Sheep Skull is situated on the western fringes of Sheffield in an area managed by the Eastern Moors Partnership (EMP). It is an unofficial route predominantly used by local mountain bikers, but well known within the wider mountain bike community.
Due to its proximity to a substantial proportion of Sheffield’s population, one of the key principles of the EMP is to encourage all user groups to enjoy the landscape. This results in some interesting management challenges for the EMP which they have addressed by forming close partnerships with user groups.
Sheep Skull is situated on an area of moorland within Totley Moor. Accessed from a desire line, the path crosses open access land and then drops over a Scheduled Ancient Monument containing significant Iron Age artefacts. It then crosses a concessionary bridleway and continues into a small area historically used as a quarry for local brick works, but now covered with moorland vegetation.
None of this is visible to the untrained eye and most people are unaware of the heritage of the area or its status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The Eastern Moors Partnership decided it was essential they control use of such a significant area, consisting as it does of various levels of environmental and heritage protection.
Local mountain biker Jon Cort became aware of the issue and approached Danny Udall, Land Manager for the EMP, to ask if he could help broker a deal. They then approached Ride Sheffield
and proposed that riders could continue to use the trail providing the Ancient Monument was no longer ridden and that no further trail building was undertaken.
Ride Sheffield and the EMP jointly implemented a self-policing mechanism that has proved effective. On one occasion, a local rider found that the boundary wall that separates the Ancient Monument from the trail had been dismantled, took it upon himself to rebuild the wall, inform Ride Sheffield and install a sign explaining the agreement. Ride Sheffield then persuaded influential local riders to spread the word that such behaviour could result in the loss of the trail.
Thus, EMP were able to carry the vast bulk of the mountain biking community with them on a joint endeavour to protect the landscape while still allowing riders to enjoy Sheep Skull.
– Positive intervention is effective
– The mountain bike community readily embraces self policing
– Encouraging mountain bikers to feel part of any effort to protect where they ride is essential so that they embrace the notion of shared responsibility
Photographs of the route before and after the agreement suggest little recent use of the area covered by the ancient monument and on-going monitoring indicates there is also no
trail shaping on the lower sections.