The Pennine Way
On the moors above Heptonstall the Pennine Way path can be a very soggy walk, but new improvement work by Calderdale Council has made the worst parts of the route a much more pleasant journey for walkers. This important access work on this iconic national right of way has been made possible through funding from the Watershed Landscape Project but it’s not just for the benefit of keeping walkers feet dry and clean that the work has been undertaken.
The increasing use of the uplands for recreation means that the landscape is naturally at higher risk of erosion from human traffic, particularly around well used routes such as the Pennine Way. In addition, changes in UK legislation have meant that parts of the uplands have been made more accessible for people to enjoy. The designation of these areas of ‘Open Access’ land means that you can enjoy miles of spectacular moorland on foot. This offers a great opportunity to see the landscape, but can have a detrimental effect on wildlife and habitats particularly ground nesting birds who can easily be disturbed by walkers. A detailed study which took place around the last major re-surfacing of the Pennine Way in 1994 found that better footpaths encouraged people to stick to the path and therefore had a direct and positive impact on the habits of ground nesting birds in the area.
'Before the Pennine Way was resurfaced, golden plovers avoided areas within 200m of the footpath during the chick-rearing period. At this time over 30% of people strayed from the footpath and the movement of people across the moorland was therefore widespread and unpredictable. Following resurfacing, over 96% of walkers remained on the Pennine Way, which significantly reduced the impact of recreational disturbance on golden plover distribution; golden plovers only avoided areas within 50 m of the footpath at this time.' (Pearce-Higgins, J.W. & Yalden, D.W. 1997. The effect of resurfacing the Pennine Way on recreational use of blanket bog in the Peak District National Park, England. Biological Conservation 82).
The re-surfacing work of Calderdale Council has included the laying of causey paving (stone slabs) which effectively narrows the path and therefore the corridor of possible erosion and disturbance, and also raises the walkway above the peat so that the layers underneath are protected. Once the paving is established, heather and other species will grow around and up through cracks in the paving.
Open Access land does have restrictions, especially at certain times of the year so it is really important to check the area you plan to visit before setting off and to act responsibly when on the land. Click here for more information on Open Access.