Public spending cuts are threatening Wales’ landmark Offa’s Dyke path, volunteers who maintain the historic walk have warned.
The walk along the 180-mile structure, from Chepstow in Monmouthshire to Prestatyn in Denbighshire, generates millions of pounds in tourism and attracts hikers from across the world.
Visitors to the 8th century landmark, built by King Offa of Mercia to mark the western boundary of his kingdom with Wales, visit attractions along its length including Powis Castle in Welshpool and Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire.
Jim Saunders, who was the Offa’s Dyke National Trail officer for 18 years and is now a volunteer, said he fears the ancient monument and its path – which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year – was being affected by spending cuts.
“The biggest threat in terms of the management and maintenance of the trail is public spending cuts,” he said.
“It is managed by local authorities with grant aid from other contributing agencies including – Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales – all of which are facing spending cuts.
“The financial pressure that the path is facing is something that Offa’s Dyke Association is keeping an eye on.”
The BBC’s Countryfile show has filmed a programmed focused on the 40th anniversary with presenter Julia Bradbury.
Filming took place at various beauty spots including the northern section of the trail at Chirk Castle, near Wrexham, and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which has World Heritage status.
Mr Saunders said wind farms are another modern threat to the unspoilt and ancient dyke, that stretches along the heather- clad Clwydian Hills, near to historic border towns and attractive villages including Monmouth, Hay-on-Wye and Knighton,
“Wind farms are a perennial issue and there are proposals for a new one in the Clwydian range which would be visible from the dyke,” he said.
“And a big issue where I live in Knighton, Mid Wales, is the erection of a possible wind farm just over the border in Herefordshire.
“People who walk the 1,200-year-old dyke’s length say how they appreciate its beauty and the incredible views over both Wales and England. They also like the fact that it has a well-maintained and easy-to-follow path.
“The dyke has suffered some erosion over the years – particularly in the 19th century – and we ask farmers to be careful not to plough too close to it, in case they chip a bit of it off.
“But the path is not over-used by tourists, so we want to keep on protecting and promoting it for the next 40 years and beyond.”
Rob Dingle, Powys council’s Offa’s Dyke Path national trail officer, said: “Last year we had more than 3,000 visitors walking the dyke from end to end, which takes them around 12 days.
“Each of them would have stayed in accommodation and used associated services as they walked – generating at least £2m for the local economies.
“In addition, almost 100,000 people make circular routes along its length.
“King Offa was a king-on-the- make who built the dyke to demonstrate his power on the English side of it to the Welsh on the other side.
“There is no evidence to say it was ever fully defended, like Hadrian’s Wall.”
The path was officially opened in Knighton by Lord Hunt on July 10, 1971.
To find out more about the 40th Anniversary of the trail and to find out what walks are happening visit www.nationaltrail.co.uk/offasdyke and click on the 40th logo.
Countryfile BBC1, Sunday May 29
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