Radio 4 spotlights Trailblaze
This spring Trailblaze was launched. Starting on the South Downs Way, the concept is proposed to be adopted on a hand-picked selection of the UK’s most stunning fully waymarked routes, called the National Trails…
Andrew Barker and Endurance Life, working with Natural England started the scheme to encourage more usage, develop awareness and reduce the impact of mass participation events by encouraging runners to take part in long distance trail runs at their leisure.
Now Radio 4’s Open Country has recorded a programme which looks at the scheme and how it has impacted the running, walking and outdoor communities.
The past few months have seen many runners embark on Trailblaze and achieve some great personal goals along the South Downs Way. However, it hasn’t all been positive for the scheme as groups have accused Trailblaze of spoiling the environment with the boxes, and ‘commercialising’ the countryside, along with path erosion.
Nigel Buxton is one such campaigner:
“The boxes are the great offence. They are an intrusion and intrude on the ethos of the outdoor experience. This is the thin end of a very large wedge. Its commercialisation of the National Trails. Why not have Coca Cola sponsorsing the trails?!”
“Endurance Life are encouraging the London Marathon spirit, with thousands of lycra-clad runners on the trails. They should be on the tarmacadam of London, not on the South Downs Way, which is meant to be a natural environment”.
Mark Richards, is a writer, and when it comes to running ‘impact’ is slightly naive, he says:
“The boxes are not an issue to me. It’s the overall finances that I am worried about and the excess of usage and runners. They can be less careful on how they attack a path, walkers are more careful. Runners are more interested in the air and not the paths they are running on”.
Runner Stuart Mills doesn’t see what all of the fuss is about, he thinks it’s a “great concept which encourages people to get outdoors. I can see why some would think that the word Trailblaze is perhaps encouraging hoards of runners, and there is a problem with the word blaze?”.
Overall, the programme – to me – comes across as a balanced view which (putting the commercial aspects to one side) has some smokescreen arguments from the likes of Nigel Buxton.
Ultimately, runners will vote with their feet and if the scheme is a success there is no doubt that Natural England will back the expansion of Trailblaze across more of the countries’ National Trails…
Listen again ro the Open Country and Trailblaze on the South Downs on the BBC iPlayer here