Hadrian's Wall Assistant Trail Ranger

Earlier this year we posted two blogs from Hadrian’s Wall Path Trail Ranger Gary Pickles talking about the management of the National Trail and the work that goes into its preservation. This time we are turning the blog over to Tess Wenham. Tess started working with Gary in April this year as Assistant Trail Ranger. Gary and Tess work incredibly hard to maintain this incredible 84-mile signposted footpath stretching from coast-to-coast across England.

“In April 2019 left my roles in Northumberland National Park as Volunteer Support Officer and Welcome Assistant at The Sill to join Gary on Hadrian’s Wall Path on secondment as Assistant Trail Ranger.

From my first week the role has been incredibly hands on one. With my first job on the Trail I was lacing up my boots as we set off to survey Hadrian’s Wall Path Nation Trail. Thankfully April proved to be good time of year to start this new role; with the sun on our backs we headed from Segadunum and out along the entire length of trail. The aim of the Trail Survey is to examine the condition of the furniture on the route. This includes fingerposts, waymarkers, gates, stiles and even the surface you walk on.

This comes to a grand total of 670 structures, stretching 84 miles along the entirety of the trail. An average of 7.9 structures per mile! Add on to that the National Trail Acorn Way Marker Disks and the screws required to fix them and that’s a lot to keep an eye on.”

Surveying the Trail

“It took us a total of six days to complete the Trail Survey and by the time we reached Bowness I was able to start to build a picture of the trail. I’ve also got to grips with Collector, an application we can access on our phones as we go to record jobs. This lets us keep a digital record of his of the items of furniture and any issues we encounter. We can take photos and makes notes to share with your members of our team and partner organisations.

Using Collector, I compiled a list of 19 finger posts for replacement. Some of these may have a little more life in them, however, having all been put in at the same time as the trail was created, they are likely to need replacing in a similar time frame. By replacing roughly 10% a year this helps us to ensure that all 190 fingerposts do not need replacing at the same time.

Following the Survey, it was then time to put out the seven Hadrian’s Wall Trail stamping stations along the wall for the start of the walking season. These are positioned on the side of pubs, museums and Roman forts along the way for walkers to stamp paper passports as a memento. You can buy your Hadrian’s Wall passport on our National Trail website.

Spring to Summer

“As spring turned to summer it was time to catch up with grass cutting to maintain the greensward. My strimmer becomes the fifth limb as I follow Gary’s mower, tidying the edges of the footpath; around stiles, gates and around steps. As the weeks move on the strimming gets neater and neater and the numbers of walkers passing by to talk to increases, as does my knowledge and the amount I can tell them by the area and the Trail.

Interspersed with the grass cutting we were joined by students from Kirkley Hall, a local high school and a Young Ranger Placement to help improve a footpath surface, put in the first of the many new fingerposts and improve waymarking. We’ve also fitted in replacing a kissing gate, fettling gates, firming up waymarker posts and clearing the gorse which can damage important archaeology.

As we move into winter, I’m sure I’ll find out what jobs can be done in spite of the wind, sleet, and mud.”