Sergeant Grainger, right, with police colleagues and Dales Volunteers. Photo: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Sergeant Grainger, right, with police colleagues and Dales Volunteers. Photo: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Walkers on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path will soon find things easier underfoot after repairs to a flood-damaged section.

Heavy rain and meltwater caused river banks to burst in December last year, damaging part of the low-level section of the route through Swaledale.

A large rabbit population also added to the problem by undermining the banks with their burrows.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has teamed up with farmers and landowners in the area to repair stretches of public footpath affected by the floods.

A temporary closure order was placed on the path from Isles Bridge, 3km (2 miles) east of Gunnerside, to Feetham Wood after the flood bank was washed away in several places. Work to repair the footpath will soon be complete and the closure will be lifted by YDNPA staff.

Michael Briggs, the authority’s area ranger for Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, said: “This route is popular with locals and Coast to Coast walkers alike so it has been a priority to repair the path as soon as possible.

“When this stretch is finished, the farmer is going to reseed the area from sweepings of the floor of the hay barn so that traditional local grasses go back.

“Much of the damage caused is the result of a heavy rabbit population infesting the riverbank and destabilising it, so once the repairs are carried out, landowners and farmers are encouraged to control the rabbits to help prevent a recurrence on such a scale.”

Ian Broadwith, access ranger for the area, added: “The December floods devastated Swaledale and badly affected many sections of footpaths.

“The national park authority is the delegated highway authority for public rights of way and has responsibilities for the surface condition of footpaths so, where public rights of way are damaged, we are able through our rights of way budget to offer help and advice on restoration.

“Working hand in hand with the farmers and landowners affected, we can hopefully bring these paths back into use for the summer season.

“There is a very short window of opportunity to carry out this work as these riverside fields are hay meadows and will be closed off to us from early May until the crop is harvested, so we must press on with the repairs at every chance.”

And, in the last few weeks, local police officers and members of the Swaledale Outdoor Club have volunteered some of their spare time to help repair drystone walls near Low Row in Swaledale.

Several officers from Leyburn were given a crash course in drystone walling by the authority’s Dales Volunteers after offering to help in the repair work, and they have spent three days rebuilding walls between two farms in Low Row in time for lambing.

Mr Briggs said: “Sergeant Grainger of Leyburn Police contacted me after seeing the state of some of the walls following the floods.

“He was really keen to help local farmers repair the walls which are so important to the landscape he enjoys while working in the Dales. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse so we co-ordinated them with our volunteers and landowners to get the walls back up.

“Hopefully there will be more walling days to come.”

Harold Brown, the YDNPA’s deputy chairman, said: “Farmers have created and care for the distinctive landscape that we see in Swaledale and, although we can offer only a limited amount of help at this financially challenging time, we are pleased to do that through our fantastic Dales Volunteers.”

Author Alfred Wainwright suggested two alternative routes for his Coast to Coast Walk east of Keld through Swaledale towards Richmond: one following the River Swale in the valley and the other taking a higher route through the disused lead mines of Swinner Gill, Gunnerside Gill and Hard Level Gill.

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