Bridleways are like hens teeth in West Yorkshire. As multi user routes they are (theoretically) open to a much wider range of users. You might imagine they’d be protected or enhanced during the planning process. You would, of course, be wrong.
In a classic example of not paying any attention at all planners and highways officials at Calderdale have allowed 2 bridleways to have estate roads,footways,gardens,driveways and even a house built over them. The development (at Fountain Head Road) was granted planning permission in 2005 and there is little to show how public rights of way across the site, which also include a footpath, will be dealt with in the planning documents. Don’t forget public rights of way are(theoretically) a material consideration in the planning process.
There is mention of rights of way being a limitation and a plan showing the bridleways and footpath along with the development. Some 16 years later the plan more or less reflects where the houses and roads have been built over the rights of way. Presumably, the plan should have had the opposite effect?
These bridleways are now lost for ever but not because the developer has built over them. The local planning & highway authority, Calderdale Council, have failed to consider the bridleways as part of the 2005 planning process. Subsequent to this they have failed to prevent the stopping up of the bridleways by the development.
They are fully aware of what has happened at this site but the council’s shoddy performance continues in how it is now dealing with the obstructed footpath. More on this story later.
One thing you can say with confidence about local highway authorities in West Yorkshire is that the standard of path obstruction is regular,long standing and of a very high quality. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing but at least there are few surprises.
Here’s a selection from the smorgasbord of problems on a 4 mile walk in Calderdale.
A change is as good as a rest they say. Whilst it’s good to explore new paths in different areas it’s a shame the same old problems of dodgy stiles and obstructions remain an irritating ever present wherever you go. They’re certainly something that can always be relied upon on public footpaths. They say you are never more than 6 feet away from a rat in the town and it would seem the rural equivalent is an obstruction on a public path.
I planned a quick mile walk using an OS map to secure a view of a passing steam train on the Worth Valley Line. Part of the route was on the “Worth Valley Way” and another section the “Railway Children Walk” In that mile or so I battled with nettles, skinny stiles,barbed wire and broken gates. If Jenny Agutter herself had stepped out onto the path waving a pair of red bloomers warning of an upcoming hazard I wouldn’t have been surprised!
A change is as good as a rest they say and the opportunity to look at a path obstruction in Calderdale turned into a bit of a treat. Erringden is the smallest parish in the great sweep of Calderdale and clings to the flanks of Stoodley Pike.
All I had to go on was an iffy grid reference and the words “South West of Cruttonstall”. I knew I was onto something good climbing through rustling,mossy woods in my pedestrian time machine. Clearly there’d never been car access to this place!
Reassuringly I came across the usual barbed wire encrusted waymarks and see saw stiles which are such a part of walking. Such features are so commonplace on public paths the average rambler would feel unsettled without them confirming the way ahead.
Cruttonstall is listed but the dry words offer no description of the real place which positively oozes the essence of Ted Hughes’ sideburns. On a raw afternoon with a biting East wind hurling Curlew babbles at Stoodley Pike it was a wonderful place to be.
After coming off worse in a scrap with a falling over sycamore the iconic Hebble Hole footbridge has been repaired and officially reopened on Sunday 14th April 2019. It wasn’t an easy task and credit is due to Calderdale Council,the Pennine National Trails Partnership and the specialist contractors involved.
The opening event had much support from locals and the Parish Council who descended on the New Delight Pub at Jack Bridge (camping & excellent beer) before a short walk down to the bridge where Morris dancers did their thing and the bridge was officially reopened.
The cost of repairs was £25k and included a donation of £5k from Peak & Northern Footpaths Society.