Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why have we abandoned the Berwyns to the bikers?

Rip it up! Moel Ferna yesterday

Moel Ferna at just over 2000’ is the most easterly peak on the Berwyn range. An isolated outlier which nevertheless, is a fine little peak with commanding views all around. Sadly, like so many parts of the Berwyn range, the mountain sees more motor bike scramblers than walkers. The range’s isolation and unpopularity compared to the Snowdonia National Park just down the road, has been something of a curse with regard to attracting off road enthusiasts. 

4x4 off-roaders cut through the passes and follow ancient tracks. Churning up the peaty soil until it’s impassable. By this stage they will have simply bypassed these sections until the adjoining section is equally trashed. And so it goes on. However, by far the worst eco-vandals hereabouts are the motor bike scramblers who appear to use the Berwyns with impunity, despite their activity being illegal under environmental protection legislation. Much of the Berwyns is a Special Protection Area classified in accordance with the European Union's Birds Directive. It is also designated a national nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest and forms part of the Berwyn and South Clwyd Mountains Special Area of Conservation.

Caution..4x4's and motor bikes at work!

Despite this the relevant authorities including North Wales Police, appear to have given up the fight against the scramblers and off-roaders and much of the delicate surface soil and substrata has been reduced to a deeply rutted mire.

I was up there yesterday as it’s a local high point and convenient for a quick 10k round dash on a short winter’s day. As always, there wasn’t a soul to be seen on the way up and after taking a few shots from the summit, I heard the unmistakable sound of scramblers approaching. Sure enough, about half a dozen arrived soon after. I tried to phone the police to report them- although from past experience, the police are not bothered and won’t respond in a hurry- but I had no mobile signal up there. 

The problem is of course, money! With public spending being reduced to 1930’s levels, problems like this will simply get worse year on year. With no public agency able to carry out an anti bikers strategy in the Berwyns-and the neighbouring Llantysilio range is just as bad- then more and more motor bike scramblers will exploit their freedom from prosecution and come to the area and rip the fragile tracks and moorland to shreds. A moorland which is home to protected bird species such as Hen Harriers, Merlins and Peregrine Falcons.

It’s a sad reflection on the outdoor world in general in that whilst we get agitated about Jeremy Clarkson or the Land Rover company leaving their temporary mark on a popular mountain, we are prepared to ignore the trashing of a quiet and unfrequented mountain range which relatively few people travel to. Seeing the destruction wrought by scramblers yesterday was a sobering experience but the most depressing thing about it is that nobody cares. Out of sight-out of mind as far as the authorities and the outdoor public are concerned.
Looking west from the summit of Moel Ferna 

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