Richard Leafe, Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, reveals why repair work was carried out on a track at Tilberthwaite

THE Lake District National Park means many things to many people and holds a dear place in the hearts of millions. It’s a special place and it is our job to keep it special.

As a national park, everyone has a legitimate right to enjoy this spectacular landscape. This means the decisions we have to take are often complex and are sometimes viewed as contentious.

It is our role to ensure the park is well conserved and we’re mindful of any activities that could create harm to the natural environment.

Last year we were delighted when the Lake District was inscribed as a World Heritage Site.

UNESCO accepted the management plan of the national park, which is supported and delivered by the 25 organisations of the Lake District National Park Partnership. This collaborative approach is something we’re extremely proud of and means there is a wealth of expertise and knowledge in helping manage the national park.

One issue that has recently been testing this balanced approach is the way in which we help manage and repair access routes.

We look after more than 3,200km (1,900miles) of rights of ways across the national park – footpaths, bridleways, byways. Our repair and maintenance is vital to ensuring people can continue to enjoy these routes. Our park management team are experts in carefully assessing the use and needs of every repair job, and a combination of boots, wheels and Lake District weather mean it’s a year-round job.

The recent public interest in the severely eroded track that runs from Tilberthwaite Farm to Little Langdale has led to us taking a much more detailed look at how this particular track could be repaired and managed.

This track, which is actually classed as a road, has been used for farming and industry for many centuries and, as such, forms part of our historic landscape.

It is regularly used by a range of different users - farmers, walkers, mountain bikers, motorcyclists, horse riders and 4x4 activity.

Concerns were raised by some residents as the track had eroded over time and some put this down to 4x4 and motorcycle users. They also believe the tranquillity of the national park is being disrupted and have called for a ban for 4x4s accessing this area completely.

However, we need to be mindful that this is a road and people do have the right to access and use it - disjoining or fettering that right must only be done in extreme circumstances.

A survey of road users in the summer led to a project to repair the surface of the track, working closely with partners Cumbria County Council and the National Trust.

The track is now repaired to an exceedingly high standard and once it is reopened in the New Year we’ll be able to compare use.

The track now has a very different surface texture than before, making it easier to walk, cycle and drive on, so this may change how it is used and may not hold the same appeal as before.

Some people are calling for Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to be put in place to completely stop 4x4s and other vehicles using this road and we are not ruling this out.

But this will only be considered if there is evidence of harm to the repaired track or if the ongoing consultation supports it. We will take our time to analyse and consider all available data before making a decision.

Managing this type of issue, and recognising the passion that people have for their national park, is a vital part of our role as custodians for this evolving, changing landscape.

While the repair work at Tilberthwaite may not be a quick fix, we have a duty to fully consider the interests of all users of the park and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.