Suggestions For Good Management Practice
As an integral element of good management practices a more detailed knowledge of the heritage asset is essential. Environmental Stewardship will provide vital information with Entry and Higher Level Schemes providing both the criteria and the methodology for boundary condition surveys.
Entry into Stewardship, and the results of the related boundary condition surveys, will ultimately determine priorities for traditional boundary conservation and restoration.
It is important to promote general guidelines for traditional boundary conservation that facilitate the retention of local distinctiveness and which acknowledge the fact that contractors construct or repair boundaries (especially dry stone walls) using slightly different techniques. To this end the Northumberland National Park Authority will supplement the DEFRA guidelines with the Dry Stone Walling Association’s Technical Specifications for Dry stone Walls when setting out specifications for wall repairs. These recognise the centrality of the maintenance of local distinctiveness and separate specifications are available for a range of different regionally specific wall styles.
On the basis of these specifications and the results of field surveys the National Park Authority will produce a summary of guidance points for circulation to farmers, landowners and estate managers setting out key issues in terms of best practice relating to the care and maintenance of traditional boundaries. These will actively build on the DEFRA Environmental Stewardship criteria.
Any specification for wall/boundary repairs must ensure that any rebuilt wall matches the existing in as much detail as possible. Any repair carried out under the NNPA Traditional Boundaries/Traditional Skills Project will be recorded by digital photography.
Wherever possible, walls should not be used as quarries for repairs unless there is no practical alternative: where this is inevitable, the footprint of the robbed wall (usually two courses of foundations stones protruding above the ground) should be retained. Even when it has become agriculturally redundant a dry stone wall or sod cast dyke still retains important landscape significance and worth. They also continue to be important habitats for a variety of plants and animals and as such they should be allowed to decay naturally. The National Park Authority will strive to make farmers, estate managers etc. aware of this issue whenever opportunity arises.
Gates may often have to be widened, in which case gateposts should be re-positioned and the opportunity to record the section through the boundary should be taken (if practical).
In the case of gateposts, there is a question of whether should we replace like for like or use modern substitute materials. As we accept that landscapes change, we should accept replacements, but they must be suitable and blend in with what already exists. Every case should be looked at on its own merits but, generally, if traditional stone stoops are not available, timber gate posts of suitable dimension should be used.
Where boundary-top wiring is required for dry stone walls, to protect coping stones from disturbance by stock, this should be accepted. Increasing the height of existing boundaries should be avoided as it would be out of keeping with the character of the landscape.
When hedges are newly planted or laid they should be protected by double rabbit and stock proof fence lines.
The National Park Authority will strive to disseminate and act upon the following general guidelines, predicated upon the management issues highlighted above, in its approach to the conservation and management of traditional boundaries within the National Park Boundary.