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Martin Wainwright, Wednesday 22nd August 2012 11:07
Motorbikers who flout the rules about riding on bridleways in the Yorkshire Dales national park have had a warning: an on-the-spot fine for one of a group who decided to have things their own way in Coverdale.
The beautiful valley looks like the last place you might encounter a traffic cop or warden but Sergeant Stuart Grainger was in the right place at the right time, somewhat like PC Nick Rowan in Heartbeat, albeit the latter's patch is the equally lovely North York Moors national park.
A propos of which, do you know how many national parks there are in our 'grim' north of England and can you name them all? Answers at the foot of this post.
Anyway, Grainger spotted about eight bikers ignoring signs and riding up the bridle way from Horsehouse alongside High Gill towards Fleensop. He says:
I got between some of them and stopped the last two going up. The others looked back and shot off up the bridleway.
I ran after one of them and grabbed hold of his backpack but he kept pulling away and I chose to let go of him rather than him falling off the bike. However, another one got stuck further up the track so I brought him back down and issued him with a £30 ticket for riding on a bridleway.
Good action stuff; and although opinions can wax strong on this issue, it was a deserved penalty when the balance between all the various and sometimes competing groups who enjoy the Dales is so well-preserved and regularly discussed by the national park and its users. As Grainger says of the bridleway in question:
There is a clear sign showing a motorbike crossed out as you turn off the main road and another attached to the gate they had to open to proceed up the bridleway – so there was a clear prompt even if they claimed they didn't know the law concerning bridleways and footpaths. The rider I stopped was from the Richmond area, so they may all have been local too.
Luckily there were no walkers using this narrow bridleway at the time, because had there been, they would have been put in danger by this group, or, at the very least, they would have found it intimidating and disruptive. I will be contacting local trail riding groups to ask them to remind members that bridleway and footpath use is illegal and damaging.
Nigel Metcalfe, the national park's ranger for Lower Wensleydale, reinforces the point:
The majority of trail riders and 4x4 users who come into the National Park to ride on green lanes are responsible people who help to protect this fragile landscape by obeying the signs and going only where they are allowed. But there are a few who think they are above the law and can go where they want, irrespective of the damage they may cause to the land and its wildlife.
We work closely with the police to patrol bridleways and footpaths that are being used illegally and we would urge members of the public to help by reporting any incidents. It is illegal to ride a car or motorbike on any public footpath or bridleway so trail riders and 4x4 users are urged to make sure they know where they can legally drive away from the metalled road. This information is available on the Yorkshire Dales national park authority website here and from organisations such as the Trail Riders Fellowship.
Answers to questions posed in third paragraph: There are five. They are the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Lake District and Northumberland.