Walkers on the Yorkshire Dales leg of the Coast-to-Coast route will find their path easier in Swaledale.
Members of the Ragged Robin Conservation Group of volunteers have completed a major bit of earth moving at Healaugh to prevent a well-worn footpath ending up in the River Swale. The work – done in conjunction with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) – involved using 30 tonnes of stone to build the 40-metre-long wall to shore up the path and putting up a wire-link fence to hold the wall in place. Soil and grass sods were then laid back on the path surface.
Ian Broadwith, Area Ranger for Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, said:
'We were in imminent danger of losing the footpath to erosion by the river. This is a very popular walk along the banks of the River Swale and is used by many people who are doing the Coast-to-Coast. Paths in this part of the dale provide excellent walks along both banks of the river. To lose them to erosion would have a huge impact on people's enjoyment of the area, so it is important that we try to hold on to them. The work also helped to protect the historic stone pitching on this section of riverbank that provides a solid surface leading down to the river's edge.'
'This type of work is a method of revetment and it was chosen because there is a huge population of rabbits in the area. The other option would have been willow spiling, which involves weaving and embedding willow shoots into the river bank, anchoring them with posts and allowing them to grow and form a natural defence wall. But I think the rabbits would have devoured the young willow shoots before they could establish themselves.'
'Revetment work of this type is expensive and takes many hours to complete. In the current economic climate, funding for this kind of work by the YDNPA will be more difficult so it is important for landowners and farmers to keep on top of the rabbit population. The rabbit warrens up and down the river banks have a destabilising effect on the banks because flood water gets in to them and then the whole area collapses and is lost to the river.'
Malcolm Petyt, the YDNPA's Member Champion for Recreation Management, said:
'We can so easily underestimate the value of the work that volunteers can do to help preserve and improve this wonderful landscape for the enjoyment of others and this piece of work is a fitting tribute and testament to their skills and commitment to the work of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.'
In 2010 then Environment Secretary Hilary Benn presented the Ragged Robin Conservation Group with an award for the Countryside category in the second Yorkshire Post Environment Awards, which were by hosted by TV personality Julia Bradbury. The group, which includes some Dales Volunteers, works weekly with ranger Ian Broadwith, who covers Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, and Access Ranger Paul Sheehan in Lower Wensleydale, on a variety of tasks from path maintenance to coppicing.