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The Old Coach Road is a classic 8km green road in Cumbria, just north of the Lake District. It's memorable for it's length and stunning views, and is used regularly by trail riders, 4x4's, walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Basically it's a bit of a jewel in the Cumbrian green road network.

In 2015 Storm Desmond wreaked havoc damaging businesses, homes and infrastructure in the region. Millions of pounds of damage was caused and now, three years later, The Old Coach Road is feeling the strain of the storm, several hard winters and very little funds allocated for maintenance.

Cumbria TRF are spearheading a campaign to repair this classic route with a combination of on the ground volunteer work and, this is the important bit, fundraising £10k to get the job done properly. We caught up with chairman Steve Stout to find out more...


Hi Steve. You’re trying to raise £10k to fix The Old Coach Road. That’s quite some money! Maybe we could start with a bit of background. Where is The Coach Road and what’s its history?


The ‘Old Coach Road’ is approximately 8 km of unsealed county road in the parishes of St. John Castlerigg & Wythburn, Threlkeld, and Matterdale, Cumbria. It crosses the boundary of Allerdale (U2236) and Eden (U3132) Districts of Cumbria County. The road passes through an Environmentally Sensitive Area and for a short distance crosses a Site of Special Scientific Interest and reaches a maximum altitude of 437 metres (1436 ft).

Its history predates the Romans. It has been used for moving both stock, mining materials and people for hundreds of years. As a green road, In the early 1900’s it formed part of a loop of Lakeland roads which drivers from all over the country used to travel north. It's long been know as a classic route through the Lakes.


Storm Desmond hits Cumbria


The Old Coach Road is turned into a river


It was damaged during Storm Desmond, is that right?


The lane basically turned into a river over three days, I was on it the day before and the day after so saw it first hand. Cumbria as a county suffered an estimated £6m worth of storm damage in just that one storm, £4m was given by the Rural Payments Scheme to repair paths and bridges, the rest comes out of the various other funds such as Highways budgets etc. As far as I’m aware none has gone into repairing the green roads.


So it’s been a couple of years now and presumably the damage hasn’t fixed itself. Why isn’t Cumbria Council fixing it?


Cumbria is still repairing damage from Storm Desmond and the subsequent storms, there are still bridges closed, roads and buildings closed off and although things are being done, the Green Road network is not high on the priority list.


Winter arrives...


...and the water freezes


Drainage fails


Erosion cuts into the road


How did you end up approaching the council to undertake these works. It can be a bit difficult with permissions can’t it?


Nigel Summers and myself were talking about permissions for repairs to UCR’s and decided to make an effort to get the permissions needed. We identified and met with our local Highways Network Manager, had a pretty frank discussion and she agreed that we could have the permissions but warned she had no other resources to offer us. Apparently this was a coup, but for us, it was a door opening to a chance to repair lanes, which in turn helps to keep them open and builds relations with the authorities around the county.


What needs done?


With an estimated 15 years of no maintenance at all coupled with the damage from all the storms and water run off, there is a lot to do. We’ve split the work into two phases,

1. Clear the drainage gully that runs the length of the road.

2. Repair/ Replace the damaged culverts that run under the road surface and take the water to the lower hillsides. Replace all of the washed out stone and refill the trench.

Drainage is the key, get the water off the road surface and 80% of the work is done for the future, pitch the stone in the key areas and you have a choke point to hold the smaller and softer materials against, repair the culverts and bury them deep to move the water downhill, then lay the surface, compact it and let it all bed in.


Volunteer work is already under way


Many hands make light work


Work has already started hasn’t it?


Yes, we did a couple of multi user group volunteer days, clearing gullies with hand tools and opening surface drainage back up. This allowed us to test theories and learn more about the processes involved in repairing a mountain road, it’s certainly made me appreciate both the work and the effort that used to go into keeping these roads open and serviceable. When I ride now, I look at the lanes differently as I now know what to look for in terms of preventative maintenance stuff.

What has been great is to see mixed groups of users come together to get involved in this project. We’ve had paragliders, 4x4 enthusiasts, trail bikers, even a walker or two!


So, why should trail riders contribute money to this repair work, especially if they live in other parts of the country?


For me, this is sending out a message to everyone, this is a big project and it requires a lot of effort and everybody will see this, it’s not about any one individual or user group, it’s a positive message from a collective. This shows just how much the MPV groups care about their past time, it shows how they can work together to literally move mountains of stone for the benefit of all user groups.

It’s also shown that by talking to the authorities, they are people as well, they are under pressure with tight deadlines and budget. Most are grateful when people step up to relieve some of that pressure, especially when it’s done in a way that ticks all their boxes from a paperwork point of view. If every user group learned a little about positive management practices and working together it would change a lot of attitudes, which in turn changes the way we are viewed as users and then who knows maybe we’ll even get some budgets to maintain our beloved green roads around the UK!


Thanks Steve. We really hope you hit your target!


Sometimes we need spades


But money talks!

Steve is raising £10,000 for repairs to The Old Coach Road.

In other words, £10 from 1,000 trail riders.

Follow the links to donate and help conserve this classic Green Road.

Thank you.


The TRF are active in Green Road conservation projects throughout England and Wales.

1 Comment

  1. I sincerely hope we won’t see a repeat of what has happened sometimes elsewhere in England and Wales when vehicle user groups have got neglected routes back into serviceable condition only for the authorities to decide either that they didn’t have vehicular rights all along, or that those rights no longer exist, or that vehicles are no longer ‘appropriate’ for the new improved route.

    I trust that undertaking have been made to this effect and that ‘once a road’ is ‘always a road’.

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