A duck’s quack doesn’t echo

I’ve been thinking about the whole world of advocacy recently. If you’re reading this, you probably know that I bong on about responsible riding, letter writing, going to meetings and producing things like The Advocacy Files a fair bit. Sorry if it’s tiresome. Not sorry really. 

But is it all wasted effort?

Again, if you’re reading this you probably recognise the value of the work of groups like Peak District MTB, Ride Sheffield, Open MTB and dare I say it, KoftheP. 

You are the echo chamber. 

But does it really make a jot of difference if such a huge proportion of riders either don’t know about the effort being put in, or more worryingly – simply don’t care?

It’s a very fine line; being seen as a trusted guide or the bloody “fun police”. 

And god knows those of us heavily involved in advocacy work hate being called the bloody fun police. 

Folks, we’ve all been there, we’ve all ridden it. We just recognise what can come from some give and take. And we’re the ones in the room finally having the conversations which are making the difference to access. There are, however, shedloads of people online who couldn’t give a monkeys’.

So let’s assume that all of you reading this think that advocacy – the boring stuff – is worthwhile. What can you all do to help? Well, there’s the obvious step of getting involved in a dig day or chipping money into a crowd fund [do it, bloody important and really worthwhile!]. But what about the less obvious stuff? Share the message, advise online, have the argument with the ‘i ride where I like crowd’ and help promote what it’s all about. What do you reckon you can do? Individual? Media folk? What can you  do

It’s not all about ‘the end’. Sometimes it’s about the ‘means to an…’

Do you know what? Screw it, be the bloody fun police, cos the fun police are fighting FOR fun, not against it, and if you join the force you’ll get even better biking sooner than you might think. 

Nee nar, nee nar.


The Advocacy Files – a celebration of effort

coverThere’s some really, really excellent work being done by the mountain biking community right now. From crown jewel projects like Ride Sheffield’s trails in Lady Cannings plantation, to more subtle activity like Peak District MTB’s ongoing dialogue with Severn Trent Water; across the region a small number of dedicated individuals are putting in their time and effort to improve things for the community in the UK.

And they’ve made some huge steps forward. 

The MTB voice is now heard loud and clear in debates around access, trail development and maintenance. And of course we’ve got some brilliant stuff to ride.

Now, Ride Sheffield, Peak District MTB and Keeper of the Peak have joined forces to produce The Advocacy Files, a celebration of just some of that brilliant work that’s being done. More importantly, the booklet gives some key insights into what it took to get those projects off the ground and what lessons the groups have learned from the process.

With pages of individual case studies, it’ll give groups a clear idea of what it takes to get things moving. More than that, it’s clear evidence of the work the mountain biking community puts in to drive forward the responsible and constructive growth of the sport.

Take it. Copy it. Share it. Nick examples, use the content here to inform how you and your groups do stuff.  And if you want to be in it, get in touch.

Below you can see the individual case studies. Over time, as more come in I’ll group them by topic but for now this will do.


What do you reckon? Comment below.

Bikes, generally are SILENT KILLERS

18033342_10156015442092802_8392851346326661438_n (1)You might have seen recently a poster online which was up in a Leicestershire bike shop talking about how to pass horses safely when you’re on your bike. It’s all pretty simple stuff and basically suggests that you should make your voice heard so that the horse knows you’re a person sitting on top of something rather than something more dangerous.

Such as a Findus crispy pancake chef.

The writer, after giving this really quite helpful, cooperative advice also wishes riders to “ENJOY YOUR RIDE!!” which is nice.

Good stuff all round and the way our groups should be working together – helping each other understand our respective concerns and support one another’s activity.

Unfortunately, there’s one phrase that’s making a bit more noise in the online two-wheeled world than the overall positive intent of the poster.

“Bicycles, generally, are SILENT KILLERS”. Er?? What? Eh? Come again.

Now, the knee jerk response is to get all wound up and angry. Silent killers??!! SILENT KILLERS??!!! HOW VERY DARE YOU?!

But I just think there’s a bit of context missing to that line. Let’s add it in.

“To a horse, bicycles, generally, are SILENT KILLERS. The horse simply does not understand what a bike is. Your hub sounds like a warning buzz. By announcing you are there, the horse will recognise you’re a friend and relax.”

Makes sense now doesn’t it? Basic common sense too. I once saw a horse panic and sit on a car bonnet. Seeing the mess it made of that Mondeo, I’d really rather #BeNiceSayHi than go all James Herriott on a ride. Even if something has been worded badly.

Riders, be they on wheels or hooves, have a finite network of paths we can use, but together we’re making it bigger. Let’s keep working together. Share the poster. Share this post. Share the trail.

And to quote the horse above, “ENJOY THE RIDE!!”

KoftheP (Natural Born Silent Killer)

Rise to the bait or bite your tongue?

IMAG1135I had a fantastic ride today. 18 miles in one of the quieter corners of the peak, a few muddy puddles, a few drainage channels kicked clear, some excellent descents (one thumping fall)….and two weird, unexpected challenges to us just being out on our bikes.

What do you do? Argue or bite your tongue?

Try the first one. Rocky descent done and dusted, linking two bridleways together on a road stretch. One rider way out in front and off up the turning already, then me and my friend riding two abreast having a chat. On the pavement; a chap walking a dog

“Morning!” I say, “Lovely day for it!”

“Morning!” he says, “It is!”

Then a few seconds later, “RIDE SINGLE FILE”

Rise to it? Ignore it?

The second, get to a gate to find a large group of pensioners sheltering behind the wall having a lovely picnic. Small talk.

“Was it you we saw coming down the other side?”, “Yeah that was us”, “We heard you first”, “Oh”.

Then delivered through a sweet, sweet smile; “Are you going to go and churn it all up some more then?” As we sat at the top of the rocky, resilient, specifically chosen Coldwell Clough.

What do you say? It’s a real Catch 22. Respond with evidence [EXHIBIT ONE, YOUR HONOUR] oh, and [EXHIBIT TWO, TOO, AND THREE, AND FOUR], or just ignore it?

The trouble is, you argue and mountain bikers are seen as argumentative. You don’t and we’re see as effectively in agreement with what we’re being accused of. Catch 22.

I offered a couple of answers but the moment had gone.

How do you approach that kind of thing? Comments below!









Cut Gate Path – Let’s talk about it


It’s an outline of a debate….

You’ll have no doubt seen online recently that I’ve been doing a bit of work with Ride Sheffield and Peak District MTB on looking at what can be done (or indeed, needs to be done) on Cut Gate.

It’s time for you to join the debate.

You hear “at this time of year it’s best avoided” quite a lot regarding the path, but over the last few years that “time of year” has seemingly spread for about 11 months with two golden weeks in summer where it’s rideable and two frosty weeks in winter when it’s frozen.

The worry is that the collective effect of riders, walkers, horses and others up there has had an impact on the moorland – it’s just mountain bikers always seem to get the finger pointed at them.

We’ve worked on a document  that looks at the problem and suggests possible actions to take. It’s going to be shared far and wide to get as many thoughts and opinions as we can on what people think needs to happen. It’s certainly going to create a debate – and that can only be a good thing.

Even better, the document has the endorsement and support of the Peak District National Park, Sheffield City Council and The Outdoor City as well as 18 Bikes, Bike Garage and of course RS and PDMTB.

It’s a truly collaborative effort.

It’s going to be shared with the local access forum as well as other interested groups to begin the process of getting feedback. You can see it online from Ride Sheffield or Peak District MTB. Take a look. Share it. Discuss it on the pages.

Join the debate online and keep up your support!



Who died and made you Keeper of the Peak?

It’s a funny game this one. The whole ‘cycling advocacy’ thing. To some you’re a champion for the biking community; fighting their corner against the powers that are intent on curbing our fun. To others, we’re the fun police – getting all uppity and high and mighty about where people ride.

I reckon the reality is somewhere in between.

No matter where you sit on that particular fence, the honest truth of the matter is that advocacy – however the argument is made, be it through emails, twitter, picnic protests, responsible trail maintenance or campaigning – is getting more and more important if we’re to be seen as a group that can’t be ignored.

I’ve sat in meetings with various authorities where they’ve described how the mood and feeling towards mountain biking in sensitive areas like the Peak has shifted from one of horror, to acceptance and increasingly towards support. It’s nice to hear but crikey it’s taken some work. It’s also taken a hell of a lot of give and take.

I’m pretty new to it. 4 years old! A toddler. It all started when I suggested Cut Gate in winter might not be the best route. “Who died and made you keeper of the peak?” I was asked. And there you go.

Talking to other groups like Peak District MTB and Ride Sheffield and you soon find people who’ve been banging the drum for getting on for decades. They’ve been pushing and pushing for so long and now the ball is rolling – we just need to help it gain momentum. Joining those groups is a first step. Getting on a maintenance day another. There is so much you can do to help.

Over on RS, John talked about ‘being dad’ the other day. “Here come the fun police again!” but his take home message was simple – think about where you ride and when. Nobody likes slogging through a bog on their rides and inevitably it’s the single tyre track which is most recognisable in a muddy puddle regardless of how many walking boots or horses’ hooves have been through. That’s just the way it is. The perception may not be fair but that’s our square one. We just need to roll the dice, get on the way and get up a ladder or two. But even making that choice to ride somewhere else and sharing why with others really helps make the case for us as a community, and who knows; it may lead to better access, rights and support in the [near] future. We’re working on it.

2017 looks good. Talking to RS and PDMTB it feels like we’re at a tipping point. There really is momentum behind the work those groups are doing which you can read about online. Thanks to both of them for supporting KoftheP on your pages.

In the wider world too we’re looking at building support nationally and outside of the MTB community and press. It’s taking a lot of emails, a lot of effort and a lot of missed riding time – but it’s worth it and we’ll carry on.

So, enough of this wittering. Keep up tweeting, get on and support your local advocacy groups and enjoy your ride!

Ride. Tweet. Update.





Rushup Consultation -KoftheP response

dscf0236The second consultation on the work up on Rushup Edge ends on November 28th.

To have pushed Derbyshire County Council to run a second consultation was a huge effort from the collected groups campaigning against the work. They deserve a huge amount of thanks and a huge amount of credit for that achievement.

Now it’s down to you – the very people whose support has made DCC think twice – to make it very clear to them that the way they’ve gone about consulting with groups and the work they’ve done so far is simply not right. You need to tell them that while some of the proposed elements of the new plan look promising, they have to stick to their promise and not to have wasted another ton of time and money on what could effectively be a phoney consultation.

As one of the main campaigners I have written a response I want to share with you all before it is submitted to DCC. Hopefully it fits with your thoughts on the work. You may wish to use elements of it to shape your own response too.

For more input to your own response, PDMTB have also been nipping at the heels of DCC and produced some in depth work on what the council have proposed. Take a look. And bravo folks.

KoftheP draft response:

Peter J White

Rights of Way Officer

Derbyshire County Council

County Hall


Derbyshire DE4 3AG

14TH November 2016

Dear Mr White,

I am writing to officially respond to the second consultation on Chapel-en-le-Frith BOAT 144. As one of the primary objectors to the original work it was disappointing to not be consulted directly regarding the revised plans or at the very least given early notification that a second consultation was under way.

As you are already aware, Keeper of the Peak is a Twitter based community of over 1600 people – all who have a passion for the Peak District. Please regard this response as also representative of those 1600+ people.

You state in the consultation that the main aim of the work is

  • To avoid continuous erosion of the surface.
  • To manage water during periods of heavy rain.
  • To provide a sustainable surface for the use of the public.

The plan for work on 144 does not sufficiently show how and where you will do this, nor does it provide any justification as to why it is necessary. Compared to other consultations you have issued, it is non-committal, lacking in sufficient detail to allow an informed response and provides you with flexibility to do what you wish on the 770m in question.

On the details:

  • To avoid continuous erosion of the surface.

The surface, in the main, was already at bedrock. Erosion will not continue or occur unless materials prone to erosion are placed on the track. This is precisely what you propose to do by the use of granular gritstone as a surfacing material. It is nonsensical.

  • To manage water during periods of heavy rain.

The track is a sunken route between two high banks. Any water will naturally follow the route of the track. Unless you propose to provide robust drainage down the entire length of the track, there is nowhere to provide water run-off. The current bedrock surface already allows this. In addition, creating route length drainage would narrow the width of the route thus affecting access for users. Finally, talking to the landowner, they are happy for water to run off away from their land to the road (and the managed drainage of the highway). Your plan can only work if you intend to drain on to their land.

  • To provide a sustainable surface for the use of the public.

The surface is sustainable without work. The plans you have made create an ongoing maintenance need that didn’t exist before. Granular gritstone surfacing has been shown to wash away even with ‘robust’ drainage channels. The work on Chapel Gate completed on the Edale side is wearing away and drainage ditches are full of washed off surfacing. With no maintenance budget assigned to 144, your proposed plan is simply not sustainable.

That said, there are elements of the plan which are sensible. Stone pitching to ‘patch’ those sections where users may have identified a need for sensitive maintenance is sensible, avoids erosion, manages water along the route and is sustainable. Your assertion that you will follow the Pennine Bridleway standards which were used for maintenance on the Roych is reassuring –– please note however that those who cite the Roych as a best practice example refer specifically to the stone pitching elements shown as an example in your plan.

It is important for Derbyshire County Council to note that mountain bikers are one of, if not the largest user group for this route. In earlier consultations this group has been overlooked or apparently, wilfully ignored.

You ask whether if implemented the scheme may affect use and/or enjoyment of the route. A survey by objecting partner group Peak District MTB showed that some 90% of 1400 respondents would enjoy the route less. It’s important to point out that only 2% of respondents in that survey were aware of Derbyshire County Council’s original plan. Consultation failed.

As stated in my earlier response I support the recommendations that Derbyshire County Council (DCC) should:

  • remove all materials that have been placed on the route and return it to its original state
  • ensure that all maintenance is as sensitive, minimal and sustainable as possible for this and all future work on rights of way
  • ensure that the current materials are removed and replaced with planned and designed stone pitching akin to the Roych, if maintenance or repair to this route is unavoidable
  • ensure that smaller steps remain and that solid bedrock is left intact and visible, remaining consistent with the nature of the high moorland trail, should the larger steps be removed
  • treat the route as a bridleway, given that a permanent TRO is in place

Regarding the priority of maintenance on the route, I believe 144 is a low priority route in line with the Countryside Agency and English Nature’s definition:

  • Paths in sites where accessible facilities are not present, or where it is inappropriate and
  • economically unviable to provide such facilities
  • Isolated paths where few people are likely to use the route (those in areas of significant heritage value may be an exception to this rule)
  • Paths where accessible public transport or parking places are unlikely to be provided
  • Paths where the natural site constraints do not allow for fully accessible paths
  • Paths in locations with high landscape value, where the visual impact of a fully accessible path cannot be overcome
  • Paths in open countryside/wild land
  • Paths where the cost of improving and maintaining to the highest access standards cannot be justified

It is my firm belief that Derbyshire County Council’s Rights of Way team have failed to sufficiently consult with users affected by these changes and that despite repeated and consistent objection, that they are determined to continue the work regardless of concerns raised.

The latest consultation does little to change that assumption.

To summarise, the new plan shows insufficient detail to make an informed response on the work. Instead, users of the route – primarily mountain bikers – are left to guess, gamble and trust you to complete the works in line with their overwhelming feedback that the mentioned stone pitching/Roych approach is favoured. Based on your previous projects – Long Causeway springs to mind – this may be foolhardy.

I stand by my earlier response and the points I make in this letter. I look forward to seeing this response featured in upcoming discussions related to the ongoing work.

As a final point I would like to suggest that none of this was necessary. Had Derbyshire County Council consulted proactively and openly with interested user groups, a collaborative, constructive and satisfactory outcome could have been found far sooner. You have been invited to collaborate with local advocacy groups repeatedly. Repeatedly you have ignored or refused those invitations. There is clear evidence that when authorities engage with local community groups a proactive and constructive relationship can develop. You have steadfastly – bizarrely – refused to engage with these groups. Two years into this ‘project’ maybe you will consider changing your approach.

Yours sincerely