An update from Ted Liddle, member of Northumberland JLAF

Northumberland National Park Authority works in partnership with Northumberland County Council in the running of the Northumberland Joint Local Access Forum (JLAF), an independent body with an interest in public rights of way and access to the countryside. A priority initiative has been announced which aims to convert disused railway tracks to accessible shared-use greenways.  

Here’s an update from Ted Liddle, member of Northumberland JLAF: 

I write as a founder member of the JLAF which I joined to contribute to improving and increasing access to and through the beautiful and varied countryside in Northumberland. The Glover Report (2019) reinforces the importance of connecting people with the countryside, and all its associated benefits for physical and mental health which have never been more widely recognised.  

One of the priority projects the JLAF has adopted is the ‘rails to trails’ initiative which essentially is supporting and advising on the conversion of disused railway tracks as traffic-free shared-use Greenways.  

By dint of necessity and design, disused railway tracks (DRT) are linear, flat, and effective man-made transport corridors linking urban and rural communities. In Northumberland, a number of DRTs pass through some of the finest scenery in the county and provide viewing enjoyment which is otherwise denied to the public. County Durham is the exemplar in this respect which we would like to emulate. 

DRTs and associated infrastructures represent wonderful linear heritage and a fine tribute to Victorian engineering. They are as much part of our history as Hadrian’s Wall and should be preserved for current and future generations to enjoy and benefit from, long into the future. 

The best way to do this is to reopen as many sections of disused railway track bed as possible for traffic-free public access for people to enjoy on foot, horseback and by cycle. Numerous popular UK rail paths that are open for public enjoyment provide significant economic benefit to entrepreneurial landowners and community-based enterprises.  

It has been said that railways are an enterprise which promised so much but will achieve nothing more, but this is so untrue. Northumberland JLAF is quietly endeavouring to change the status quo where possible. We are seeing progress at several locations in Northumberland but prefer not to identify these whilst delicate negotiations are in train – an apt term in this context.  

Northumberland Joint Local Access Forum is recruiting volunteers who have a passion for access-related issues and wish to help promote the beautiful Northumberland countryside. To find out more, click here: http://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/volunteer-opportunities-open-with-countryside-access-group/