Save the Cairngorms from Singletrack

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  • Save the Cairngorms from Singletrack
  • Premier Icon dave360
    Subscriber

    wind, rain, sleet, snow and ice cause erosion. Bikes just move the mud about a bit.

    TheBrick
    Member

    P.S. I’m not making a judgement on this particular article as I don’t know the area but given it is fragile environment any article talking about a route in this areas should heavy push this point and not rad^sickness and positivity state that rad^sickness is not acceptable here as it’s not a trail centre.

    rewski
    Member

    as many folk south of the border)

    TJ – absolute hogwash. Once again certain people North of border assume they’re the only ones who are responsible or have fragile landscapes that need protection. The impact to the that particular environment will be minimal based on the amount of traffic and remoteness, and a magazine feature won’t make any difference. Parties of walkers and horses leave far more erosion, especially in winter/autumn periods.

    Your moral high ground is a figment of your imagination. Wake up.

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    Nature conservation is just Gardening anyway!

    Comparing hiking, mountain biking and horse riding impacts on vegetation and soils in Australia and the United States of America

    Catherine Marina Pickeringa, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Wendy Hilla, David Newsomeb, E-mail The Corresponding Author and Yu-Fai Leungc, E-mail The Corresponding Author

    a International Centre for Ecotourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD 4222, Australia

    b Environmental Science and Ecotourism, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia

    c Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7106, USA
    Received 6 July 2009;
    revised 15 September 2009;
    accepted 21 September 2009.
    Available online 27 October 2009.

    Abstract

    Hiking, horse riding and mountain biking are popular in protected areas in Australia and the United States of America. To help inform the often contentious deliberations about use of protected areas for these three types of activities, we review recreation ecology research in both countries. Many impacts on vegetation, soils and trails are similar for the three activities, although there can be differences in severity. Impacts include damage to existing trails, soil erosion, compaction and nutrification, changes in hydrology, trail widening, exposure of roots, rocks and bedrock. There can be damage to plants including reduction in vegetation height and biomass, changes in species composition, creation of informal trails and the spread of weeds and plant pathogens. Due to differences in evolutionary history, impacts on soil and vegetation can be greater in Australia than in the USA. There are specific social and biophysical impacts of horses such as those associated with manure and urine, grazing and the construction and use of tethering yards and fences. Mountain bike specific impacts include soil and vegetation damage from skidding and the construction of unauthorised trails, jumps, bridges and other trail technical features. There are gaps in the current research that should be filled by additional research: (1) on horse and mountain bike impacts to complement those on hiking. The methods used need to reflect patterns of actual usage and be suitable for robust statistical analysis; (2) that directly compares types and severity of impacts among activities; and (3) on the potential for each activity to contribute to the spread of weeds and plant pathogens. Additional research will assist managers and users of protected areas in understanding the relative impacts of these activities, and better ways to manage them. It may not quell the debates among users, managers and conservationists, but it will help put it on a more scientific footing.

    Keywords: Recreation ecology; Nature-based tourism; Impacts; Weeds; Horse riding; Mountain biking

    there can be no all encompassing ‘fact’ about comparative levels of erosion as the variance in ground condition, flora+fauna, usage and traffic volume make every area unique in this respect.

    The only approach is to exercise compassion and restraint in our (and that of all users of the countryside) choice of route. As part of this I see it as a responsibility of land owners, environmental bodies and the media to provide information as to these issues allowing us to make these judgements.

    I will not pass judgement on the STW article as I have not read it, if it encourages riding in a very sensitive area such as the plateaux without pointing out it’s innate fragility then it is irresponsible.

    The Scottish rights of access rely on a difficult balance between user stewardship of the land and the abuses by the few.

    I mostly agree with TJ on this one, his nationalistic blinkering aside.

    The only riding I’ve done right up top is the Carn Ban Mor route. Which when you get up the big climb at about 900 metres features a huge, horrible, completely artificial bulldozed track. Last time I was up there were JCB’s up there. Is that part of the sensitive area as well? If so, a few bikes a year – and it is going to be a few, not many typical STW readers are gonna put up with the bother of driving to Aviemore then getting up the mountain – hardly compares to the carnage of the track I’ve done.

    mustard
    Member

    TJ – I hope I’m not putting words in his mouth, although nobody else seems to worry about that around here, but I can’t see where

    northwind pointed out earlier tho singletrack have previous on this

    It looks to me more like he’s pointing out previous form from other mags;

    it’s not just STW

    As to the OP; I don’t think that is going to encourage many more mountainbikers to ride up there than would do it anyway, probably after coming on here to get some info on a route!

    As I read it, it was locals (Scots) who rode the route and wrote the article, not

    folk south of the border

    Premier Icon bajsyckel
    Subscriber

    there can be no all encompassing ‘fact’ about comparative levels of erosion as the variance in ground condition, flora+fauna, usage and traffic volume make every area unique in this respect.

    The only approach is to exercise compassion and restraint in our (and that of all users of the countryside) choice of route.

    Christ mrmichaelwright, I’ve not read the whole thread yet but that’s about the most considered response I’ve ever read on stw. If only all more people took that line, mtber’s or otherwise, the whole discussion would be irrelevant.

    >The impact to the that particular environment will be minimal based on the amount of traffic and remoteness,<

    Now you’re talking hogwash. It’s actually one of the most accessible mountain areas in Scotland – last time I looked, the summit of Cairngorm was circa 3.5 kliks from the Cas carpark. Getting up there is a proverbial piece of p1ss.

    Issue to me is not so much whether we should be up there but why stw chose to publicise an area which is so fragile / highly contentious.

    thanks

    it’s a subject close to my heart

    it’s not my normal form though 😉

    Premier Icon myheadsashed
    Subscriber

    It’s so unique and sensative the built a railway up it to attract more people a railway which needs a road to service it…….cairngorm is a bloody hard ride you won’t find to many more people up there than already ride it.

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    Issue to me is not so much whether we should be up there but why stw chose to publicise an area which is so fragile / highly contentious.

    Careful there – we might end up back discussing Badaguish (another area that the locals want to keep for themselves) 😉

    Mustard – correct – it was a different magazine – my mistake

    Teh point about folk south of the border was that sometimes they don’t understand that there are responsibilities as well as rights to right to roam – altho I accept it was not well phrased and some north of the border forget this / don’t understand as well

    Many times in discussions about access I see folk who ride in England wishing for “scottish type access” but clearly not understanding it is not an absolute right but a qualified one – qualified by the need to be responsible

    rewski
    Member

    Last time I was there I found a discarded can of iron bru, now let me guess who drinks that shite.

    ok can someone please explain what’s so special about the soil on the cairn gorm plateau? it’s been a few years since i was up there but all i remember is a lot of rocks and some grassy heathery bits. and a (rather wide, in places) path.
    if there’s a path trodden out by thousands of walkers there already, why does riding on it make it so much worse?

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    Teh point about folk south of the border was that sometimes they don’t understand that there are responsibilities as well as rights to right to roam – altho I accept it was not well phrased and some north of the border forget this / don’t understand as well

    Many times in discussions about access I see folk who ride in England wishing for “scottish type access” but clearly not understanding it is not an absolute right but a qualified one – qualified by the need to be responsible

    FFS TJ, when you are in a hole, stop digging.

    Or are you suggesting that folk of whatever nationality/location riding in the lakes / peaks / south downs / wales don’t understand what responsible access is about? 🙄

    mustard
    Member

    Fair enough Teej I was just feeling a bit contrary and liked my opening line, so much so I’ll repeat it 😀

    hope I’m not putting words in his mouth, although nobody else seems to worry about that around here

    Oh dear, I must be bored!

    I mostly agree with TJ on this one, his nationalistic blinkering aside.

    +1, although is TJ not actually from Englandshire himself, thus rendering the ‘nationalistic blinkering‘ comment somewhat redundant?

    Premier Icon bigjim
    Subscriber

    ok can someone please explain what’s so special about the soil on the cairn gorm plateau

    Its essentially a sub-arctic ecosystem right here in the UK and is stuffed with very rare species. Given the amount of time it is frozen and battered by weather it is very fragile, there ain’t much there to hold it together like roots and organic content, and its easily destroyed by walkers and morons on orange 5’s playing irn bru rampage. This is why if you get the funicular up as a walker in summer you can’t get out the top end to walk all over it. Bit like why in places like Utah there are controls on biking in some areas, as the thin layer of lichen and crust on the soil once damaged opens it up to serious erosion from the weather.

    Why don’t you have a “discussion” with Chris Porter about this?

    Tamworthcrowd.

    I can’t find a decent link but its the only example of tundra type habitat in the UK, it is considered to be a site of world importance because its a habitat for rare species of flora and fauna.

    The vegetation is very fragile because of the short growing season thus easily damaged

    cool, thanks bigjim and TJ, it was an honest question as the place looked to me not too dissimilar to all other hilltops around the country. looks can be deceiving.

    balfa
    Member

    A point brought up by shortbread_fanylion is the huge damage by bulldozed tracks that are being built all over Scotland with no planning permission required, destroying empty glens and sometimes pristine singletrack. I don’t hear as many objections to these as biking on the plateau.

    For something thats unquestionably worth complaining about see the Mountaineering Council Hilltracks Campaign

    Premier Icon Beagleboy
    Subscriber

    Hiya,

    When the Funicular railway project was approved I was sent up there (straight after graduating), to spend 2 months up on the plateau collecting data points to act as a ‘baseline’ for erosion studies relating to the impact that increased numbers would have on such a sensitive area.

    At the time, it was understood that there’d be no access to the summit from the top of the railway, thus limiting the impact it would have. I think they’ve removed that restriction now though.

    Those two months, with every day spent up on the summit, surrounding corries and over towards Macdui were wonderful, and really struck home to me just how fragile and beautiful the ecosystem is up there. The area is already severely damaged, but not irreparably. It’s simply the time needed to recover from any damage that’s the issue. That’s why I too cringed when I saw the article and even more so when almost immediately afterwards I saw a post on our bike club website with someone wanting to organise a club ride up there. 😕

    We all have to ride responsibly, we all have to look at the conditions of the trails we ride and ask ourselves, should I really ride here today. I and many of the people I ride with shy away from certain popular riding destinations when the conditions aren’t optimal. It’s like TJ says, it’s about responsible access.

    I personally don’t think that riding a bike up, over and down such a fragile habitat is responsible access. I won’t do it, and I’d be hacked off with any of my riding partners who did.

    B.

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    ok can someone please explain what’s so special about the soil on the cairn gorm plateau

    Details of the SSSI here – http://tinyurl.com/6lyuo6k

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    I agree. We should grab pitchforks and burn Sanny for writing the article and irresponsibly and single handedly leading to the destruction of the Cairngorms. Er, hang on…. that’s me you’re talking about. Not sure I’m so keen to lead the lynch mob now! 😯

    Lots of interesting points being raised though I would take issue with a number of them.

    Northcountrychap – Interested in your comment that I’ve shown no respect for the mountain and have abused it. Does sticking to paths and advising people in the article at several points of the fragility of the area and stating that they should stick to the paths as I and my riding companions did constitute abuse? Or is it merely the fact that we chose to ride up there and wrote an article in a limited circulation specialist publication that offends you so? The likes of Trail, The Great Outdoors, Country Walker etc have been publicising these routes for years and to a far larger audience. Similarly, outdoors writers and broadcasters (for whom I have great respect) such as Cameron McNeish and Chris Townsend have done far more to promote the area as a destination to the general public for walking, climbing etc through their many books, articles and TV programmes. Following your logic, are they not guilty of a far greater abuse of the mountain? If you care to do a search of published routes, articles and images of the Cairngorms, how much relates to walking and how much relates to cycling? Do you go on walking websites and complain that the likes of Cameron and Chris are being irresponsible and abusing the mountain by encouraging a far larger constituent of readers and watchers to repeat what they have done?

    Or is it the case that you have made a de facto assumption that bikers are bad and their presence there alone is of itself irresponsible? Perhaps you believe that bikers on Cairngorm are incapable of behaving in a responsible manner under any circumstances? Whether you acknowledge it or not, the paths that you so happily walk on are evidence of mans intrusion into a fragile and precious environment. How do you think they got there? How do you think the man made stone pitched path that skirts round the base of the corries or the Land Rover track and stone pitched path on the summit of Cairngorm itself got there? It wasn’t mountain bikers who made them. I struggle to see how walking (particularly with walking poles but that is another matter) is any less abusive. If we are all using the same trails and you are willing to concede that walkers do damage too, surely it is irresponsible for anyone to be up there at all? If we look at volumes, how many walkers do you think there are relative to mountain bikers up there? Surely, the responsible approach is to discourage the users who are causing the most damage? Would that not be the thousands of walkers who enjoy the mountains or considerably fewer cyclists?

    SurroundedbyZulus – thank you for calling me moronic. Perhaps you may wish to read the article before you choose to call me irresponsible as well?

    Heatherbash – again, perhaps if you read the article, you might realise that I didn’t write it to claim glory? I wrote up what were a couple of fantastic days in the mountains. As Messiah points out, the weather and the route are such that I very much doubt many folk would chose to tackle it. It’s a serious day out in the hills and as I point out in the article in several places, it is a very fragile environment and needs to be treated with respect. I do not expect an influx of riders laying siege to the Cairngorms. I suspect that those who will would do so irrespective of an article appearing in the magazine. As for folk straight lining trails and going off path, yup, that annoys me too!

    JamesB – why is sticking to pre existing paths in the mountains on a bike inappropriate compared to walking on the self same paths? As above, is it the very presence of bikes that offends you and your walking friend?

    TJ – Please do me the courtesy of reading the article before putting finger to keyboard and saying that I didn’t raise the issues of the fragility of the environment. If you are going to flame me, it would strengthen your argument if you took the time to read it as opposed to taking your customary stand (which I respect though don’t necessarily agree with) that bikes in these mountains are bad.

    I’m interested in how you assume that bikers on Cairngorm are de facto a bad thing and cite the damage they do yet what evidence do you have for this beyond your personal experience and anecdote? You refer to flawed papers on erosion yet the evidence you yourself present is anecdotal. I’m sorry but I have to disagree with the basic tenet of your argument that walking is fine but biking isn’t. I thought we had gotten long past that. Sadly, it would appear not.

    Looking at your more recent posting, you state that the magazine has form “promoting routes in Scotland that are fragile and need care as a ride to do without a care”. Again, if you had taken the time to read the article, you perhaps might not be so quick to make that call. Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant eh?

    As for your south of the Border comment, sorry, but that is more than a little patronising and reeks of xenophobia. You have chosen to make a broad sweeping generalisation based purely on where people live and frankly, I find that more than a little offensive. You would better serve your argument if you refrained from such statements. Why did you choose to single out the English and Welsh on this? Is the same not true of Scottish people as well? I’m not angry or upset, just disappointed that you stooped to that. You’re old enough to know better than to have done that. Shame on you.

    So where does this leave us? I don’t expect that I will have changed the minds of those of you who are firmly of the opinion that bikes on Cairngorm are by their very presence wrong and irresponsible. However, I do hope that those of you who haven’t already done so will read the article and reflect on what I’ve said. Ultimately, I believe mountain bikers are just as capable of being responsible in fragile environments by following pre existing paths as walkers. Please don’t assume that our very presence there accessing the hills by bike with consideration for the environment and other user groups is a bad thing. If you are genuinely concerned about not publicising the area, can I suggest you start with walking publications and websites? I’d be interested to hear the response you get from walkers were you to suggest to them that they shouldn’t be up there and that they are irresponsible by default.

    Cheers

    Sanny 😀

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Or are you suggesting that folk of whatever nationality/location riding in the lakes / peaks / south downs / wales don’t understand what responsible access is about?

    Well yes, have you seen the mess MTB’ers make in the average woodland? Take Swinley or the Surrey Hills for example, facilities for MTBers, run on the wholeby MTBers, yet we* still trash them by riding them all winter.

    I don’t think mtb’ers on the whole should be given unrestricted access to the countryside in England. Not unless it’s done on a similar basis to fishing. Where each person needs a ‘licence’ which funds trail work, and has specific exclusions like a closed season through the worst of the winter (like fishing, private land can be excepted but that would be upto the owner).

    I reckon in the next couple of years there’ll be too many MTB’ers and not enough trails.

    *thats we as in MTBers I know some people say “I don’t ride in the mud” but admit it, you dont spend the entire winter on your road bike do you?

    A point brought up by shortbread_fanylion is the huge damage by bulldozed tracks that are being built all over Scotland with no planning permission required, destroying empty glens and sometimes pristine singletrack. I don’t hear as many objections to these as biking on the plateau.

    different issue altogether, it’s an issue around the commercial use of the land (it is after all generally privately owned) and not leisure use.

    rewski
    Member

    Sanny – can I buy you a drink, great article by the way, the sort that inspires me to ride.

    Does sticking to paths and advising people in the article at several points of the fragility of the area and stating that they should stick to the paths as I and my riding companions did constitute abuse?

    glad of that Sanny, If I’d known you wrote the article I’d have assumed you would have covered this issue. Although who knows what evils those STW sub editors get up to……

    balfa
    Member

    different issue altogether, it’s an issue around the commercial use of the land (it is after all generally privately owned) and not leisure use.

    It might be a different issue but its erosion one way or other. The damage is far greater. There is no need for the vast majority of these tracks on upland areas. You can claim commercial needs but for hunting, shooting etc but a track is hardly going to bring in significant revenues and why can they not use argocats like most estates. I have worked on estates in the past so I have some basis for my comments.

    TandemJeremy – Member
    Whilst it may be ( but not IMO) responsible to ride on the plateau to publicise it is simply wrong and shows a typical lack of understanding of the balance of rights and responsibilities involved in the right to roam.

    Its a very special and rare place. An SSSI and a site of world importance.

    Edit – having not seen the article is there any discussion of its unique status?

    Important to whom and by who’s definition ? Why should SSSI status override the importance of the area for other usage ?

    What we see here is the authorised heritage discourse. This is the interpretation and implementation of heritage resources as dictated by the thoughts of ususally unelected, white, middle class science and history professionals. It ultimately leads to exclusion and seperation of people from the landscape as was the case in Yellowstone and at Uluru.
    Luckily, UNESCO are starting to drift away from this and are designating heritage areas as cultural landscapes which recognise the need and value of human interaction with the landscape.
    Sadly the influence of the AHD is so pervasive that most of us just accept the so called ‘importance’ of tags like SSSI, without thinking to question them.

    Premier Icon stumpyjon
    Subscriber

    One indisputably good thing that has come from the article is the fact this is now a reasonably intelligent 2 page thread discussing the ethics of riding. Bit more of that going on and we’d all have fewer problems.

    Sanny – good reply.

    I did state that I had not read it and asked if it discussed the issues – no one has answered that point until now. I am glad you did. I did not flame you personally although its my personal view that to write the article was irresponsible. See beagleboys post for an example of why.

    No personal offence to you intended by me.

    Myself I believe there is no responsible MTB access to the MacDui plateau but I accept this is contentions and open to interpretation

    As regards the south of the border point I have attempted to qualify it and have said that it was poorly put

    I have often seen on here people who appear to think that right to roam is an absolute right not qualified by the need to be reasonable.

    Premier Icon bigjim
    Subscriber

    Important to whom and by who’s definition ? Why should SSSI status override the importance of the area for other usage ?

    Definition and qualifying features of the SSSi can be found on SNH’s website. If you are asking a deeper question about the justification behind conservation, then there is an endless argument there! Fair enough some people don’t believe in it and don’t care if natural places are destroyed, but I think its fair to say most people would find this abhorrent.

    What we see here is the authorised heritage discourse. This is the interpretation and implementation of heritage resources as dictated by the thoughts of ususally unelected, white, middle class science and history professionals. It ultimately leads to exclusion and seperation of people from the landscape as was the case in Yellowstone and at Uluru.
    Luckily, UNESCO are starting to drift away from this and are designating heritage areas as cultural landscapes which recognise the need and value of human interaction with the landscape.
    Sadly the influence of the AHD is so pervasive that most of us just accept the so called ‘importance’ of tags like SSSI, without thinking to question them.

    Have you ever been to Uluru? Can you imagine what state it would be with loads of (ironically for you white middle class) people crawling all over it unrestricted, or hypocritically do the beliefs and property of the indigenous people not mean anything to you?

    Similarly what gives you the right to ruin the caringorm plateau? That enviroment has been around a lot longer than you. And ironically you sound just like the thoughts of a (wannabe?) white, middle class science and history professional…!

    hora
    Member

    Calderdale/Hebden Bridge has lots of trails/pics featured in STW mag vids etc and Ragley. Why not also flock there to the area in droves as its advertised and enjoy the cheeky advertised round there?

    grum
    Member

    Teh point about folk south of the border was that sometimes they don’t understand that there are responsibilities as well as rights to right to roam – altho I accept it was not well phrased and some north of the border forget this / don’t understand as well

    Is it folk from south of the border that have made such a mess of the WHW near Loch Lomond?

    Can you imagine what state it would be with loads of (ironically for you white middle class) people crawling all over it unrestricted, or hypocritically do the beliefs and property of the indigenous people not mean anything to you?

    It is precisely the beliefs and property rights of the indigenous Australians that has seen the area redesignated as a cultural landscape. People are still entitled to do as they wish at Uluru but are requested not to in order to respect those cultural sensibilities, rather than because some heritage nazi has told everyone that they can’t – as they ‘know’ better. The same respect should be shown to people who have their own cultural usage in the cairngorms.

    ironically you sound just like the thoughts of a (wannabe?) white, middle class science and history professional…!

    If you can’t articulate your argument then just resort to insults, very good.

    Sanny+1

    My only remark is that maybe the mag article could have had a prominent call out box that highlighted the special status of the area and the need for responsible riding.

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    Hi Buzz

    There was mention of the fragile environment in the article itself (the bit about the funicular and the walkers path on the summit spring immediately to mind) and also the footnote at the end advising of the fragile nature of the environment and the need to stick to the paths.

    I thought long and hard about best to convey it without the article becoming a discussion on access law and what constitutes responsible access. As we can see from the above, people are clearly very passionate in their beliefs and I for one thinks it’s great that we are having this discussion.

    Rewski – glad you liked the article. Always nice to read a kind word!

    Cheers

    Sanny

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