Monday, 28 August 2017

You Shall Not Pass!

I love it when someone contacts me as a result of a blog - and even better when it's someone full of useful information like Nick Thorne.  Nick is the Countryside Access Adviser for the Lake District National Parks Authority (LDNPA) and after reading my last blog he contacted me to ask more about the overgrown routes.

Now, this may sound daft, but even though I've been hiking for years, it never occurred to me to report an overgrown path - I wouldn't have known who to report it to or what happened next, but Nick has answered all that for me!

Here's what he says:

In a nutshell, the management of Rights of Way falls to the local highway authority (usually the county council or unitary authority).  Here it is Cumbria County Council.  We have an agency agreement with them, whereby all their powers and duties are delegated to us, and we look after everything inside the National Park (except for roads – sealed or unsealed).  That’s about 3,200km of footpath, bridleway, restricted byway, and byway.

Basically, we have a huge database, which has an entry for every gate, stile, signpost, and so on along each right of way.  We survey these at least every four years, and log the outcome.  We also receive reports from the public, and log all these.  From this, our five area based rangers pull up a list of everything that is reported in their patch as needing work, and will deal with it in due course.

Obviously "due course" is rarely as quickly as anyone would like it to be, but these guys have spent the past few years repairing the billions of pounds worth of damage done by Storm Desmond in December 2015.  There's a great set of FAQs here if you want more information.

As you can imagine, on many low level routes bracken is a perennial problem in some parts of the county and there is a strimming programme in place to try and combat it.  Of course storms and flooding events mean that resources have to be directed elsewhere at times, but we can all get stuck in, either with LDNPA or one of the many conservation groups working hard to keep our footpaths clear.

So, what's the best advice for dealing with overgrown paths?  Here are Nick's top 5 tips:

1.     Take a stout stick
2.     Wear trousers and a shirt (I can vouch for this as being excellent advice - also consider heavier trousers as I found the nettles still got through my light walking trousers.)
3.     Go back with your friends and neighbours with slashers and loppers
4.     Report it to your local highway authority
5.     Only use it out of the summer season

I'd also add that if you're wading through thick bracken, wear gaiters or keep your trousers tucked into your socks and do a full tick check afterwards

Not sexy, but then neither are tick bites...

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