By Betsy Everett
Down the centuries and across the Pennines, from the old textile mills of Lancashire to the Yorkshire Dales, flagstones are being re-laid on the popular walk towards Mill Gill in Askrigg.
Some still bearing the imprint of the 19th century machinery, the massive and sturdy stones are levered into place by national park workers and volunteers, replacing the smaller stones of the path laid 20 years previously, which are wearing away and often covered in flood water.
Park rangers have worked outdoors throughout lockdown, but the authority’s many volunteers were laid off until July.
“Then we responded to the call to arms as lockdown eased a bit – return to your posts,” says David Preston who, when not cheerfully volunteering on his home patch in Wensleydale, is a countryside ranger for Leeds City Council’s parks and countryside service.
He was working alongside park ranger Paul Sheehan, apprentice ranger George Jacobs, 18 (“the best apprentice I’ve ever worked with” says David) and fellow volunteer Clive Herdman.
“When the country was fully locked down, we had the job of telling people they had to go home,” said Paul, “but as soon as they were told they could travel 45 minutes from home, that was it: there was no stopping them.”
On one day in the tiny Swaledale village of Keld, he said, there were 200 people.