We look after more than 3,200km (1900miles) rights of ways across the National Park. These include footpaths, bridleways and byways, and are enjoyed by many walkers, cyclists and horse riders every year.
We regularly carry out maintenance and repair works to ensure all users can continue to access these rights of way and enjoy the National Park’s spectacular landscape.
Sometimes this work may raise questions from certain groups of users – whether it’s the surfacing materials, the visual impact or how the repairs will change the way the route is being used.
This FAQ page answers some of the questions we’ve been asked recently.
Updated 16 November 2018
Often referred to as the Tilberthwaite Track, the route is in fact an Unclassified County Road (UCR) and as such pedestrians, horse riders, bicycles and motor vehicles can use the route. Vehicles and cycles must be ‘road legal’. The road was originally a well-built stone road that served agricultural and quarrying activities and, as such, forms part of the historic heritage of the area.
In recent years the condition of this route has worsened significantly and it has been agreed that remedial action is now needed to preserve the road and prevent further erosion.
The surface of the road is deemed to be owned by the Highways Authority which in this case is the Cumbria County Council. The land below that is deemed to belong to the landowner which in this case is the National Trust.
The County Council are responsible for ensuring the route is kept ‘in-repair’.
Although the National Park have no legal responsibility to maintain the road, we recognise its importance as part of the overall rights of way network that people use to enjoy the national park. We work as an agent of Cumbria County Council to maintain footpaths, bridleways, byways and restricted byways in the park and have knowledge and experience in managing un-bound (not tarmacadam topped) routes. We believe working in partnership with Cumbria County Council and the National Trust will help secure the sustainable maintenance and use of this route.
In early September 2018, a partnership funded by the Lake District National Park (LDNP), Cumbria County Council and The National Trust began significant repairs to prevent further erosion, including major resurfacing and drainage works to improve access for all road users.
Work has now been completed but the main part of the route will remain closed for the next few months to allow the repairs to ‘bed in’. A site inspection will take place in January 2019 to evaluate whether the route is stable enough to be re-opened.
Carrying out work to repair a rural, eroded road is always going to have a visual impact, but we do our best to keep it to a minimum, and ensure that any pipes we use in the drainage are covered and the ends are ‘walled over’ so they aren’t obvious. We use the most local stone we can to match as far as possible the local environment, we don’t use concrete and wherever possible we work with the natural contours of the land or ‘historical’ lines that the routes have followed.
Even so we know from experience that it takes a summer or two of vegetation growth for new works to mature and soften into the landscape. Sometimes the visual impact can be striking at first, and we understand those feelings, but we also know that the impact fades relatively quickly and the work sits comfortably in, what is a landscape shaped and altered by human activities.
We understand that for some people that the enjoyment they get from using a route may centre around overcoming the challenge of ‘technical’ sections on a route. On some routes in the Lake District this challenge has always been part of the route with bedrock, steep gradients and unstable surfaces providing that challenge.
With regards to Tilberthwaite this is not the case, as we are dealing with a route that was created as part of the infrastructure to support the mining and quarrying activities in the area. This overall infrastructure is part of the historic environment of the area and is recognised in the submission to UNESCO that resulted in the National Park being granted World Heritage Site status.
The work on the route is aimed at returning the track to an overall condition similar to that when it was constructed. We recognise that in doing so we are repairing the more challenging damaged sections enjoyed by some people, but it will make the track more accessible and enjoyable to others who are currently unable to use the route due to the damaged sections.
As with every route that we repair, this has been carefully evaluated to ensure all user groups are considered and that it receives the appropriate level of maintenance.
As a national park, everyone has a right to use the Lake District for recreation, as well as farmers and landowners, who make a living from the land. The landscape is also very vulnerable to damage. Everyone who uses our rights of way network, including roads like Tilberthwaite, has an impact on them and we encourage everyone to take responsibility for their actions. However, as we know from experience, a single storm event can have significant, sometimes even catastrophic impact on these routes. We believe that the majority of the damaged sections on the Tilberthwaite route are as a result of weather erosion.
There is a mechanism called a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) that allows all or some types of traffic, including pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and vehicle users, to be legally prevented from using a public route permanently, partly or occasionally. However there has to be grounds for doing so, backed by evidence. This is to allow everyone with an interest to present their arguments for and against any proposal.
Applying TROs is a last resort for us at this stage. We want to work with interested parties to find ways to manage the issues without resorting to legal action if we can.
Any decision to remove, or not, a user groups rights through a TRO must be evidence based. We’re working closely with Cumbria County Council, National Trust, parish councils and various user groups to identify the current repair work and encourage responsible behaviour to minimise environmental impact and respect other users. For example, before commencing the repair works on the route, we carried out monitoring of vehicular use and on-site face to face surveys with over 700 people from all user groups.
We will gather further evidence of use once the work has been completed, and this, along with a process, will inform recommendations that will be taken to the Lake District National Park Authority’s Rights of Way committee in October 2019. As part of this process we will make all survey data available to the public.
We do not believe the current use of these routes conflicts with the Lake District’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status. In inscribing the Lake District as a World Heritage Site, UNESCO accepted our management approach to the national park, and recognised that our status as a national park already gives the highest level of protection to the landscape. We are aware of the World Heritage Watch resolution and have submitted our response to UNESCO.
This track has been deteriorating over a number of years, during which time both the National Park and the National Trust have been in regular liaison with the local residents and farmers to ensure they are involved in any work to help resolve the problem.
Green road driving and riding refers to the recreational use of motor vehicles such as 4x4s and trail bikes on unsealed routes with public vehicular rights. Find out more on our green roads webpage
The combination of millions of people, weather and gradient means that erosion scars can quickly form on mountain paths, causing environmental damage in the fragile mountains. Fix the Fells tackles this erosion problem by repairing and maintaining over 330 upland paths, helping to keep the Lake District a special place for us and for future generations.
The Fix the Fells programme is organised by a partnership of the Lake District National Park Authority, the National Trust, Lake District Foundation, Friends of the Lake District and Natural England.
We are also arranging site visits with representatives of the LDMBA to discuss our future works programme.
Find out more about how upland paths are repaired on the Fix the Fells website
We talk to many groups representing different users, including walkers, horse riders, cyclists, vehicle users, farmers and landowners. This includes the LDMBA. Some conversations are informal between officers and representatives and other conversations happen in more formal arrangements such as the Local Access Forum (LAF) where many groups are represented and have an opportunity to influence policies and strategic direction. We are also arranging site visits with representatives of the Lake District Mountain Bike Association to discuss our future works programme.
The October 2019 Rights of Way Committee will consider a number of management options for the two public roads, and will make a decision on which to adopt based on the information gathered during the current process.
If Members decide to pursue an option involving some form of traffic regulation, we are then legally obliged to carry out a formal consultation process about the specific regulation proposed. The matter would then return to a future Committee in early 2020 for a final decision on whether to make the proposed TRO or not. If a TRO is then made, it can come into effect relatively soon.
Whatever decision is made is open to Judicial Review (an application for review would have to be within three months of the decision being made). The timescales for hearing the Review then lies with the Courts. The Courts can uphold or quash the decision, and if the latter happens, we will decide whether to revisit the matter depending on the details of the ruling.
The figures do show an increase in use. However an increase in use is not sufficient evidence in its own right to impose a TRO.
An increase in numbers may or may not be sustainable with regards to long term condition of the route. We will continue monitoring the use and condition of the road now that practical works have been completed, and that too will form part of the information along with surveys and representations that will inform future recommendations and decisions regarding the long term management of the road.