Recently on my return from an outing in the Coniston Fells I chanced upon a reporter and cameraman from ITV News filming on the lower part of the Walna Scar Road. Walna Scar doesn’t on the face of it seem the most newsworthy place or even the most interesting to film though it transpired that the reason for their presence was the fact that the road had just that very morning been closed to motorised traffic.
I had been under the impression that this road was only open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders but this – until that morning – was not the case. In fact there have been several court disputes to determine the status of Walna Scar and similar actions are in progress over the Garburn Pass in the eastern Lakes.
On the face of it you might ask who would want to drive over tracks such as these as doing so would certainly damage the average car with no guarantee of making it over to the far side. It seems though that companies offering off road driving experiences are the main opponents to traffic free status and I can see their side of the argument – they need somewhere to be able to offer their services as do those who offer off road motor biking and quad biking trips.
This brings us into a debate similar to that over the 10 knot speed limit imposed on Windermere in 2005 which effectively banished the power boats and water skiers from the lake. They were not banned as such but 10 knots (less than 12 mph) is insufficient speed to water ski or have any kind of fun in a power boat so they went elsewhere. The ban was unpopular among watersports enthusiasts but at the end of the day some of their activities were a danger to other lake users.
My personal opinion in favour of the ban is based on the fact that if I walk or ride my bike up this track I am neither endangering other users, causing distress to livestock or wildlife or inflicting an undue amount of damage to the track itself. As soon as one drives a motor vehicle up here though this would not be the case. Quite apart from the physical danger to others there is the element of noise to consider. Our main roads and cities are plagued by traffic noise and pollution and We come to places such as the Lakeland Fells to escape such things as the roaring of engines.
I don’t pretend to have an answer that will keep everyone happy here which is why the case is going through the courts but the Forestry Commission operate a good system on their forest roads. The routes are closed to private motor traffic but are open for use by walkers, cyclists and – as far as I know – horse riders but the Forestry Commission’s own logging vehicles use the roads for access to timber and other users must give way to them if encountered. In the case of Walna Scar and other contended routes I would suggest a similar arrangement whereby farmers and the emergency services can use the road – in addition to quarry vehicles in the case of Walna Scar – but with the routes remaining closed to private motor traffic.
I may not agree with the motorised users here but I have at least outlined their point of view. For the legal arguments which I will not attempt to explain I have placed a link at the end of this article to GLEAM who are a pressure group who campaign through the legal system to keep motor vehicles off our green lanes and byways so preserving them as a safe place for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.