Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Spread the load or honey-potting?

Last week myself and Gareth Field, the Outdoor and Sports Programme Manager for the Lakes, went to the National Institute for Outdoor Learning where I had been asked to deliver a talk at their conference. The talk was to be about ‘honey-potting’ as opposed to ‘spreading the load’ within the outdoor industry.

Things don’t always go to plan and there was a power-cut just before I was due to deliver my presentation so I just carried on with the talk without being able to show images! I began with the example of Castlerigg Stone Circle. This is a Neolithic stone circle just outside Keswick that has enormous numbers of visitors. We have installed two extra gates so that there are now three to access the site. This spreads the footfall from the parking layby and reduces the wear of the grass, although we still have to re-turf the walk around the circle each year.

I then used the example of the path up the lower slopes of Grisedale Pike where we have two parallel paths and we swap from one to the other about every 3 or 4 years giving one chance to recover before the next switch.

Finally I described the ribbon of footpaths we’ve constructed throughout the Lake District, both the digger paths made on the soft soils and the pitched paths that we tend to construct in the harder central fells within the Borrowdale volcanics. The path around Derwentwater with its sections of recycled board-walk is an excellent example of creating a balance between maximum access for huge numbers of people and minimal environmental damage. These paths concentrate people in relatively small areas and give good access whilst protecting wildlife and our conservation interests.

My talk then moved on to the more specialist work done with outdoor instructors. This section included the installation of a multi-use abseil point at the Bowder Stone and the installation of chains in Stoneycroft Gill with the development of a gill-scrambling code to focus on using the harder wearing gills where damage will be minimised.

I then introduced the Lake District WhiteGuide which has been developed by a partnership of The British Mountaineering Council, The Fell and Rock Climbers Club, the Lake District National Park, Natural England and the National Trust. This is an excellent code of conduct for winter climbing within the Lake District.

I finally introduced as a discussion topic the issue of where the instructors and centres’ clients go to the toilet when they are away from the outdoor centres. I know some individual instructors and centres have a policy but I think it important that they think about it carefully and don't just send clients to go behind the nearest tree. The example of good practice I gave was the Canadian National Park system where they have a pristine environment. 

They helicopter in toilets above the snow line. There's no way we could afford to do this but if every centre and instructor packed it back out with them it would solve the problem in some honey-pot areas overnight.

The talk appeared to be well-received and I have had several emails thanking me for doing it. I have talked to large groups in the past but it is not the norm for me to talk to 150 people. But these are people who share our concerns for our landscape so it was definitely worth sharing our experiences in the hope that we will all be working in the same direction to develop best practice in future.

Daisy here: It’s just raining again. I don’t like it. I do like it when it’s windy. That’s great.

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