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Our much-loved Hadrian’s Wall National Trail is in danger; growing visitor numbers and drastically reduced maintenance budgets are leading to a deterioration which could soon be irreversible.

David McGlade, our speaker at the July monthly meeting (follow this link for a summary), has been the Trail Officer of the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail since it opened in 2003 after many years of planning. Seven years before that, I was on the Hadrian's Wall Advisory Panel and together with other colleagues withdrew my objection to the Trail (I would have preferred the creation of open access to the whole of Hadrian's Wall) when we were assured that the funding for the management of the Trail would always be in place. Unfortunately, the government of the day soon reneged on this promise and it took a campaign in the national press before appropriate funding was put in place. Two years were lost and the Trail soon showed the effects of the lack of management and repair.

Today, we are faced with a similar situation. The main government funding body, Natural England, is being squeezed and finance for the Trail is gradually being cut. In earlier years, five people were employed in looking after the Trail, but this is now reduced to David McGlade himself and a very hard-working maintenance ranger. At the same time, the number of visitors is rising, while increased rainfall as a result of climate change makes the task more difficult. Soon, visitors will be able to see for themselves the deterioration in the state of the Trail.Can anything be done? Ministers do respond to public pressure – not all the time, but at least some of the time. The new Secretary of State at DEFRA,which provides the funding for Natural England, is Andrea Leadsom MP. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is Karen Bradley MP. Letters to both of them will be dealt with by her civil servants, but civil servants are impressed by the weight of letters, especially if they are individually written and not merely cut-and-pasted from a model. Copying the letter to James Cross, the Chief Executive of Natural England, would also help. What needs stressing is that the Hadrian's Wall National Trail is the only one combining a public footpath and an archaeological monument which is also a World Heritage site, and it needs adequate funding to ensure that it is properly managed. The current funding level is not enough; it needs increasing to match the increasing number of visitors and the more challenging conditions.

David Breeze, Past President

 

 

 

 

 

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