Our Dales Volunteers have completed the mammoth annual task of surveying the condition of all the stiles, signpost, gates and footbridges in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The survey shows that in the new area of the park, the path furniture needs quite a bit of work. Credit to Cumbria County Council, they’ve done a lot with limited resources, but as a National Park Authority which exists in part to help people enjoy the special qualities of the area and get out into the landscape, we can do more to help. In many cases we can offer 100 per cent of the costs, in the sense that we can do the work for the landowner and farmers.

We’ve a target of bringing the paths in the new Cumbrian part of the park up to the same standard as those in the rest of the park within five years. That means getting 95 per cent of the path furniture into good condition.

From experience we’ve learned that we have to repair or replace 5 per cent of path infrastructure each year to keep on an even keel. So in the new Cumbrian parts of the Park we are going to have to repair over and above that. It’s a challenge we are looking forward to and we’ve been encouraged by the welcome and assistance we’ve received from the local community and volunteers. A few days ago one local farmer in Ravenstonedale commented very favourably on the improvement for both residents and visitors provided by a boardwalk installed on his land.

So how do we operate? We have an office in Orton to provide a base for the Western Ranger team, with a work shop nearby – and also a meeting room in Kirkby Lonsdale.

The main point of contact for local communities is Area Ranger Paul Wilkinson, while one part-time and two full-time access rangers concentrate on the rights of way maintenance work. They are assisted by about two dozen regular volunteers.

Access ranger Suzannah Barningham carries out repairs in an area including Orton, Crosby Ravensworth, the northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang, while access ranger Graham Pye does the same for Barbon, Middleton, Casterton, the Lune Valley, Southern Howgills, Sedbergh, Garsdale and Dent. All can be contacted through the Orton office on 015396 26104.

Steve Hastie,

Western Area manager, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority