gatescarth reopens after maintenance is completed

Originally Published: August 2016 Words: Steve Pighills Pictures: Steve Pighills

GATESCARTH PASS, between Mardale and Longsleddale in the Lake District, is perhaps the most outstanding unsurfaced road in England. It’s a rocky route through spectacular scenery and, thanks to good relationships and close interaction between the TRF, GLASS and the Lake District National Park Authority, it’s available for trail riders and 4x4 drivers to use on a permit basis – allowing, one day a month, 18 motorcycles and 12 4x4s.

All parties attend an annual Gatescarth Review Meeting in February, and this year the most important topic was the closure of the pass due to a landslide on the south side resulting from the deluge which afflicted Cumbria in December. This landslip was maybe 50m long, 10m wide and 1m deep.

Throughout Cumbria, the damage was terrible: houses were flooded, bridges destroyed and roads washed away. The National Park Authority estimated that its liability alone was £10 million. By the spring, only £2 million of potential funding had been identified, and the TRF and GLASS realised that remote mountain roads, mainly used for leisure purposes by motor vehicles, cyclists and walkers, would be low on the list of priorities.

We asked the National Park if we could fund the repair of Gatescarth. Its response was that to get a contractor and digger to deal with the landslip, and to do other necessary preventative maintenance there and on the nearby Longsleddale Pass, would require £2500.

It seemed fair to us that the TRF and GLASS should fund this jointly; gratifyingly the TRF came up with its share very quickly thanks to a generous contribution from the national body, and GLASS were equally rapid. The Park were very pleased indeed with our action.

By April the Park had engaged a contractor, Steve Foster, who is highly specialised in this type of high-level unsurfaced road repair, and work was planned to start later that month. Weather was generally appalling late in April, and thankfully there were no signs of work being carried out in such risky conditions.

By early May, conditions had improved and the landslip was well on its way to being removed. The contractor had already done remedial work on the north side, and would soon be proceeding down into Longsleddale. Altogether, ten days of work was carried out, which will benefit all users including the local farmers. Grass seed has been put down and within a few months the area should be back to its usual scenic self.

The permit system has been reinstated. The first open date was 21 May, with the first-weekend rotation being reinstated after this.

Cumbria TRF normally marshals these days to provide assistance 
and information to any users and we get a good reception from walkers and mountain bikers. Permits can 
be applied for online from the LDNPA website on a first come, first served, basis.

The TRF and GLASS have suggested that the Park should ask for a £2.50 per wheel voluntary contribution from each user, which will be used for maintenance specifically on rights of way which are usable by motor vehicles. A fair request given that the British winter could serve up a similar problem later down the line – under the circumstances, a rainy day fund doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

In addition there will be some volunteer maintenance days organised for the upcoming months, so keep an eye out for details in due course on the Cumbria TRF and GLASS Facebook pages.

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