Talking Cut Gate Maintenance Project with Simon Bowns.

Ride Sheffield and Peak District MTB are working with the Peak District National Park, Moors for the Future and the BMC on a project to repair the boggy sections of the legendary Cut Gate trail.

A project led by Ride Sheffield, Peak District MTB and Keeper of the Peak, 3 mountain bike groups working together, the Cut Gate Maintenance Project has now become a part of the British Mountaineering Council’s Mend Our Mountains campaign.

Pete had a chat with Simon Bowns, co-owner of 18 Bikes and a man at the sharp end of some Peak District trail advocacy and maintenance.

Photos by Sim Mainey/RADventure.


Who is Simon Bowns?

In the day, I run 18 Bikes, a bike shop in the Peak District. I’m also involved in Ride Sheffield, which is a mountain bike advocacy group in (you guessed it) Sheffield.

What’s your background in cycling?

I grew up in the White Peak and have ridden mountain bikes for as long as I can remember. I’m now in Sheffield, which is arguably the best city in the UK for that – whether that’s trails within the city limits or the fact that it has such great links to the Peak District.

What’s your background in the cycle industry?

I started working at a bike shop in Bakewell, initially as a gap year before university. My course was then cancelled and I chose to continue at that shop while setting up a bike frame-building business with my brother. To cut a long story short, we bought that shop and merged the frame side of things into it too.

How did the Cut Gate Trail Maintenance Project come about?

It’s been in our minds for a long time – with Ride Sheffield having it on a long to do list for years now. I got together with Chris Maloney, who’s involved with Peak District MTB – the other local MTB advocacy group. It seemed like the ideal project for the 2 groups to work together on.

How and why did Cut Gate take priority over other trails?

It’s running alongside lots of other works by both groups, but it is one of our high priority jobs at the moment. Cut Gate is a well known trail, some would say legendary. It’s a pretty hardy route, but a couple of short sections suffer when it’s been wet. With relatively little work on the ground, we can see it improving – from a trail and access point, but also allowing the fragile moorland to recover.

Chris and I initially produced a document (read it here) to outline what we saw as the problem at Cut Gate, the idea being to share it with other user groups, land managers and stakeholders to get some feedback. Straight off the back of this, we were asked to present it to the Peak District Local Access Forum (LAF) as an example of the work that our two groups were involved with.

This was very well received and supported by all groups and led to further conversations with the Peak District National Park. The British Mountaineering Council were putting plans in place for their Mend our Mountains proposals and have included Cut Gate as part of this fundraising plan. Now we just need the money.

How many people make up the Cut Gate Trail Maintenance Project and what do they do?

The Cut Gate project was led by the two mountain bike groups, namely Chris (Peak District MTB, Keeper of the Peak) and me (Ride Sheffield) We kicked things off and we’re now concentrating on the fundraising and user awareness side of things.

Peak District National Park Authority have been helping oversee the planning of the works. They have another, larger project as part of Mend our Mountains and have been frankly amazing at sharing the marketing and social media tasks too. The Rights of Way Officer there has also helped in terms of specifying the actual works on the ground.

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Moors for the Future Partnership have worked with Peak Park on the specification and planning – they’ll be the people overseeing contractors should we get the funding required. They’re the people for moorland restoration in the area, so we’re absolutely chuffed that they’re on board too.

The BMC head things up on the fundraising front. With an ambitious 1 million pounds to raise for their overall Mend our Mountains campaign, they’re making a huge push to the public now to donate. Cut Gate accounts for £70,000 of this total – so a significant amount to raise.

What specific challenges do you think the Peak District will throw into this project?

The Peak District has a lot of protections in place, rightly so. It does make projects like this a little more difficult to deliver, but we have the right groups working alongside us. Access is the main issue and much of the reason for the cost of the repairs. We’re only talking 60m or so of works and drainage, but materials will need airlifting onto the site given how far away it is from roads.

Are there any other user groups involved in the project?

Yes. Right from the off we involved other users, mainly from the meeting at the Peak LAF. When we produced this video, we were more than pleased that local horse riding and hill walking representatives wanted to be involved.

How do the groups involved plan to maintain the momentum behind this project after the initial work is complete?

The idea is actually for the moorland to recover and for the trail to need very little maintenance once the work is done. If required, we’ll organise volunteer maintenance days to help clear drains and the likes.

What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?

Our free time! I lose count of the evenings where Chris and I were talking back and forth via emails, not to mention countless meetings.

Have you had to overcome any major obstacles to get to this point?

It’s been almost the other way really – we expected that everyone would support the idea for the works, but that it would be the usual struggle for anything actually happen. We’ve got the dream list of partners for this job, so really the only obstacle is getting the cash!

Where next for Cut Gate Trail Maintenance Project? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?

The works won’t be something that volunteers can do, so it’s not really about helpers in that way. Peak MTB and Ride Sheffield will happily accept volunteers for our smaller trail works though, so feel free to contact the groups if you’re keen to be involved.

Where we need help now is spreading the work about the project and fundraising. It’s not often that we get opportunities to repair such well known routes, including have proper feedback into what’s done. It feels like early days for MTB advocacy in the UK and this could well be a chance to prove ourselves and lead onto even bigger and better things. Who knows?!

Anybody to thank at this point in the journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?

Everyone who’s been involved this far, it’s a cliche but we couldn’t have done it without them. To each and every person who’s donated to Cut Gate or the wider Mend our Mountains campaign, a great big massive thank you too!

And of course to Wideopenmag for taking the time to discuss and share our story. It’s maybe not as exciting as spanking new products or wheel size debates (Editor’s note: nothing is less important than wheel size debates), but we see it as equally important. Cheers!

To donate to The British Mountaineering Council’s Mend Our Mountains campaign, head here.

You can find out more about Ride Sheffield, Peak District MTB, Moors for the Future, Peak District National Park and Keeper of the Peak by heading to their websites in the links.

If you’re ever in Hope, make sure you head along and say hi to Si and Matt at 18 Bikes.