Responses to Consultations.

TVMTBC responses to a range of consultations on all aspects of cycling in the North East of England

Hexham Road comments: 21.06.16

It is approaching 20 years since I last cycled Hexham Road and I recall it was not a pleasant experience due entirely to extensive boggy sections, deep wheel ruts and a lot of mud hence I haven’t rushed back. Walking Hexham Road on the 20th June was a very pleasant experience and I kept wishing I was on my mountain bike. 

Written by Ted Liddle | Published: 23 June 2016

Site visit: 20.06.16  Weather: Fine

Ground conditions: Dry

On foot

Terrain

From north to south, Hexham Road stays mainly above the 300 m contour and only slightly undulates until it gradually descends to Thistlewood Farm at its southern end. Its surface varies from permanent pasture, a short section of double-width whinstone base, long sections of compacted earth with and without side drainage, a few quite deeply rutted water-filled sections with a parallel alternative, about 800 m of compacted sandstone passing through the Sand Edge section and quite a lot of double width track at the south ends with a crushed sandstone base some of which has been quite deeply cut by the passage of large tractor wheels over the years. 

Drainage

One main section passing through the Ninety Acre Allotment was obviously drained. There are a lot of flat sections without drainage although it is reasonable to believe the sub-base is sandstone which is usually free draining. There were no visible drains south of the quarries down Thistlewood Lane where seemingly, all rain water drains down the track itself with deleterious effect. 

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Relevant factors 

Clearly, use by farm vehicles has an impact on Hexham Road and this is particularly evident on all of the southern half where there is very little drainage, if any.

In dry conditions this use causes minimal damage but in bad weather, farm vehicles will undoubtedly have cause and effect impact on the state of the track. Ever larger tractors have ever larger wheels which spin stones out of the ground and their wider axels support larger wheels which eat into the side structure of tracks on sections below the level of the surrounding land. This destabilises the side structure by removing peat, stones and heather all of which support the side structure.  

As always, the quality of the drainage is THE key factor in regard to how sustainable a track is. 

Overall impression

Since the TRO was put in place and obviously respected, Hexham Road has recovered remarkably well. It is eminently suitable for use by cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers in its present state. Even MPVs could use it at the present time and not cause damage due the dry conditions but it is clear that if this was sanctioned and inconsiderate use re-occurred during and after wet weather conditions then Hexham Road will very quickly revert back to being impassable along sections of it. In addition, further damage would occur on those sections that could be driven to the cost of the overall condition of the route and the ability for walkers, cyclists and horse riders to pass along it at all let alone being able to enjoy the experience. 

Recommendations

  1. Re-open the route to cyclists and horse riders as soon as practicable
  2. Drain the route where drainage is missing where it could be created or installed
  3. Consider changing the status to Restricted Byway

Further options 

  1. Work with the TRF, LARA and Green Lanes Association to agree and implement a use-management strategy with the condition attached that non adherence will result in a permanent TRO
  2. Make it seasonal with a condition that a temporary TRO will be re-introduced in prolonged wet periods regardless of the season
  3. Continue the TRO permanently 

In conclusion, Hexham Road is a fine historical route in its current state of repair. If at all possible it should be made and kept available for use and enjoyment by walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

Ted Liddle: Cycling UK (North East Ride to Ride) - www.cyclinguk.org

Tyne Valley MTB Cycling (Chairman)   07871 383 456 - www.tynevalleymtbcycling.co.uk

Looking its best...!

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Hexham Road – route condition as on 20.06.16

View SSE from Salter’s Gate...

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Good track base south of old railway...

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Unclear section approaching 90 Acre Allotment...

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Drained section of same field...

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Ninety Acre Allotment with basic drainage...

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Same with better drainage...

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Indications of natural repair including a track section through wet ground...

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Two really vulnerable sections revealing how easy it would be for regression...

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Thistlewood Lane (quarries area)...

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...suggestive of being very muddy in wet weather...

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North of Thistlewood Farm: stone base but no effective drainage...

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...vulnerable section...

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