Path set out
to save mountains

Crowdfunded scheme tackles hillside erosion

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Some of Britain’s most respected outdoor adventurers have joined forces behind a new crowdfunding campaign by the British Mountaineering Council to help tackle erosion along paths in eight popular peaks, including several northern hills, as well as Scafell and Snowdon, the highest mountains in England and Wales.

At the launch of Mend Our Mountains British mountaineers Sir Chris Bonington and Doug Scott CBE and TV presenter Julia Bradbury highlighted the landscape and ecological problems of increasing feet pounding through national parks such as the Peak District, the Lake District, the North York Moors and Snowdonia.

“It’s easy to take the paths beneath our feet for granted when we’re walking in the hills, yet footpaths are the arteries of the hills when it comes to enabling people to access the mountains sustainably,” said TV presenter Julia Bradbury. “I’ve been fortunate to walk along many footpaths that have formed part of our landscape for hundreds of years and now need our help.”

“Footpath work is essential to look after the mountains,” said Sir Chris Bonnington. “Mend Our Mountains is an innovative way for walkers and climbers to make a collective contribution to preserve the beauty of the fells at a challenging time.”

Unsightly scars

The BMC is working with eight national parks and aims to raise more than £100,000 by May through the campaign, to help repair the damage. Projects include the walking path on Snowdon in North Wales, Ringing Roger on Kinder Scout in the Peak District, Waun Rydd in central Brecon Beacons, High Moor on Dartmoor, Swine Tail on Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales, Lyke Wake Walk in the North York Moors, Scafell Pike in the Lake District and Long Chains Combe in Exmoor Forest.

“Our national parks are some of the busiest protected areas in the world,” said Carey Davies, BMC hill walking officer. “As walkers and people who use the outdoors we need to make a contribution.”

More than 100,000 people walk the Brown Tongue path up Scafell, for example, including many participants for the Three Peaks Challenge. Ingleborough is also part of the Three Peaks Challenge, attracting 60,000 visitors, which has led to erosion along the Swine Tail path. Walkers also navigate large unsightly scars on the path below the Ringing Roger formation on Kinder Scout, famous for the Mass Trespass in 1932, which helped to secure access rights to the countryside.

Paths and interventions such as landscaping have been used on popular routes to help prevent increasing erosion since the 1980s and 1990s, when significant scars first started appearing. Parts of the Pennine Way were notorious for being a wade, rather than a walk, while some sections of the Lake District had muddy gashes in the landscape that spanned up to 30 metres. Run-off from erosion damages wildlife as it can change the chemistry of local streams and lakes.

Rewards for sale

Davies said national parks struggle to maintain the path infrastructure due to funding cuts of around 40 per cent in recent years, and no statutory funding to repair public paths. Recent flooding in many areas of the north further destabilised the routes, washing away large sections of paths on many popular sites, particularly in the Lake District.

It costs around £500,000 a year to repair the Lake District paths, he said, yet Cumbria’s heavy rainfall caused this much damage in just one night.

Campaign donors can choose whether they want to give their money to an individual campaign or to an overall total.

There are also several rewards for sale and outdoor experiences with celebrities, including walks, cycle rides or climbing trips.

The areas selected are important for their landscape and wildlife, but campaign organisers say they are valuable to city dwellers as havens and places to recharge. “There are 16 million people within an hour’s drive of the Peak District,” said Davies. “If you look at it at night there’s a ring of light all around it.”

For more information see Photo: Julia Bradbury  (The Outdoor Guide)

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