Getting the water flowing

Last year we started carrying out a lot of bridleway maintenance, and have a team of really enthusiastic riders, walkers and horse riders willing to give up some time to clear drains, dig holes and cut back overgrown vegetation. We all seemed to get the bug, and planned monthly dig days, which saw a lot of work getting done to protect and enhance our trails. Then Coronavirus hit us and quite rightly everything stopped. Our trail maintenance programme has been suspended for now, but I thought I’d share a bit of positive news about what we have achieved so far….

Wessenden Bridleway.

This iconic route in the Colne valley was chosen as our first project because of the large number of users – mtb, horse riders, walkers, fell runners etc. It is undoubtedly one of the most popular bridleways around, and it made sense to tackle it and show what we can do.

The whole bridleway is about 3 miles long from top to bottom, with a wide track at either end. The middle section is narrower and has a number of ‘features’ that make it fun and challenging at the same time. It was this section that was in need of some TLC, as there were a number of large puddles leading to the trail widening and erosion of the moor. The drainage was simply not working due to the lack of maintenance over a number of years.

Our aim on this bridleway was to get the drains working as they were designed originally. Over 4 sessions (a total of 60 volunteer hours) we have significantly reduced the standing water on the trail. This was done by re-instating the hill side water gully, finding the culverts and clearing the cross drains.

Last time I rode it, there was still a few puddles that needed a quick ‘kick’ to get the water flowing again but on the whole, it is running fast and fun (even after all the rain we had). A few places need some aggregate to re adjust the levels, we’ll complete this in summer.

Next up….Meltham Cop (Dunnock Road).

With Wessenden running well, we decided to let it settle to monitor how effective our efforts have been and move on to a more challenging trail – Meltham Cop and the lakes that are there all year.

If you are not aware of this bridleway, the Cop is a very distinctive hill above Meltham, close to Blackmoorfoot reservoir. The bridleway skirts around the hill and is renowned for having rotor deep, track wide puddles at any given time, and after the torrential rain throughout February it was like riding through lakes.

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There is evidence of some maintenance, but it appears that drainage wasn’t taken into consideration. It was over to us to find the drains and culverts and get the water flowing away from the trail. As well as making it a more pleasant ride, it’ll reduce the amount of erosion caused by users avoiding the puddles and walking/riding off the track.

 

The first (and only) session so far has been a great success with about 70% of the puddles 85177959_10163090110820252_7886965943065116672_ndraining away from the trail. It still needs a load of work as the first session was done to clear the puddles so we could take a better look at what needs doing. There are definitely some culverts in situ – our culvert finder Austin exposed one that took a huge amount of water away quickly!! Now that the majority of the water has got somewhere to go, we can dig around to expose the other culverts and get them back in operation.

 

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Lee digging out a drainage ditch on one of the larger puddles.

The above photos show one of the ‘lakes’ before and after the first session. This was one of the smaller puddles on the trail, and as you can see we’ve not completely got rid of the water. We have, however reduced it, and with some drier weather this section should become fun and flowing (and faster!!)

Our second and third sessions were planned for the end of March – one Friday session and a Saturday session but due to the nightmare that is Coronavirus, they were cancelled. As soon as we get the all clear, we will get some more dates organised to crack on with Dunnock road.

In the meantime, if you’re out on your daily exercise, and you find a trail that could do with some TLC, please email ridekirklees@hotmail.com and we can look into it. We have proposals completed and submitted for another three bridleways, and one in the process in Cleckheaton. We need you, as local riders to give us a heads up about your trails, so we can sort them out (you can join in, everyone’s welcome). Don’t worry though, we are NOT looking to sanitise them, just sympathetic maintenance to prevent them getting to a state where they need a full resurface.

Stay safe, and ride sensibly…..

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