Popular footpath reopened for the walking season

The team behind the restoration of one of the country’s most popular walking trails have gathered at its summit to celebrate its official opening.

Staff from the North Pennines AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) Partnership joined walkers, locals, business owners and funders to mark the completion of a stretch of new footpath on Alfred Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast route, near Nine Standards Rigg on the border of Cumbria and Yorkshire. The project - Raising the Standard - which was backed by celebrity outdoor enthusiasts Julia Bradbury and Amanda Owen - began over four years ago with the intention to restore damaged peat that the route crosses.

Peatland restoration is an ongoing programme led by the AONB Partnership and as well as helping this important habitat recover the new footpath will provide thousands of walkers with a safe and sturdy surface on which to cross the iconic route. In partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority a combination of a public-backed Crowdfunding campaign, and support from the Friends of the North Pennines, British Mountaineering Council’s Access and Conservation Trust, Tesco, HF Holidays and the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, a total of £44k was raised for the work.

In total, 392 metres of new flagstone was flown to the site by helicopter and laid down to create the new footpath. Many businesses in nearby Kirkby Stephen rely on trade brought in by tourists visiting the iconic walking trail and there was concern that people could be put off after reports of several walkers becoming bogged down in the well-worn ground surrounding the site.

Alistair Lockett, Field Officer from the AONB Partnership, said: “We’d heard about people getting stuck fast in the damaged bog. It was so bad the local mountain rescue team was being called out to rescue walkers. If the weather had been bad it was becoming extremely hard to cross and the original route planned out by Alfed Wainwright was in danger of becoming lost for good. Thanks to the generosity of the public, and some generous partners and funders, we’ve been able to improve the footpath and make it safe. Plus we’ve also planted new Sphagnum moss which will help restore the damaged peat at the site.”

Michael Briggs, Area Ranger for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority was also at the launch. He said “From the initial site visit to planning and carrying out the work it is really satisfying to see this project complete. Working together the National Park and the AONB Partnership have managed to solve a really long-term problem and raise the money to do it; something we’d never have considered possible in the past. The fundraising shows that people really appreciate the value of the Coast to Coast route and access to the countryside generally, not just to the economy but to people’s well-being also.”

To find out more about the importance of the peatlands of the North Pennines please visit www.northpennines.org.uk