In the Highest Roads paper, the height of the top of the road over Chapel Fell seems now to be resolved at 2067 feet, courtesy of the researches by Geoff Barber. Thanks Geoff. The relevant page has been annotated, and the document relinked.
Do you ever wonder if councils are strapped for cash because they waste so much of it? In January 2016 I noticed a pair of these council road signs on a minor public road a mile away from Graveller Towers here in sunny Gasforth. What struck me was that, i) the major road at the T-junction ahead is not a dual carriageway and never has been, and, ii) this sign does not appear to be in the Traffic Signs Directions (the then-current version) and so is unlawful anyway. A letter winged its way on 11 January to Newcastle City Council (whose highways people are generally pretty businesslike and helpful these days).
A prompt reply confirmed that the signs “provide incorrect advice” and “need to be amended”, but no admission that they do not conform to the regulations, and, from the records, no idea when they were erected, or why. But, anyway, “we will now arrange for the signs to be removed and replaced ….” Fair enough.
12 June. “You wrote to me on 19 January 2016 telling me that the ‘incorrect’ road signs on Heathery Lane will be removed and replaced with correct (and not dangerous) signs. Now, five months on from my letter to you, the unlawful and dangerously misleading signs are still in place. Surely it does not take five months to sort something like this? At the least, the incorrect signs should be removed or covered (as DfT guidance recommends).” Yes. DfT guidance advises that incorrect road signs can simply be covered-up as a temporary measure. How long would that take?
1 August. “You emailed me on 23 June telling me that you had ‘chased up’ the removal of these 2 unlawful and dangerously misleading road signs. Removal is the work of 10 minutes for a crew already in that area. You said that you ‘anticipate’ that the signs would be removed during July. Well, as at 28 July they were still there. This has been going on for 25 weeks now. Absolutely ridiculous. Can you please tell me when this matter will be concluded?”
18 August. “Thank you for your email, I am sorry for the delay in my response, I have just found that I had not replied to your email. I have asked one of my team to get a date for these works to be undertaken and will ask them to forward this to you as I am now on leave for a couple of weeks. cc Streetworks for booking in and out and street filing.”
23 August. “I have been asked … to chase up the removal of these signs. I have spoken to our works section and they have confirmed that the old signs have been removed but the new sign, although ordered has not been received yet. I have been assured that the new sign will be installed as soon as they receive it.”
29 August. The two incorrect signs have finally gone after more than seven months, along with one of the poles. One new sign is in place.
But does it really need seven months, a senior highways engineer (BEng CEng MCIHT), and a works order for ‘Streetworks’, for a job that a local crew could have done in 15 minutes straight after lunch? Maybe it does, and maybe these days it would have needed a ‘Streetworks’ order just to put a black sack over each and gaffer it in place? In this case might the admin have cost more than the gang work Itself?
Truly, the world is going to Hell in a handcart.
This photograph is of Gravel Lane at Berwick Hill, Northumberland. That is nowhere near Berwick upon Tweed, but the name probably has the same root: ‘barley farm’, and Berwick Hill, high above the former marsh and lagoon of Prestwick Carr, is a very old landscape indeed. And so you might reasonably think that Gravel Lane is a very old road in this very old landscape? And given that there is no evidence of a gravel pit up here (the highest land thereabouts) you might suppose that the name derives from the character of the lane?
Whatever. Gravel Lane and its continuations have had problems for decades: problems that never get sorted. in December 2014 Northumberland County Council undertook to do some clearance work on the wooded part of the lane where trees, branches and scrub rendered it unusable. Some clearance was done, but not on the bridleway. Branches were cut well off to one side, and then dumped on to the bridleway, to make the situation even worse. Are these people born stupid, or do they go on a special training course?
Anyway, another part of the recent complaint (and this is also ongoing for years) concerned the exposed top-strand of barbed wire along the unauthorised cross-fence and right to the gate in the photograph (and more, along the lane, to the right). Just be clear on this: that is an unauthorised fence and gateway, with naked barbed wire, and yet NCC has installed a spanking new bridle gate on the taxpayers’ tab … It beggars belief.
NCC now declines to take any action for the safety of the public (and horses) because they are ‘in discussions’ with the landowner about a possible diversion of the bridleway. That ‑ if it ever happens ‑ will be years into the future.
Readers may have noted the approach of Derbyshire County Council in the previous post ‘Can-do Attitude’ (11 July 2016) where, alerted to a similar situation (alerted just the once) an officer went out and made it safe with a pipe-cover and a hammer. Quick, cheap, easy, not rocket science.
Why such a positive attitude to statutory duties in Derbyshire, and so dog-in-manger in Northumberland? It can’t be resources because this case has rolled on since before, and through, the cash-dripping days of the 1990s and early 2000s and, anyway, clearing the wrong branches costs at least as much as doing the job right in the first place. You tell me.
If you are involved with rights of way work then you will know that some highway authorities seem to spend more resources on not doing a job than it would take to do it. Not so Derbyshire County Council in a recent case.
Graveller was out on a site visit in that county in mid-June and happened upon a junction where a footpath left a bridleway, with skin-ripping barbed wire perilously close to a stile and gate. A letter winged its way to the CEO of DCC on 27 June.
On 6 July Henry Woolley of DCC emailed to say, “I have been and inspected the stile entrance and found it to be a possible safety issue with walkers accessing the stile. My investigations into trying to find the landowner, who would be responsible to carry out the repair / safety modification on the fence, came to an end when his neighbour said that he had recently died. So to ensure public safety, I returned to the site and covered the problem area with two lengths of MDPE pipe. The barbs on the wire around the gate post has been hammered into the wood, please see attached photos. I trust that this is to your satisfaction but if it isn’t, please notify me again.”
So, a simple, pragmatic, prompt and effective solution, and a big ‘well done’ to Henry and DCC.
A ‘well done’ to Newcastle City Council for finally – after many years and many letters – removing the unlawful locked gate on the restricted byway at Dentmires Bridge, Gosforth.
A cynic might think that this is simply to make easier the passage of speeding bicycles along this downhill, blacktopped dragstrip, and might wonder if the structure is British Standard compliant, but hey! at least this council has done something positive here, at last. Got to be a nine from Olde Grav.
Whiteleyshield Road Saved for the Nation! OK, it is only an upland rough road, not quite a mile and a half in length, but it has taken:
- Ten years.
- Two definitive map modification order applications.
- Two definitive map modification orders.
- Two Secretary of State’s Inspectors.
- One public hearing.
- Three decision letters.
- And a LOT of work by the voluntary sector to get this restricted byway properly recorded and safeguarded.
No partridge, nor pear tree, but I would not be surprised if they were in there somewhere too.
You can find the road by looking on online mapping for Coalcleugh, five miles east of Alston in Cumbria. A bridleway runs west from Coalclough, and a little way along is Sunnyside. From here a black-dash line runs northwards to the motor road a bit south of Carrshield. No track is shown south from Sunnyside, but the order route runs south to the motor road just west of the ‘hairpin’ bend.
The sketch is by Dave Young and is of Norman Canham … must be over 20 years ago now. How time flies. If you want to read the recent decision letter (in two parts) do a Google search for the FPS references and download the digital versions.
FPS/P2935/7/37M (final decision) FPS/P2935/7/37 (interim decision)
Purpresture: Wrongful encroachment upon another’s property; esp., any encroachment upon, or inclosure of, that which should be common or public, as highways, rivers, harbors, forts, etc.
In Wideopen, North Tyneside, about five miles north of the centre of Newcastle, along the Great North Road, lie a couple of bridleways which, between them, have seen a great deal of obstruction and interference over the past decade – it will all get written-up one day.
One bridleway (part of North Tyneside Council’s excellent ‘Waggonways’ network) runs through a new housing development. One early morning back in the Spring, Olde Graveller happened to cycle along, only to find that the developer was quietly snaffling a metre or more of the right of way:
A s.130A notice to the council was in the postbox by lunchtime, quickly resulting in a slapped wrist for the developer, and the removal of the new fence (below). Well done North Tyneside Council.
Finally – after almost a dozen years – the southern part of The Drift Road near Slaley, Northumberland, has been added to the definitive map as a restricted byway nearly a mile in length, and the obstructions sufficiently removed to facilitate passage.
It is all a bit of a seedy story, really, and if you have any sense that the process of recording, protecting, and using ‘lost ways’ should be fair, open, and properly thought-through, then you will (I sincerely hope) find it all rather disturbing. Click on the photograph below to open the report.
A big thank you to Dave Loney for sending me a Practical Motorist ‘Principal ROAD ROUTES of Great Britain‘ in immaculate condition. This tiny (4″ x just over 3″) booklet of major route itineraries was probably a give-away with Practical Motorist magazine, and has a ‘puff’ for the rag at threepence a copy. A check on Ebay and a squint at the magazine covers on offer suggests that this was the price in the 1930s. It wouldn’t do these days as a sat-nav substitute – there is no route from the pilates studio to Waitrose. The booklet is scanned as a ‘gallery’ in the Maps & Miscellanea section.