The atmospheric views on the Hadrian's Wall Path

Signposting points the way at Hadrian's Wall Conference / Networking event

28th February 2016

I sold two of my stock of old Trail signpost fingers at yesterday's Hadrian's Wall Conference / Networking event at Hexham Auction Mart.  The money from the sale will tomorrow enable me to order one brand new fingerpost for the Trail - more of that later.  

While the presentations were very interesting and topical the real benefit of the day was the informal newtworking that went on.  At the rear of the large venue a ' community village' of stalls gave the 100 or so delegates a chance to to browse and chat with a stable of organisations including the Antonine Wall, the Campaign to Open Gilsland Station, and WallTogether, the new friends group for the Trail and Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site. 

I didn't have a slot of my own to talk about the Trail so twenty four hours before the event I decided to organise my own fringe meeting. Of course, I cleared it with the organisers and so with only twenty minutes of the lunch slot remaining I took to the stand and put on the screen an attention grabbing circa 1890 picture of the Wall. I explained that in March 2000 I spoke at the same venue at the conference - Erosion Control on Archaeological Earthworks & Recreational Paths.  While  the organisational structure within the World Heritage Site has changed out of all recognition since 2000 the issues facing it (notwithstanding today's very large groups which were not common then) are pretty much the same. 

In 2000 I talked about the conservation-led government requirement that we maintain the path as a green sward, carrying capacity and Limits of Acceptable Change, site condition monitoring, winter soil moisture and what would become, when the Trail opened in 2003, its Passport.  I am still talking about the same topics today.

If I am honest the green sward undertaking has occupied pretty much every walking hour these past twenty-one years. Aside from the initial couple of years, post 2003, when we were under resourced and the condition of the Trail and monument deteriorated quite badly, the subsequent investment by the Countryside Agency of the day provided the momentum to turn things around - and I think we made a pretty good job of things. 

However, we are now in very different times. A team of four is now a team of only two and our budget is but a shadow compared with say four years ago.  The reality is that we have to accept that government funding is not there to the extent that it was and we need to look for new sources of revenue.  I have great support from WallTogether, the friends group for the Trail and World Heritage Site who I know would be prepared to walk over hot coals in order to help raise money look after the Trail, Wall, its businesses and visitors.  Within the next few weeks WallTogether is to publish the Essential Services guide to the Trail; the guide will list all of the facilities and amenities, including the cafés and toilets etc, that walkers need to know about.  I also need help from the businesses themselves but I don't have the answers so if you think you can help in some way then please get in touch with me.     

Finally, our walkers, and the walking companies who sell them their holidays, also the event companies who bring large groups of people to the Trail, can help by buying the Trail Passport.  The £5 cost includes a donation towards the upkeep of the Trail and its associated archaeological earthworks. There is also the sale of our old signpost fingers. Last year we sold about sixteen and the money raised helped to pay for half a dozen or so new replacement fingerposts. I still have a few in stock and more will be available from time-to time.  Take home a piece of Trail heritage and help me to buy a new fingerpost! 

In the images Duncan Wise from Northumberland National Park Authority talks about the Trail Passport and WallTogether's forthcoming Essential Services guide to the Trail.

Lots of thanks,  Dave


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