Can’t-do Attitude.

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?

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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.