The South Downs Way needs urgent fixing for future generations and you can help with a new initiative, writes Rachel Wakefield
It was my playground as a child, proudly states Andy Gattiker, about the South Downs Way (SDW). Now, he works as a SDW trail officer, for the National Trails, managing this natural asset, stretching from Winchester to Eastbourne through 160km of wild beauty – it is no easy task.
“Fifteen thousand pairs of boots, 10,000 bicycle tyres and 800 hooves travelling the length of the trail each year cause a lot of wear and tear! Our existing funding allows us to make most repairs but there are a number of projects which are too expensive to tackle using existing funds. Each year, as the erosion and mud gets worse, they get more damaged and much harder to fix.”
SDW is asking everyone who loves the trail to help raise £120,000 to mend broken sections of the trail. The ‘Mend Our Way’ campaign is being run by the South Downs National Park Trust, an independent charity working with the National Trails and British Mountaineering Council. Find out more www.mendmountains.thebmc.co.uk.
Old Winchester Hill is a scheduled ancient monument with an Iron Age Hill Fort, a Bronze Age cemetery and is also a National Nature Reserve. It’s one of the most iconic hills in the National Park. But the route up to it becomes a slippery kilometre of boot-churned mud every winter. Being inaccessible to machinery and vehicles makes it a great place to be (when it’s dry) but almost impossible to reach to fix. What is needed is £50,000 to scrape away the mud and replace the surface with stones.
Millpond Bottom, between Beacon Hill and Penn Hill, has some impressive scaring. Successive feet, wheels and hooves have more than doubled the width of the chalk track – putting nearby sensitive Scheduled Ancient Monuments at risk. What is needed is £15,000 to safely transport materials to the site, mend the trail and keep walkers on the straight and narrow.
Hyden Lane near Butser Hill sits on top of the chalk ridge but suffers from a lack of drainage. As large puddles get trapped on the busy track. It will take £35,000 to fix 1.6km of the track and create a camber to help it drain.
Andy adds: “If we want people to care about our environment and feel some ownership and responsibility for it, then they need to fully experience it. It needs to be easy for people to get out and explore our fantastic National Park. That’s what the ‘Mend Our Way’ is really all about.”