I hope you have all been out enjoying kicking up the leaves this autumn. It has been a good time to be a child, with a glut of conkers, acorns and brightly coloured leaves to collect. The beech woods along the Ridgeway and the Cotswold Way are a delight and I’ve spotted some fantastic fungi this year, but more of that later.
National Trails have been picking up more awards recently, I can see an extension to the trophy cabinet coming up! One of the more unusual award winners has been the wonderful Far Moor Bridge over the River Ribble on a new section of the Pennine Bridleway that will be fully open in 2012. The bridge is built from small lengths of timber that have been joined together to form a bridge 53 metres long with 3 arches.
The bridge, which was a joint project between Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, has picked up two awards, it was highly commended in the ‘Structural’ category of the Wood Awards and won the Judges Special Award in the British Construction Industry 2011 Awards
Anna Righton, Natural England’s the Project Officer for the Pennine Bridleway said “We hope it will inspire horse riders, cyclists and walkers to explore and enjoy the 200 mile Pennine Bridleway National Trail when it opens next year.”
In September the National Trail Officers met for their Annual Forum, this year it was held in Machynlleth on Glyndwr’s Way. The Trail is one of the more recent additions to the National Trail family, opening in 2002, so no doubt some 10th birthday celebrations will be arranged for next year. It passes through gloriously wild and remote mid Wales countryside, made up of hill farms, streams, woods and reservoirs, with small settlements tucked in the valleys. If you want a peaceful walk well away from the crowds, this one is for you.
Day one of the Forum was taken up with a formal meeting to discuss a range of issues including publicity, funding, guide books, the website and ideas for the future. The Treadlightly Trust came along to tell us about the work they have been doing in Wales to educate off-road vehicle drivers and to help restore areas damaged by such vehicles. Treadlightly already have voluntary Ambassadors in Wales are in the process of setting up a similar scheme in England and the hope is that they will work with the Trail teams to deal with local problems.
Day two was a 12 mile walk on Glyndwr’s Way National Trail, led by the Trail Officer Helen Tatchell. The walk started at the dramatic setting of the Clywedog Dam, passing some unusual curved board walks, bridges and gates that have been installed by Helen’s band of willing volunteers.
The really interesting part was learning about how the materials for the work were delivered to the sites. In one case the site was so far from a road that the wood had to be floated across the reservoir, then winched up the slope. However, part way through this task the water authority lowered the water level of the reservoir to allow more to run downstream during dry weather, so the team had to wait for the water level to be restored before they could finish the job.
One of the highlights along the way was the best collection of fly agaric fungi the group had ever seen.
The National Trails team has been working with Aurum Press, the publishers of the Official Guide Books, to update the series, incorporating new photographs and more information about the wildlife along the routes. The North Downs Way Guide Book has been completely rewritten and published. Work is underway to rewrite the Offa’s Dyke Path and Pennine Way Guide Books into one volume per Trail, rather than two. The Thames Path, on the other hand is being rewritten as two volumes, one from the source of the river to the London boundary and one just for the London section, as there is so much to see and do within the final stretch. We look forward to seeing the new books on the shelves next year.
The publishers work with the National Trail Officers to ensure the information is correct and up to date when they go to print , therefore if you are thinking of buying a Guide Book, we recommend you choose the Aurum Press Official Guides. The other benefit is that for every book sold, a royalty is paid to National Trails to help with maintenance costs. So if you are stuck for an idea as to what to buy a relative or friend for Christmas, why not buy a National Trail Guide Book and encourage them to set off on the adventure of a lifetime.
Now that the days are shorter, why not try one or two National Trail circular routes. These have been developed to give people a taster without committing to too much and the really good bit is that you end up where you started. I always leave a flask and some cake in the boot of the car, so I have a treat to look forward to. Check the website for walks that you can download.
Now I'll hand you over to Steve Westwood, the Pennine Way National Trail Officer.
Bye for now - Sheila Talbot
Spirit, Designations and Trails
Yesterday I was on my way to help an injured walker on the Pennine Way when I bumped into the Gamekeeper (and poet). He unlocked the gate to let the vehicles through and said ‘if you find me dead on the moors leave me there’. I can see his point. Image: High Cup Nic
Ted Hughes wrote:
‘The moors are a stage for the performance of heaven. Any audience is incidental’
I tend to agree. I’m lucky enough to have been the National Trail Officer for the Pennine Way for over a decade, we are the same age, the Way a month older. I first walked the Way when I was 16 years old – like for many others, the Pennine Way means a lot to me, It once came near to threatening my life (beware when the Helm Wind is blowing on Cross Fell!) but by way of balance has given me some of my best days. I guess walkers out there all know this feeling.
Recent research into the designated land through which the Way passes further highlights the importance of the land through which the Way passes:
• National Park – 204.84km – 45.7%
• Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – 121.12km – 27.0%
• National Nature Reserve – 24.4km - 5.4%
• World Heritage Site – 23.41km – 5.2%
• Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas is 167.27km which equates to 37.3% of its total length.
Overall 363.4km (81.0%) of the trail is covered by those designations.
These designated areas are no longer only seen as important for their landscape and conservation importance. Recent developments in Ecosystem Services have begun to identify other valuable functions carried out by these lands – from carbon sequestration to flood alleviation.
In 1935 Tom Stephenson envisaged the Pennine Way as nothing more than a narrow green trod along the Pennines. With the benefit of hindsight this was rather optimistic, but in managing the Pennine Way today we aim to create a sustainable path along the Pennines without detriment to the surrounding land.
As I write this there is a path team up on the Pennines stone flagging an eroded 850m section of the Way in Calderdale. I like the irony that the stone flags used come from the mill floors from which so many of the early campaigners for access were so eager to escape from on a Sunday – to the Moors.
Ewan MacColl’s Manchester Rambler gives a feel of the passion at the time:
I’m on a site visit across Bleaklow tomorrow to consider a request for more signage from Bleaklow Head. I have mixed feelings about signage in wild remote areas, I don’t want people to become lost, but I don’t want to remove the challenge.
To finish back to Ted Hughes
‘After each visit (to the moors) I must have returned less and less of myself to the valley’
Steve Westwood November 2011
Image: River Tees