Offa's Dyke goes hi-tech

PUBLISHED: 09:19 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:55 20 February 2013

Airlifting stone at Hatterall Ridge

Airlifting stone at Hatterall Ridge

The Herefordshire landscape that inspired Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles celebrates 40 years of walking and the Offa's Dyke Trail team is gearing up for a high-tech 2010

The earth moves at Offas Dyke

The Herefordshire landscape that inspired Mike Oldfields Tubular Bells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyles The Hound of the Baskervilles celebrates 40 years of walking and the Offas Dyke Trail team is gearing up for a high-tech 2010, as Judie Kellie found out

One of the most spectacular walking experiences in England is preparing for a year of change and Rob Dingle counts himself very lucky to be part of it.

He is the National Trail Officer for Offas Dyke Path, and with an ambitious programme of path improvements and repairs, downloadable circular walks and the very first podcasts on a public walking route in the West Midlands hes going to be very busy this spring.

Recently rated as one of the top ten long distance walks in England, Offas Dyke Trail has been funded by Natural England, The Countryside Council for Wales and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (BBNPA) to strengthen and enhance the paths and their signage.
And the jewel in the crown will be podcasts and circular routes downloadable from the internet. Ultimately they plan Bluetooth in the marker posts for onsite downloading.

New technology is key to the future of walking, said Rob. We know that most visitors look at the internet before coming and possibly afterwards too, so, introducing podcasts, giving them on the spot information, history and routes is our way of responding.

Heavy use of the trail has led to the need for path repairs at some locations. The Park Authority is undertaking a programme of works on the Hatterall Ridge in the National Park and Herefordshire for example. Repair works have involved airlifting in local stone across an area of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), to avoid disturbing habitats, as well as transplanting peat and vegetation, using underlying stone and then replacing the peat, to provide a sustainable path surface preventing further erosion. New cross drains have also been laid.
So far around 120 days work has been completed with local graziers assisting National Park staff. Being a cross border trail gives Offas Dyke Trail a special edge, as you criss-cross back and forth following history, Rob added.

The 177 miles Offas Dyke Trail runs from Sedbury, near Chepstow, to Prestatyn through some of the most dramatic and picturesque landscapes on the English Welsh border. Some of the most spectacular parts run through Herefordshire.

The trail follows the great frontier earthwork built by Offa, King of Mercia from 757 to 796 AD to protect the borders of his kingdom, which is the longest scheduled ancient monument in the UK, and includes a mosaic of upland heath, common grazing lands, and lowland river valleys as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest covering more than 30 square miles.In places the trail rises to over 610 metres.

Around 10,000 walkers a year are thought to travel the Herefordshire stretch alone and in Shropshire, the section from Kington to Oswestry is becoming similarly popular for both walkers and birdwatchers and so will have improved information along the section. The area is home to raven, peregrine falcon, merlin and red grouse.

The Offas Dyke National Trail opened almost 40 years ago (1971) and after Hadrians Wall Path and John O Groats to Lands End, it is one of the most popular, so its vital that we ensure walkers can find and follow the designated route easily, to avoid unnecessary erosion and disturbance, said Rob.

There are only 16 National Trails in the country and they are the flagships of our Right of Ways. Being part of the team that look after this extraordinarily special one is brilliant.


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