Horseriders, walkers and mountain bikers will find the going easier underfoot in Coverdale thanks to a joint project between the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) and local dry stone wallers.
Members of the Otley & Yorkshire Dales branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association spent three days building a 2m-wide, cobbled ford in Arkleside Gill above Arkleside to make it easier for visitors to cross.
It is the second time the group has carried out major work in the National Park – last year members built an arched bridge over Eller Beck at Ballowfield, between Carperby and Woodhall in Wensleydale.
But it was something new for them because they had to start the work under water, according to branch spokesman John Heslegrave.
He said: “Arkleside Gill is steeply-sided and crossed by a bridle way but riders of even the most athletic horses had found the boulder-strewn stream bed too hard-going for a safe crossing,
“A cobbled ford was to be the answer and, after our success in building the Ballowfield bridge over water, we were in line for laying stone under water.
“But walling with a strong current washing around every stone was a new experience and we were glad to be able to get above the water level eventually.”
Paul Sheehan, the Authority’s Access Ranger for Lower Wensleydale, organised the transportation of five tonnes of stone – mostly slabs of freshly-quarried sandstone – aggregate and sand bags so the work could be carried out.
He said: “It was certainly something out of the ordinary for the wallers,
“But they have made a fantastic job of it and it will be there for years to come, helping people to cross the beck and continue their journey in this beautiful part of the National Park.”
The stones were set with the water flow and some of the water was diverted so the first cobbles could be laid ‘end down’ against a sandbagged plank.
A suspended rope was used to form the profile for the stonework and soil from the banks was dug out so the cobbles could rise smoothly for pedestrians, cyclists and horses.
Other boulders formed some new steps for the path up the west bank.
Malcolm Petyt, the YDNPA’s Member Champion for Recreational Management, said: “Having joined our Dales volunteers on a few walling jobs, I know some of the challenges of this sort of work. Having to do it under water must be something else! They have done a great job.”