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In a bid to protect the landscapes, National Parks take tips from centuries ago and repair walking routes with stone flags.

Repairs to popular walking routes have finally begun after grants from Natural England have allowed the National Parks of the UK to purchase reclaimed stone flags from old mills and recycles sandstone flags. Flags were used in the same way centuries ago to create pack horse routes across the Pennines; an all-weather, sustainable solution for travel across what can be boggy and slipper conditions.

Rangers working on peninewayIn areas where there is no vehicle access and regular damage to the surrounding areas have resulted from the erosion of walking paths, the funding has allowed the National Parks to not only purchase the solution to the damaged paths, but to use helicopters to deliver tonnes of stone to the areas and local contractors to install them.

Careful to preserve the surrounding areas, the reclaimed mill flags float on the surface of the vegetation, creating a stable walking surface for ramblers and hikers alike.

The Pennine Way through the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland received a huge delivery of 310 tonnes of sandstone flags to repair a wooden boardwalk over a boggy ground. It appeases not only the walkers but also the surrounding vegetation, which suffers in earnest when footpaths are damaged. In the bad weather that we are so accustomed to in England, flags can become slippery and even sink into the ground on popular walking routes, meaning that ramblers will divert into the vegetation surrounding the paths and ultimately damage the natural growth of peat and heather.

The Northumberland National Park Authority are in the middle of a continuous improvement programme and the upgrades to the eroded and damaged paths on the Pennine Way are just the first step in a long process to install high quality footpaths along popular and well-used walking paths. National Park Authority Right of Way Officer Lorna Lazzari said: “We’re delighted at last to have the funds to make these vital upgrades to the national trail.”

The Pennine Way is not the only popular walking route to have received new paving via helicopter delivery, with paths around Simon’s Seat in Wharfedale receiving 30 tonnes of mill floor flags from Lancashire to manage the erosion problems surrounding the paths.

From Simon’s Seat to Dalehead, the path is well-used by walkers, subsequently impacting on the underlying peat and surrounding vegetation. The stone flag delivery has been gratefully received by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, who are managing an on-going project to restore the peat and heather on Barden Fell. The flags will provide an all-weather path requiring little maintenance and protecting the fragile landscape and its inhabitants, including land-nesting birds.

In the last year, helicopters have delivered a total of 630 tonnes of sandstone path flags to National Parks across Northern England, helping to repair miles of walking routes and surrounding moorlands that were suffering. Taking care to preserve the natural areas and nesting areas of nature’s creatures, the National Parks have been thrilled to receive the funding to restore some of the most remote of footpaths.


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