Conditions Underfoot


Although the Pennine Way is usually thought of as a footpath, there are many long sections which are shared with motorised vehicles and mountain bikes. To those who've never walked any substantial part of this path, it doesn't seem to be clear that the areas which are badly eroded and damaged are almost exclusively these shared sections. If you try walking along such sections, however, it quickly becomes obvious that it is the use of wheels which is causing almost all the damage. Now there are flagstones on many boggy parts of the northern Pennine Way, the conditions underfoot are not too bad. I'm not sure how long these can take the pounding of motorbikes, and the other sections have areas which are becoming so rutted that they are unsightly and unpleasant for the walker to cross.

On the few parts where only walkers pass through, the path is very often lightly worn and sometimes hardly discernable at all. Below are a few photos to illustrate how the path has become very eroded and difficult to use in places - these were not necessarily the worst cases I encountered, but more of a representative sample. You won't have any trouble spotting individual tyre tracks in these photos, but may have more trouble seeing the footprints of the much more numerous walkers to have used the path. This is not to criticise legal users of the footpath, nor the bodies responsible for the maintenance of the surface, but just to illustrate the problems arising from the use of such paths by wheeled vehicles.

Click on a photo to enlarge.

Riders pass on the Cheviots, on their way up Windy Gyle from Mozie Law, 9 April 2004.

Their fresh tracks. Nine bikes passed inside the hour.

Further west, towards Mozie Law

The surface of the path on Deer Play Moor, north of Bellingham, 10 April 2004.

Near the summit of Deer Play. There are signs of walkers, but notice what an impact a couple of vehicles has had by comparison.

Typical tyre tracks, approaching Hadrian's Wall, 11 April 2004.

Another view of the same section.

Cam Fell (between Hawes and Horton-in-Ribblesdale), 17 April 2004. This is obviously an important track for walkers as it is part of the Dales Way as well as the Pennine Way and E2. It is clearly a favourite with off-road vehicles of all types as well.

Further down Cam Fell: the track has obviously become too rutted for some bikes and vehicles so alternative parallel tracks are being created, making the track wider.

Cam Fell again - I'm not sure whether this section of track is narrower or wider than the A65...

Riders approaching Greg's Hut near the top of Cross Fell

Just below the summit plateau of Cross Fell

Part of a section of the Pennine Way which has only been used by walkers - although this is boggy ground in a popular area, there is minimal visible impact.

Near Kirkhaugh, in the South Tyne valley.