Flying and flagstones on Marsden Moor

Flag stone path on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire

With miles of popular footpaths crossing acres of open boggy ground, footpath improvements have been an important part of our work for a number of years. It is a challenging and time-consuming task, but it will bring long term benefits for both visitors and wildlife.

Over the last five years we have worked on several areas of the estate including the route of the old Pennine Way from White Moss to Black Moss, the Thieves Clough footpath and most recently the Packhorse route across Close Moss. Instead of these sections of path being a wet bog, they are now solid stone paths.
A lot of work goes in to the footpath improvements; it is definitely not a straight forward process. The preparation involves:
  • Working out the length of the footpath to be improved and how many flagstones will be needed
  • Deciding on the most accessible and suitable location for the stones to be delivered
  • Arranging for the stones to be delivered
  • Arranging for the airlift to take place
  • Re-arranging the airlift if the weather conditions mean flying is not possible
  • Getting the helicopter to drop the stones at the correct intervals
  • Manoeuvring the flag stones into place along the whole path - battling against the weather and deep, sinking bog until the path is finally complete

It is hard work moving the flag stones in to place - some are so big and heavy that it can take six people to lift them. Heavy metal bars are used to lift the stones and wooden posts are used to roll them into place. All the work on footpaths has been carried out by our volunteers and community groups in all types of weather, and at every time of year. This winter we have had another airlift of flag stones out to the Packhorse route and we hope to lay these over another 300 metres of path this spring.
The footpath improvements not only offer a better surface for walkers but help us to control and reduce damage to the estate. Scars on the landscape from wide, meandering paths are slowly disappearing. The moorland plants have a chance to thrive once more as walkers stick to the footpath rather than trampling through the vegetation. Disturbance to ground nesting birds is also reduced, helping to create an altogether healthier environment.