There are over 250 individual public rights of way in the Colne Valley and this ought to be a superb area for the 17k plus local population and visitors alike to go walking. It has a bit of everything from canals, rivers, woods, dark satanic mills and wild windswept moors.
The past ten years have seen previous work and investment to open up, sign and repair paths in the area swept away on a tide of austerity and local authority indifference. Longstanding historical problems have been left to ferment for another decade. A recent volunteer survey has recorded over 350 individual problems on the valley’s 250 rights of way. A large number of paths are completely blocked and unusable.
Kirklees front line staff do a good job with the limited resources at their disposal but an area with this level of prow disfunction needs an injection of cash, staff and expertise way above that presently available. The 800 odd miles of rights of way in Kirklees get a £50K annual revenue budget.
In contrast Kirklees Council bought the derelict George Hotel in Huddersfield in 2020 for £1.8 million (the previous owner paid £900k for it in 2013). It is spending some £250 million at various sites in Huddersfield Town centre and a reported £100 million in Dewsbury. So the council isn’t short of a bob or two when it wants to spend ( so long as it’s not public rights of way! Ed.)
Councillor Naheed Mather who is the cabinet member with responsibility for rights of way has been asked what further resources can be made available to help frontline staff tackle the Colne Valley. In response she suggested resources are stretched because of Covid 19 (but not so stretched that they can’t afford £1.8 million for a derelict hotel. Ed.) and directs members of the public to volunteer on Colne Valley paths for now (wot lockdown? Ed). This of course ignores the complex nature of path problems which often require a degree of legal or enforcement action and large scale ground works on site. It also abandons current frontline staff to an impossible task.
One can only wonder at the complete lack of aspiration and imagination from our local “leaders” with regard to maintaining and improving countryside access.
The Beeb have been up on Ramsden Road with a long suffering local resident to do a piece on off roading. Many local voices have been drowned out by Kirklees & 4×4 groups propaganda so it is refreshing to hear Mr Wilson’s perspective as someone who lives near the byway. The piece starts at about 24 minutes here
The upside to lockdown last spring was that lots of people discovered their local paths—and as we return to lockdown they will do so again. But few will have realised that those local paths only exist because of the work of the Ramblers and our predecessors.
Without the Ramblers there would probably have been no definitive maps of public rights of way, which we won 71 years ago in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Before then, if you went for a walk and found your path blocked you had to prove it was a public highway before you could expect any action to clear it.
The definitive maps were just the start though. Then we had to claim the paths for the maps—not so easy in the 1950s when far fewer people had their own cars. Later…
The quote above is from Councillor Naheed Mather the Kirklees Cabinet Member for the Environment and was made in response to viewing the photos in this post. The images are of course from Ramsden Road and Kiln Bent Lane, the scene of much 4×4 damage to both the highway and surrounding countryside. Perhaps a visit to Specsavers early in the New Year would be a good idea.
More bread & butter path work by Kirklees in the valley this week. A new sign on Holmfirth Footpath 115! Practically every public right of way in the valley is now signed from the public highway. This is a big improvement and thanks are due to the frontline staff involved.
The old timber stile on Holmfirth Footpath 116 has now been repaired and is safe to use. There’s a steady flow of regular jobs being carried out on Holmfirth paths now which is a really positive situation and benefits so many members of the public who use the network.
As we all know England has been in a strict covid 19 lockdown for the past 4 weeks. During this period only essential travel has been permitted. Work, caring, essential shopping, medical reasons, that kind of thing.
Funnily enough 4×4 use of Ramsden Road has reached a peak during the lockdown. Locals are reporting damage to property, including pulling out of gates,posts and boulders to access and drive on private property. Much of this has been under the cover of darkness. Although regular convoys of 4×4’s, quads and motorbikes have been a common daily sight on Ramsden Road and nearby Kiln Bent Road.
Deliberate damage has been caused to the publicly funded works on Ramsden Road with vehicles driving in the new ditch and destroying at least one new culvert. The damage extends beyond Ramsden Road and onto land adjacent to Kiln Bent Road which is also popular with off roaders.
Kirklees Council’s approach to Ramsden Road has been to hide behind the well meaning “Friends of Ramsden Road” group whilst ignoring the ongoing damage to the local environment and public highway, nuisance to residents and loss of amenity value to non motorised users of Ramsden Road. That’s a high price to pay but of course it’s not the only bill facing Kirklees.
Year on year the damage to Ramsden Road becomes more expensive to repair as a direct result of the council’s negligence. The final bill may run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. That’s a lot of money to keep a few 4×4 drivers and a couple of councillors happy. Dig deep taxpayers! Incompetence on this scale doesn’t come cheap.
This short section of path has some lovely views of the valley below and one or two niggling little problems. It is typical of many paths in the Colne Valley. One long standing obstruction has just been removed (see photos). Thanks are due to the Kirklees staff involved and to the voluntary efforts of Peak and Northern Footpath Society. The path remains invisible from the road network and the council have also been asked to sign the path in line with their legal duty to do so.
Kirklees Council are currently carrying out an investigation into the presence of a locked gate and 45 cm squeeze stile on Meltham Footpath 70. Location shown above.
The various structures shown in the photo have appeared fairly recently on what was a well used path. The full width of the lane between walls was available for public use. For many years equestrian use of the lane was common place and there is a claim to have the path upgraded to bridleway status. The Kirklees consultation is copied and pasted below. Anyone with information supporting the open nature of the path and lack of locked gate and squeeze stile is encouraged to respond.
Kirklees Council has received an application to vary the particulars shown in the Statement accompanying the Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way.
The application is to record as limitations to the public right of way a squeeze stile 45cm wide next to a locked gate at point A1 on the attached map. There currently no gates, stiles or other structures recorded in the Statement accompanying the Definitive Map.
Do you have any evidence about gates or stiles on this path?
We would welcome any evidence regarding the existence or absence of structures on this path.
We would be particularly interested to know what structures may have existed in the past, and when any structures might have been removed.