We sat at a table where we were able to spread out our maps and talk about my planned route through northern England and along some of the Pennine Bridleway. We had already exchanged some lengthy emails but I didn’t realise until that point quite what a fund of knowledge and recall Sue has, having spent many years researching horse friendly routes through the area. Her contribution has obviously been considerable so I shall let her explain her involvement in her own words:
“….I am glad I was able to be of some help. I have been into this business of
working out long routes since I was a teenager! ……..
I volunteered to be a BHS county access and bridleways officer when I took
up riding again after a long break having children etc because I have always
loved maps and exploring and hate riding on roads with traffic. I have now
been doing that for around 30 years! I have got to know Northumberland and
Co Durham pretty well as a result and have learnt about rights of law in the
process, which I have found fascinating.
I was very lucky to get appointed as Pennine Bridleway Project Officer in
1989 working for the Countryside Commission. It is not often that anyone
gets the chance to be employed to do what they like doing most. My task was
to find the best route for a bridleway national trail from North Yorkshire
to Northumberland. There was another project officer dealing with the area
south to Derbyshire. He left after 18 months so I was then working from
Hexham to Carsington Reservoir. I got to know a narrow corridor very well
as I tested out all the available routes on foot, talked to farmers and
landowners and parish councils and to specialists like ecologists,
archaeologists and bridge engineers. As I said finding safe crossing points
of major rivers and main roads and railways was critical. After that it was
a matter of joining the dots!
There was also a lot of report writing to do as well. After a period of
public consultation the proposal was submitted to the Secretary of State for
the Environment and eventually it got the go ahead in 1995 and the
development work began once a bid for £1.8 million to the Sports Lottery
was successful. One problem was that the route had to be shortened
resulting in a northern terminus near Kirkby Stephen rather than Hexham.
There was a bit of an uproar at this from those further north so I was able
to start again on finding a route through Cumbria and Northumberland to
Byrness, close to the Scottish Border. The submission for this Northern
Extension was sent in in late 2000 and received approval a few years later
but by then public money was in short supply and funding for it has never
been forthcoming. I retired at this point and since then I have
concentrated on my work for the BHS in Northumberland. My particular
interest at the moment is doing research on unrecorded historic routes as
these routes will be lost forever if they are not recorded on the definitive map by 2026…….”
It is quite clear that Sue has been an important mover and shaker in the story of one of our major bridleways. After gaining her permission, I am delighted to be able to publish her own account in recognition of her considerable contribution. So I am doubly grateful for her invaluable advice about my own route and in particular, pointing out where ‘at grade’ crossing points are to be found on major roads where there is no underpass or overbridge. Which fords are passable and where bridges over rivers and railway tracks are rideable. Such useful things to know, particularly as this section comes at the beginning of our pilgrimage whilst Tommy and I will be making some major adjustments, finding our feet and concentrating on getting into our stride.
My task now is to formalise my route, at least the first leg of it to the bottom of the Pennine Bridleway, before I publish it on the ‘Route’ page on this blog. Watch this space.