The 2020 January weather wasn’t kind to Holmfirth paths. Although a little late to the party another casualty of the unusually wet winter storms is Holmfirth Footpath 57 at Netherthong.
After many years of hassling Kirklees they resurfaced this path in June 2019. It has now all been washed away. At some point PathWatch will pull together a piece on recent Kirklees works to stone up out of repair paths in the Holme Valley and what has subsequently happened to them. It’s not pretty.
A good slice of this popular path has been washed away over the past two weekends of heavy rain. But are Ciara and Dennis really responsible?
The network of walled footpaths and bridleways in this area provided access to a number of small farms and settlements prior to the construction of Digley Dam and reservoir. At that time, some 70 odd years ago, all the tenants were evicted by the new landlord – the water board.
Had the water board, now Yorkshire Water, and possibly Kirklees Council continued to maintain the extensive network of open land drains and culverts which drained the footpaths,bridleways and adjoining land perhaps these routes would be in a better position today? Another example of not spending a penny to save a pound? Certainly another good example of how unconsolidated stone aggregate laid and rolled in on these steep upland paths is not the answer.
This limestone was thrown down by Yorkshire Water contractors and made a cosmetic difference while masking as serious underlying drainage issue which was not tackled.
Previously on PathWatch we’ve blogged about works to Holmfirth Footpath 133 being undertaken,washing away within weeks and having to be done again. See here and here. We’ve questioned the wisdom of using stone aggregate on steep Pennine paths with a history of drainage problems and acknowledged the need and difficulty of using a more sustainable method.
Sadly Holmfirth Footpath 133 has again failed over the weekend after the passage of Storm Ciara. Most of the stone aggregate is half way down the hill. The drains are blocked and there are deep gullies in the path surface. The path needs extensive repairs for the 3rd time in less than a year.
What Holmfirth 133 neatly demonstrates is the extent and seriousness of Kirklees Councils maintenance liability for rights of way, the false economy of using sandstone on such slopes and the lack of imagination amongst senior managers (to busy authorising “unauthorised” water troughs? Ed) in developing a sustainable maintenance strategy for the rights of way network. As an organisation the Council seem entirely content with making the same mistakes over and over again.
Footpath 133 was a decent job. Great attention had been paid to drainage and the second lot of stone put down was larger and less “clean” than the first, so bound together very well but it still could not handle the weather here.
What Kirklees are proposing to do on Ramsden Road (largely to keep 4×4 drivers happy.Ed) is the same technique used on Footpath 133 (and others) but with the added ingredient of heavy 4×4 vehicles using the route. The Council know this technique fails sooner or later (without vehicle use) and it also knows legitimate 4×4 use on Ramsden Road damages the unmade surface. It seems more than happy to ignore this information and potentially make a more expensive version of the same mistake on Ramsden Road. Go figure.
The Kirklees admiralty who are based at Wilton Park, Batley, (home to the Kirklees navy) have announced that a new Shipping Forecast Area is to be added to to the famous list in …er…Kirklees! Rear Admiral Birdseye (oh yes),one of Soothills most famous sons, told PathWatch of the exciting nautical development. “Following the loss of Whitby Fishermen the other winter on Ramsden Road it has been recognised that we need to alert seafarers to the risks of Kirklees and it’s treacherous rights of way waters”.
“The Admiralty have belatedly recognised that although Ramsden Road isn’t actually the sea, the body of water on Ramsden Road is navigable and is of such a size that the moon exerts a significant tidal pull. Spring tides here are some of the largest in UK waters due to landrovers causing further tidal movement when driving through. It’s clear to the Admiralty that the waters on Ramsden Road are a permanent and growing feature which is why we’ve squeezed it in the forecast between German Bite and Dogger” said the Admiral before heading off to Batley Working Mens Club for his rum ration.
Footpath 133 at Gate Foot was extensively repaired in the early summer and then washed away in a downpour just weeks later. Thankfully the council have not walked away from this one and are on site now carrying out more extensive resurfacing and drainage works.
What this case neatly demonstrates is the huge liability the council has in maintaining and repairing public paths in the Holme Valley. This one path has now been repaired extensively on 3 occasions and it will remain vulnerable to further damage due to it’s hillside location and the neglect of adjacent land and highways drainage.
Strategic management of the rights of way network with high standards of governance and properly funded and resourced staff are required to achieve any degree of success in such an area of work.
Stoning up hillside paths in the Pennines where there is a history of water damage is not a long term soloution on this or any other route and the council know this. Until they have a plan, a strategic direction and are properly resourced the same events will occur in the same places over and over again.
I hope the new works on Footpath 133 remain in place but the history of the site suggests otherwise.
It is only a matter of weeks since the works highlighted in Well Done Kirklees 2 were completed and PathWatch is sad to report on the complete failure of the entire stretch of repaired path. Last weekend’s rain has washed the whole lot away from top to bottom.
The technique of stoning up public paths is a cheap and cheerful way of doing things and can look good and last on the flat. However PathWatch has blogged before about the vulnerability of this technique on the Pennine slopes of Kirklees. It isn’t easy to find a cost effective, sustainable and aesthetically acceptable method of repair but it needs to be done. They do exist along with experienced specialist contractors.
This is the second time Holmfirth Footpath 133 has been repaired using this method and the second time it has failed in this way. It’s not the best use of scare resources.
At this rate PathWatch will be retiring soon. Holmfirth Footpath 133 had been wrecked by the twin troubles of 4×4’s and water damage. As can be seen above the promised repairs have now been undertaken and to a good standard too. Real pleasure to see it and walk up there.
In other good news a new hard wood footbridge has been ordered by Kirklees to replace Blackpool Bridge and it is hoped this will be in by the autumn. Good news indeed.
Holmfirth Footpath 57 at Upperthong has been resurfaced by Kirklees. The popular path was something of a quagmire and overdue some TLC. The work promised last year has now been carried out and is a big improvement.
Harden Hill Road is a lovely long,straight stretch of bridleway on a hill above Meltham. It has suffered from water damage for many years and despite the council’s occasional efforts to rectify this the problems remain. Much sandstone has been put on the bridleway to repair previous damage. This can look good at first but never really stays put. What the bridleway lacks is a drainage scheme to take water off it’s 1200m downhill descent. A considerable volume of water has a free run down the full length of the hill and predictably causes a great deal of damage. Most of the new sandstone surface now resides at the bottom of the hill and there are deep gullies forming on and off all the way down.
There are at least another 2 steep bridleways above Meltham which have been repaired using the same technique. They too are back to being deep and rather expensive gullies. It’s clear stoning up unmade public rights of way on these Pennine slopes is not a sustainable or cost effective method of repair.