4x4 drivers 'destroying fragile fell peatland'
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
CALLS have been made for increased policing to prevent drivers of 4x4 vehicles tearing up sensitive peatland on Pikestone Fell, near Hamsterley Forest.
Residents of the forest say more 4x4s, quadbikes and off-road motorcycles have been using the byway open to all traffic (BOAT) throughout the ongoing pandemic than ever before, leading to widespread environmental damage.
The fell falls within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Forest resident for the past 31 years John Stephenson said the damage is the worst he had ever seen.
He added: “In places, new routes, which did not exist five years ago, have been driven across country to avoid obvious insurmountable obstacles. Again, we have widespread vegetation and peat destruction as well as the degradation of what was once a green and pleasant land.
“Vehicles clearly spend lots of time driving around on the moors near the byway.”
He added: “Over wide areas, the protected vegetation has been completely destroyed and the peat layer beneath has gone the same way.
“Other tracks, with no public right of way, have been commandeered and are being destroyed in the same way, again with no concern for sticking to the route.”
Hamsterley resident Neil Malkin, a keen runner, said damage to the existing track is so bad that athletes can no longer use it safely.
Now they are pinning their hopes on Forestry England successfully applying to down grade a green road in Hamsterley Forest to a bridal way.
The green road is the only way 4x4s can access the fell from the Teesdale and its downgrading would significantly reduce access.