Which crags should become roadside crags? I nominate Cir Mhor, route the bridge from Northern Ireland the mull of Kintyre over to Arran, over to cir mhor down glen Sannox, across to Bute , Cumbrae and onto Largs and thence tae Glesca. Just imagine West Flank Route being roadside!
It'd obviously have been a terrible act of environmental vandalism etc, but I've occasionally wondered what difference it would have made if the mooted road over Sty Head had actually been built. I'm guessing that the Lakes would be seen as being less attractive for walkers but, while people would hate to admit it, probably noticeably more popular for climbing in the long run. Partly because of the reduced walk-ins to crags on Gable and (I think?) Scafell, but also because you'd be able to base yourself in Borrowdale or Wasdale and have access to either set of crags.
> if the mooted road over Sty Head had actually been built.
Shocking. Was that seriously proposed? When?
> It'd obviously have been a terrible act of environmental vandalism etc, but I've occasionally wondered what difference it would have made if the mooted road over Sty Head had actually been built.
> Holy crap! How can people have even considered it? What a devastating thing that would be if it were to come to pass.
Think how great it would be for road cycling though. On a par with Hardknott and Wrynose.
> Think how great it would be for road cycling though. On a par with Hardknott and Wrynose.
Sty head is still challenging both sides on a mountain bike despite the best efforts of those pesky footpath builders.
> Holy crap! How can people have even considered it? What a devastating thing that would be if it were to come to pass.
Why? Motor roads had been built over Hardnott, Newlands, Whinlatter, Wrynose, Stickle Pike, Honister, Kirkstone, etc . . . I think it's incredible that one wasn't built over Styhead and the ones over Gatesgarth, Walna Scar and Burnmoor Tarn weren't tarmac-ed.
The pressure from the car lobby in the early years of the 20th century was relentless. It was modern and progressive and good for business. The calls for the Styhead road also came from people who considered the area to be of such stunning beauty that visiting it shouldn't be restricted to those who were able to walk up. "Buses should convey people too poor to visit Switzerland, so they might gaze out upon its magnificence". I believe the reason the lower contour limit of the land the Fell and Rock Climbing Club was able to buy after WW1 as a memorial was set so it didn't include Styhead, as debates about the road were still ongoing.
Lord Rea in Eskdale had his new Rolls Royce delivered by train as the roads were so poor. He then did his fair share of lobbying for their improvement along with his chum at Muncaster Castle, Holker Hall, etc. I've seen a photo of his taking it over Hardknott before it was surfaced.
Kendal was actively lobbying in the early years of the twentieth century for the road over Gatesgarth to be properly improved and surfaced. This had always been the main public road to Scotland as it was a much shorter distance between the safety of the valleys in Long Sleddale and Mardale, than the toll road over Shap.
World War 2 was another trigger for road 'improvements. Hardknott and Wrynose were tarmac-ed and were supposed to be reinstated when the war was over, but everyone thought it was such an improvement it stayed. The Friends of the Lake District were seen as being quite unpatriotic with their opposition to the war time developments. They couldn't prevent everything, but did ensure that the Shorts flying boat factory on Windermere was dismantled and Calgarth Village which housed 1500 workers was demolished (after it had been used to rehabilitate orphans from the German extermination camps).
Good history lesson thanks. I knew there were serious plans for a road over sty head in the 30's (?), but wasn't aware of a lot of the other detail.
It is easy to take the current road network as reasonably obvious and not think thinks could be differnt, but if a few decisions had gone other ways or a few important/influential people had thought differently we could easily have ended up with a road over sty head, but not one over hadrknott.
You'll be having a road round or even worse, over to Loch Avon next.
> Good history lesson thanks. I knew there were serious plans for a road over sty head in the 30's (?), but wasn't aware of a lot of the other detail.
Think there was serious consideration of running the North Wales Expressway through Rowen and utilising the Roman Road North of Drum as that would have negated the need for the tunnel at Conwy.
Now wouldn't that have been lovely and convenient for access to the Carneddau...
there were plans for a road linking Glenfeshie with Braemar
Some people think Shepherd's is a bit of a trek.
Thanks for this - a thoughtful post. Yes, there is a complexity to this history and to efforts to conserve the landscape. In this historical perspective it seems - to me - fortunate that Styhead escaped. We can see now the limits of the supposed "inevitable progress" of the road builders and industrialists - especially on the west coast of Cumbria.
Try negotiating the A595 at commute times or try any of the fell roads "against the flow" and re think your statement.
In normal, non covid times of course.
Well not just on the west coast. It's a sad testament to the regard we have for our National Parks, that in fairly recent years we have allowed the 'improvements' to a number of main roads in the Lakes including the A591 over Dunmail and the upgrading of the A66 through Keswick. But then in contrast getting the cycle path from the Low Wood Hotel into Ambleside has been abandoned as 'too difficult'.
For me the important thing is that people remember that all these roads aren't a permanent feature of the landscape like the hills and valleys. We made some pretty arbitrary decisions to tarmac these routes, so it's within our powers to decide to un-tarmac the same. Many of our National Parks are being continuously nibbled away by a non stop process of a 'necessary' road improvement here and a bit of 'restricted' development there.
To balance this, we should consider rolling back development where we can. Closing Hardknot and Wrynose (as promised during the war) would be a start as they are now no longer needed for access to the ammunition dump at Wadale Head (which I don't think was ever finished). It would transform the feel to a huge swathe of the hills around the upper Esk and Duddon.
Our National Parks will not survive by simply fighting a pretty toothless rearguard action against the constant onslaught of developers and demand. A hundred years on, we should celebrate the rejection of the Styhead Pass road plan by taking equally strong decisions to preserve the Park today.
Really interesting posts - thanks.
Taking the tarmac off Hardknott and Wrynose? As a walker, a thrilling idea. As a mountain biker, exciting and a bit intimidating. As a roadie, what a relief that would be!
> Some people think Shepherd's is a bit of a trek.
We used to find this place a bit of a trek at times.
> Taking the tarmac off Hardknott and Wrynose? As a roadie, what a relief that would be!
Haha, wouldn't fancy doing the whole Fred Whitton on a mountain bike. Even though it would give me a fighting chance of riding Hardknott rather than pushing.
One way of avoiding the use of those clipstick thingys .
You could have parked a bit closer? The dog is not impressed.
It would obviously spoil things, but I do think at times it would be nice if the Beinn Eighe approach started just below the final ascent to the loch.
> You could have parked a bit closer? The dog is not impressed.
Ha true. Although I think she was probably eyeing up the photographer and wondering if he was edible.
> One way of avoiding the use of those clipstick thingys .
Or of getting to the third bolt with it. Not that I'd ever resort to such tactics ;-)
It could have gone by the penis then.
I love climbing on the Cioch Slabs on Skye, but as the years have taken their toll on my knees the walk-in has become more of a pain. I'd like to see some decent tarmac heading in fairly directly from the Glenbrittle Memorial Hut. Coire Laggan would of course need to remain unspoilt, so stop just short, on the high ground with a good view down to the tumbling burn and across to the majestic sweep of the slabs. Cafe here, obvs, with picture windows. Plenty of parking also, with hook-ups for RVs, but discreetly screened by a planting of pines (non-native if possible, for a touch of exoticism) to preserve the wild natural beauty. To ensure a good flow of income and parking fine generating tourists, rename the unimaginatively titled and woefully unpronounceable Lochan Fhir-bhallaich the Elven Lake. Good spot for the traditional beauty spot piper to site himself. Instant Celtic magic!
That's inspired me to consider my own increasingly suspect knees. Many British hills have quite gentle (boring?) slopes, generally on their southern side. Scafell is a case in point. Surely there's a need for a road to the summit? Access to one of the best Lakes crags would then be downhill. Of course, fixed ab stations would remove the need for tiresome and unnecessary farting about.
They'll be thinking of pushing a railway up Mount Snowdon next!
Or finally finishing that tunnel to the top of the Eiger?
> That's inspired me to consider my own increasingly suspect knees. Many British hills have quite gentle (boring?) slopes, generally on their southern side. Scafell is a case in point. Surely there's a need for a road to the summit? Access to one of the best Lakes crags would then be downhill.
That's the sort of thinking we need. Personally though, I feel a cable car might be more aesthetic - a la Midi Telepherique. After all, some of the best alpine rock routes one could wish for are all downhill from there, and I never heard anyone complain.
> That's the sort of thinking we need. Personally though, I feel a cable car might be more aesthetic - a la Midi Telepherique
We haven't undergone Brexit to have any Jonny Foreigner malarkey on our hills. Only a good British road is fit to scar a British hill.
Imagine the damage it would have done to the taxi companies who shuttle the temporarily mislaid coming off Scafell Pike
> Only a good British road is fit to scar a British hill.
And not just any old British road. We want one of the true icons of the British Hills - the British Sporting Estate Crassly Bulldozed Access road. We want it to be visible from space as it screams "FuKK the Environment - we're considerably richer than thou".
> We haven't undergone Brexit to have any Jonny Foreigner malarkey on our hills. Only a good British road is fit to scar a British hill.
Fair point - but what about a funicular? What could possibly go wrong?
> Imagine the damage it would have done to the taxi companies who shuttle the temporarily mislaid coming off Scafell Pike
Brilliant! Have you met that taxi driver, too? I had to get a taxi from Oxenholme to Stavely once, and the driver regaled me at great and hysterical length about ferrying around confused Londoners who seemed to think they could step off the train at Windermere and immediately start scaling the great Mount Scafell!
> Fair point - but what about a funicular? What could possibly go wrong?
Sounds entirely reasonable. I mean, if they can build a railway up Eskdale then why can't we have a funicular up from there? There's also a crying need to provide employment for locals so I see no reason why there shouldn't be a few zip wires back down as well. Screaming tourists should have their rights looked after.
Obvious one, up the Esk past Heron Crag to a car park (pay & display of course, we've got to leave something to grumble about) plus cafe underneath Esk Buttress.
Above that possibly a ski lift up to Esk Hause - usable in summer too.
> Above that possibly a ski lift up to Esk Hause - usable in summer too.
Well yes, especially if we employed the same technology that they have in Dubai(?)/middle east to have an indoor ski slope, guaranteed even in hot Augusts.
Hadn't thought of that, plenty of space up there on the flat boggy area. Think of the economic and employment benefits, complete win-win situation, what's to not like.
> And not just any old British road. We want one of the true icons of the British Hills - the British Sporting Estate Crassly Bulldozed Access road. We want it to be visible from space as it screams "FuKK the Environment - we're considerably richer than thou".
That is exactly what the National Park Authority have done on Saddleback/Blencathra, Helm Crag and elsewhere. Brought to you from space by google earth. As you say, FUKK them.
I presume you're talking about the manufactured paths. As I'm sure you know, the alternative is a wider swathe of erosion - is that preferable?
Personally, I don't like the feel of walking (or running) on most of these manufactured paths, but I appreciate why they're there, and I think overall they're better than just letting the erosion carry on. Most of them become visually less intrusive after a couple of years.
My main concern with these constructed paths is that they might lead people on into the hills who maybe haven't got the skills, knowledge or experience to be there safely if conditions are less than perfect. Wander 100m off the path and need to call Mountain Rescue because they're "lost" - however I've no idea whether this is an unsubstantiated concern or whether it actually happens significantly often.
> I presume you're talking about the manufactured paths. As I'm sure you know, the alternative is a wider swathe of erosion - is that preferable?
Erosion and path-building is a side-issue. The important action is drainage. That's why we clear gutters etc to stop the water running down the path. Drainage is the key solution. It's amazing how many walkers simply kick dirt and stones into the gutters and never stop for ten seconds to scrape the drains out. So volunteers have to go and do it.
The heavily intrusive manufactured paths one sees from space are entirely inappropriate solutions and impossible to walk on in many conditions. There are more intelligent solutions that offer a lighter touch. I think the NPA are starting to catch on. Certainly, all walkers should be encouraged to help by spending a few seconds clearing the gutters.
Emphasis on drainage obviates the need to build stone staircases and those are inherently damaging in many people's view.
Your point about people getting lost: That's never going to stop and there are many rescue team members who sign up to help, no shortage there.
I'd not heard/realised that drainage "breaking down" was such an important factor, needs education and marketing.
From what you say, just the simple message that walkers can help by simply shifting a few stones out of gutters as they go along, only needs to be one or two if everyone does, could make a big difference.
Indeed, something as simple as every walker spending 5 seconds clearing the gutters makes all the difference. A stitch in time and all that.
It doesn't need "education and marketing", it's called "common sense". Living in harmony with nature.
The UIAA has announced plans to establish a Mountain Worker Initiative with the aim of supporting people working in the expedition and trekking industry, prompted by the issues of low pay and poor working conditions raised in the documentary film The...