The County Council’s Rights of Way Team last visited Skelsmergh in 2011 and, although they did some excellent repairs and renewals, somehow managed to overlook the path that links Coppice Howe with Gurnal Bridge where two stiles were in long-term decline. In the succeeding interval their condition went from poor, to bad to almost impassable and in the meantime the parish council were advised that resources could not be found to carry out repairs.

It fell to the council to find ways and means and earlier this year, using materials supplied by the RoW team the council got a local contractor to build a new wooden stile just below Garth Row Lane as phase one of an improvement plan. Phase two involved negotiation with the Dry Stone Walling Association to persuade it to take on the challenging task of repairing a dry stone step stile. The adjoining landowners were very willing to be persuaded.

On 26th September last ten members of the DSWA arrived to tackle the job, aiming to finish in the day. With the help of a trailer-load of stone donated and delivered by Andrew Sutton and a magnificent, near- perfect step, donated by a local resident, work got under way at 10.00am. Within half an hour the old wall was down and the new foundation was already being formed. As I had an urgent job to do elsewhere I left them to it, not returning until 3.00 pm when, to my amazement, I found that all that remained to do was the cams and by 4.30 the team had tidied-up and left the site.

It was a remarkable day’s work and I should like to record here the contribution of the following individuals (some of whom had travelled from as far away as Ravenglass, Barrow and Blackpool): Pat Adair, Margaret and Brian Grey, Patrick Lacey, Dave Binks, Steve Fisher, Peter Young, Jonathan Turner Karen Brown and Charles White. Sam Robinson of Oakbank was invaluable in making his 4x4 available to bring up materials. I am hoping to publish a photo diary of the day on the website.

The result of these efforts is that the public footpath is now safely open once more. In another issue I intend to propose a scenic and possibly historic walk to add to the parish walks series recently distributed to all Skelsmergh and Scalthwaiterigg households and also available on the parish website,

John Chapman

Some photos. Click on a thumbnail for a larger image.