Keeping the wheels turning on the Cleveland Way

How the National Trails Ranger keeps the wheels turning on the Cleveland Way

It could almost be a pub quiz question asking how many miles the National Trails Ranger clocks up each year in the course of his work. The answer is 16,000 miles – which puts in perspective the scale of the task when it comes to the distances involved in order to maintain the 109-mile National Trail.

Portrait of ranger Andrew Carter credit Ben Read

Thank goodness then that through the generous support of Hardmoors, organisers of the local ultra-running race series, national trails ranger Andrew Carter has a suitable vehicle for all those miles and transporting the equipment and tools needed.

Andrew, who has worked with the National Park since 2001, explains why the National Trails need a dedicated ranger:

“When I joined the National Park, first as a field assistant and then as a senior field assistant, there was no maintenance ranger. All the work was carried out by the field teams but by 2006 the Cleveland Way had employed its first dedicated full-time maintenance ranger, which was me.

“Without this move, the trail’s maintenance demands would continue to have been shared between the existing field teams, but given their workload, some of the essential improvements would never have been done.”

Back in 2006, Andrew recalls, much of the maintenance work involved improving the Cleveland Way’s surface and chopping back vegetation particularly where it had encroached the trail so much that the only passable section of the path was narrow and badly eroded.

Ranger with waymarker post by Ben Read

Team installing new waymarker post by Ben Read

Today, while that still forms part of the workload, there’s now more emphasis on other maintenance tasks, including putting new infrastructure in and improving accessibility.

Andrew explains: “When I joined, there were approximately 60 wooden climb-over stiles along the Cleveland Way and we’ve just removed the final one replacing them with gates or simply not having a barrier at all.

“Accessibility is a big focus. We had to overcome some challenges along the stretch of the trail that goes from Sutton Bank National Park Centre towards Roulston Scar and Kilburn White Horse to improve conditions for wheelchair users and those hiring the new all-terrain tramper from the centre.

“Getting onto the track involves crossing a busy main road. Together with the National Park’s South Area Ranger team, we relocated the old crossing place to a point with a much better sightline, dropped the kerb and added a short stretch of tarmac.

“Similarly, we had to consider accessibility when dealing with the aftermath of a landslip near Robin Hood’s Bay which had narrowed the existing path. We worked with Scarborough Borough Council, National Trust and their tenant to reroute the trail for a short distance along the Cinder Track, which meant clearing shrubs, installing three new gates and fencing and constructing a ramp to enable the existing path to be joined with the new one.”

With Andrew in full flow talking about the unending number of tasks along the Cleveland Way, it becomes easier to see how the 16,000 miles are clocked up and how much time is spent liaising with other parties even for ‘on-the-face-of-it’ simple jobs like resurfacing work.

“There can be a lot of build-up work even before the job is done,” he says. “Liaising with landowners or the likes of the National Trust rangers, getting the stone delivered to site, inspecting it and then organising the manpower to complete the resurfacing.”

This neatly brings us onto the volunteers, the heroes who quietly get on with providing the practical support to Andrew and the other rangers and who really make a difference.

“In the first year I only had a few tools and it soon became obvious I would need some help,” Andrew comments. “There are two volunteer groups, the Hobs and Coasties who came on-board and still provide regular help one day a month each, plus the Cleveland Way volunteers scheme which began in 2008.

“Our volunteers come from all walks of life – police, teachers or technicians from a chocolate factory in York. Many have worked with us for years. We now use a software system which is shared with the volunteer groups where I add the tasks that need doing and then volunteers sign-up to the ones they can do.”

Ranger and volunteer about White Horse by Ben Read

When asked what volunteers get out of it, Andrew’s response is this:

“For many it’s the sociable side that comes with working as part of a group and being outside. Many of our volunteers are retired and/or are walkers who are keen to help care for the routes they love to walk. However there’s also the health aspect. We’ve had volunteers who have said the work has helped them manage conditions such as autism and improved their mental health.”

And so back to Andrew’s wheels and the invaluable support of Hardmoors. Jon and Shirley Steele, the organisers of the running race series set up a scheme whereby £1 was donated from every race entry to the Cleveland Way National Trail specifically to help maintain those treasured routes along which runners’ feet would pound.

After three years, the donations enabled Andrew’s first truck to be purchased. More years down the line and the unwavering support of the running community has seen a replacement vehicle being purchased.

As Andrew puts it: “Without the Hardmoors donations we couldn’t keep the Cleveland Way’s wheels turning!”

Andrew’s favourite spots on the Cleveland Way:

  • Ravenscar heading south towards Scarborough, for its quietness away from busier coastal spots.
  • Urra Moor with its grandstand views across to industrial Teesside one way and the beautiful scenery over to Bransdale and Farndale in the other direction.

As part of Andrews work with National Trails, he is now working on the Coast to Coast National Trail, which will be officially launched in 2025 as well as the King Charles III England Coast Path. His team has now expanded, with the North York Moors employing the first National Trail Apprentice in the country.

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