Conservation updates at Allen Banks, summer - autumn 2018

A newly laid path photographed in the sunlight

Since the devastating effects of Storm Desmond in winter 2015/2016, resulting in a six-month full site closure, ongoing path closures, and the destruction of the wobbly bridge, the team has been working hard to repair and restore some of the footpaths in the woodland, to make the site more accessible again.

Ranger Chris Johnson has provided an update on some of the recent repair work that has been carried out at Allen Banks, including the much awaited reopening of the public right of way path: “The big news over the summer has been the reopening of the middle path in Walks Wood following it’s destruction in the landslip caused by the winter flooding in 2015/16. Two big sections of the path were washed down the hill, covering the riverside footpath, and the same storm also saw the destruction of the wobbly bridge.

“Rebuilding this public right of way has been a joint project between the National Trust and Northumberland County Council, carried out by local contractors Haydon Construction who have used over four hundred tonnes of stone to reconstruct the hill side and level out a new path.”

The reopening of the public right of way makes a walk at Allen Banks a little less strenuous, and allows visitors to reach the riverside walk a lot easy. The walk brings visitors to the popular spot where the river bends at Raven Crag.

Chris added: “We’ve also had a busy summer tackling some unwelcome plants, including invasive rhododendron that can disrupt the natural balance of the special woodland habitat we have in Allen Banks and Staward Gorge.

Looking ahead, the team are now getting ready for the onset of winter: “Our focus at the moment has turned to tree felling and woodland management as we continue our habitat improvement works.

“A healthy woodland needs a good mix of trees of all ages and species, and lots of shrubs and flowers to create a diverse understory. By felling some of the trees we’ll allow more light to the woodland floor and get lots of things growing. This variety should also help stabilise the soil and reduce the likelihood of landslips in the future, making a better home for lots of different animals including red squirrels, dormice and many woodland birds.”

The team are also still monitoring the newly-rebuilt public right of way path, to ensure it is fit for purpose. Although they don’t have any more repairs planned in the near future, replacing the wobbly bridge is always going to be something the team are aware of being a priority for lots of visitors to Allen Banks.

Chris mentioned: “If a bridge is reinstated in the future, we need to be confident we’re not going to see it washed away again and this may mean a change in design or even location along the river.”

The National Trust team at Allen Banks would like to thank their partners and the generous donations and support from members and volunteers who consistently help with the efforts to restore the woodland back to its former glory.