News from Offa's Dyke Path
Hi, my name's Rob Dingle and I have been lucky enough to have been the Offa's Dyke Path National Trail Officer for the last two and a half years. I have now got to know the Trail quite well after walking the entire length twice, while carrying out my annual condition surveys to the new Quality Standards for National Trails in Wales.
For me though every time out on the Trail reveals something new, whether it be a view I had not noticed before, the seasonal colours, a quirky sign or the people I meet and the stories they have to tell. It's great to meet walkers out on the Trail and get direct feedback, whether it be good or bad. On the whole it's all positive and it's good that walkers are noticing all the improvements we are making to the route.
Here's hoping for a fine spring and summer this year, the past two summers have been very wet here on the Offa's Dyke Path with some sections of the Trail resembling winter conditions in the middle of summer. A dry summer and the credit crunch will hopefully encourage more people to stay at home and make use of the wonderful Trails we have here. Judging by the number of people who visited the National Trails Stand at the Outdoors Show at the end of March, we have many potential users out there.
While we are on the subject of weather it was fantastic to have a proper winter this year, with a cold dry spell in the new year followed by good falls of snow. I took the opportunity to get out on the Trail and take a few snowy pictures while I had the chance.
There's been a tremendous amount of work undertaken on the Trail over the last couple of years and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the management of the Trail within the nine Managing Authorities I work with. We have made great strides in improving accessibility of the route by removing stiles and replacing them with gates where ever we can, with well over 100 stiles replaced with gates of the last couple of years. With more planned over the next few years, the plan is to promote the stile free sections on the website.
Another project that we are working on is destination signage and mileage information along the route. Within the Denbighshire section this is well underway, with a lot of the path junctions already signed. Similar work is now being carried out along the sections in Shropshire and Powys and these will hopefully be completed this coming year.
There's been a lot of activity on the section of the Trail through the Brecon Beacons National Park, with a programme of improvements where the route was badly eroded on Hatterrall Ridge. A subsoiling or soil inversion technique has been used for most of the sections, where material from alongside the path is used without the very expensive option of airlifting stone into the site. This year should see the last section on Hatterrall Ridge in Herefordshire improved and then it will be a case of securing funding to improve the section heading east towards Pandy.
With all the work being carried out on improved signage, new gates and surface improvements, the next thing to tackle was interpretation and and information provision for the users, which had been highlighted in user surveys. To this end we have had an interpretation plan completed for the Shropshire/Powys section of the Trail between Chirk and Knighton for the next five years. The next stage is to secure funding to undertake the project and to use this as a pilot to develop interpretation along the whole Trail.
Those who have walked the northern section of the Trail in the Clwydian Range recently will have seen a lot of improvements and also some new interpretation as part of a Heritage Lottery project in the area, aptly named Heather and Hillforts.
Another surprise for walkers last summer on Moel Famau was that of a large pink sheep draped in coloured material named MOELFAMALAMBANANA.
This was one of fifteen temporary art pieces to celebrate Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture. I happened upon it whilst surveying on on a very misty and wet day and as you can see by the picture, it brought a bit of brightness to the landscape. This is just one of the more quirky and unusual things that you may bump into along the Trail, for me they add that something to a day on the Trail.
Rob Dingle, Offa's Dyke Path National Trail Officer