Helicopter required for path-repair project

The team of specialists installing the stones at Simonside. Picture by A Mackenzie.

A helicopter was used to fly nearly 200 one-tonne loads to carry out an ambitious project to repair a stone footpath in the Simonside Hills.

Northumberland National Park Authority carried out the work, which has seen more than 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.

The newly-installed pathway on Simonsides eastern slope. Picture by A Mackenzie

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.

A total of 191 loads, each weighing around one tonne, were carried to the site, overseen by a specialist team from the National Park.

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, the Authority’s access and national trails officer, 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.”

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.

A benefactor has placed a commemorative stone in the footpath dedicated to Dr Reece and the students of the agricultural engineering department at Newcastle University, who took part in the annual Great Downhill Race on Simonside’s northern slopes.

Public reaction to the new footpath has been very positive.

Alan Walker, a visiting hill walker, said: “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, saying: “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.”

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