Funding secured for National Cycle Network improvements in Dorset
Dorset Council has successfully secured over £900,000 worth of funding to improve sections of two National Cycle Network routes in Dorset this summer.
The much-needed improvements will be carried out on the off-road sections of National Cycle Network routes 2 and 26 that lie just west of Dorchester. These sections were last surfaced back in 2001 using stone, but since then the tracks have deteriorated because of heavy agricultural vehicle use and have become overgrown.
Over the past decade, the council has struggled to secure funding to improve these and other rural cycleways despite exhaustive efforts.
This new funding from the Department for Transport via Sustrans, the charity making it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle, provides a one-off opportunity to upgrade the surfaces of two major routes.
To make sure these improvements are long-lasting, the council plan to use an innovative process which recycles the material currently on the tracks with blended cement. This will then create a hardened, sealed surface which will be surface dressed with gravel.
This new method of resurfacing will prolong the life of the track, make it more aesthetically pleasing, and provide additional grip for horses. It will also be better for the environment. By recycling existing material whilst re-surfacing, less miles will be travelled when carrying out the work, saving on carbon emissions and fuel costs. Recycling the old track will also reduce the amount of new materials used.
The improved surfaces of these routes will benefit walkers, runners and cyclists, and make the routes more accessible to people who use mobility aids, mobility scooters and adapted cycles. The new surfacing will also cope better with the heavy agricultural vehicles that use these sections of track, and when the surfacing starts to need attention all the council will need to do is apply a surface dressing.
Since the pandemic, active travel has been growing in popularity with more and more people now accessing the outdoors. The National Cycle Network (NCN) provides a UK-wide network of signed paths and routes for walking, cycling and wheeling, helping people explore the outdoors.
Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said:
“The improvements being made to our National Cycle Networks will not only benefit existing users, but also help more people access the outdoors and enjoy our beautiful county.
“Encouraging and facilitating active travel is one of the actions outlined in the council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy, and by making sure our tracks and cycleways are fit for use we hope more people will be able to choose active travel over getting in the car, whether that is for leisure, work or school.
“The improved cycleways will also enhance Dorset’s eco-friendly tourism offerings and provide a boost to the local economy.”
Funding for the project comes from the Department for Transport as part of Sustrans’ Paths for Everyone programme to enhance the National Cycle Network. The programme is delivering transformative projects across England to make walking, wheeling and cycling safer and more accessible for everyone.
Max Longley, Network Development Manager for the area at Sustrans, said:
“These improvement works will help to enable more people in the area to choose walking, wheeling and cycling for local journeys.
“There are so many benefits to choosing an active journey over one in a vehicle. Not only for our personal health and wellbeing, but in travelling sustainably it is helping us to take care of, and further appreciate, the local environment too.
“I look forward to seeing more people out enjoying the rejuvenated routes when they reopen for use.”
The planned improvements can only be carried out during dry weather by a specialist contractor, so the main resurfacing work will take place at the beginning of July. Work is expected to be completed on the NCN 26 route by 5th August, and the NCN 2 route by 2nd September. During this time, access to the route sections will be very limited so the work can be safely carried out. But the new surfaces will be well worth the wait, they will be more durable, even and usable by all ages and abilities, all year-round.