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kernowclimber
2011-03-04 10:49:27
The Annalong Track: A ReBUFTal of works?
I have been watching the exchange over path maintenance in the Mournes between Bleck Cra and Maclimber with interest. I’m surprised that others haven’t gotten involved in this delightful bun-fight as it must surely elicit strong sentiments among our membership? I have some reservations about intervention on our hills; the guidelines of the British Upland Footpath Trust (BUFT) related to Upland Path Erosion are therefore of interest:

Repairs are necessary to prevent or ameliorate visual intrusion and environmental damage.
Works should be of a high standard of design and implementation using indigenous materials, sympathetic in colour and texture to the immediate surrounding area.
Techniques used should protect existing vegetation and, normally, only locally occurring plant species should be used in restoration.
The more remote the path, the more stringently the criteria for path repairs should be applied.
Repaired paths should be suitable to the route’s use and constructed on a scale appropriate for the intended use as a footpath, bridleway or byway.
Before any repair is agreed the question should be asked, “is there a better solution?”
The use of waymarks, cairns or other intrusive features, other than those traditionally established on summits and path junctions, will be discouraged.
A sustained commitment of resources to path management will be sought, so that small-scale continuous maintenance can replace infrequent, major repairs as the normal method of path management.

At a 2005 conference this body stated their objective of broadening their activities to include Ireland. Et Voila! The immediate assumption is that walkers' trails are intrusive: they ‘scar’ the landscape, damage the environment. Yet to suggest that our hills are wild and unspoilt is a lame argument. They have had discernable trails since antiquity, are often intensively farmed and it is argued that sheep do more damage than walkers, making myriad paths in all directions. Their excrement damages the soil and their presence stifles biodiversity. But hill-walkers are told to ‘leave no trace!’ Most of us accept the presence of livestock; man has been farming our hills for eons. And we have been walking them just as long.

It is obvious that many ‘engineered’ paths in the UK are not working judging by the new trails creeping up alongside them. The stepped route up Scafell Pike in the Lake District is one such path, lethal when wet. The stones are slippery and angled downwards. You leave it at every given opportunity. Whilst I appreciate the argument that more people are taking to our hills and the paths are seeing more traffic, any intervention has to be ‘of an appropriate scale’. Cra posits that the question of ‘a better solution’ for the Annalong track was not thoroughly discussed. Is this so? The work does seem to be rather drastic.
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