- Should Bridleways (and Footpaths) be closed if they are properly muddy?
With the current trail conditions hovering somewhere around Somme and Swamp, does it not occur to anyone in any of the users groups that maybe just maybe giving the trails a rest might be a good idea?
There are trails round my way that have gone from being a less than 50cm wide singletrack to a 3m wide muddy expanse as walkers and riders have widened it to avoid the mud? My local woods are that bad now that there aren’t really any paths just expanses of mud.
The local horse riders appear to be active as ever and have made a complete mess of the bridelways rendering them impassable for everyone aside from themselves, though no doubt they will claim that soon they are unsafe for their horses.
So what’s the answer? Individual responsibility? That doesn’t seem to be working.
Should Bridleways and Footpaths be closed in exceptional circumstances when the integrity/sustainability of the path be risked by further usage?
I know trails evolve/devolve/change as the erosion takes its toll but this winter feels different. The woods are as wet as they have been in 30 years apparently.
For what it’s worth, as the the trail conditions have been that bad I have been sticking to the better surfaced (ie gravelly) trails and back roads and only riding trails where I know my actions will not cut the trail to pieces.
:Awaits flaming:Posted 4 years ago
No. The countryside is muddy, it has been for 10,000 years. Erosion is happening everywhere, Norfolk once looked like the Himalayas do today!
IMO, one of the reason some trails are so “damaged” (ie. wet and muddy) is because so much of the traffic is forced to use so little of the network. By limiting footpaths to just walkers, we force everyone else onto a limited number of trails, resulting in much more damage…….Posted 4 years agoandylMember
Round here the motorbikes have been annoying me by ripping up the wet bridleways and footpaths (yes I know they shouldn’t be using them anyway) instead of laying off them when it’s really bad. At least they could ride in the tractor/landrover tracks instead of in between where I try to walk so now there is no where to walk as there is 3 very muddy and churned up grooves.
But to put it in perspective the farmer has had to use them over the last couple of days with his tractor to move manure so now they are in a real mess.
But to answer the OP, if the farmers need to use them they will have to do so and they will get churned up anyway so no. No point. I would rather money was spent on improving and maintaining them and people should use common sense and avoid them if they are going to churn them up and stop being so selfish.Posted 4 years agojamesoSubscriber
Agreed, avoiding wet trails (edit – ie excessively so and damaged) is common sense, not something that should be enforced though – how can you? Many local trails are an utter mess at the moment so I’m riding elsewhere, on the road, using different tyres to ride lanes and easy tracks, finding new missing links etc. Lemons>lemonade.
It won’t be like this forever, watch as it dries out one day and those ruts and hoof-churn spots slowly become a nice smooth line as the tyres roll it flat as it dries. We’ll still get grumpy walkers saying we wreck the trail, but every spring the evidence to the contrary is right there.
So what’s the answer? Individual responsibility? That doesn’t seem to be working.
Unf not, as in every area of life ) just do what you can to not be part of the problem.Posted 4 years ago
Completely agree that landowners would not be trusted wioth the responsibility.
Trails get shut in the US and Canada for this sort of thing (and bears etc) all the time. The National/Provincial Park people police it.
Do the Rights of Way Officers need this power? Do we need more of them?Posted 4 years agoandylMember
Oh and up on the Mendips it is not uncommon to be told off by walkers for using a very popular footpath which is a lovely smooth clay surface. It’s very eroded but I would rather one path that needs attention than lots of minor ones that are hard to keep track of.
There is a very peaty bridleway that runs close by but because of the walkers and horses (but in all honesty mainly walkers) who use it when it is sopping wet. You get lovely boot sized holes from half a dozen walkers who all make their own footprints that then start to dry out and make a very unpredictable surface to ride on. They also spread out and make small muddy patches very wide muddy patches doing a lot more damage than bikes all following a single path. The end result is the bridleway because quite hard to navigate by bike and it is much easier to use the footpath which is nice and smooth and clay.Posted 4 years agoflatpatMember
I know where you mean, andyl. The alternative bridleway is awful, because there’s no distinct path you get more people walking/riding over the moorland edges and widening it out. Plus it misses out on the top, where we usually stop to enjoy the view and have a chinwag with the walkers.
What I don’t get is why there is a problem in using the original path? If anything it keeps all the erosion nicely in one place and, being slightly sunken, discourages people from going over the edges.
Rarely ride there in winter though. Bristol’s hardened trails are a godsend in this weather.Posted 4 years agobajsyckelMember
It’s not just a “mud in the countryside shocker” kinda thing. More a “certain tracks get totally ****ed if we don’t lay off them when the weather has been really bad” kinda thing. Most riders I know will avoid local routes that get damaged when conditions aren’t suitable to use them. I’m amazed at the people who insist on using the same tracks regardless and then (evidently) ride around all the boggy bits (see also those who insist on riding along the side of singletrack rather than actually in the track). I always imagined you should leave the tracks in a state you’d like to find them in* – and if you can’t do that then you shouldn’t be there – but people should want to do this, not be forced. The logistics of controlling it would make closure impossible to enforce in any case.
I can understand that for horse riders, mxers, 4x4ists etc tracks being an impassible boggy mess (to others) is not really an issue for how they enjoy their days out hence why they don’t appear to give a crap about messing up tracks for everyone else. ROW legislation has virtually no connection to the sustainability of use by various user groups, but I don’t see this makes it right for cyclists to demand the luxury to do whatever they want regardless, complain about conditions being shit, and then next weekend go somewhere else and do the same.
[*i.e. this bit is fun because it’s twisty/ narrow/ rocky etc. – so don’t cut the corners/ ride off the side and make it straight/ wide/ dull etc. etc…. And conversely, nobody likes hub-deep peat so don’t turn a massive area into hub-deep peat by riding ever-wider lines on the edge of a boggy bit].Posted 4 years agojock-muttleyMember
To me its just traffic as a whole, there’s no point in going all tribal and blaming one particular group for damage – bar motorbikes as crossers seem to be able to cause a lot of damage very quickly but then they shouldn’t be on there in the first place.
Paths cut up in this weather full stop, There is one trail local to me that goes around a coastal headland and in recent weeks this has just got wider and wider as people avoid the centre. The issue is that the sides of the trail are just far too soft to support the traffic so its cutting up badly and turning into a quagmire (giggity), the centre is still hard where the gravel has been laid and fine to ride/walk on albeit under the puddles, the edges are impossible to get traction on.
Its impossible to police but what doesn’t help are the restrictive land access laws in England that ties us to bridleways or dedicated cycle routes. Scotland is far more enlightened.
And this probably makes no sense lolPosted 4 years agoschnorSubscriber
Do the Rights of Way Officers need this power?
Well we do have a power to temporarily close a path (for 5 days or 6 months) if we consider a path dangerous – which can include if the surface is particularly bad – but it’s rarely used on Footpaths but a bit more so with Bridleways. Poaching caused by usual path use is to be expected given the recent weather, but if its caused by something particular (cattle feeder, farm traffic, etc) it can be mitigated.
Generally I find users self-regulate their use of paths if they’re particularly bad, but yes, unfortunately sometimes some are damaged (as mentioned above, unenclosed moorland paths are a problem), and its at this point where your Rights of Way team should become involved.
I think if we were to go down the route of saying ‘if path X = Y% mud then temporarily close it’ – which is the only easy way I could think of how to do it easily – would encourage cries of “But this path is Y+1% muddy, close it NOOOWWW” or indeed “But this path is Y-1% muddy, open it back up NOOOWWW”. And of course it might encourage people to deliberately damage a path solely for the purpose of closing it.
Byways / UCR’s damaged by lawful (and unlawful) vehicular use is more of a problem though, again, particularly on moorland, but predominantly for the expense in putting right any damage.
forgot to say, you can’t really ‘close’ a path even if its dangerous, it either needs a temporary closure to (attempt to) repair it, THEN a formal diversion order to realign it.Posted 4 years ago
It’s not just a “mud in the countryside shocker” kinda thing. More a “certain tracks get totally ****ed if we don’t lay off them when the weather has been really bad” kinda thing.
Generally I find users self-regulate their use of paths if they’re particularly bad, but yes, unfortunately sometimes some are damaged
They generally self regulate at the point when the trail becomes impassable in their eyes.
Maybe it does just come down to there being a lack of common sense?Posted 4 years agob rMember
Or what you could do is have no actual ROW’s but let everywhere be a ROW – at least for walkers/cyclists/horses. And make it so that the landowner has no responsibility to ensure they are passable. And add in a smattering of trail centres.
Otherwise known as Scotland. Seems to work here fine. 🙂Posted 4 years agoDaveRamboSubscriber
Around the bridleways of Warwickshire my experience is that bikes aren’t a problem – most riders take the same line and the impact isn’t that big
The big problem is horses that really chew it all up.
You can’t police it and after this much rain it’s very hard work – having to pedal hard downhill – so we alter our routes to avoid the really bad bits anywayPosted 4 years ago
What is this “destroyed” word that people use? Do they mean “muddy”?
Let me tell you a little story……….
About 25 years ago, i grew up in a small oxfordshire village quite near to the Ridgeway. At the time, off roading as a leisure activity was starting to become popular, and a lot of the local byways were often quite muddy and churned up in winter. One particular track was an old Drovers road, used for centuries (AD650 is the first recorded use i could find in the county archives) to move sheep, cattle and goods between Wantage and Newbury. This was obviously classed as a byway, due to it’s history, and runs pretty much due south, across the ridgeway and off towards Newbury. This track became quite muddy at times with the vehicle useage (by both recreational users and farmers), as you could imagine it would have been in say 1650, when it was used weekly to move large numbers of animals to market! However, a group of local walkers got together to “save” this track. Eventually, after much discussion, the council put in place a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) preventing it’s use by recreational traffic (cars/Motorbikes).
That was around 25 years ago, and at the end of last year, for the first time i went back to take a look. Well, pretty much centuries of traceable useage has been lost in as little as 25years, as it is now practically impassable by any means. Once it lost the vehicular traffic, the local landowners didn’t bother with any upkeep, the track narrowed to a footpath, the fields on either side grew a bit, trees fell down over the route, and mother nature still worked her forces of erosion and weathering etc. I would guess, that in another 10 years, the right of way will have disappeared entirely.
So, the group who wanted to “save” this resource have really done exactly the opposite imo.Posted 4 years agothe teaboyMember
Even if we agreed that this was a good idea, it’s practically impossible.
There are at least 14 fps and bws from my village. Say it takes 20mins to travel to a fp end and close it. To get both ends is 28 signs needed, or over a day’s work for one village.
How many villages are there? Who would make the decisionto close paths, who would close them, who would pay for it, who would enforce it and who would reopen them?Posted 4 years agotowzerMember
I self regulate, mainly on footpaths that are highly used/would mark badly, personally I have more of an issue with horses than vehicles(which are mainly banned in most places) – I can often ride a rut(or the bits between), but when several horses have chewed it up it and produced that clinging mix of mud/grass mixed daub it generally becomes unusable, given that vehicles were banned/TRO’d for damage I’m failing to see why horse riders aren’t treated the same wayPosted 4 years ago
And so it goes on. We have mostly banned vehicles for the damage they cause, and now we want to ban horses? Perhaps Bikes next, and then walkers. In fact, if we ban all access to our ROWs they will be conserved for ever…….
This i think is the crux point. A Right Of Way, is just that. It’s ENTIRE point is for people to use it to move from one end of it to the other. It is not destroyed by use, in fact, exactly the opposite, it is MAINTAINED by use! Use it, or loose it applies here imo.Posted 4 years agoDelSubscriber
don’t know where many of you get the idea that you’re not allowed on footpaths. your right to use is not enshrined in law, but that does not mean that you are prohibited from using them. 😉
same issue with bikes on some trails where the soil is poor. mate cut a trail that suffers really badly in the wet. we didn’t ride it when it was wet. simple. lots of other people found it, rode it whatever the weather, now it’s a rutted, sloppy, greasy, shitty mess. just treat it as sacrificial these days, and focus maintenance on other bits of trail.
there are idiots present in all user groups.
TBF though, a ton of walking glue supported by a shovel at each corner does a pretty decent job of **** anything it travels over…Posted 4 years agobutcherMember
I think maxtorque is on point in this thread really. They’re there to be used. I have seen ROWs closed for repairs and maintenance. But to close them because of mud is madness. Like there’s not gonna be mud in the countryside… We need to be realistic here! It happens. They get muddy. Sometimes they look a bit of a mess. The world will not collapse in on itself.
That said, I live in the desolate north, where many ROWs see very little traffic. I could imagine it’s quite different down in that south.Posted 4 years ago
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