An ambitious project to repair a stone footpath along one of Northumberland’s most popular walking routes has been carried out by Northumberland National Park Authority.
Over 400 metres of flagged and pitched stone has been installed between Lordenshaws and The Beacon along the eastern slope of the Simonside Ridge near Rothbury.
Due to the site’s remote location, the National Park had to enlist the help of a helicopter to fly the stone and building materials to Simonside in order to carry out the project. A total of 191 loads, each weighing around 1 tonne were carried to the site, overseen by a specialist team from the National Park.
Famous for its spectacular rock formations and vivid purple heather during the summer months, the Simonside Hills are a popular spot in the north of the National Park with hill walkers and tourists who flock to the area each year to enjoy the panoramic views of the Cheviot Hills and North Sea coastline from the topmost ridge.
The new pathway, which is now open to the public, will enable more people to enjoy the beauty of Simonside without compromising the area’s natural habitats, which are home to key wildlife species including the curlew, red grouse and red squirrels.
Lorna Lazarri, Access and National Trails Officer at Northumberland National Park Authority, said:
“The Simonside Ridge is an outstanding and well-known walking route which attracts lots of visitors throughout the year. It’s a key asset for the tourism industry of the National Park and the wider region.
“Although the remote location and terrain presented us with some technical challenges, it has been fantastic to see the project come together. Watching the stone being delivered to the site by helicopter was really something special!
“The work we have carried out on the footpath will enable even more people to visit Simonside and also ensure that the area’s natural vegetation and wildlife habitats are preserved for the future.”
Public reaction to the new footpath has been very positive. Alan Walker, a visiting hill walker, commented:
“What a fantastic job is being done to create the stone pathways at Simonside. It must be a colossal labour for somebody and although I suspect it is being done primarily to stop erosion, it is a tremendous and very much appreciated boon to a hill walker who is getting on a bit!”
Another visitor, Jane Bertelson, emailed her comments to the National Park in praise of the new walkway, she said: “Today we visited the Simonside Hills. We would just like to thank you for the excellently-marked walk and the effort made to make paths for walkers and to reduce erosion. We had a wonderful day out and felt so grateful for our National Park network.”
The repairs to the footpath were made possible by a generous donation in memory of the late Dr Alan Reece, the pioneering North East-based lecturer, engineer and entrepreneur who founded a number of major subsea manufacturing companies during his lifetime.
A benefactor has placed a commemorative stone within the footpath dedicated to Dr Reece and the students of the Agricultural Engineering Department at Newcastle University who took part in the annual fresher’s ‘Great Downhill Race’ on Simonside’s northern slopes.
Anthony Braithwaite, Chairman of Northumberland National Park Foundation, said: “The work carried out at Simonside would not have been possible without the generosity of our local benefactor and for this, we are truly grateful.
“It is acts of kindness like this, facilitated through the Northumberland National Park Foundation, that can help the Park to make vast improvements to remote sites like Simonside, which not only help to improve the overall visitor experience, but also enable us to safely conserve ancient monuments and areas of special scientific interest for future generations to enjoy.”
The Northumberland National Park Foundation is a registered charity which is dedicated to supporting initiatives across the National Park and beyond that help to enhance and protect the beautiful landscapes of Northumberland.
To find out more about the Foundation, or to make a donation, visit www.nnpa.org.uk/about-us/northumberland-national-park-foundation/.
Image Credit - A Mackenzie