Rangers are knee deep in mud installing flags across a short but boggy part of the Coast to Coast footpath on Ravenseat Farm, home of the famous shepherdess, Amanda Owen.
On Friday a team of five paved 20 metres, including a tricky clapper bridge, led by Access Ranger Roger Foreman (below).
Roger explained that the job was to lay 175 metres over two or three weeks:
People have started to walk around the path because it’s so boggy, creating new walkways up the fellside and causing some erosion. We don’t want the Coast to Coast route to be manicured, but flagging over the very wettest parts seems to work well.
The first few flags of the day were soon levered into place.
But then came the challenge of installing a ‘clapper bridge’, which consists of a large flat stone slab lying across two piers.
The piers for this job were cut from bigger reclaimed stone blocks, which were reportedly from dismantled railway station track beds.
First, the ground was dug to the correct level:
Then the first stone pier was lifted into place. It can be seen at the bottom of the next picture, with Dales Volunteer Clive Herdman (holding the bar) and Access Ranger James Firth (in the digger) looking on.
Clive, who is 64 and ‘retired’, volunteers for two days a week throughout the year for the National Park Authority. As well as footpath maintenance, he leads guided walks and also carries out surveys of Park infrastructure and ancient monuments.
“I want to put something back,” he said. “I’ve always been a hill walker and you just take it for granted [that the footpaths are in good order]. I like being outside in the Dales; this keeps me busy, young and occupied. The nice thing is to see how appreciative people are when they come past.”
On Friday, every walker who came past said ‘thank you’.
With the stone piers of the clapper bridge in place, a stone flag was laid across and pinned to the correct level by Access Ranger Paul Sheehan (centre below).
Careful attention is paid to creating a good drainage channel beneath the clapper bridge. Roger and Paul are seen here above the new bridge and Clive, with a pick, is below it.
One of the men paused to comment that it looked as if the Grand National had come through, such was the state of the ground after the digger had done its work. That’s why careful attention is also paid to landscaping either side of the path, with sods moved into place by Clive and Apprentice Access Ranger George Jacobs.
“It’ll soon start to look well again,” said Roger, adding that a native seed mix would be sown on any remaining bare ground.
The clapper bridge done, it was full steam ahead again with the flag laying.
A skilled digger operative can make the world of difference and James was often called upon to nudge a flag into place with the digger bucket.
And that’s it – a day in the life of access rangers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, flagging a section of the Coast to Coast path.