New life built into Wetherby bridleway

editorial image

A national housebuilder has shown its community spirit by resurfacing the footpath and bridleway that runs between Spofforth Hill and the Harland Way – a job it completed months ahead of schedule so that locals and visitors would have an easy route into Wetherby during the Yorkshire 2019 Para-Cycling International event on the September 21, prior to the UCI Road World Championships in Harrogate from September 22-29.

Bellway Homes, which is currently building at Spofforth Park, agreed to upgrade the footpath and Bridleway No 1 early following an approach from Caroline Green, a volunteer with Sustrans – the charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle. Sustrans is the custodian of 16,000 miles of signed routes on the National Cycle Network.

“Spofforth Hill has become busier and busier over the last few years and road traffic has built up to such an extent that it makes walking or cycling into town quite a challenge,” said Caroline. “As a result, many people have taken to using local bridleways and footpaths as a safe means of getting into town without a car – and while the Harland Way was created by the Wetherby Lions and Sustrans back in the early 90s, Bridleway No1 and the footpath has simply existed as an ever-narrowing, and often extremely muddy and uneven path.“

“When Bellway started developing Spofforth Park we were made aware that they were keen for the footpath and bridleway to become a pleasant greenway running alongside its development. Normally this kind of work would take place towards to end of the building work, but when we approached them to ask whether it could be done ahead of the UCI Road World Championships their response showed just how much the company cares for the communities in which it builds.”

Tim Ellis, technical director of Bellway Yorkshire, immediately tasked a site surveyor and two site managers with walking the route and coming up with a plan to deliver the upgraded and resurfaced footpath and bridleway ahead of the global cycling event, which will see Spofforth Hill closed for the whole day on September 21st.

“Bellway’s work was immediate,” added Caroline. “As well as resurfacing the entire stretch of footpath and bridleway, they also inserted drainage pipes to reduce flooding on the Harland Way, which has been a problem for many years. What’s more, they did it all in just two weeks giving time for the all-weather surface to settle in ahead of what we anticipate being the busiest day ever on Bridleway No1 and the footpath on September 21.”

Bellway’s work on the bridleway isn’t finished yet. The company, whose Yorkshire headquarters are at Thorpe Park in Leeds, will be planting new trees and other greenery along the route during the winter months, before handing over Bridleway No1 and the footpath, once complete, to Wetherby Town Council for maintenance.

Emma Fitton-Cook, Bellway Yorkshire’s sales manager, said: “At Spofforth Park we had identified the growing popularity of the link between Spofforth Hill and the Harland Way and the need for it to be resurfaced to make it suitable for everyone. When Caroline approached us and outlined the very real need to get the work done ahead of the International Cycling event we had no hesitation in agreeing to her request.”

Caroline added: “The benefits of upgrading Bridleway No1 and the footpath will be enjoyed long after the UCI Championships and its expected big crowds have left. “It also provides direct access to the new Little Toe and Devil’s Toenail bike parks, built by Wetherby Bike Trails and SingletrAction, on Quarry Hill Lane, without having to use Spofforth Hill. It will enable schoolchildren to cycle and walk in safety from the top of Spofforth Hill into town. It is wide enough for pushchairs; and with the current push on health and fitness it’ll take its place among all the other bridleways, footpaths and cycle paths around Wetherby as an outdoor alternative to going to the gym.

“We could have waited years for this improvement work to be carried out and it is due to the goodwill and willingness of Bellway to engage in the local community and improve Wetherby’s infrastructure that it has been done in time for an event that will see the eyes and wheels of the cycling world focussed on Wetherby.”

Following an inspection by Leeds City Council Public Rights of Way Manager, there is still more work to be done to comply with legislation regarding the width and surface of the upgraded bridleway.