Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 17:23 UK

Decade of mountain paths' repair

helicopter airlifting materials
Helicopters are used to airlift materials on the mountain side

A decade of footpath restoration and construction is being celebrated in the Snowdonia National Park.

Over the ten years teams of workers have toiled on 27 miles (44km) of mountain walkways.

Reduced funding from the EU is now affecting the future of the Snowdonia Upland Path Partnership (SUPP).

Scheme partners the National Park, the National Trust and the Welsh Assembly Government said they were looking at other options to finance the work.

Many of the paths being used started off as routes between communities, as ways to market, or access to and from mines.

Increasing numbers of visitors have put a strain on the infrastructure, with the footpath scheme managers having to think of different measures to protect various locations.

'Learning curve'

Stone pitching is described as "building a submerged dry stone wall for people to walk on top of", whilst aggregate sections are excavated trenches filled with compacted stone and finishing materials that blend in with the area.

"One of the great things about the project has been the degree to which the pool of skills and techniques has grown over the years," said Alun Hughes, SUPP project officer.

"At times the learning curve was quite steep."

Peter Rutherford, access officer for the National Park, said the biggest problem was the teams could not use stone found on the mountain as much of it was unsuitable, which meant that materials had to be flown in.

"It also takes the teams a good two hours to get up here in the mornings.

"They work all day, in all weathers, all done by hand, and then they have to get off the mountain again in the evenings.

"So it has been logistically a bit of a nightmare," he added.

A cut in EU funding would affect the work being done, he said.

Workers on the mountainside
It takes the workers around two hours to get to the path sites

"We will have to severely curtail the work we do which will be a problem with increasing numbers of visitors.

"But it is incumbent on us to look after the site," he added.

John Morgan from the National Trust said the partnership had worked extremely well.

"The money we received meant getting more workers and also we could "up-skill" the workforce so that the work was done to a higher standard.

"With the increasing skills I'm delighted that some have gone on to other jobs, and others have set up in their own right."

Mr Morgan said he was concerned about the future, but the partnership was already looking at finding other funding.

"I am concerned because there are quite a number of areas where work still needs to be done," he said.


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