Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Desire lines from Barrowcliff

Barrowcliff is one of the many communities in Scarborough that connect to the Cinder Track (the old railway line from Scarborough to Whitby). It's far from being a wealthy place and is currently getting additional funding from an organisation called the Local Trust

Strangely the area boundary for this Trust doesn't include the fields to the East that cover what were once the carriage sidings on the old railway. This is despite the fact that Woodlands Ward boundary (which can be found by zooming in on this map) runs along the route of the old line which is on the eastern edge of the fields.

As someone keen to develop the old railway line as a high quality route for walkers and cyclists, the fact that the Track forms the boundary of the some of the Borough's wards means that it's been hard to engage some of Borough Councillors for these wards in helping to improve the Track (which in this area is currently far too bumpy and far too narrow) because it isn't really in their patch.

But, if you go onto St Leonard's Crescent, where paths lead out across the fields, you'll notice that the good citizens of Barrowcliff have been voting with their feet and leaving the traces behind on the grass. These "desire lines" give a clear indication of where people want to walk, ride their bikes or push their buggies and the routes they pick out are clearly of local significance.

View from the official path clearly showing the two desire lines.
The one on the left goes to Maple Drive, 
the other cuts off the corner to join the Track heading south.

A Google Earth image of the area not only shows the desire lines are a constant feature (and not just an artifact of a long spell of dry weather) but also the rather peculiar layout of the existing tarmac paths.

We know that low levels of physical activity are causing a major public health crisis. We know that poorer people are less likely to be physically active than richer people and we know that the best way to get enough exercise is for it to be part of your everyday life. This means making short journeys on foot or by bike. 

We know that improving the Cinder Track, especially in urban areas like this, would encourage more people to walk or cycle, improve their health and reduce the harms caused by traffic. So why does the Big Local area exclude these fields and the old railway line? 

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Cinder Track May 28th 2018

This time I chose a Bank Holiday Monday for a trip up to Ravenscar. There were quite a few family groups but no sign of the speedsters that threaten the good folk of Robin Hoods Bay.

Good News

The start of the Track near Sainsbury's in Scarborough has been resurfaced and is now much more welcoming.

A family group getting ready to set off up to Whitby
(once the children have been persuaded off the play equipment)

The drain down the hill past the Rugy Club has been cleared and most of the surface damage has been repaired. Thank you.

Drain cleared and surface repaired

Not far south of Ravenscar a very minor road bridge crosses the Track. Work is taking place to repoint the brickwork.

Scaffolding in place for bridge maintenance


There are still a few gullies left and drifts of loose material that can easily catch out inexperienced riders.

A sand trap for the unwary between Scalby and Burniston

It's been dry for a few weeks so there isn't any standing water but further up the Track, between the footpath that goes to Staintondale and the Manor Farm crossing (the double gates across the Track that shouldn't really be there), water running down the Track has formed a gully and reduced the effective width of a 200m section to about half a metre. (One side of the Track is now a bumpy brick channel and effectively unusable)

Andy Sharp 30/5/18

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Cinder Track April 3rd 2018

You might wonder why these reports always seem to come after heavy rain. Well, for the last month or so it's either been raining, about to rain or just stopped and when it does stop, that's when I really feel the need to get out. 

With a house the main thing to look after is the roof, once water starts getting in that's when you start getting problems, with the Track it's the drains. And the best time to see how well they're coping is after it's been raining.

Good News

There used to be a flooding problem in the area around Manor Road Bridge in Scarborough. The land drains were improved a year or so ago but then a blockage in the main drain that they led to caused foul water to back up on the Track. This has now been fixed and, apart from a bit of water along the edges, this stretch of Track has stayed clear.

Standing water

Because the Track surface is often lower than its surroundings water tends to accumulate without running away. in the longer term we need to make sure that the Track is properly profiled so that water runs off. This problem affects many flatter stretches.

Standing water near the Rugby Club

Deep flooding

Just after the Track crosses the Coastal Road in Burniston it's completely flooded. A few years ago a drain that runs under the road was unblocked and it looks like it's time this was done again. Meanwhile, it's a short diversion to take the main road towards Burniston, turn right onto Cross Lane and then right again onto Rock's Lane to rejoin the Track at the bridge.

Flooding at Burniston

Water running along the surface

When water runs along a surface made of loose material it not only makes unpredictable gullies but also leaves drifts of loose material that can catch your front wheel and throw you off. This is a particular problem for inexperienced cyclists. Sometimes the water is simply rain which has landed on the track itself. This could be dealt with by grading the surface so it runs off sideways. Sometimes, it's also coming from somewhere else.  E.g a spring has emerged under Cober Hill Bridge (near Cloughton), water is then running for a couple of hundred metres down the Track before heading off sideways into a field. This could be water that's running down an electrical conduit before getting forced to the surface.

Spring under Cober Hill Bridge

Severe erosion near footpath
to Staintondale

Overflowing drain near field entrance 
half a mile below Hayburn Wyke

Water running along the top of the embankment
just below the Grange Farm crossing

Overhanging broken branches

The Goat willows which have self seeded along many parts of the Track, annoyingly in many of the drainage channels, are approaching the end of their lives (40 years or so) and becoming increasingly fragile. There were at least half a dozen half broken branches dangling dangerously over the Track as well as one tree that had conveniently decided to fall over in the other direction.

Enlarge this and you'll spot the dangling branch

Fallen Goat Willow to the north of 
Grange Farm crossing (the double gates
across the Track)

When I went out I thought it had stopped raining but it had really been about to rain after all and I got pissed through on my way back down the road from Ravenscar.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

As predicted ...CinderTrack update

A few weeks ago I made an inspection run up the Cinder Track and pointed out that drains near the Rugby Club had become full of silt and would, sooner or later, cause water to run down the Track and erode the loose surface.

Lo and behold, the drain hasn't been cleared ....

Silt filling the drain

.... and the Track surface has severely eroded.

Water running down the surface has exposed
 the Track's brick and rubble base.

Joined by even more water further down the Track, where more sections of the drain have silted up with run off from the fields next door (cue blog post on soil erosion and the number of harvests we've got left if we don't make more efforts to keep the soil where it is), we've not only got drifts of loose material but also the beginnings of deep gullys.

Drifts of loose material ready 
to catch out the inexperienced.

This gully is over 20 cm deep and an obvious hazard.

There's an old saying that "a stitch in time saves nine". In this case the failure to maintain the drain means that the surface will now have to be repaired as well. Unless, of course, we're prepared to simply leave it in a hazardous state.

+ I'm meeting officials from the North Yorkshire Moors National Park next week to discuss the role volunteering might play in maintaining and improving the Track. Here's what I wrote in an e-mail to the National Park, the Borough Council and our fellow Friends Group (Gateway) who are based in Whitby.

"I was out on the Track last weekend with Ian Lambert, a Sustrans Ranger and member of the Friends. As well as tidying up some signage we also did a litter/fly tipping pick along the cutting between the Gallows Close Centre and Cross Lane Bridge in Scarborough.
During the previous week I also conducted a quick inspection ride between Scarborough and Ravenscar. http://seven-billion-to-one.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/cinder-track-feb-2018.html

The challenge facing volunteering on the Track is the scale of the task. Major work is needed to improve the quality of the Track (especially in the urban areas where it gets most use and where there is the greatest potential for latent demand to be released). This is beyond our capacity as volunteers.

However, there are some discreet tasks that are amenable.
1) Controlling vegetatative overgrowth of the Track but only along short stretches (e.g. in the summer of 2016 three of us scraped back the vegetation that had dramatically reduced the path width between Newby Farm Road and the Scalby viaduct).

2) Litter picking
3) Drain clearance (e.g see the picture of the silted up drain near the Rugby Club in the report linked above). It would undoubtedly be useful to have access to the Maintenance Schedule so that the most important jobs could be readily identified (Paul?)
4) Tree planting. It's clear that some trees, particularly those that have grown in drainage channels, will need to be cleared as part of Track improvements. A start could be made on planting replacements further back from the line of the Track.
5) Habitat monitoring and recording.

It's possible to undertake some of these tasks independently of LA involvement but not all of them.

Best wishes
Andy Sharp
(Chair of the Friends of the Old Railway)"

n.b In Suggestion 3 I mention "the Maintenance Schedule". This is a bit cheeky because I've never seen any evidence that it actually exists.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

What the sea taketh away...

The recent weather system known as the "Beast from the East" not only turned our house into a freezer (it stands up above most of Scarborough and was directly exposed to the strong, and very cold, east wind) but also scoured enormous amounts of sand off of both of the town's beaches.

Freshly exposed rocks in the North Bay

No slippy algae on this one

This part of the coast has always been subject to a phenomenon known as longshore drift where sand is picked up by the sea and tends to drift towards the south. The end result of all this is Spurn Point, a long spit of sand at the mouth of the Humber. 

Spurn Point

Of course we'd rather that our beaches didn't just disappear but we're used to the fact that they keep on changing and when I went out for a walk yesterday I became confident that at least some of the sand would soon be back, and the uncovered stones would once again snuggle back under their sandy blanket.

Random dog playing in the turbid water

Sometimes the waves coming in are white, bright and frothy. At others, like this, they're brown and murky. The sand is on it's way back...

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Cinder Track Feb 2018

I had an inspection ride up the Track from Scarborough to Ravenscar yesterday. Here's a brief report.

The last few weeks have been quite wet so there's a lot of water about. Now while you might expect to put on your walking boots and wellies if you're out in the countryside you wouldn't expect it in town.

Entering Barrowcliff Field the track is completely flooded

Technical note (what I believe to be the case) There's always been a spring near here and when the path was laid, about 20 yeas ago, a land drain was put along the left hand (western edge) connecting to a pipe under the track. Unfortunately, not long after, a heavy vehicle went along here and, because the path is narrow, put its wheels on the grass and broke the drain. 

Further up the Track, near the Gallows Close Centre, the Track goes through a cutting. Water regularly gathers here and in one of the puddles planks have been put down so that people can get through without getting too wet or too muddy.

Puddles in the cutting at Gallows Close

I have to admit that I don't think there's any other bit of well used public space in town where paths in this condition would be tolerated. Perhaps it has to do with the demographic of the Track's users.

A few years ago the Rugby Club moved out to its new location alongside the Track. There'd always been problems with surface water running along the Track, causing severe erosion, but improvements to the drains had made things much better. But, drains fill up and severe silting means that unless something is done soon we're going to get the erosion once again.

The drain on the left is almost completely full of silt and 
water will soon spill onto the Track and then run on down the hill

Beyond Burniston there is plenty of standing water and between Hayburn Wyke and the Grange Farm crossing (the two gates which cross the Track north of Staintondale Station) there is a lot of water running along the surface. It's clearly time for some routine drain maintenance.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

and he had a gun....

A friend has just had his 64th birthday and it'll be mine later this year. Because he lives in Southampton I doubt he'll be renting a cottage on the Isle of Wight and if he ever does stay out till quarter to four there'll be  a search party long before anyone locks the door.

In the early 1980's I spent a year living in the United States and I didn't know anyone that I knew had a gun. Of course this doesn't mean that none of my American friends did, just that they didn't choose to talk about it.

A decade later we took our young family on a camping trip to the North West coast and spent a few nights camped half way up Mount Spokane in Washington State. Along with the marvelous views and an entertaining troupe of gophers we shared our campsite with, among others, a couple of old hippies in a camper van. 

Now one of the things about life under canvas is that you get to hear everything that's going on around you. The sound of rain, on a well pitched tent with a decent flysheet, is actually quite comforting but an unwanted trample through the Beatles back catalogue at half past three in the morning isn't. 

Not being particularly sensible, and by then sleep deprived and bad tempered, I crawled out of the tent, went over to the hippies camper van and politely asked them in that passive aggressive English way if they'd mind turning the music down. "I've got small children and we'd really like to sleep"

It worked, the music stopped, I calmed down and dropped off.

The next day I overheard the hippies discussing the incident with another camper. The final words were "and he had a gun.."

A family of gophers watching an idiot risk his life in a land full of guns