Not a huge amount of “remote,sparsely populated,potentially dangerous mountain country” here in West Yorkshire. I suppose if this appeared on a local Holmfirth path as a change from “Beware of the bull” it’d be a novel attempt to put walkers off! However having walked both these routes on a few occasions I can confirm it is good advice indeed.
PathWatch can exclusively reveal the famous “Limbo Buddleia,” which has been a challenge to all but the supplest of ramblers, has mysteriously disappeared!
Regular readers will recall Kirklees rolling out limbo dance classes throughout the district to equip ramblers for just such obstacles. We spoke to the Councils limbo dance coordinator Mr Winston Toago-Lilt who said “Sup bro? Gone init?” Mr Tobago-Lilt went on to explain how the council were carrying out a thorough investigation into the missing shrub. “We ain’t cut nothin’ down for years bro. So it’s a complete mystery init?”
Members of the public are urged to keep an eye out for the overgrown shrub described as 10 feet high,green and wide enough to block a footpath. The shrubs last known whereabouts was the little path above Victoria Park Holmfirth.
An eloquent letter to the the Huddersfield Chronicle dated 20th May 1865 (found on the excellent Huddersfield Exposed site) goes to show there really is nothing new under the sun. The author “one of the footpath lovers” laments the blocking of paths in Dungeon Wood (Lockwood,Huddersfield) by a railway company. The author’s words are as relevant today as a 150 years ago.
Without footpaths and bridlepaths “the working man would be buried in cotton dust ten and a half hours a day and road dust the remainder” says the footpath lover before describing paths as “the working man’s parks” and warning “the time is fast coming when the footpath through the green and verdant sloping hills will be the only chance we shall have left to view nature in her loveliest garb, and breath her pure and healthy odour”.
We may have swapped mills for sedentary work at computer screens and today’s Victorian working conditions of zero hours contracts and minimum wages but the sentiments remain as poignant as ever after all this time. Access to the countryside is not a luxury we can’t afford but an essential element of a rounded human existence.
And like the “footpath lover” from Lockwood says if we don’t as a society protect them “we have only ourselves to blame”
The full letter is well worth a read here and the excellent Huddersfield Exposed site is here
Back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s I began exploring the public path network in the North York Moors national Park. Armed with a tatty 1 inch to the mile OS map,youthful enthusiasm and navigation skills learned from a stint serving Queen & Country in the Army Cadets what could possibly go wrong?
Looking back many of the paths I tried to follow had fallen into disuse,were unsigned, not waymarked and obstructed. It was clear I might have been the only fool along many of them for years. The state of those paths back then is almost identical to a large proportion of the path network in Kirklees in 2019.
However the North York Moors paths have been transformed in the intervening 40 years into an attractive,used and usable network. It’s worthwhile to ponder why this is so.
Clearly the National Park has a much narrow remit than a Metropolitan local authority and access to the countryside is a core part of it’s role. On the down side national parks have never been well funded in the UK and have a fraction of the resources of local councils.
Kirklees and it’s predecessor authorities have gone through billions of pounds in the same time period and have have spent millions on public rights of way. Not so long ago there was a well staffed Countryside Unit, Rights of Way Unit (12 staff!), Cycling Officers etc etc. It can’t be said that Kirklees haven’t put the resources in. So what’s gone wrong?
Politics and culture seem to be responsible. Despite North Yorkshire being run by the Huntin’,Shootin’,Fishin’ brigade politically, their National Parks are managed by professionals who actually believe in what they are doing. Clearly no amount of “Get of my land” type assaults have deterred them and the results are plain to see.
Ironically in the People’s Republic of Kirklees control has mostly rested with the Commissars of Batley, Dewsbury and Huddersfield who have always been ambivalent about public rights of way. This was aptly demonstrated with the onset of austerity when the first budgets to be cut were Countryside Unit and prow maintenance closely followed by other unvalued services such as libraries.
This cultural ambivalence towards the countryside pervades the management structures at Kirklees and undermines frontline staff at every turn. The results of this are plain to see out on the network.
Austerity has been a godsend to the political masters and senior managers at Kirklees. In their unhinged view of the world it lets them off the hook for nearly 70 years of maladministration on public rights of way whilst justifying a future of severe neglect if they are allowed to get away with it. On a more positive note it’s only 72 days to Brexit when presumably all this will be fixed as we’re back in control?
Spotted on the Dales Way in Wharfedale. It could only be Yorkshire. Also spotted lots of well maintained footpath signs, stiles, gates and waymarks. Hardly needed a map to navigate the paths were so clear and easy to use.
Scotland has long been miles ahead of England in terms of public access to the countryside. The long tradition of “right to roam” was enshrined in law in the Land Reform Act of 2003 which simply recognised the existing situation on the ground. Access rights in Scotland go beyond just walking and include amongst other things access to open water, camping and biking & riding.
Scandinavia enjoy’s “every man’s” rights of access to land that even extends to fishing!
Back here in good old Blighty we have the dear old National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act which largely set up the limited protection for England’s existing public paths network. The Act was visionary at the time but has proved vulnerable to local authority indifference and corruption. Outside of a national trail or park or popular local route it is almost impossible to walk a public path in England without quickly coming across an obstruction – nearly 2 a mile here in Kirklees.
The Crow Act of 2000 is a dog’s dinner of access rights given with one hand and taken away with the other. Access land can be closed, you can’t take a dog, you have to stand on one leg patting your head and rubbing your tummy on a Wednesday etc etc.
Isn’t it time for an “every person’s right” of access to the countryside in England (and Wales) ?