Those of us who have read the notices at either end of the Charles Head concessionary path will note the value of this linking path along the Todd valley watershed (marked CP in mauve on the map) and can thank Alan Catherall and John Goodman for their aptly described patience in gaining the landowners’ permissions for the path.
Therefore, it was unfortunate that, after descending southwards from the permissive path onto Rainow Footpath 14, it met five metres of sedge-covered and very boggy ground, then a wire-mesh fence with a wooden stile, followed by a further ten metres of sedge and bog before the path followed up a narrow cleft between a fence close by on the east side, and a steep bank on the west side, thence to a stile stepping onto Broad Moss.
The waters, coming from the sedge-covered hillside west of the path, are fed by springs above. Negotiating this area seriously dampened the pleasure of walking this route!
ECR Footpaths Projects Team was asked by our Footpaths Committee to consider if we could improve FP 14 at this location. I said the task was well within the capabilities of our enthusiastic and committed volunteers to complete a scheme. Permissions were given by the land-owners, with the support of CEC PROW Officer, Evan Pedley. Farmer Andrew Maynard gave permission for us to utilise derelict dry stone wall materials nearby. He asked me to ensure a cattle-run across the ravine, below the path, would be restored during the works.
I proposed to dig a trench on the west side of the path, rising southwards along the hillside, to collect the bog water and deliver it to a pipe we would place across the path in the worst boggy area further northwards where the concessionary path was met. The trench would be edged with rocks to protect the path, and the path surfaced in rocks to replace its boggy sedge-vegetated surface, currently flooded by water from the higher hillside to the east. The pipe would outflow into the steep clough below and flow away to the east. A few feet below the pipe outfall, its waters would be collected into another short length of pipe, over which a rock platform would be constructed to enable cattle coming up from Summer Close Farm to cross the clough, below our newly surfaced FP 14, to reach the field beyond.
We commenced work on 1st August 2014, by hand-hauling a six-metre length of 225mm dia. pipe, a galvanised steel gate, two finger posts and a way-marker post, up the steep hill climbing from Summer Close Farm in the valley below.
Considerable time and effort was spent, using mattocks and spades, on the four metres length by two metres width of path between the southerly fence and stile and the northerly intersecting permissive link path, to dig out a foot in depth of thick-stemmed, densely-rooted sedge biomass which inhabited all the water-logged ground over a gritstone base. In rainy weather, water flowed across, unabated from the hillside above. The boggy sedge mass was disposed of by shovelling it eastwards over the edge and into the steep sedge-filled clough beyond. It is worthy of comment that the sedge was extremely tough to cut with spades and was extremely acidic. The metal eyes and lugs of laced leather boots immersed in the bog showed rusting by a day’s end! A channel was dug to take away the water and to bed a four-metre long, 225 mm diameter, pipe diagonally across the path just north of the fence.
Stones recovered from the collapsed walls about the site, and from rock rubble originating as a buried track in the bog, were sorted into stockpiles on what was becoming a very muddy and congested site. The pipe was embedded in a surround of smaller stones to protect it from being punctured and covered with rocks to form the path surface.
At the east end of the pipe, the ground fell away steeply, and we constructed a retaining wall with the largest rocks surrounding the pipe outfall. Some of these large rocks were claimed from collapsed walling by the path 30 metres downhill towards Summer Close and were wheelbarrowed to the retaining wall site, helped by a team member pulling an attached tow rope.
Just south of the stile and fence, a twenty-metre long drainage channel was cut along the west edge of the path through the sedge vegetation and weathered glacial boulderclay bedrock at the base of the hillside. The channel was linked to the downstream pipe by extending the ditch northwards, cutting through the projecting hillside where the fence crossed the path. At the fence a short pipe was laid in the ditch and surrounded with rocks to make it stock-proof under the fence.
Large sumps were dug and lined at both pipe inlets to collect and guide the waters collecting in the channel. The main pipe’s inlet was protected with rocks to divert walkers and deter them from dislodging rocks and debris which might cause blockage.
A low dry-stone ‘wall’ was constructed alongside the trench to support the path’s edge and the path was cleared of sedge and mud and surfaced with selected packed rocks. These rocks were collected by wheelbarrow from the collapsed wall along the path.
When excavating for the main path and the crossing pipe’s bed, the biomass was tipped into the clough. The biomass was subsequently shovelled beyond the cattle-run location to find bedrock underneath upon which to found the lower pipe culvert.
A pipe was laid, embedded and surrounded in rock, and covered in large stones to make the path robust against cattle hooves. A retaining wall and outfall rock apron was formed to support the pipe outlet. An inlet sump was dug and rock lined to collect the outfall water from the upper footpath pipe. It was essential to construct this cattle path to a standard the farmer would consider satisfactory, in view of his cooperation in allowing us to construct the paths using his collapsing dry stone walling rocks.
A stile entering the path from the east, which allowed some waterlogged bog and sedge to be by-passed, was dismantled. The top barbed-wire strand along the path-side fence was disconnected from the fence posts, lifted to the more remote field-side of the fence and re-stapled in place. This was an essential safety measure, because the path is situated in a deep Vee notch, tight against the fence as it climbs up southwards to Broad Moss.
The drainage trench collecting hillside seepage was extended more shallowly high up this Vee path, to divert water from running down the lower path surface.
At one location, stonework was placed to divert the trench into the more substantial channel below, and three stone steps were built beside it; for which specially selected, very large flat stones were taken from the wall debris northwards and collected with a wheelbarrow as described above.
Two finger posts were placed on Broad Moss and a way-marker post placed at the top of the gully to direct walkers navigating the southern approach to the correct path. Projecting staples were embedded in the top stile’s two steps as an anti-slip measure.
Gateposts were erected, the new galvanised steel gate was hung, and the fencing was linked permanently over the new piped segment of the new ditch. An essential spring closure mechanism was added as a finishing touch to the gate later in September.
Mike Collins’ photos taken after very wet weather a year or so later show the effectiveness of the project. Thanks Mike.
I would like to thank all ECR Projects Team participants for their tremendous support and strenuous work in mixed (some very wet) weather. This work was carried out by Mike Bull, Alan Catherall, Mike collins, Susan Dale, Andy Davies, Roger Fielding, Barbara Hare, Ken Hobbs, Gill and Tom North, Steve Osborne, Brian Richardson and Ian Wasson. In summary, 13 Project Team members made 44 day-attendances between them, actively working (breaks excluded) 219.5 hours, spread over 11 attendance days; attending on average as four volunteers per day.