Walna Scar (Bridle) Road

by 18

Hot news just in from the Lake District National Park Authority…

“The public status of Walna Scar Road has again been thrown into doubt.”

After the receipt of the BOAT modification order application, we assessed all the evidence we had and concluded that the route should be a restricted byway (for all traffic except motorised vehicles). We made an order for this in 2007.

After objections were made and further evidence received, an independent inspector appointed by the Secretary of State decided that the route was a Byway Open to All Traffic – including motor vehicles.

On 15 June 2010 the route again became available for all traffic.

Following an appeal to the High Court, the inspector’s decision has been quashed, and the whole process must start again.

This means that as from 20 August 2010, the Walna Scar Road between the fell wall above Coniston to the tarmac road near Seathwaite once again has the legal status of public bridleway. Therefore, any usage by motorbikes or 4×4 vehicles will again be a criminal offence until the status is finally resolved. Users are asked to respect this.

We will now begin the process again, and we expect to take a report to our rights of way committee in January 2011.

Rights of Way Officer
Lake District National Park Authority

Thanks for popping by - why not stay a while?IT'S FREE

Sign up as a Singletrack Member and you can leave comments on stories, use the classified ads, and post in our forums, do quizzes and more.

Join us, join in, it’s free, and fun.

Comments (18)

    Anyone cleaned the climb up from Seathwaite ? Bottom section is well ‘ard.

    yes its a tough one – cleaned it once in the dry but the effort knackered me for the sectins through the dry stone walls!!!

    tough climb!


    Is it really a criminal offence?

    Fantastic news. Gorbeck, then Dead Mans Hill (Nidderdale) and now Walna Scar.


    Its an offence under section 34 of the road traffic act (1988).

    Press release from GLEA;


    Walna Scar Pass between Coniston and Seathwaite has been a battle ground between off-roaders and the public since the Trail Riders Fellowship made a claim in 2005 to upgrade it from bridleway to byway open to all traffic (BOAT). The Lake District National Park Authority disagreed and made a provisional order in 2007 for a restricted byway, which would be open to horse-drawn but not motor vehicles. The TRF objected and protracted inquiry proceedings followed. The Green Lanes Protection Group (GLPG – an alliance of 21 organisations including the Friends of the Lake District) entered the fray but the first round went to the TRF. GLPG took the matter to the High Court and has now won an order restoring the original bridleway status, so it is now a criminal offence to drive 4x4s or motorcycles on this route between the fell gates.

    Graham Plumbe, Vice Chairman of GLPG said “These off-road vehicles have been a nuisance since they first started hill climbing competitively in 1917 and have few supporters locally. This is an important fell pass, used extensively by walkers to access Coniston Old Man. Sorting out the question of rights has been a battle since the law was radically changed in May 2006, but the position now is that the track is a bridleway and motorised use can be prosecuted by the police. The National Park will have to make a new order in due course but, given the amount of historical evidence that has been gathered, it is now extremely unlikely that motor vehicles will gain acceptance in the future. It is understood that special arrangements for the Coniston Mountain Rescue Team can be made.”

    Sorry, GLEAM (that was Freudian slip!

    My garage is in the Lake District National Park and my house is in South Lakeland District. From my five years of experience of owning a house in this area I can truthfully say that you must never discount CORRUPTION in anything that happens locally.

    I just thought I’d mention that because everyone immediatly assumes that the rays of the sun are reflected in more than oriental splendour from everything the Lake District National Park Authority do. The reality is that dirty- grubby- networking- masonic- money grabbing- type- corruption, and lies rule.

    Not that I can see any such angle here BUT never discount it.

    Live and let live – why shouldn’t it be used by 4 x 4s and bikes?

    What billyboy said, the LDNPA are notorious for following their own agenda.

    “why shouldn’t it be used by 4 x 4s and bikes?”

    because the environmental impact and impact on other users enjoyment of these areas is very high compared to say a mountain biker / walker / horse rider. It’s a judgement but one that most people will make, once an engine is involved the impact goes up massively.

    “These off-road vehicles have been a nuisance since they first started hill climbing competitively in 1917…””

    Bit of an own goal conceding during an inquiry that motorised vehicles have been using the track since 1917 !!


    You need to understand the legislation (Part 6 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act).

    The intention of Parliament was to draw a line at all the BOATs already in England and Wales and prevent any other unsurfaced routes from being used by recreational motor vehicles.

    What that meant was on the day of enactment (2 May 2006) all rights on all routes (even the M1 !) were extinguished but simultaneously certain exceptions were made to protect ‘the ordinary road network’ (including the M1 of course). One exception preserved BOAT applications provided they were made, and made properly, before 19 Jan 2005 (the date that the government announced it’s intention to legislate).

    One of the exceptions was to preserve roads that had their rights created by virtue of use by motors prior to 1930. Recreational offroaders have been trying to use this (and the other exceptions) to try and get around the legislation, digging round it at the edges if you like. Not working within the spirit of the legislation but bending it as far as they can (but still being technically right if you like).

    To rely on this ‘created by 1930 motor use exception’ they would need to prove that no rights existed prior to the invention of motors (or probably the popular use by motors) so say prior to about 1895 and that a right was created by those motors (1895 to 1930). It is anticipated that no (unsurfaced) routes in the whole of England and Wales would fall under this category.

    The High Court judgement also clarifies some other points.

    In this case the applicants (for the TRF) tried to show evidence of competitive motor bike climbing on the route prior to 1930 to prove that it was exempt and so to allow scramble motor bikes and 4x4s over there in the 21st century. That would of course be frustrating the will of parliament and the spirit of the Act.


    I can’t help but feel sympathy for the motor cyclists in this case. I recall the track is wide, with a hard surface that will withstand motorised use, and passes no-one’s house. Given that there are so few open places to ride them, and hundreds of km of footpath for those who want silence*, cannot occasional engine noise on this trail be tolerated?

    *apart from the sound of wind, velcro and creaking of arthritic joints.

    Te actual reason for the claim being overturned was due to an administration error in the inquiry process, apparently the planning inspectorate had failed to circulate one set of papers for comment by interested parties. I don’t know whether this was intentional or not. The process, however, has to start again from scratch – but will probably be slightly quicker this time, given that most of the evidence is already collected. The route should hopefully be given Byway status again, taking into account the wealth of pre 1930 motor evidence, but we’ll wait and see.

    Yes, the Trail Riders Fellowship did use a sort of loophole within the NERC bill, but I suppose when you are given Sh!t, you have to make do with it the best you can. I’m sure any other user group would have done the same if they were faced with a similar, restrictive situation. The route was used by motorcycles for around 100 years prior to the NERC bill, and has a surface able to sustain use by all forms of traffic. I would think careless driving and people speeding along narrow country roads (which could cause a fatal RTA) are more of a serious ‘nuisance’ than a few people enjoying the countryside on motorbikes.

    The NERC act was a grossly unfair act, and did nothing to address the real issues of vehicle use on Byways. It just exasperated the problem by concentrating users on to the remaining 3% of the rights of way network. Much of the sections in the act relating to byways etc were ‘sneaked’ in just before the act gained royal ascent, very little of it appeared in the white paper. The NERC act was debated in a half empty house of commons, and one of the parliamentary speakers was bribed by GLEAM et al in the House of Commons canteen, so that they could get the bill ‘tailored’ to what they want. All the debates regarding NERC are recorded on Hansard. Remember, this is the same parliament that has been involved in an expenses scandal, and many other coverups!

    Its amazing that such groups are able to manipulate the government in this way. With almost any other groups this would raise issues of ‘civil liberties’ and ‘human rights’, as it did with fox hunting, right to roam etc. It seems ok for one group to have their access rights eroded, but not others. Whatever your views on motorcycles etc using byways, the underhand, dirty political tactics of gleam etc are disgraceful.

    Motorcycle trail riding can coexist with other users, through proper management and education of each user groups. I have seen it in New Zealand (similar climate to the UK), and also in Australia, France and Canada.

    Imagine if mountain bikers were the ire of a group of well heeled lobbyists claiming royal patronage? In the face of such institutionalised corruption, the motorcyclists need all the help they can get.


    I’m afraid you’ve got a few facts wrong,

    The HC judgement on Walna Scar cited 9 counts that were to be heard. The defendant (DEFRA the department over the Planning Inspectorate) however gave way on the one (simple) count about procedure so the case fell very quickly. This was done by agreement. Both sides have agreed that all of the other counts however were reasonable and although not tested they will be simple the next time. In the interest of counsel costs the hearing will of course ‘finish’ as soon as the first count is proven. It is understood that the applicants will not be pressing for BOAT status at the new inquiry (in which case it will probably become a Restricted Byway (for walkers, cyclists, horse riding and horse drawn carts)). A status far more commensurate with the nature of the track than a road for recreational 4x4s and scramble bikes.

    The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 never had a White Paper (nor a Green one).

    The way it was formed in Parliament is exactly the same way that almost every other bill passes through into legislation. You will have to take it from me (I was there, working on it). All Bills are read in the Commons, debated there, drafted by committee then passed to the Lords to be shaped by amendments. They then pass swiftly back through the Commons which is more of a rubber stamping exercise I do appreciate that many organisations like the TRF, LARA etc did not have a grasp of the procedure so think that something underhand or ‘magic’ happened but of course it did not.


    Ollie B

    I’m not unsympatheic to motorised use of this route because there has been a lot of precedence……….


    I’m a long term user of this route (30 plus years)… and I watch these off road motor bikes powering up the Walnar scar Road… and I see the divots that just one bike makes on one trip… and then I see the rain-water channel down that divot… and then I see a fissure develop… and then I see a 2 feet deep trench in the same place and before very long it ain’t usable no more.
    In my (inexpert experience) four wheel drives (as long as they don’t get stuck) tend to compact the track more than they churn it up.

    My personal opinion is that motor bike use of this road, or the fells in general, is not sustainable. They put so much horsepower through such aggressive treads that they chew the delicate top soil to pieces. Someone rode the top of Black Coombe about three years ago and their tracks are still visible.

    There again……….whatever they legislate won’t make no matter, because the local police are very thin on the ground. And in one particular incident where I was a minor victim of a very evident offence, my local neighbourhood police officer was extremely unwilling do his duty until I applied gentle but persistant pressure… and my experience is not a unique one for this area.


    I’m aware that there was more than one reason why the order was nullified, but i believe it was the ‘administration error’ on the planning inspectorates part that was the valid reason for the order to be legally voided. From what I was aware, the applicants (Cumbria TRF and the Byways & Bridleways Trust) are looking at BOAT status again. Even if not, there is (probably) enough evidence to prove BOAT status again, unless objectors put forward new evidence (which I think was another reason why the GPLG put in an appeal – to buy extra time). The route however, is not strictly illegal to use as Byway status has already been proved based on evidence. The proof of Byway status still stands until a new decision is reached, its just that the order itself will not be made. Just be prepared to prove your case in a court of law and have a decent lawyer if you plan to ride it.

    From what I understand, yes the TRF and LARA etc were pretty slow to react to and grasp the NERC bill while it was passing through parliament. I don’t think that they thought that the government would go back on its word regarding the 2026 deadline agreed in the CROW Act 2000! Whilst GLEAM and the Ramblers etc quickly seized the opportunity to use the bill to remove even more of the few remaining vehicular rights of way.

    I wasn’t aware that you were involved in the act, I take it that you are a high up civil servant? I am aware that governmental processes have lots of control measures to make sure that the process is as democratic and impartial as possible, but when I talk about ‘institutionalised corruption’ I am referring to the large number of people who just happen to have links to GLEAM, GPLG and the Ramblers etc, and also were involved in the acts drafting. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you yourself are an example, you seem pretty closely allied with GLEAM and from your usage of terms like ‘scramble bikes’ I take it you have a dislike of motorcycles etc in the countryside, yet you worked on the Acts construction. I’m sure there were many people who worked alongside you who had similar views.

    On the outside, the legislation seems deeply unfair. Over the last decade or so, motorcycle trail riding has been slowly criminalised within the law, so much so that it almost appears a grey area at times. What is the problem with people trying to enjoy the countryside by Motorcycle? The real problems are the groups of people who ‘razz’ around on non road legal MX bikes or mud plugging 4*4s who deliberately get stuck so that they can winch themselves out, giving everyone else a bad name. It seems that nothing short of a prison sentence or an oil crisis will stop them.

    The NERC act created a blanket extinguishment of vehicle rights on a classification of ROW and dual status routes, with no consideration for the sustainability of routes or their spatial distribution in relation to each other throughout the country. For example, Somerset has nearly no Byways, yet Wiltshire has over 400km (the most out of any county). This has lead to overuse of byways in Wiltshire and Hampshire.

    The government basically tried to ban ‘green laning’/ trail riding full stop, but failed due to access issues caused if rights were extinguished on Byways and UCRs (I’m sure you know this though). It begs the question why the government was able to try and push for a complete ban, when the previous year Faber Maunsell had carried out an independent report on behalf of Nottinghamshire County Council, concluding that, apart from certain problem areas, recreational vehicles overall had little impact on the ROW that they used. Also many ‘outdoor’ groups were against the NERC act, including the British Horse Society, International Mountain Biking Association and the Byways and Bridleways Trust to name but a few.

    As I said in my last post, proper impartial management of routes is what’s needed, such as what is done in NZ, Australia and France etc, not restrictive acts that appear to have passed through parliament without proper impartial ‘vetting’. I have seen some of the debates regarding NERC on Hansard and many of the views expressed, particularly in the Lords, are clearly either exaggerated claims or uninformed opinion presented as fact – there appears to be very few hard facts in the debate.

    Walna Scar is a very sustainable route with a hard surface, no houses in close proximity and ~100 years of motor evidence behind it. But we’ll see.

    Sorry if I ramble – its late!


Leave Reply