The new Chatburn-Downham Concessionary Bridleway
As many of you will have noticed, either through following our social media channels or from travelling along the Chatburn Road to/from Downham in the last 6 months, work has been on-going to create a new bridleway connecting the two villages. Previously walkers, cyclists and horse-riders had no choice but to use the road if they wished to travel from Chatburn to Downham, which was a somewhat unsettling prospect given that vehicles are permitted to travel up to 60mph there.
The Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, with the support of the Heritage
Fund, the Forest of Bowland AONB and the Downham Estate,
are happy to announce the opening of the Chatburn-Downham bridleway which will
provide the public with a safe and scenic route between the villages.
Those of you familiar with the Chatburn and Downham areas will also be familiar with the prevalence of Roman history in the area. An old Roman road is speculated to exist, buried, in the vicinity of Downham/Rimington, a small section of which could potentially have overlapped with the proposed line for the new bridleway. Therefore, before any work could begin, we asked Greenlane Archaeology Ltd to survey the site to prevent any damage to any valuable archaeological evidence from Roman times. The survey took place in early February 2020; as many of you will no doubt remember the weather that month left a lot to be desired.
A top layer of turf and soil is carefully removed in order for the survey to begin
During a break in the hail, which was detrimental to visibility, archaeologists begin to examine the earth for signs of the old Roman road
The new route also runs close to a number of trees. Where ground works are located close to trees, protection of the roots must be considered. Forester and Tree Surgeon Richard Davis was retained to survey the area and calculate 'Root Protection Areas', which are used to determine the amount of protective material required to lay over tree roots to prevent subsequent ground works from damaging them. Terram and Geocell were used which ensures the continuation of essential air and water flow to roots and helps to distribute the weight of stone evenly, and this was installed below all sections of the bridleway where tree root protection had been identified as necessary.
Following the laying of geotextile in the relevant areas, ground works began in earnest. An area of ground was identified to ensure that enough space was afforded for a 3m wide track, comfortable for two-way traffic, with a further 2m of area suitable to support a hedgerow. A fence has been installed down the entire length of the new bridleway in order to protect and isolate the livestock in the adjacent field.
Initial work was slowed by the huge amount of rainfall we experienced in February; the machines needed for construction could not safely navigate such waterlogged ground without risking lasting damage to turf and soil. However, after the ground had dried in early March fast progress was made by Charlie Yirrell and his company CPY Excavations, beginning first on the 500m stretch from Chatburn to Greendale View Kitchen. The line of the bridleway, previously decided in consultation with the landowner, was excavated and a solid stony foundation was laid. Further aggregate was spread on top of the foundations then rolled flat. Subsequent good weather has baked the new track, creating a sturdy surface for foot, bike and hoof traffic.
Working carefully around standing trees, contractors lay a surface to create the bridleway
Heavy and sustained rainfall makes life difficult for machine operators; in addition to concerns about causing damage to the surface, the waterlogged ground makes driving machines difficult and unsafe
The extended good weather through April and May allowed for the making up of time lost in February. Then another curveball, the Covid-19 lockdown (from late March 2020), threatened to further slow construction. However, CPY Excavations quickly adapted safe, socially-distant work plans and risk assessments, and good progress was made regardless. By April, bridleway construction moved well into the second 500m stretch, from Greendale View Kitchen towards Downham.
By mid-May, track-work was complete and a new hedge, planted and watered through the drought by Ralph Assheton, is in position along the vast majority of the bridleway. Finishing touches were applied along the route, such as mounting blocks for horses, the installation of boulders for seating and a water-trough for thirsty horses.
The final works required to make the bridleway a fully legal and safe was the installation of a series of gates along the bridleway where the track nears an exit to the road. You may spot the gates and at first be surprised by their spatial situation; they do not, after all, meet and form a barrier as normal gates would. In addition to prevent any attempted vehicular use of the bridleway, the main purpose of the gates is to create a holding area a safe distance from the road, where horse riders can see passing cars easily (and vice versa) before deciding to proceed from the bridleway onto the road. Additionally, when viewed head-on, the two separate gates will appear to a horse to be a single closed barrier, which will prevent any spooked animal from bolting into the road.
|A safe distance from the road, the gates create a chicane which affords horse riders and drivers more chance to see each other before a crossing is attempted. Photograph by Graham Cooper.|
From a distance, a horse will perceive the gates as a single obstruction across the track, preventing any bolting which may lead to a road traffic accident. Photograph by Graham Cooper.
As of mid-June 2020, the Chatburn-Downham bridleway is officially open to the public. We would like to encourage the safe and considerate use of the new route. Please stick to the track to protect the young hedgerow, pick up after your dog and take any litter home with you. Please enjoy the bridleway safely!
|Images by Graham Cooper|