A year on Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail - June 2012, Part 7
As we get closer to the longest day, the weather continues to be changeable and the number of walkers on the Trail are starting to increase. It is also at this time of year that the maintenance work we have to complete also increases, particularly cutting back the vegetation around the gates and stiles.
It was to be another early start for me as I started my first visit to my section in June. Full waterproofs were needed, as the rain was to fall steadily for all of the time I was out. The warm recent weather certainly makes the vegetation grow faster and you could see where the grass had needed to be cut on the Trail.
I was only to walk a few hundred yards before I needed to cut back the nettles beside the gate into Heavenfield. I was not really looking forward to my next task, even if it had not been raining! On my last visit the grass and vegetation was starting to encroach onto the path beside St. Oswald's Tea Room at Hill Head Farm. You could only just see the steps and I started to cut back, armed only with garden shears.
It took me about half an hours work to clear the path. At least the walkers can now walk through the area without getting their legs soaked in this weather.
As it was only a temporary solution, I had to report that the lengthsmen from Hadrian's Wall Heritage Limited would have to make a visit with their strimmers to complete the job.
The major task for me was completed and I then made steady progress in the rain stopping to pick up litter, rake over some molehills and cut back brambles in Stanley Plantation.
On the six and a half mile round trip, I met ten walkers completing the full trail. It was not the day to stop and talk and it was heads down for the walkers in a wide variety of waterproof gear. The Trail was drying out, but this prolonged period of rain has made the path in Stanley Plantation very muddy and waterlogged in the dips and hollows out on the grassland.
My second visit of the month was to be on a sunny June morning, summer is not far off and of course the longest day. There was not any need for waterproofs today and the sky was blue, giving magnificent views of the countryside to the north and south.
On my last visit the wet weather made for a miserable walk and all along my section you could still see the effects of the heavy rain: Stanley Plantation was still very muddy, there was standing water in the Vallum and Wall Ditch and the grassland was still wet under foot.
On my last visit, I cut back vegetation around gates, stiles and fingerposts. It was to be more of the same today as the warm wet weather has certainly made the vegetation and grass grow quickly. Overall my six and a half mile walk of the section took me just over four hours as I was stopping frequently to use the shears on the growing vegetation.
Normally when I am out on a Monday, I do not see many walkers, today it was busier than usual, I met thirteen walkers completing the full trail and a dog walker. I am not picking up as much litter along my section. There is normally something that has to be reported to Hadrian's Wall Heritage Limited, and on my eastward leg I had to take a photograph of a problem area.
The entrance to Stanley Plantation used to have a gate, before it was stolen. Now the coping stones and other courses of the wall are being taken. In this day and age nothing surprises me, but the cost of replacement and building work has to found.
The forecast was for it to be calmer until midweek, but more rain was predicted before the end of what has already been one of the wettest Junes on record. This spurred me on to make another visit to my section.
The torrential rain of the weekend was still in evidence, as I completed my usual round trip of Heavenfield to The Errington Arms. The ground was waterlogged, muddy and slippery underfoot in places. This heavy rainfall is not the type of weather for a National Trail that consists mainly of grassland. The heavy footfall of high numbers of walkers soon churns up the ground and makes it very muddy. Cattle and sheep also make the path very muddy in places.
It was to remain dry for my walk and the sun even came out at times in a cloudy and overcast sky. The round trip took me just over three hours as I did not need to do any cutting back of vegetation at any points. All of the signs and way markers were intact and I met eight walkers in total - three Americans were completing the full trail one walking it from the west and two walking east.
When we stop and talk to walkers, It does not take them long to see the logos on our waterproofs and that we are volunteers. I always ask if they have experienced any problems whilst on the Trail, if there are any, I pass the information on to Hadrian's Wall Heritage Limited. One thing I do find is that the majority of walkers are very appreciative of the work that we do, this makes all of the hard work worthwhile. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to be able to be Volunteer Ranger on this fantastic World Heritage site.
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