Rights of way hard hit by storm damage
The storms of late February have left a trail of destruction across Exmoor’s 1,300km network of public paths, with more than 330 trees cleared so far and longer-term damage to several major routes. Along with tree blockages some paths have been torn out by lifting root balls. Damage has occurred across the whole National Park but the coast is worst hit.
Routes affected include the South West Coast path which has been closed between Culbone near Porlock and Desolate near Lynmouth, with a diversion in place. A temporary route change also affects the popular Two Moors Way and Tarka Trail. Further reports of blocked paths are still being received almost daily.
The clean-up operation is expected to run into tens of thousands of pounds. Donations to CareMoor for Exmoor are being sought towards offsetting the extra cost and can be made online at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor or in person at Exmoor National Park Centres, with all funds raised supporting conversation and access work across the National Park.
Sue Applegate, Rights of Way & Access Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “One month on from the storms and we're still feeling the effects. Our teams are working hard to deal with the issues and we’re extremely grateful to members of the public for taking the time to send in their reports. The immense collaborative effort between all our partners including the National Trust, local landowners and communities has also been fantastic to see and crucial to getting paths reopened safely.”
Last year’s rights of way survey on Exmoor rated an impressive 98 per cent of paths surveyed as ‘open and easy to use.’ This follows a steep rise in those enjoying longer walks of more than two hours, with 60 per cent of visitors now stating this as a primary reason for coming to Exmoor.
Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager, added: “We are proud to have one of the best rights of way networks in the country as graded by a nationally recognised methodology. But there’s no doubt that climate change and the cumulative effect of more storms, heavy rain and longer growing seasons are starting to take their toll. Across the network we are trying to increase drain capacity as standard to improve resilience to flooding and our bridges are also now built with more flood risk and erosion in mind. Working with farmers and land managers to try and slow the flow of run off by retaining more water in the land is also key.
“Fallen trees though sad to see and intensive to deal with are still an important part of the lifecycle of a wood. The glades created will soon be awash with foxgloves, primroses, violets and young saplings. The rotting wood, which we aim to leave in place wherever possible, will become shelter and food to insects, small mammals, fungi and lichen. This in turn slowly releases nutrients back into the soil to nourish new life.”
Published: 23 March 2022
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