Trouble is brewing in the Peak District over some new work on the Stanage Causeway track, which has changed the look and feel of this historic route, and may in the long run prove redundant in any case.
Resurfacing work on the stretch between Stanage Edge and Dennis Knoll is currently replacing the rough rocky trail previously known to walkers, cyclists and climbers with an even, flat-topped metalled gravel surface that's arguably more in keeping with an urban park than a National Park.
A former packhorse route that's valued by a number of recreational 'user groups', the Long Causeway links Redmires with Hathersage, via Stanage. Because of its green lane status it is open to vehicle traffic, and in recent years has suffered badly from erosion caused by trail bikes and 4x4s.
Although the National Park might have made repairs rather more sympathetic to the Causeway's historic character, the work is being done by Derbyshire County Council, who by their own admission consulted with no walking, climbing or cycling stakeholder groups (such as the BMC) before getting stuck in.
Now the County Council's efforts have drawn scathing criticism from Ride Sheffield, an advocacy group for local mountain bikers, for whom this part of the Causeway - hitherto quite technical, but now boringly samey - has effectively been spoiled.
'The revetment repairs will replace a, (to my eyes at least), beautiful piece of ancient stonework with something which is, and I quote, "more engineered"' says member John Horscroft on the Ride Sheffield site.
'Visually, this is utterly misplaced in a National Park.'
The bill is expected to be about £235,000, says Derbyshire County Council. But why has this heavy-handed engineered solution been deemed necessary at all? Here's where things get a little weird.
The County Council has a legal duty to maintain the byway to a 'suitable standard', and indeed the current work has been prompted by a threat of legal action against them. But who is so keen to hold them to the letter of the law? The Council aren't saying.
Though they may largely have caused the erosion that the work is designed to repair, off-road enthusiasts are unlikely to be any happier than mountain bikers or walkers with the transformation of this section of the Causeway, which now looks scarcely more challenging to negotiate than a tarmac road.
And after all this, the sanitisation of the Causeway might in any case prove redundant.
In the face of the vehicle erosion damage, the Peak District National Park Authority has for some time been considering banning motorised traffic from the route altogether (reported on UKHillwalking here).
Whatever the outcome of that decision, it is hard to see who will welcome the new-look Causeway. Except of course the contractor - and perhaps the mystery would-be litigant.
In response to Ride Sheffield's criticism, a spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council told us:
'You can't always please everyone.'
'We received a legal challenge, we took advice and it was agreed that we needed to take action – so that's what we've done. But we accept that some people will prefer a more rocky route while others prefer a smoother surface.'
'The route is used by a range of people including walkers, horseriders, cyclists, motorcyclists. 4x4s are temporarily banned for safety until a retaining wall can be stabilised.'
'We're doing the work with the approval of Natural England and the support of the Peak District National Park Authority.'
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