Mend Our Mountains

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One of the dilemmas I discovered in the course of writing my book on the Three Peaks was the balance between maintaining the paths around the area and encouraging walkers and visitors to use them.

The Three Peaks is one of the busiest areas in the country in terms of footfall and sponsored events.

Whilst the National Park rangers and staff, verbally to me anyway, said they actively questioned groups about their Y3P challenges and told them the potential damage to this delicate area, on the flip side they couldn’t realistically turn anyone away.

The fact we can’t ban events and groups coming to the Dales is a given  – a National Park is just that, National and open to all.

The owner of Pen-y-Ghent said it was something they were wary of too … the numbers of people on the hill and the damage they did … but they were working with the YDNP to minimise the damage.

And, of course, you then had the Friends of the Three Peaks.

This organisation, run by the YDNP, asks people for donations and subscriptions  – and sells merchandise – so it can plough the money back into path maintenance.

An official governmental body operating in a commercial sense isn’t anything new, but it didn’t sit well with people who were directly affected by Three Peaks traffic.

Some questioned whether the YDNP was morally right to be selling souvenirs connected to the hills when many local businesses are treading that fine line between being financially viable and going under.

My views on a large groups heading to the hills are quite simple. If they can operate in a sustainable way, and understand where they are going and what they are doing, then there isn’t an issue. Buy local, park in local car parks and give something back.

Yet, not everyone can do this – especially large organisations seeking funds for projects. The Y3P can be a money spinner … and it shows in the spring, summer and autumn months when Horton In Ribblesdale is a no go for locals.

Some organisations like the BHF work with the YDNP to make sure their event is run properly and has limited impact. It is a partnership … and understanding.

Others won’t do that and probably think they shouldn’t have to. They pay their taxes after all.

That’s why the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains campaign is one I applaud but also one that leaves me uneasy.

It aims to raise £100,000 by mid May to help repair damaged footpaths and has been backed by Cotswold Outdoor, clothing company Alpkit and adventure film website Steep Edge, along with many other smaller sponsors for individual projects.

National Parks’ budgets have been cut and I understand the need for external funding. But I think there needs to much more education to get walkers and groups to spend local but more importantly understand their impact.

Naturally, members of the BMC will know this. You aren’t a member of the British Mountaineering Council unless you are an active walker and have that love of the countryside.

But I am wondering whether the Council is being used as a conduit for funding that the National Parks should have in their budgets and if we are missing the point entirely.

In any case, the projects highlighted below will bring relief to the most damaged trade routes and that has to be a good thing.

But for me education has to follow … and that is up to the likes of myself, the BMC, Ramblers and the National Parks to work together.

The Mend Our Mountains campaign will run for two months, until May 16, at

The individual projects are:

  • Watkin Path on Snowdon, North Wales
  • Ringing Roger on Kinder, Peak District
  • Waun Rydd in central Brecon Beacons
  • High Moor on Dartmoor
  • Swine Tail, Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales,
  • Scafell Pike in the Lake District
  • Lyke Wake Walk in the North York Moors
  • Long Chains Combe in Exmoor Forest

The Dales Project In Focus

A path below the summit of Ingleborough known as the Swine Tail. It is on the route of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, which is conservatively estimated to raise 5 million pounds annually for charity, but this path must withstand 60,000 pairs of feet a year to support all those efforts. It costs £28 per metre to maintain the 42 kilometres of the Three Peaks.

David Butterworth, Chief Executive, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

“We are delighted that our project to repair the badly eroded Swine Tail route on Ingleborough is part of the BMC’s fantastic ‘Mend our Mountains’ campaign. With 120,000 walkers making it to the summit of Ingleborough every year and the Swine Tail also forming part of the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge, every pound donated to this work will be very well spent.”

Steve Hastie, Three Peaks Manager, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, added: “The BMC campaign recognises that everyone had a responsibility to help in the management of some of the busiest paths in the country. This is a fantastic chance for anyone and everyone who has walked to the top of Ingleborough or who just loves the area to generate vital funds to help keep the paths in A1 shape for the hundreds of thousands of people who use them ever year.  We hope people will support our bid and pick us – and we’ve got some excellent and unusual rewards for the different levels of donations they make.”