Category Archives: Chadkirk+

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.

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Saturday 4th October

Gardening Team at work

Gardening Team at work

Gardening volunteer at work

Volunteer gardener at work in the Walled Garden. Photo: Artemisia

Volunteer gardener at work in the Walled Garden.
Photo: Artemisia

The first Saturday in the month, so today the gardeners from the Friends of Chadkirk will be down in the Walled Garden and in the area around the Chapel. They will be doing the usual gardening jobs for this time of year. Tidying up a little after a season of abundant growth. And perhaps clearing some of the leaves that have started to fall and anything tossed about by last night’s wind and rain. After one of the driest September’s on record, each year a little different from the last, as the seasons change.

Other changes happen too. And those who care for Chadkirk will want to be confident that changes initiated are for the best. So this afternoon the Chair of the Friends of Chadkirk will be posting a map of the proposed New Bridleway on the notice board at Chadkirk with a brief summary of the proposals and some suggestions.

Footpath due to close?

Footpath due to close?

I understand that, on 22 September, the Chair of the Friends of Chadkirk walked the route of the proposed new bridleway with the manager responsible for maintaining footpaths in the borough. She was able to raise concerns and request information. At the end of the ‘tour’, she gave him a number of questions about the plans.

At the meeting on 2 October, after a discussion about the management of the garden, the group of Friends present considered the answers to these questions, which were given in written form.

It may be possible to get a copy of the map and/or the written statements to post on here. At the time of writing, I can make no promises. However, I will ask.

In the meantime, it looks as if the way forward is for those with a view to contact their elected representatives. In some respects, the more the merrier!

It’s one thing to find that people feel that they would like the footpath to remain and to spend some of the money ear-marked for the Bridleway on maintaining the existing path. It’s another to enable the elected representatives who vote on these matters to reflect these views in the actions that they take. And the money that they spend.

Gardening today 2-4pm.

Notice this...

A well earned break for the gardening volunteers.

A well earned break for the gardening volunteers.

Paths, priorities…and people power.

Paths and priorities…

Footpath due to close?

Footpath due to close?

We have a well used path.
Popular.
Requiring modest maintenance.

We have (apparently/allegedly) a sum of £20,000.
This has been allocated for the proposed New Bridleway.

Plan A: Close well used current path.
Spend £20 000 on new path for which there is unproven demand.

Plan B: Use resources to maintain the current path.
Prioritise this.
Ditch the plans for the expensive bridleway.

Which makes sense? Plan A or Plan B?

There is time to influence events.
Tell your elected representatives.
And maybe your would-be elected representatives too.
Make them aware of your priorities and preferences.
After all, this is your Country Park and your Council Tax money.

Write or phone or email about these paths and a sense of priorities.

News from the meeting…

Item one on the agenda: the footpath by Hatherlow Brook

DSCF4317

We were fortunate to have the Rights of Way Officer as an invited guest.

Ever since the rumour mill threw up information about the proposal to replace the footpath with a new bridleway, people have been wanting to learn more about the proposals. Basic information has been hard to come by.

Many visitors drive to the Country Park, park and then walk on the path by the stream to Little Wood, often following a circular route back to the Car Park. This is a well trodden path. Anyone who has used this path for a period of 20 years or more can apply to the Rights of Way Officer to have this path recorded and dedicated as a Public Right of Way.

Application forms can be obtained from the Rights of Way Officer. Completed forms can be submitted to him and , once they work their way to the top of the pile, the Rights of Way Officer will then assess the evidence. This part of the process can take unto 12 months.

This process may be a way to enable the current footpath to be kept.

However, what is not clear is how this process will play out given the current plan to put in a new bridleway on the other side of the hedge.

The Rights of Way Officer explained that the current plans for a Bridleway grew out of a national planning exercise, when all local authorities were required to put forward a Right of Way Improvement Plan in 2007/8. Consultation of users was required before drawing up the plan. Although many of the people present at the meeting have been involved with the Friends of Chadkirk group at the time, none recalled any consultation.

Had there been any more recent consultation?
We learned that the Rights of Way Officer has meetings with ‘user groups’. There had been a meeting earlier this year (who knew?) and there is another one planned for December. However since no-one from the Friends group had information about (or invitation to) these meetings, perhaps it would be fair to say that it would be impossible to make a contribution to the information gathering part of the process.

A commitment was made to notify the group of the next meeting. However, the timing of that meeting is unhelpful, given the suggestion that the bridleway is to replace the current footpath in the autumn.

After a discussion of this item there were many outstanding questions about the proposed bridleway. Here are a few:

How much will the new bridleway cost?

Where are these funds coming from?

Who decided that this was a better way of spending scarce resources than, for example, repairing the oft flooded car park and/or maintaining the present footpath?

How were the majority of users consulted about the plans?

How will a 3m wide bridleway affect the conservation goals of the Country Park? This will take up part of the Coronation Meadow.

Does a new bridleway require planning permission?

Although there were unanswered questions and matters remain to be resolved, a more senior representative (with responsibility for some aspects of this issue) employed by the local authority will be invited to attend next month’s meeting of the Friends of Chadkirk. This meeting will take place on Thursday 2nd October at 7.30 pm in Chadkirk Chapel.

New Bridleway? …and People Power?

I can now confirm that the bridleway is planned to be installed in the autumn and that architects are drawing up plans.

I apologise for some confusion in the last post about the bridleway.
The item is to be considered as the first agenda item on Thursday 4th September. The person responsible for the decision will be at that meeting. As far as I am aware, this will be the first consultation with the Friends of Chadkirk about this planned change to the environment at Chadkirk Country Park. If you use the Country Park , there is a good chance that you will be affected by the change.

*****

Do you walk along the path by the stream which links the car park to Little Wood? Then you will be interested to know that an Equestrian group has applied for a bridleway that will affect you. Have you been informed of the change? Have you been consulted? Were you given information and then an opportunity to express a point of view? Even if your current answer to these questions is ‘no’, there may be an opportunity for you to influence what happens to the foot paths of Chadkirk. Though you might be well advised to make your view known sooner rather than later. Off the radar, decisions seem to have been taken and the plans have been formed.

The plan, as I understand it, is to block off the path by the stream. Walkers will then have a new pathway which will be inside the field, the other side of the hedge. They will be able to walk on the other side of the hedge from the current path and will arrive somewhere close to the bridge over the stream and get into Little Wood that way. This path will be for horses as well as walkers: the new bridleway.

Although I understand that the plan has been approved, there may be an opportunity to have some input into the decision. Surely consultation is a requirement for a change like this? The Public Rights of Way may have given the plan the go ahead. However, there may yet be an opportunity for you to make an input into the decision making process and exert your democratic rights.

On Thursday 4th September at 7.30 pm there is a meeting of the Friends of Chadkirk. The first item on the agenda is the planned bridleway and the closing of the footpath by the stream.

There are a number of ways that you might make your views known:

Put your comments in writing and send them to the person responsible for making the decision.

Attend the Friends of Chadkirk meeting on Thursday 4th September.

Contact local councillors and other elected representatives.

Make your views known to other people who are able to attend the meeting on Thursday 4th September.

All change ?

Cuts and/or Re-organisation ?
The impact of the double dip can be felt and seen throughout the country.

With £28 million cuts making the headlines, here are some of the ways that these changes might be evident at Chadkirk:

* 18 months ago there were 6 Senior Rangers covering Stockport’s Greenspaces.
Now there are 3.

From April their work will be done by one Countryside Officer.

* The Countryside Officer will be paid approximately £5000 pa less than a Senior Ranger.

* Alan has changed his green sweatshirt for a blue one. He is now employed by SolutionsSK.
He is part of a team of 3. They are based at Etherow and will undertake work in Stockport East. So we will still see him at Chadkirk from time to time.

A team of 3 based in Reddish Vale will take care of Stockport West’s Greenspaces.

* Work within Chadkirk is often contracted out.
The improvements to the path through Kirkwood (from the canal opposite Oakwood Mill to the top of the steps down towards the bridge or gardens ) was undertaken by Utility Landscapes.

* Recent woodland management involving felling of 3 or 4 beech trees was undertaken by ECOS and funded by a WIG – Woodland Initiative Grant.

Countryside Officer in residence …from April 2013

Following the recent interviews, John Rowlands has been offered and accepted the post of Countryside Officer. The 7 days required for appeals has passed so I understand that this information can now be made public. His new role will begin in April. Next time I bump into him down at Chadkirk, I hope to learn more about that role.

However, in the meantime, there’s a sigh of relief crossed with a whoop of celebration. It’s excellent news for Chadkirk, as this means that he will continue to live on site. It’s excellent news for Stockport as the people and green spaces will continue to benefit from his skills, expertise and cheerful good humour. And,last but not least, it’s quite good news for John and his family: he will continue to be able to do the work he loves and he keeps his home at Chadkirk.

There may be a chance to congratulate him personally on Thursday evening when the Friends of Chadkirk meet for their AGM.