Environmental Issues

No Go areas on the Mynd.jpg

On Tuesday 27th November 2012 the National Trust invited organisers of fell races on the Long Mynd to attend a meeting at the Bucks Head in Church Stretton.

Peter Carty and Dave Cowell from the National Trust outlined a serious threat to the Long Mynd from several notifiable diseases. They also wished to discuss erosion issues at several points on the Mynd. The latter being a direct issue following the exceptionally wet period and the recent Relays Championships.

Viral disease

Peter Carty told us about a new threat from Phytophthora (means “plant destroyer”). Phytophthora is a large group of pathogens which cause diseases in plants. You may have heard about the fungi affecting larch trees in the UK. Another type has been killing heathland on Cannock Chase, is at present killing the bilberries on the Stiperstones and has recently spread to the Long Mynd itself. It has been found at several different locations and it is thought that one of the ways it is spread is by the shoes of users of the Long Mynd.

There are of course, many other ways that the virus can travel, but the Trust feel that they need to take some action to try and prevent further spread. One of these actions has been to ask for the co-operation of the fell running community and this could be as simple as good hygiene for our shoes. We may see in the near future, footdips at the start and finish of races.

But, of course, races only represent a small portion of the amount of time we spend in the hills.

The National Trust do not wish to start putting notices all over the area but we do need to get the message out to the wider audience and they have asked us to communicate it in whatever way we feel we can. If you were at the Cardington Cracker Race the other week, you may have heard Paul Sanderson making such an announcement for the Telford Athletic Club.

Erosion Problems

Following such a high profile event as the Relays, it is only natural that attention is brought to some of the more popular routes used by fellrunners. One such route is the descent from Yearlet into Townbrook Hollow, as used at the end of Leg One and Leg Two and also a popular route choice on the Long Mynd Valleys Race. There is a wet area at the bottom of that descent, about 50m before you hit the main path in Townbrook Hollow, which has suffered considerable damage, photographs of which were circulated at the meeting. We were also shown a map outlining other parts of the Mynd that the National Trust refer to as “Wet Flushes”. They are asking us, as Race Organisers to try and avoid those areas. (See attached map.)

There are other places that are also causing us concern. These tend to be on descents regularly used by fell running. Two such areas are the descent from Barrister’s Plain into Ashes Hollow and the descent into Cardingmill Valley used at the of the Longmynd Valley’s Race. Again, the National Trust does not want to fence off any of these areas, but are asking for a commonsense approach.

So How Can You Help With These Two Problems?

The fellrunning community are not the only group of people who the National Trust are talking to in regard to these problems, but we do need to consider our personal impact on Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This doesn’t just mean the Long Mynd, but includes almost every area where we enjoy our sport. I’m sure that none of us would like to feel responsible for spreading a disease, either from one part of the Longmymd to another, or from the Longmynd to another area. So a little bit of care making sure we keep our shoes clean, even washing/brushing with a mild disinfectant after each run would help. Another reason to clean your shoes is that it can zero in on your garden shrubs. Oh, and don’t forget to clean your
bike tyres too.

If you see or hear anyone at future races wondering why there is a “Foot and Mouth” footbath to walk through before or after a race, please take time to explain to our visiting runners why it is there and how they too can help!

Also, if you are out on the hills, don’t go and look at a patch of dead heath, that’s a cert to spread it around.

To help with the erosion issues and to learn of the areas to avoid, please visit the Mercia Website where you will find a map showing all the wet areas. Inevitably, when we are racing we will want to take the fastest line, but if we can vary our routes when we are out for a ‘recce’, it will minimise the effect we will have, for there is no doubt that in the past few years there has been a vast increase in practising race routes and using them for general training.

Just One or Two Little Changes making a Big Difference.

From Barristers Plain into Ashes Hollow please try and take a diagonal line avoiding the main route.

On the descent into Cardingmill Valley please try and avoid the gully which has formed over the past few years. We have not used this on Race Day for several years, but it does seem to pull you in! This is such a visible area and it would be better, when finishing your run just to continue to the bottom of the main track.

Keep well out of the gulley when coming down off Yearlet into Townbrook. Erosion is not the only problem here, there are examples of rare “worts” in the unstable ground, which are easily disturbed!

If you can see that where you are running is wet and eroded, there is bound to be damage being caused, please try and avoid it by giving it a “by-pass”. And spread the word - if you get the chance, have a polite word with runners from other Clubs.

I am sure that communications between the Trust and ourselves will continue and we will do everything we can to keep up our good working relationship.