A £1.5million upgrade of County Durham’s main cycling, wheeling and walking route has been completed, with a new glow in the dark section among the improvements made.
Durham County Council has worked with Sustrans to deliver the improvements on the National Cycle Network Route 1 (NCN1), which runs through the county. The Department for Transport-funded work has taken place on parts of the NCN1 between Seaham and Pesspool Wood near Haswell.
Resurfacing work has been completed on the two sections between Dawdon and the A19, and the new Jade Business Park development and the old coke works at South Hetton. More recently, County Durham’s first trial glow in the dark surfacing has been laid between the old coke works and the A182 crossing point. And south of the A182, resurfacing between the A182 and Pesspool Lane near Haswell has also been completed, alongside the replacement of the boardwalk in Pesspool Wood.
Barriers throughout the whole route have also been adjusted to make it more accessible, after local people said this was a particular problem between Seaham and Dalton Park.
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “This is a serious investment in improving connections between our towns and villages, and in making walking, wheeling and cycling a more attractive option for people whether they’re going to work, school or travelling for social or leisure reasons.
“What we had before was people telling us about a number of problems that were putting them off using the route. It was unrideable in places, whether that be down to poor surfaces, or barriers making it too inaccessible. We’ve listened very carefully to what people have had to say and we’ve taken these steps to put these things right.
“Ultimately, the path has to be accessible for everybody. Its whole purpose is to be used by our communities and it has to be suitable for everyday journeys. One local gentleman, who has Parkinson’s, told us he’d given up using this route because of the surfacing but says it’s a pleasure to ride on now. He says the difference is like chalk and cheese.”
The NCN1 is managed by the charity Sustrans and runs from Dover to the Shetland Islands, with a 23-mile stretch running through County Durham. Sustrans is leading an England-wide programme, supported by the Department for Transport, to enhance the National Cycle Network and achieve their vision of paths which are accessible for everyone.
Rosslyn Colderley, Director for Sustrans in the North of England, said: “It’s been great to work with Durham County Council on these improvements to the path from Seaham to South Hetton and Shotton Colliery.
“The route was narrow and muddy, with a very slippery walkway and lots of heavily engineered barriers, so there was very poor access for anyone with mobility issues or families pushing buggies. Now the path is wider, the barriers are gone and there’s a new walkway and a much better surface, which helps many more people use it for walking, wheeling and cycling. The trial fluorescent path should also improve conditions for people using the route at night.
“We’re working to improve the National Cycle Network across the UK, including many sections in the North East. The work is funded by the Department for Transport and is helping to create paths which are suitable for everyone to use, whatever their age or ability.”
Meanwhile, further improvements are being made to the NCN1 south of Pesspool Wood, as far as the county boundary. Almost £900,000 of funding from the council’s Towns and Villages Capital Improvement Programme has been allocated for this work. This includes resurfacing of the NCN1 between Shotton Colliery and Wellfield, which is almost completed. These upgrades signal the start of a six-year programme of investment to re-establish NCN1 as an international, regional and local asset.
Further work is planned to the north and south parts of the NCN1 to improve connections with the neighbouring areas of Sunderland and Hartlepool.