A little story, a true tale of early June 2008.
I’m walking our dog as usual, past the Whitesides plantation near Browns Colliery, when the delicate sound of an axe chopping at a tree reaches my ears.
I work with axes quite a lot in my work and this did not sound like someone who knew what they were doing, so I decided to take a look at what was happening.
I came across a track through the wood, this area had always been fairly dense before so I was slightly surprised.
Not as surprised as I would be when I came across a large, construction that looked like the frame for some kind of ramp. Nearby were the remains of several camp fires and a lot of rubbish.
The chopping sounds were coming from further down the track so I proceeded with caution.
I passed a couple of freshly felled trees, I came across two mountain bikes and a little further on, their owners. One of them was chopping at a tree and the other was standing with his back to me, watching.
I waited a while until they noticed me, whereupon I asked them if they realized that they were causing criminal damage to some ones trees.
Their reply was that “No one owns these trees because they are natural.”
I asked, in that case, why these natural trees were growing in straight lines and furrows? which seemed to perplex them somewhat.
They did at least stop chopping the tree during this conversation.
I asked them about the rubbish strewn all around the place and they said it was nothing to do with them, someone else had been camping there.
With the quantity of beer cans in the rubbish around a camp fire this sounded plausible as the woods are often a hide out for drinking parties.
What I did find difficult to reconcile with that explanation was the presence of several Evian bottles, also scattered around the site.
Perhaps bottled water has become a favorite with underage drinkers these days....... I am often a little behind the times, but I doubt that one somehow.
I suggested that perhaps, if they wanted to develop the area in a positive way, they could do something about clearing the place up a bit.
They responded by saying. “We clean up all the time. We fill up bags and hang them on the trees.
“Oh, that’s good” I said “and who clears up all these bags that you hang in the trees?”
Another perplexed look.
Meanwile one of the lads unwrapped a sweet from his pocket and casually dropped the wrapper on the floor.
At this point I realised that I was wasting my time with them and resumed my walk with the dog.
I have actually seen lots of these bags hanging in the trees. And, as if by magic, they do move down to the car park, because I carry them there. Amazing isn’t it.
Of course, quite often they are no longer hanging in the trees anymore and surprisingly often they are filled with isotonic sports drink and Lucozade bottles, as you can see above, but far be for me to say this has anything to do with the mountain bikers.
I returned next morning to see if I had made any impression on the lads at all. After cleaning up the car park area for the third time this week, I returned to the upper plantation to take a look.
Suspecting the worst, I had stuffed a few extra carrier bags into my pockets and I took my camera with me to record the shots you see here.
It seemed our conversation had made some difference, they had left the half chopped tree as it was and they had kicked some debris over the rubbish in an attempt to hide it a bit.
What that did do was make it an even less pleasant job than usual to do some real clearing up.
The claim that they regularly cleaned up seemed a little unlikely because while some of the cans were relatively fresh, many others had been lying around long enough to go rusty.
It was soon apparent that I had not brought enough bags with me so I cleared up about half of the camp and resolved to return another day to do the rest.
I also found an abandoned tent in the area which will definitely have to be cleaned up another day but the biggest surprise of all was a full sized, galvanized steel gate, looking remarkably like the one that went missing a while ago, that has since been replaced by the council, no doubt from the public purse. Shame it wasn’t found before that happened.
So, five carrier bags of rubbish and two hours of my own time later I was finally ready to carry at least some of the trash down to the car park.
I did think to myself “I shouldn’t have to be doing this” but I suppose I do it because, like many others that do the same, I do actually care about the place.
I wish I could say such occasions and stories were rare but I have heard similar tales from many other dog walkers in the area. In fact such stories are quite commonplace.
There is a club, North West Riders, that does repair and maintenance work on the existing cycle tracks in the wood, which they call “Buckstones”. When they became aware of the damage and new building that was going on the were quick to distance themselves from the mountain bikers I encountered.
“As far as the litter and building you have seen, I can assure you that this is not done by NWR and is, I state:'Actions by other members of the public, who ride/use Crompton Moor...NOT North West Riders'.”
As I understand it, recently the council were going to close down the cycle trails and level the constructed jumps until they came to an informal agreement with NWR.
This again is taken from their own web site.
“Our agreement with the Rangers in order to keep the existing track until such time that a new one was professionally built was that no walls would be damaged, no trees cut down, no litter left and that no new building would happen.”
I was told that while no decision has officially been made, the rangers are currently looking into the possibility of producing a properly constructed and managed cycle track, which, if handled well, could indeed be a great asset to the area.
Apart from the beer cans there were a lot of broken bottles lying around, the remains of several disposable barbecues and lots of fast food packaging.
As such, it is directly against the interests of the mountain bikers to be found building new trails and demolishing the walls for building materials.
In fairness, the damage caused to the walls now appears to be the result of being ridden over and is much more likely to be caused by the off road motorcyclists that unfortunately also use the moor and it’s cycle tracks.
These same motorbikers destroy walls and fences that get in the way of where they want to ride. They cause heavy damage to the paths and even the cycle tracks and use threats, intimidation and malicious damage to prevent anyone from reporting their crimes.
Let us be clear about the motorbikes. Riding a motorbike or a quad bike on this land is illegal and offenders can be prosecuted. This is not a victimless crime.
If you see motorbikes on the moor, phone the local police on 0161 872 5050 to report it. Ask for a crime reference number or they will just ignore it like they usually do.
If you see these trail bikes being loaded or unloaded from a vehicle, note the registration number and ring the police.
If you see these unregistered, untaxed and uninsured motorbikes riding on the road to or from the moor, ring the police.
If you do not want to phone the police for some reason, perhaps you have been threatened and wish to remain anonymous, you can also phone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. You will not be compelled to give your name, sign any kind of statement or appear in court, all you have to do is provide the information about the crime.
The current police position on these crimes is that it is on the decline in this area because they receive less reports of it happening.
In reality, it still happens every weekend and most evenings in the summer. People have simply stopped reporting it because the police never do anything about it.
If they keep having to give crime reference numbers however, that will start to affect their dreaded ”statistics” and eventually they will have no choice but to do something about it. Remember, the police work for you. Do not accept inaction.
Reporting such as this, done by dog walkers, has seen a decrease in drug dealing in the car park area in the past and proves that such action can have an effect.
So, who cares about Crompton Moor?
Contact the Rangers on 0161 620 8202 (Strineside Centre) or 0161 627 2608 (Tandlehill) Other contact details
All text, artwork and images on these pages, unaccompanied by a separate credit, are copyrighted material and property of Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.