Repairing the B6344 road into Rothbury is going to be a big job. I visited the site on Saturday and had chance to appreciate the scale of the challenge that engineers face at first hand.
The once dead straight stretch of road west of Cragend Farm appears as if it has been the epicentre of a minor earthquake. In places more than half of the carriageway has fallen towards the River Coquet below by as much as five metres.
We’re well used to the potholes in Northumberland. Citizens can report holes in the road via any number of channels and the county council has a squad that will come and fix them. Inevitably at this time of year it is stretched.
But this is very different. It’s a geological shift that results from natural conditions. It’s a major civil engineering project. The land on which the road is built on the edge of the Cragside estate is still moving. Until it stabilises it is not going to be possible for engineers to start considering possible solutions.
The road has been closed since Boxing Day last year and estimates for its return to service inevitably stretch out week by week.
Lord Armstrong, the original architect and owner of the Cragside Estate, wasn’t daft. He built the carriageway along the southern edge of his estate on rock and relied on engineering cunning to build the road into the village over natural springs.
We can have the argument about whether the damage results from under-investment in the rural road infrastructure but the repair work must not become a political pawn in the broader discussion of austerity and economic woe. It’s far too important and plainly needs to be repaired.
Balancing the urgency of the situation to secure funding for the project with the message that Rothbury is open for business is a tricky task.
Some of the initial reports in the media lazily jumped on the headline that Rothbury was closed.
Local businesses reported that trade was down for the time of year as a result.
Rothbury is not closed – far from it. The village continues to go about its business.
High school children are still making the journey from Coquetdale to Morpeth. People continue to commute to Newcastle and beyond. Visitors are still enjoying the local hospitality and shops as they explore the Coquet Valley.
There are at least four other routes into the village passing through some of the most stunning countryside in the UK. The extra five minutes on your journey is well worth the view. Why not pay the village a visit this weekend?