Holding back the sea

Riders enjoying Cavedale

The Netherlands aren’t the first place that springs to mind when you’re talking about mountain biking. But there’s a lovely little story from the lowlands that seems frustratingly apt after a week of writing emails and making phone calls.

A Little Dutch Boy is walking home from school when he notices a small puddle in front of him. When he gets to the puddle he hears the sound of flowing water, a trickle hitting the ground around him.

Now, as a child of lands lower than sea level, our tiny Dutch hero was alert to the threat of flowing water and was suitably alarmed to see a leak springing from the earth sea dam towering above him.

And he acted on impulse to block the leak. The boy held his thumb firmly in the hole until morning, when people passing were able to relieve him and raise the alarm.

The little boy’s tenacity saved the city of Haarlem from being flooded. He’s regarded as a hero, up there with Robin Hood in the level of tales told to school children.

So what? Well this week Derbyshire County Council decided to start resurfacing Pindale, a byway out the back of Castleton leading up on to the hills around the Hope Valley. The vague plans had been shared with user groups via the Local Access Forum. Peak District MTB repeatedly asked for more details, in calls which were ignored or overlooked – either way they were certainly not responded to.

And so the next we knew, reports came in of the recycled MOT surface going down on Pindale; sharp, broken porcelain, wire, building rubble and other rubbish. A foundation layer of waste, ready for a top dressing of the locally-source limestone the original plans described.

Lipstick on a pig.

Peak District MTB mobilised a ‘fierce’ campaign about the works – I know, as I’m on the committee and was at the centre of it – and with pressure from the riding community, other interested groups and even the local MP, we succeeded in getting the work paused, the rubbish is currently being removed and DCC have stated that they will properly consult with stakeholders before starting again. You might read about it in the papers this weekend.

We eagerly await their invite.

Is Pindale just that small leak in the dam above Haarlem; PDMTB the little boy taking that first vital action to hold back a flood of similar, terrible jobs? I’m really stretching this analogy, admittedly, but now other more established and arguably more influential groups are involved, DCC finds itself under more scrutiny.

And so we await clarity – real clarity and detail – on their next steps.

Cavedale is mystifyingly, worryingly on their list for ‘improvements’. Talk of limestone aggregate on the track. It’s almost as if the lessons of Chapel Gate and Rushup are simply forgotten – but if you want some limestone gravel for your garden, just check the square in Castleton in a couple of years time. Or Peak Cavern, ‘cos that water that’s run down Cavedale for millennia has to go somewhere.
DCC once again seem hellbent on taking this course of action. It’s almost as if the contracts have been signed and it’s an inconvenience to them to back out and do things with proper consultation.

And hellbent seems an appropriate turn of phrase.

In their press release, which was either a demonstration of literary ignorance or subtle trolling on a depressingly unprofessional scale, DCC talked of the surfacing on Pindale being done with ‘good intentions’.

And looking at the state of the work they did up there; it certainly looks like that’s what they’ve paved this road to hell with.

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