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					Access Audit

Daddry Shield, St John’s Chapel
& Ireshopeburn

Client Contact:   Tony Devos
                  Communities and Communications Officer
                  Mineral Valley Project
                  Natural England
                  The Quadrant
                  Newburn Riverside
                  Newcastle upon Tyne
                  NE15 8NZ

Date:             25 February 2007

Conditions:       A mixed winter’s day with good visibility and wet ground.

Auditor:          Sites, Rangers and Ecology Section
                  Countryside Group
                  Durham County Council
                  County Hall
                  DH1 5UQ

Route Location:   The three villages are located in Upper Weardale within a 3.5
                  kilometre section of the A689 Grid Square Reference NY 88 37

Measurements:     All measurements in this report are approximate

Purpose:          The purpose of this report is to assess the route’s current
                  accessibility and identify potential areas for improvement.

Disability Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 made it unlawful to discriminate against
anyone on the grounds of his or her disability. Part 3 of the Act covers the provision of
goods, services and facilities and applies to land such as that considered in this
report. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 brought a number of changes, most
notably the inclusion of all functions of public bodies; including works on Public Rights
of Way. Although primarily relevant to new creations, all works affecting existing
Public Rights of Way should show good practice and have ‘due regard’ to the
requirements of the Act.

The Act requires “reasonable adjustments” to be made for disabled people and,
where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled
people, a service provider has to take reasonable steps to remove the feature or alter
it so that it no longer has that effect. However, the Act does not necessarily require
changes to be made that would alter the nature or character of the countryside. It will
be for the courts to ultimately decide on what constitutes a ‘reasonable adjustment’ -
the replacement of stiles with gates, for example, is generally regarded as good

Survey Content
As requested, the survey has considered a number of areas essential to disabled
people, their carers, the elderly, and those with young children. These comprise the
availability of public transport, car parking, accessible toilet facilities, route signing,
waymarking, access points and other appropriate and relevant features.

Visual impairments
The nature of this route makes it only safely accessible for someone with a visual
impairment to do so in the company of a carer.

The following areas will also need to be considered when route promotion is being

Learning difficulties
This will be most important in the production of literature and route signing. As there
are no current plans for route information it is stressed that advice should be taken on
matters such as wording, symbols and maps. We suggest

Off-site information.
The availability of comprehensive, pertinent and easily accessible information is
important to any potential visitor but of crucial value to a disabled visitor and/or their
carer. It provides the opportunity to assess whether a route is suitable for their
abilities and identifies/highlights areas that may not be suitable. The managers of any
site or promoted route should consider how people will access necessary information
and ensure it is provided over the widest possible range of media. Advice should be
taken on matters such as print guidelines particularly with regard to wording, symbols,
colour contrast, print styles and graphics. We suggest

General description of route: (See Map for route)

This is a 12 kilometre waymarked circular route based on the three villages of Daddry
Shield, St John’s Chapel and Ireshopeburn within the protected landscape of the
North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The route has been developed
to provide two opportunities for ‘short cuts’ giving the option of three shorter circular
routes that can be attempted individually. They all follow existing Public Rights of
Way and utilise some stretches of quiet tarmaced lanes and roads. The routes give
the walker an experience of the different types of terrain found in Upper Weardale
ranging from riverside and field paths to rough upland farmland with many steep
gradients. Natural obstacles within the path surfaces can be expected and comprise
tree roots, rocks and boulders and wet and boggy areas.

Route development:
The proposed routes have been developed by Durham County Council’s Access and
Rights of Way Officers and the audit was undertaken with their route plan in a
clockwise direction.

Roadside parking is available within each of the settlements with the most
appropriate location being the designated parking area outside the Cattle Mart in St
John’s Chapel.

Public transport:
Weardale Motor Services’ route 101 serves Weardale and there are a number of
stops within and between each village.

Nearest accessible toilet:
St John’s Chapel, on the village green near the church

Facilities for walkers:
St John’s Chapel has a Post Office, newsagents, Co-operative store and two public
houses. A further public house, The Weardale Inn, is situated on the A689 between
St John’s Chapel and Ireshopeburn.

Signing & waymarking:
The route has been waymarked with ‘Mineral Valleys Walk’ waymarks.

                               Mineral Valleys Walk waymark

Accessibility Issues

  •     Much of the route follows undefined field paths over poorly-drained ground
        which is consequently ‘heavy-going’ for walkers.

                             Poorly drained ground and stream crossing

  •     The main body of the route runs along the valley sides and requires, in most
        cases, a significant climb or descent at the points where it returns to the valley
  •     Sections of the route which run parallel to the river, although relatively flat are
        muddy, uneven and difficult to negotiate.

                     Riverside path between St John’s Chapel and Daddry Shield

  •   Although in the main fairly quiet, the route follows some extensive sections of
      public highway where vehicular traffic may be encountered.
  •   With some notable exceptions, waymarking is fairly comprehensive in a
      clockwise direction but substantially incomplete anti-clockwise.
  •   In places, waymarkers need realignment or additional discs are required for
  •   The route goes through a number of farmsteads where accurate route-finding
      is difficult. These are locations where it is essential that accurate route finding
      is clear and straightforward. This was a particular problem at Greenwell to the
      south west of Ireshopeburn and Allercleugh to the north east of Ireshopeburn.
  •   At Rowantree Farm, there is no alternative to Public Footpath 66, Stanhope,
      crossing a cattle grid. The uninviting nature of this access is compounded with
      ‘Dogs Loose’ signs - possibly designed to intimidate walkers.

                                Cattle grid at Rowantree Farm


  •   To reduce instances of irresponsible parking, promotional literature should
      clearly indicate the most appropriate parking locations.
  •   As it is more difficult to satisfactorily waymark in villages, the written
      description of the route will need to be clear and concise for the sections of the
      route in St John’s Chapel in particular.

Infrastructure and Maintenance

   •   Due to sheep grazing in relatively small enclosures this route has a significant
       number of stone or timber stiles and gates.

                           Examples of stiles requiring repair

   •   Gates on the route are in varying states of repair. The majority are in good
       condition but several require replacement or repair, particularly the latch
       mechanism on a number of gates.

•   A number of stiles along the route are in poor condition and difficult to
    negotiate with several requiring improvement as stock control issues appears
    to take precedence over public access. This is particularly notable on the
    route between Green Laws and High Hotts farms.

                           Access with stock control feature

•   The path surfaces under and around the access structures, particularly along
    the riverside path in St John’s Chapel, was eroded, muddy and large stones
    have been exposed.

                                Riverside kissing gate

•   On the day of the survey, fallen trees were blocking Footpath 92, Stanhope,
    adjacent to the Harthope Burn.

                         Fallen tree on Footpath 92, Stanhope

•   The steep steps on the ‘short cut’ to St John’s Chapel on Footpath 92,
    Stanhope, require a handrail.

                                 Missing handrail

•   Vegetation and path surface maintenance is required in several areas, most
    notably on Footpath 25, Stanhope, near Newhouse Pastures where
    overhanging vegetation and the severely scoured surface of the lane present a
    significant hazard.


  •     As many users of the route will, to a great extent, rely on the waymarking for
        route finding, this requires improvement and effective ongoing maintenance.
        This is particularly important where the route goes through farmsteads where
        accurate route-finding is essential to give walkers confidence and to avoid
        potential conflict with landowners. This is crucial where the objective of a route
        such as this is to encourage people to venture further and into different terrain
        than they may be used to.
  •     To provide clarity, it is suggested that each of the three ‘circuits’ is indicated by
        a specific colour on waymarks.
  •     As current waymarking is most complete in a clockwise direction and only
        partly in place anticlockwise, if it is the intention to sign in both directions,
        improvements are urgently required.
  •     The problems noted at Rowantree Farm, south of St John’s Chapel where the
        Public Footpath crosses a cattle grid and signs warn ‘Dogs Loose’ is
        considered to be a matter that requires resolving before the route is promoted
        as it is intimidating and a potential safety issue for walkers.
  •     Consider resurfacing the riverside path at St John’s Chapel, this would enable
        people with limited mobility to access this section.
  •     Remove the tree blocking Footpath 92, Stanhope.


  •     Due to the inherent nature of the terrain and Public Footpaths in the Upper
        Dale, it must be made clear in any publicity that the route is only
        recommended for people who are mobile with a reasonable level of fitness.
  •     Promotional literature must stress that people should only park in appropriate
        locations to ensure farm accesses and narrow lanes are not obstructed. The
        recommended parking area is by St John’s Chapel Mart and road side parking
        at Daddry Shield and Ireshopeburn. Discussions with the Parish Council could
        identify appropriate areas where the effect on local residents can be
  •     To ensure users get the most from their visit, promotional literature should
        direct people to other appropriate sources of information, for example the Bird
        Watching in the North Pennines publication produced by the North Pennines
        AONB Partnership.

Infrastructure and Maintenance Issues

   •   The field boundaries in this upland area are primarily stone walls with stiles
       which must be as accessible as possible whilst providing effective stock
       control and be kept in a good state of repair. A good level of agility is required
       to negotiate them and the addition of a secure timber hand-post would greatly
       improve convenience without detracting from a stile’s stock control function. In
       several instances, it would be appropriate to amend the structure by providing
       additional steps and reducing the pedestrian access height. The installation of
       a small timber wicket gate with self-closing mechanism will maintain the
       necessary stock proof height.

                              Example of wicket gate on stone stile

   •   To encourage potential users, where the route is close to the three
       settlements, the surfaces surrounding gates and stiles need particular
       improvement to enhance confidence.
   •   A regular inspection and maintenance regime is necessary to ensure the route
       remains open and unobstructed. The inspection function and possibly
       elements of maintenance could, perhaps, be the responsibility of a local Adopt-
       a-Path Ranger.
   •   To maintain consistency and safety for those using the route in an
       anticlockwise direction, a handrail should be installed on the steps at Footpath
       92, Stanhope.
   •   The installation of seating could be considered, particularly along the riverside

Visitor Responsibility

   •   Animal husbandry is the most important agricultural issue in this area and any
       promotional literature should stress that dogs be kept under close control and
       preferably on a lead at all times. It should also stress the damage that can be
       caused by dogs to both sheep in lamb and ground-nesting birds. Emphasising
       the importance of dogs being kept on a lead between January and August may
       be appropriate.

Summary and accessibility statement
The route is based around three of Weardale’s villages located in a traditional upland
farming area. The topography and agricultural character of the Dale means that all
paths leaving the villages will encounter fairly steep inclines and will require crossing
numerous stone boundary walls. The paths will be uneven, unsurfaced, muddy and
ill-defined. This is the character of the Dale and the essence of the experience the
route seeks to convey.

The route is only accessible to those with a fair level of fitness and agility and we
have therefore made no specific recommendations to improve access for anyone with
a disability. If well waymarked and maintained, the route offers an excellent
introduction to people who are capable and willing to venture a little further afield in a
‘wilder’ landscape than they may previously have experienced.


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