths” such as “holes made by animals, water,tree roots,rock and other natural hazards to trip over or fall into”.
The page is cut and pasted below for entertainment value. Do watch out for the rabbits holes in the meadows should you decide to visit!
Public rights of way – what to expect
In general the countryside is not designed for walking or riding on – in order to make it more convenient and accessible paths and tracks have been constructed in many places but it is not reasonable to expect these everywhere, even in some places where there are a lot of users. Some paths are too narrow or steep for all the permitted users because of their nature or the way that they were originally dedicated as public rights of way- that is not an error necessarily but a quirk of history. For example:
A byway open to all traffic (BOAT) may not have to have a suitable surface or be wide enough for a car
Some bridleways are too steep for horses to use or too boggy for cyclists
Some footpaths are too uneven for wheelchairs or pushchairs
Users will need to assess the nature and natural restrictions of particular paths that they are using, take necessary care and be prepared to take an alternative route if necessary.
Users should be prepared, consider the effect of weather conditions and take particular care when running or riding quickly and when visibility is poor.
There is great variation in the standards of surface and potential hazards that you could expect whilst using public rights of way in Lancashire.
Rural areas and natural surfaces
Where paths have been constructed in a rural area the purpose is generally to facilitate passage across boggy, steep or otherwise difficult terrain and they may be uneven and slippery – this is the nature of such paths and users should take appropriate care.
Where paths have not been constructed but are simply a worn line on the ground, or maybe not even that, users must be aware that there could be holes made by animals or water, tree roots, rocks and other natural hazards to trip over or fall into. Similarly the path may be overhung by low branches, pass close to steep slopes, traverse river banks or cross fast-flowing streams. A little-used rural path may have both overhanging vegetation and upgrowth through the surface of the path that makes it difficult to use.
There are public rights of way which follow historical routes, often through areas of industrial archaeological interest, which used to be maintained to a high standard appropriate to that historical land-use but which is not necessary or appropriate today. This sort of route also requires users to take care appropriate to a deteriorated surface.
Urban and semi-urban areas
In village areas the paths tend to be better, often constructed with stone and in urban and semi-urban areas many paths are tarmac, concrete or stone. Users can expect them to be reasonably free from vegetation, deep puddles or mud but this does not mean that they are up to footway (pavement) standards nor are they necessarily lit.
The user has a responsibility to take care appropriate to the general nature of that particular footpath.
Signs and Waymarks
Public rights of way should normally be signed where they leave the road and waymarked where necessary along the route. However, you must expect you will need to use a map to find the way and not rely entirely on waymark arrows except on specially marked trails, for example in or near Country Parks.
In most cases users can expect a means of crossing a watercourse but this may be stepping stones or an Irish bridge not usable when the water level is high. Historically some paths cross rivers or streams where there has never been a bridge or stepping stones but where the water level is, or once was, suitably low but care must be taken by any user as the suitability of a crossing point in any particular conditions cannot be guaranteed – it is the responsibility of the user to assess the circumstances at the time and not to take risks.
Unexpected hazards, obstructions and how to report a problem
Lancashire County Council as highway authority should ensure that any hidden, unexpected hazards are rectified as soon as possible after they have been reported.
For example, a rabbit hole in a meadow path or tree root across a path in a wood is expected but a rabbit-sized hole in a tarmac path or piece of metal sticking out of a concrete path is unexpected and should be rectified by the highway authority.
Wherever the public right of way is crossed by a fence, hedge or wall a gap, gate or stile should be provided and that should be safe and convenient to use. Steps, revetments, handrails and other structures are also provided where necessary.
There should be no obstructions such as locked gates, piles of building materials, paths ploughed or covered in crops, buildings, fences across the path or ‘keep out’ notices.
There is a regular programme of vegetation clearance from many paths which are subject to undergrowth, however, it is not possible to anticipate all locations where this is required and Lancashire County Council relies on members of the public reporting problems of excessive vegetation.
If you see a problem like this on a public right of way you can report it online. It would be helpful if you could give a detailed description of where the problem occurred, inform us of its nature and whom you believe may be responsible.
It is strongly recommended that users:
Carry a suitable map and ensure that they are able to use it (remember that you may need to carry reading-glasses and a torch)
Allow for suddenly worsening weather conditions
Wear suitable clothing, including footwear, and where appropriate take waterproofs or carry extra warm clothes
Carry water or other non-alcoholic drinks especially when it is hot.
A GPS (global positioning system) unit or traditional compass may also be useful as long as the user is able to use it competently.
Watch out for cattle
Many public rights of way cross fields where livestock are present. In general this presents no problem but there are simple precautions that you can take:
make sure that you know where your exit point from the field is
do not walk between young calves and their mothers
do not let your dog chase the cattle
be ready to let your dog off the lead or put it down if cattle approach (do not pick it up or hold it close when cattle approach)
turn to face approaching cattle spreading your arms out and shouting, do not run away but move to the exit point (or back to the entry point) carefully.
Remember that cattle are often inquisitive and rarely aggressive.
Previously on PathWatch we highlighted an environmentally damaging proposal to construct a permanent vehicular access track to Black Moss & Swellands Reservoirs in the Kirklees bit of the Peak Park.
The proposal was turned down at the Peak Park Planning Committee on 6th August 2021 on the following grounds.
The public safety issue does not create an Imperative Reason of Over-riding Public Interest justifying a permanent track through the Natural Zone;
Alternative solutions have not been explored thoroughly enough given what is understood to be required (in terms of building work and regular maintenance) such that the requirement to demonstrate that there are no alternative solutions has not been fully made out to the satisfaction of members, in particular by use of a temporary track; and
Insufficient satisfaction that the proposals would result in acceptable impacts on this peatland habitat and in particular on nesting birds.
The committee item can be viewed here . Well done to the Peak District National Park!
Clues to the widths and status to some local public rights of way can be found (if you are lucky) in the in the Graveship of Holme Inclosure Awards. These awards came about as a result of the Graveship of Holme Inclosure Act of 1828. The Act is available online here but the awards are only available at the archives in Huddersfield Library.
Among the awards of land are awards of many local public highways, including some footpaths and bridleways. It’s clear from even a casual peek that there can be a glaring difference between what is awarded by act of parliament back in 1828 and what was subsequently recorded on the local Definitive Map & Statement as a result of the 1949 National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act. These differences can be significant. A bridleway some 30 feet in width recorded in the Inclosures of 1828 can be shown as a public footpath 4 feet wide on the Kirklees Definitive Map & Statement.
Every day local government shadiness , incompetence and disinterest probably explain the discrepancies. It is clear from The West Riding Memo and The Great Prow Swindle that West Riding Council actively set out to limit the widths of public rights of way to the bare minimum whilst happily recording footpaths rather than bridleways.
There’s certainly a case for Kirklees and the other ex West Riding authorities to completely review every right of way which was historically enclosed between walls for accuracy of both width and status at the very least. Of course this will not be done. They are busy looking the other way until the 2026 deadline for historical evidence imposed by the CROW Act gets them off the hook. As ever this work is left to volunteers.
As examples part of Holmfirth Footpath 64, Issues Road is recorded as a 4 foot wide public footpath on the current Definitive Map. The 1828 Inclosures award this as a 30 foot wide bridleway (known as Meal Hill Road at that time). Bilberry Mill Road is awarded as a 20 foot wide bridleway. It is not currently shown on the Definitive Map & Statement.
Not the best photo. See Meal Hill & Bilberry Mill Roads.
Previously on PathWatch we’ve highlighted the 2020 works to “repair” a flat section of Ramsden Road and install a lateral drain about 1000m long. The poorly specified works have never really worked effectively.
Culverts were built with nowhere for the water to go and the level of most of the road was left below the drains. The only spectacularly “successful” section was the drain left open to pour water down the hill. This has worked very effectively in causing an increased rate of erosion on the rest of the downhill surface. So, credit where it’s due on that one!
In the 14 months since the lateral drain was constructed large sections of it have predictably disappeared beneath new vegetation growth, rendering it pretty useless as a form of drainage.
There appears to be no plan in place to maintain the £15k drainage & surfacing paid for by the public. As ever the council appears to act like a forgetful goldfish constantly swimming around the same problems like it’s never seen them before….
As ever our hapless council brushed off the genuine concerns of residents and non motorised users with a nonchalant “This track leading up through Cheese Gate Nab has been in this exact same condition for 20+ years and has caused little to no issue over that period. An answer it took 2 years to think up!
However some doughty public campaigners and a local councillor who was up for re election last May seem to have got the bureaucratic oil tanker to turn course.
PathWatch has been aware of a potential Temporary Closure of the route for some time and last week we received reports of concrete blocks and road closed signs been put in place 🙂
Although we’ve not had sight of the legal order closing the route it all looks very promising and shows the power of e mails and councillors up for re election.
The closure is made under the guise of needing to “carry out repairs” but Cheesegate Nab Side will likely never be subject to 4×4’s use ever again. The temporary closure can be extended almost indefinitely or be followed by a full TRO or a pound shop PSCO.
Whilst not the beginning of the end for 4×4’s in the valley it could well be the beginning of the beginning of the end as Mr Churchill might say.
Of course this all rather begs the question, why not do the same on Ramsden Road?
Another diversion proposal from Kirklees which tidies up a long standing issue on an intriguing little section of path. All of these old routes have an intrinsic value in themselves and it’s good to see this one being treated properly.
View the proposal here or on the Kirklees website . Comments are open until 2nd September 2021
The public Inquiry into the proposed stopping up and diversion of Holmfirth 60 takes place on 23rd of August. The Department of Transport publish documents relating to the inquiry here and it is regularly updated.
This process is funded by the taxpayer. So if you want to see what your money is spent on, are interested in the path or just can’t sleep, it’s worth a read.
Holmfirth 146 a few days after planning permission was granted.
Don’t panic. This is definitely a case of ramblers living happily ever after. We have of course been put through the usual ordeal of trial by planning permissions, obstruction, excavation and comedy gates but FP 146 has survived!
In fact it has a new life as a field path away from the old farm and on a much more rambler friendly line with gates! Think of these diversions as a witness protection scheme for footpaths and you get the gist.
Following the resolution of objections to the order and corrections to errors in the order the Planning Inspectorate has now confirmed the new route. All the details from our chap at the Ministry .