Best foot forward to aid historic riverside walk

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THE final part of a major Morpeth footpath initiative is nearing completion — and local residents have been invited to offer their help.

The Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) is seeking support for the latter stages of work to restore an historic riverside walk between Morpeth and the picturesque village of Bothal, which traces its history back more than 1,000 years.

The Bothal Woods project marks the final phase of the long-running Castles, Woods and Water initiative, which was set up to make country walks in and around Morpeth more accessible and inviting.

Despite being a popular walk for generations, the Bothal route, which follows the banks of the River Wansbeck from the western fringe of Morpeth, was identified as a priority as it had become virtually impassable.

There are several sites of historical importance along the stretch, but access was restricted as the pathway was muddy and unsafe for walkers through river erosion, overgrown vegetation and a general lack of repairs and maintenance.

However, with funding from a Groundwork Community Spaces grant and Northumberland County Council, repairs began a few months ago.

Work has now been carried out by GMDT to tackle the worst sections of the footpath and repair footbridges and steps, while seating and picnic benches have been added.

Project Manager Gemma Gadomski said: “All the work is being done in a way that is sympathetic to the heritage sites and what is a very ancient woodland.

“Already we have made significant progress towards restoring an important recreational resource for people of all ages to use and enjoy on their own doorsteps.”

Now the Trust is hoping to hear from anyone who knows anything about the history of Bothal Woods to take forward the next and final step of the scheme, which is restoring and preserving the heritage sites.

New signage and interpretation panels will then be commissioned to inform visitors about the area.

Volunteers can also get involved by helping to plant new trees and shrubs along the route or assisting with its future maintenance through regular clean-up days.

Further information about how to help can be found on the GMDT Signage and Seating, Whorral Bank to Bothal blog at www.gmdt.net or people can call Gemma Gadomski on 01670 503866.