News from David McGlade Trail Officer for Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail
David McGlade has managed Hadrian’s Wall Path since 1995. He has overseen the Trail from its implementation and creation on the ground, right the way through to its opening in May 2003 and down to the present day. A native Geordie, although an exiled one for much of his life, since his return to the region he has since put down deep roots. He is very fond of Hadrian’s Wall and its people.
A day in the life of David McGlade, National Trail Officer for Hadrian’s Wall Path
Every day is 100% absorbing, there is never enough time but it is all fascinating and mostly very challenging stuff.
If I dare say this amongst my fellow Trail Officers but Hadrian’s Wall Path is unlike any other recreational site; nowhere else in Europe presents an archaeological landscape to the public on such a large scale. The fact that the Wall is also a World Heritage Site means that UNESCO’s watchful eye is ever-present, hence the very necessary pre-occupation with the conservation of the ancient monument itself. One of the Trail project’s underpinning aims is to maintain the setting of the Wall as a green sward because this is considered to be the best way of protecting any buried archaeology, it also the most sympathetic of settings for the Wall.
This photograph of the approach to Birdoswald shows the Roman Wall in a sympathetic green setting.
Archaeology is only a few centimetres below the ground surface – the remains of the Wall’s foundations in a Cumbrian field is shown in the photograph on the left.
A typical day might begin with a telephone call to my lengthsman, ex-farmer Alan Gledson, whose role is to have a presence in the field, five days a week, undertaking stitch-in-time maintenance to prevent small issues becoming major problems. One of the Trail volunteers might have reported a “pinch-point” (localised erosion) occurring without warning and Alan, having visited the site, would discuss with me the techniques that we might use to manage the problem.
Here we can see where Alan has set out an area around Milecastle 38 that needs to be rested for the grass cover to return, also a run of temporary plastic surfacing where a larger area of damaged grass needs to recover.
Knowing and understanding what is happening on the Trail is the key to it successful management and to this effect
I am involved with several fieldwork-based projects of my own. I am currently liaising with the both the Highways Agency and Northumberland County highways department to investigate why a number of roadside drains have failed, causing water to issue onto the ancient monument/Trail creating some seriously muddy erosion scars. I am also in the process of negotiating management agreements with English Heritage for where the Trail runs through sites in its care.
It is a rare day when I do not talk to Rachel Newman, the National Trail’s consultant archaeologist.
Rachel, who is the Director of Oxford Archaeology North, has advised the Countryside Agency for some ten years on archaeological matters concerning the Trail and accompanies me every year on the Trail/monument’s annual autumn condition survey. It is only July but we are already planning this year’s exercise that starts in October and Alan Whitworth, our contractor who undertakes the three-times-yearly fixed-point photographic monitoring is about to carry out this year’s August exercise.
Rachel and I always have several projects running at the same time. I monitor the progress being made by the county and Northumberland National Park staff who undertake practical works on behalf of the Trail and Rachel helps me to prioritise the order in which they are undertaken; we try to achieve a balance between archaeological sensitivities, farming interests and walkers’ amenity as well as health and safety.
One of our recent ideas is to influence how people walk along the grass paths.
The new notices that now appear along the Trail encourage walkers to avoid walking in single file, instead to walk side-by-side, and always to avoid walking in any already worn lines. This way the visitor loading is reduced and we stand more chance of maintaining a healthy grass cover.
Of course the other half of the job concerns our walkers! We spend a great deal of time updating the information available to them, both on the Trail website and leaflets and via other published media; journalists, writers and map publishers etc frequently request facts and figures about the Trail and we do our best to ensure that our visitors always receive accurate and up-to-date information. Janine Howorth completes the immediate Trail team and she edits the Trail website, doing something probably every day so as to maintain an interesting, topical and lively site. Janine also collates the Trail statistics and to date has been responsible for the design, publication and distribution of all the Trail leaflets and manages the day-today marketing of the ever popular Trail souvenirs.