Monthly Archives: November 2014

Another point of view

Horse riders are in favour of the bridleway and suggest that it will be used to provide access for wheel chair users. So I asked for comments from wheel chair users to get their perspective. A response is published below (with the writer’s permission)

Subject: Bridleways and wheelchairs

Caught your query on wheelchairs and bridleways, re Chadkirk. Your colleague is right, re the undesirable nature of sharing a bridleway and wheeling though piles of ordure. Although dog dirt beats everything for stink, horse poo comes a close second.

The problem seems to be the vast quantity produced by a horse and the fact that dog owners have to pick up from their dogs while there is no law re horses and owners. I often see huge piles on the Middlewood way and sometimes it is hard for a chair to avoid it.

On a bridleway it is not quite so visible either.
It gets squashed flat by hoards of cyclists but lies there for months as a thin layer across the path and whenever it rains it sticks to the wheels of a wheelchair. As the wheels are rotating on a manual wheelchair it comes up to the sleeve cuffs, which are across the wheel when pushing the rims and then, before you know it, your clothes and hands are stinking.

 You are welcome to pass on this email to someone who is looking at the suggestion that horses and wheelchairs are going to be happy sharing.

Oh, and another thing. Horses are often spooked by things they have not seen before. Even if a wheelchair user immediately sits still, on sight of a horse, the horse seems to get very nervous and start stamping and even rearing. It is pretty scary for the wheelchair user that can’t get out of the way of a horse  that is behaving like this and also upsetting and dangerous for a rider that can’t control the horse – mostly young riders.

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A-Z of Chadkirk: B is for Biodiversity

Chadkirk is an attractive place to visit, whether you come for a daily walk, or enjoy family time, visit for the Festival, Bat and Bird Box making or one of the other events. Part of the pleasure of this unique place is intangible: the beauty of the landscape, the buildings, the walled garden, all contribute.

However the Country Park at Chadkirk has another key aspect. Conservation. It is a place where wildlife habitats are managed to enable flourishing biodiversity. It was set up , in part, as safe place for wildlife. Whereas hedges and meadows, ancient woodlands and ponds have been disappearing from the British landscape, here there is a strong intention to protect and enable wildlife to flourish, to manage and protect.

In recent decades Friends of Chadkirk, Stockport MBC, the Ranger Service and other environmental groups have made significant contributions. During that time, there have been many projects, big and small, that have enabled the biodiversity of Chadkirk to increase.

Each of these projects has played it’s part in making Chadkirk the special place that it is today. None more than the Coronation Meadow.

Meadows

The Coronation Meadows Project is led by Plantlife in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts and The Rare Breeds Survival Trust. By establishing a meadow in every county as a way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, each meadow is a living breathing link from the past to our shared future.

Here’s how Plantlife describe the project:

97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s.

Inspired and initiated by HRH The Prince of Wales, the Coronation Meadows Project is:

Celebrating our surviving meadows – identifying a flagship Coronation Meadow for every county in the UK.

Creating new meadows by using the seed or green hay from these Coronation Meadows at receptor sites in the same county.

Increasing the area of this valuable habitat provides new homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators and helps to secure our wild flower heritage for the next 60 years and beyond.

There is only one Coronation Meadow in Greater Manchester. It’s here. At Chadkirk. This 13 hectare site is a rare gem in an increasingly urban environment. With so many green spaces trampled or degraded because of a variety of pressures, this site is unique in the area.

Friends of Chadkirk have been involved in it’s growth and development. In 2015 volunteers will work closely with staff of Stockport MBC Ranger Service to collect seeds, so that plug plants can be grown and planted out in other locations.

Volunteers monitoring species richness in this part of Chadkirk have noted an increased diversity. They say:

The diversity of Coronation Meadow is growing year on year and in the past couple of years a large colony of Six-Spot Burnet moths has developed and plants such as Birdsfoot Trefoil have helped support Common Blue Butterflies.

In the autumn and winter months Coronation Meadow at Chadkirk provides winter grazing for cattle. The sight of a small herd of cattle grazing on meadow land is rare. A reminder of traditional links between wildlife and farming practices which allow rich biodiversity.

The three wildlife ponds in Coronation Meadow also support a large variety of aquatic wildlife including water beetles, dragon flies, frogs, toads and newts.

The successful management of the Ancient Woodland of Little Wood and Kirk Wood, the ponds and meadows at Chadkirk are testament to the careful and wise stewardship of a few which enables the many visitors to enjoy all this precious gem has to offer.

Decision time – Any questions?

Monday 8th December

18-00 hours

Woodley Civic Hall
Hyde Road
Woodley

Werneth Area Committee Meeting will take place (in the dining room?)

The report into the proposed new bridleway will be presented.
Members of the public are invited to attend and to ask a question.
Questions must be submitted at least a week before the meeting – in writing or via a form available on-line.

What matters to you?

Information about this proposal can be obtained by clicking through links on stockport.gov website. Using the search box key in bridleways Werneth Area Committee .

What matters to you?

Both sides now…

A letter has been published in the local paper expressing support for the proposed new bridleway. It is written by an equestrian and it gives some idea of the benefits for horse riders and other potential users.

Of course, the job of the decision makers is to balance these possible benefits for future users with other effects that might reasonably be predicted if the plans go ahead.

The decision makers (your local councillors) will be informed by representatives of Stockport MBC (who have the job of collecting information and assessing costs and benefits) to enable a decision to be made which is, on balance, in the best interest of Chadkirk Country Park and the people who enjoy this unique environment.

The previous decision to give the scheme the thumbs up was made in the absence of key information about the site. And with a rather flawed consultation exercise, which failed to even inform significant groups of the plan.

Now that the plan is being re-evaluated, it is possible that there will be a more effective assessment of the site and the effect that the scheme might have on current users as well as any future projected change in visitors to Chadkirk.

Whereas the previous information on which the decision was based did not show the current footpath, the re-evaluation will now take this into account.

This footpath is well used and offers a delightful walk from the car park, along the stream and then on through Little Wood. Under the previous proposals this path would close.

How would the planners and decision makers estimate the value of this loss?

Similar questions arise over other losses.

Much work has been done by a number of groups – Stockport MBC, Friends of Chadkirk, The Prince’s Trust and other environmental groups – conserving and enriching threatened habitats. A path 3 m wide around the edge of Coronation Meadow will affect a precious environmental resource. How to take into account the loss of wildlife and the biodiversity which this area of grassland supports? A loss certainly. Though how to measure it and give it a value is harder to judge.

Then there’s the opportunity costs. Money spent on one thing isn’t available for other purposes. Money spent on a new bridleway is not available for maintenance of existing amenities. The budget in this area is already stretched. The existing facilities at Chadkirk would benefit from some TLC.The car park? Paths? Visitors will have made their own observations of areas that might benefit. So here’s another choice. Money spent on a new bridleway will produce benefits for some. Would spending this money on existing paths and facilities be a wiser user of resources? And how many people would feel the benefits of this kind of improvement?

When councillors of Werneth Area Committee meet on December 8th, they will be making a decision about what is in the best interests of Chadkirk Country Park and the visitors who value this special place. This time they will have more information on which to base their decision.

What news of the path?

Andrew Stunell’s reply to my enquiry includes the following information:-

There was a meeting of the Werneth Area Committee on Monday 3rd November.
Councillors and members of the public who attended were informed by council officers that the report that had been submitted at a previous meeting had been incomplete. A new report is now being prepared and a site visit is also being planned.

In the meantime, work on the project is suspended.

The new report will go to a future Area Committee.

The next meeting of the Area Committee is on Monday 8th December 2014, and any local resident is entitled to attend that and may ask a question, though I haven’t heard whether the report will be ready by then.

A view from the saddle…

Some of the reasons why you might want the bridleway plans to go ahead are given by a visitor to the blog. Their comments (in full) are:

I’m quite concerned about the new bridleway at Chadkirk not going ahead. The tarmac route on Vale road is very dangerous!

1. Bikes going too quickly,
2. The blind corner with cars
3. Car drivers get very angry as they can’t pass on this section once a horse is using it
4. The tarmac surface is very slippy and unsuitable for horse shoes especially when damp
5. The new bridleway would create a fantastic loop in the area, especially with the new chadkirk bridge and pathways.
6. The area committee has already approved this route, and Stockport council as a land owner dedicated the route
7. This would also be of huge benefits to cyclists and walkers alike, at the moment the end of this proposed section has steep steps which makes bike access and buggy access in particular difficult
8. The chadkirk estate is a real gem on the outskirks of Stockport, why restrict the available usergroups to a narrow footpath?

In response: here’s a perspective from a walker who uses the footpath and country park.

My response as both a walker and an amateur naturalist recording wildlife at Chadkirk, is as follows:

1. From what I have seen of the plans, they involve a bridleway around 3 sides of the field. This field forms part of the official SMBC-created Chadkirk Nature Reserve and the bridleway would destroy part of the existing wildlife sanctuary for wild flowers, bees and other insects birds and mammals. (Although the field is now grazed by cattle, I believe that these are only put in the field after the wildflower, bees, nesting season is over.) At a time when we are being exhorted to increase wild flower meadows it seems that SMBC is doing just the opposite.

2. The footpath around the outside of the perimeter of the field is used by many people every day. It appears that the first part of this path from the Chad’s well end is being preserved but the section parallel to the road alongside the stream will have to share a wide bridleway with horses and cyclists, which makes little sense. I foresee that this bridleway will be very much used by riders from Lower Dale Equestrian Centre who, now that a private bridleway connects the Centre with the new bridge, will be able to in effect extend their own equestrian facilities (at ratepayers’ expense?).

3. Having said all that, I have nothing against horse riders and am very pleased to see the use they are making of the new Sustrans route. Walkers, horse-riders and cyclists are all making proper use of the countryside in healthy activities and we should support each other. We need to resolve any conflicts of interest in a friendly and constructive manner.

4. Whatever happens re the bridleway plans, the footpath alongside the stream should be entirely retained. I suggest also that the bridleway should just run parallel to the wide part of Vale Road so as to avoid the problems described by the horse rider.

5. What does annoy me is that SMBC seems to make decisions without consulting any of the interested parties other than horse riders – namely walkers, dog-walkers, cyclists, ratepayers etc. It still seems to be a total mystery as how the Council can afford to do all this when it is making so many cuts in its environmental and parks staff and services. Where is the money coming from? It also seems to forget that it has designated the area as a nature reserve.

6. I am sure that with a proper consultation process the problems can be sorted out to the benefit of everybody.

*****
Below is the response from the visitor to the blog who gave us our first ‘view from the saddle’:

£20,000 as already put aside by sustrans is a drop in the ocean. Have you seen the money spent on path repairs at werneth low? Well over £50,000 this is straight from the taxpayer though not sustrans.

The wildlife effect will be minimal, a bridleway causes little disruption, look at established bridleways through the moors.

There was another incident with a horse rider and a car last week, prior to that an altercation with a cyclist and a car over the cyclist not using the vale road “footpath”. The residents are under the disillusion vale road is for cars only and all other traffic should use the gated footpath.

The new bridleway favours all usergroups and this is what 99% of Councillors will want.

This comment was made on 22 November.

Here are a few facts and ideas in response to these comments:

‘£20,000 as already put aside by sustrans is a drop in the ocean. ‘

The funding is not from Sustrans.

Sources at SKMBC state that £20 000 was allocated by central government – so it is tax payers money.

It is not clear that £20 000 will do the job.

Where will the rest come from?

‘Have you seen the money spent on path repairs at werneth low? Well over £50,000 this is straight from the taxpayer though not sustrans.’

Repairs will be the responsibility of the local authority. The total allocation for the whole of Stockport is £30 000.

Cost cutting continues to reduce what the local authority can do. Priorities must be established.

Is this one which will offer enough benefits for people to move it up the priority list? Compared to, for example, maintaining existing facilities or supporting the Ranger Service?

The wildlife effect will be minimal, a bridleway causes little disruption, look at established bridleways through the moors.’

There are few examples of this kind of habitat remaining. Chadkirk Country Park was established  with conservation in mind. It is an asset of environmental significance and value.

‘There was another incident with a horse rider and a car last week, prior to that an altercation with a cyclist and a car over the cyclist not using the vale road “footpath”. The residents are under the disillusion vale road is for cars only and all other traffic should use the gated footpath.’

More horses crossing Vale Road at a blind bend may not reduce the accident risk.

‘The new bridleway favours all usergroups and this is what 99% of Councillors will want.’

Other user groups would need to be properly consulted before anyone can know that.

Councillors will be evaluating the evidence and then making a balanced decision.