Volunteer work on Isle of Man’s ancient upland tracks is paying off

Richard Crane pictured by Isle of Man Newspapers working on one of the tracks in 2012. The volunteer work programmes have effected a huge improvement to the ancient rights of way

Richard Crane pictured by Isle of Man Newspapers working on one of the tracks in 2012. The volunteer work programmes have effected a huge improvement to the ancient rights of way

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A cohesive approach centred on the wellbeing of the tracks – that’s the vision of the new rights of way officer for the ACU, overseeing the island’s green lane use.

Julian Wood who came to the island eight years ago from South Yorkshire, worked extensively with the Trail Riders’ Fellowship and local council to conserve the green lanes around the neighbouring Derbyshire Peak District.

He feels there should be stiff sanctions for those who do not toe the line, with people who abuse the lanes or trespass away from designated routes banned from ACU-run events as well as facing any legal repercussions.

But this needs to be backed up by clearer sign posting of routes, a definitive map with the island’s green lanes and greenways clearly marked and clear information provided on the web.

‘A lot if it is down to sorting out proper signs. And we need a proper map for visiting riders to use, showing where they can and can’t go. I would also like to promote greater use of local guides too,’ he said.

‘The advantage is that it’s more dynamic: if the weather has been bad, a local guide who knows the area can adjust the routes avoiding softer ground that would be damaged.

‘I am also in favour of seasonal closure of some of the more vulnerable routes to help protect them,’

He took over the ACU role in August and his vision is for a united approach working with all interested groups including walkers, horse riders, mountain bike riders, four wheel drive clubs and trail riders.

Working with Richard Crane of the Four Wheel Drive Club, volunteer groups have put in more than 1,000 hours maintaining and repairing many of the more vulnerable tracks, improving drainage and ensuring marker posts are in place. Some volunteers have not only put in manpower but also used their own plant and machinery. Many of the ancient tracks have a hard stone base. Damage occurs where users have strayed, often accidentally, off the correct course onto softer ground, so marking the correct route has been vital. In the past year work has been done at Ballacob and Narradale and while the DOI has responsibility for the upkeep of the ancient routes, with a limited budget and problems like Laxey bridge to address, they are not high priority.

‘These are ancient roads and they are also used during TT road closures by some of our emergency services,’ he said.

‘We all want them to be maintained so everyone can enjoy them, so that’s why the volunteer groups have been so active.’

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