Historic Welsh mountain byway threatened by resurfacing plans

Historic Welsh mountain byway threatened by resurfacing plans

Winding its manner via the Cambrian mountains in mid Wales, the Monks Trod byway was constructed to hyperlink two medieval abbeys and is now a wild and great route for folks in search of somewhat tranquility.

However the peace and quiet is being jeopardised by “foolhardy” plans by Powys county council to make use of lots of of 1000’s of kilos from the UK authorities’s levelling up fund to resurface the byway, making it accessible to off-road bikes.

Many lovers of the Trod say it would destroy the meditative nature of the route, whereas conservationists are frightened it would put valuable wildlife on protected websites in danger and harm the delicate, peat-rich panorama the trail traverses – an necessary carbon retailer.

“It’s an exquisite place of fowl track and wind and never far more in the mean time,” mentioned Graham Taylor, chair of the Powys Native Entry Discussion board. “Lots of people are very upset. Bikes will change the entire nature of this quiet and meditative route. It’s broadly acknowledged that strolling, biking and horse using within the countryside stimulates psychological and bodily wellbeing. This proposal will get in the way in which of this.”

As a byway, the Trod supplies long-established authorized rights of use to all visitors together with walkers, cyclists, horse riders – and motorcyclists. Over the past 20 years, nevertheless, there was a collection of momentary orders banning bikes.

Taylor mentioned the entry discussion board was not anti-motorcycle and had been energetic in ensuring that different routes in much less delicate areas had been maintained and stored open, however he claimed a lot of the route was already in poor situation due to unlawful use by motorcyclists ignoring the banning orders.

“There are large rutted areas and vital flooding. Customers making an attempt to keep away from these areas have strayed from the route and broken the delicate setting and bird-nesting areas.” Birds reminiscent of curlew, crimson grouse and golden plover nest on the bottom close to the byway.

Taylor added: “The council has declared a local weather emergency and could be very a lot concerned in a nature restoration plan. This proposal just isn’t according to this because the reintroduction of bikes would have an antagonistic impact on the delicate setting in and round this route. If the bikes come, you’ll be able to make certain that the four-wheel drivers will comply with.”

Describing Monks Trod as an “iconic medieval trackway”, the Cambrian Mountains Society expressed “intense shock and disapproval” at what it characterises as “paving” the route.

A piece of the Monks Trod path in mid Wales. {Photograph}: Handout

In a letter to the council, it wrote: “Removed from transferring to guard the fragile heritage and pure setting of the Monks Trod, Powys county council is proposing measures assured to result in its devastation and that of the encircling extremely fragile peatland setting.”

It mentioned law-abiding bikers would stick the trail, however added: “In reality many observe bike riders don’t hold to obtainable tracks however use them as launching pads for scrambling over the encircling hills, properly realizing that policing of their entry rights is scanty.

“The foolhardiness of this proposal is nothing short of breathtaking … a brand new observe which is able to enhance carbon emissions, air air pollution and environmental degradation.”

Powys county council says it’s incorrect to say the Trod is to be “paved”. “The floor proposed is suitable with defending the options of the panorama. This won’t be a sealed (tarmac) floor, it would merely be a drier causeway throughout the wettest areas, with stone the place that’s wanted to create a extra sturdy floor.”

It argues that the levelling up funding offered a “distinctive” alternative to convey it the Trod to straightforward – and complement and prolong an off-road biking community.

The councillor Jackie Charlton, a cupboard member for a Greener Powys, mentioned the council had been provisionally awarded £17.7m of levelling up funding. It had determined to make use of £1m to enhance biking hyperlinks, a part of which is proposed to go on Monks Trod. It’s thought round £300,000 might be spent on the byway itself.

The Path Riders Fellowship, a not-for-profit highway conservation organisation that works to maintain byways like Monks Trod open for motorcyclists and different customers, mentioned: “Cyclists and motorcyclists solely have entry to Monks Trod, the place equestrians and pedestrians have a statutory proper of entry to the 70 sq. miles of surrounding land.”

It added: “People who experience illegally will proceed to take action while the accountable majority are persecuted. Higher enforcement of present legal guidelines would deter unlawful using. Path using delivers vital monetary advantages to the native financial system and is a lifeline to many native companies. Limiting entry has a detrimental affect on these companies.”

However others disagreed. Michael Bartholomew, the chair of the Inexperienced Lanes Environmental Motion Motion, mentioned: “Monks Trod goes via a tranquil, ecologically delicate, upland space. Powys can and needs to be doing all it could actually to guard it. Utilizing levelling up funding to place a floor on the Trod so it may be used for off-roading by motorbikes can be a grievous misuse of public funds.”

And Andrew Fleming, a panorama archaeologist and former professor of archaeology at College of Wales Trinity St David, mentioned he was appalled. “Powys council’s proposals encourage the trashing of a big archaeological website, a route a lot beloved by walkers who worth the peace and quiet of the Cambrians.”

The Strata Florida (Ystrad Fflur), close to Pontrhydfendigaid. {Photograph}: Keith Morris/Alamy

The Trod linked the Cistercian homes of Strata Florida, west of Rhayader, and Abbey Cwmhir, close to Llandrindod Wells, a lot of it constructed by the cut-and-fill approach. Some sections had been paved or metalled.

Fleming mentioned it was of historic significance as it’s thought so far to a time when the Lord Rhys was battling Henry II. “I don’t see how that is remotely a superb use of levelling up cash. The necessity to present muddy thrills for males from distant on motorbikes may very well be glad elsewhere.”

This text was amended on 26 March 2024 to make clear a quote from the Path Riders Fellowship that was garbled in the course of the enhancing course of.

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