State of paths and stiles under scrutiny
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
HEALTH and safety concerns have been raised about the state of stiles on popular public footpaths in the upper dale.
Middleton-in-Teesdale Walkers are Welcome group’s annual review on the condition of the footpaths in and around the village was discussed at the parish council’s last meeting.
The group reported the overall condition of footpaths in the parish remain in a “very good state” thanks to the work of landowners and tenants.
They paid tribute to the efforts of another volunteer group that has raised money and maintained major sections of the King’s Walk, which has been widely used during the pandemic.
But the condition of some stiles and an open mine shaft are a “major health and safety” risk.
The report stated: “Over the past few years there have been a number of accidents and if the problems remain unaddressed it can only be a question of time before one of these is of a very serious nature. The worst of these problems are in the area off Hardberry Farm. Following some intervention by Raby Estate the problem has actually worsened.
“In addition, there seems in general in this area to be a move towards stringing wires over the top of stiles, rather than using the traditional Teesdale approaches of running them carefully under the stile and then back up, or stopping the wires at the stile and restarting them afterwards.”
They also pointed out an uncovered vertical mineshaft, west of Coldberry Mineshop, though not on a public footpath, is on open access land and is a danger to both livestock and humans.
Cllr Adam Hearn said: “There has been a long-standing problem for repairing stiles. I think we should offer our support in trying to bring pressure to bear on Durham County Council on repairing the stiles.”
Cllr Nickie Hough said: “About the open shafts on the fells, there are hundreds of them. To specify one when there are hundreds... I’m surprised they just picked up one.”
Chairman Cllr Ian Cartwright added that dealing with the open shaft was not the responsibility of the parish council. He said: “If we do one, we would have to do everything.”
Before the pandemic, the parish council’s volunteer footpath focus working group had been working to improve paths by cutting back vegetation and removing trip hazards, initially concentrating on routes forming part of the Wellness Walks. Covid-19 restrictions however have curtailed these activities.
Members agreed to support the Walkers are Welcome group and forward the report to Durham County Council.