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Monday, 22 December 2014

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£50,000 to protect waterlogged route on Hadrian's Wall

Around £50,000 is to be spent repairing drains along Hadrian’s Wall after heavy rain left sections of the trail through Cumbria waterlogged.

Natural England awarded the money to the Hadrian’s Wall Trust, which preserves the 73-mile route from Tyneside to Bowness on Solway. It attracts almost 11,000 visitors a year and the trust is worried about large groups of walkers damaging the trail.

It is urging groups of more than 40 to get in touch before an expedition.

Dr Nigel Mills, spokesman for the trust, said there had been a big rise in the number of charity and challenge walks to the World Heritage Site.

“We do not want to discourage visitors, but want to avoid grass and soil erosion along the trail,” he said.

“We want to hear from groups of more than 40 people who are planning to do walks or runs to get in touch so we can advise them on the best way to avoid damaging the route.

“For example, we advise walkers to walk two or three abreast, rather than in single file to spread the load of their weight.”

Dr Mills said low lying areas of the wall had become partic- ularly waterlogged and they intended to carry out repair work to unblock drains.

The wall is said to bring in an estimated £7m into local economies and hundreds of thousands of pounds are raised for charity each year with sponsored walks, runs and challenges.

“It’s extremely sensitive – the archaeology is just below the surface,” Dr Mills said. “Walkers tend to walk in single file and if they are out in wet weather they can wear a narrow channel in the ground quite quickly. That can be made worse by the water seeping and eroding it further.”

He said the archaeological community only accepted the idea of the trail, which opened in 2003 and brought together 30 new rights of way with existing ones, if the surface was grass.

“It was the best way to ensure the archaeology was protected,” he explained.

Even so, there was a “very rapid” deterioration in the surface in the first 12 to 18 months, sparking a plea from the Countryside Agency for people to stay away during the winter when the weather was worse and damage more easily caused.

The Countryside Agency – now called Natural England – appointed a lengthsman in 2004, then another, who spent their days inspecting and maintaining the condition of the trail.

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