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Monday, 30 June 2014

Mostly on the Moors and some Fairtrade

In my last post in May I mentioned that I would be doing a voluntary ranger patrol in the Ravenscar area; well the bad news was a large amount of litter in a car park near the radio mast on the road to Stoupe Beck but the good news was several groups of enthusiastic young people doing a Duke of Edinburgh weekend walk. I chatted to them and their leaders, they were all enjoying it and were really keen to come back to the area again. Apart from the litter and a lot of muddy paths I had a lovely day in some warm sunshine.

the beach at Saltburn
Coasties has been to far flung places in June, twice out of the National Park, but doing repair work on the Cleveland Way for which the National Park is responsible. First we were at Saltburn, step repair work in glorious sunshine. Then we were inland above Slapeworth quarry near Guisborough, one of the very first alum works after the secret of alum processing was 'stolen' from the Vatican early in the seventeenth century. Usually if it is the alum works we are by the coast at Ravenscar, but this was very different. However, here is a view of one of the old industrial buildings on the other side of the valley at Newgate Bank. It was another hot day as we cleaned steps and cut back huge piles of gorse.
on the spot drainage

Earlier in the month we had been laying drains near Falling Foss, part of the Coast to Coast walk, it is an incredibly muddy area and these made on the spot drains will help to make the path a bit drier. They are very ingenious, two planks of wood held apart to make an open sort of gully. Here is one. It was a most unpleasant day, warm, damp and muddy, so despite every insect repellent known to human we were all plagued by midges and other biting insects. We finished early, enough was enough.

Last week our local Fairtrade group met to discuss plans for the next few months. It will be quiet as we are into the holidays. Just one stall in the next few months, but our website is making good progress and we discussed plans for next year's Food Festival and Folk Festival. Both were successes this year, but we have ideas on how to improve for next year.

Later this week I am off to Leeds to meet my new friends again,, more news on that next month.

I have had some feedback from my previous post about the threats to the footpaths and bridleways in the National Park, sadly mostly along the lines, that, somehow, like the tides it is all inevitable. Actually it isn't, but that is what the Government wants you to think and too many of us have  accepted that propaganda.

Monday, 16 June 2014

North York Moors footpaths and bridleways under threat

Only one item in this post. I have just emailed this to local MPs, press, ramblers etc. I don't suppose it will have any effect, but at least they can't say they didn't know.

For over 40 years the North York Moors National Park has managed the footpaths and bridleways on the Moors. There are over 2000 kilometres of these rights of way and a dedicated team of rangers, apprentices, field staff and hundreds of volunteers (probably thousands over the 40 years) has worked incredibly hard to maintain and improve them. Hedges have been cut back, steps built and cleaned, stiles, bridges and gates replaced and repaired, muddy areas drained and signing improved.

There has been a 2% improvement every year so that now there is a satisfaction rate by users of the paths of 96%.
Now all this is at risk. The Park only manages these paths on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council and it has decided that, because of the cuts imposed by the Government, it can no longer afford to do so. The Park has to put in its own money to maintain the paths at the level that visitors expect. It is very unlikely that the County Council, faced with its own budget restrictions, will be able to continue to maintain the paths at their current level. The agreement could end early next year.

Walking is the cheapest and most accessible way of exercising, an increasing need in our over weight society; it is also a help in cases of mild depression. Visitors to the Park, many of whom come to walk or cycle, bring hundreds of thousands of pounds into the area and support hundreds of local jobs.
The teams of volunteers who do much of the day to day maintenance give of their time willingly and with enthusiasm, I am one of them. But we are volunteers, we need the paid staff to lead us, provide the tools and other equipment and decide the priorities week after week. Most of us are retired, we are very happy to volunteer; we do not want the job of being responsible for what I have just outlined.

I am not criticising the National Park or even the County Council, but rather the Government whose short sighted cuts are going to cost more in the long term than they will save in the short term. As I have said they will affect people’s health, the local economy and put another nail in the coffin of what was laughingly called the Big Society. These cuts are not for any economic reason, they are driven by an ideological obsession with reducing anything done by public bodies.