Prompted by a post on Kirklees Bridleways Group Facebook page I refreshed my memory on The Packhorse Road Trial back in 1908. There’s an excellent summary of events from Marsden History Group here packhorse_rd_trial
It’s a familiar tale of a landowner, Sir John Radcliffe, attempting to close the Rapes Road (Colne Valley BW 197). His lordship was none to pleased at repairs carried out and signs erected by the local Marsden Council.
This of course is before the days of the 1949 National Parks & Access to the countryside act and the formal recording of rights of way on definitive maps. So Marsden Council had to win the argument in court that the way was a public highway and that works it had carried out were legal. With the assistance of many Marsden residents as witnesses, it won the argument.
It’s acknowledged in the case that there were some minor deviations from the established line due to seasonal ground conditions. Interestingly the line of the bridleway over Stack End is mentioned (known then as “Lady End). This of course is the line subsequently recorded on the definitive map. As such it is unquestionably publicly maintainable by Kirklees Council, the current highway authority. As reported in Not Colne Valley Bridleway 197 Kirklees have funded over £50k worth of repairs to a nearby alternative line which is not publicly maintainable.
This bridleway has a historical significance as a long established, defended and valued public highway. It’s been poorly treated by Kirklees. Arguably they have succeeded where Sir John Radcliffe failed in 1908 by closing a short but important section of the route at Stack End.
Of course Kirklees have no authority to carry out a de facto closure/diversion of this nature or to spend a penny of public money on private property but there you go.