The South Esk Valley forms a natural corridor linking the urban areas of Midlothian with the surrounding countryside. The river valley also connects several natural and cultural heritage sites, including Newbattle Abbey College, Dalhousie Castle and Arniston Estate. Paths are in place along the river between Dalkeith and Newtongrange. However, the path between Newtongrange and Temple requires some minor works and, beyond Temple, there is no clear path system in place.
Promoting and managing tourism along the South Esk Valley was highlighted as a priority in the Midlothian Outdoor Access Strategy (2005). It recommended the creation of coherent access links between local communities, and improved connections between the area’s natural and cultural heritage sites. This view was shared by local walking groups and the Esk Valley Landscape Partnership, who advocated the creation of a long distance walking trail along both the River North Esk and River South Esk.
Midlothian Council employed a Project Officer to prepare a development plan for the establishment of a long distance trail along the River South Esk. Site surveys and route finding walks were conducted, along with consultations with landowners and local walking enthusiasts. A proposed route for the South Esk Trail was drawn up, and opportunities for signage and access improvements were identified.
Between September 2011 and February 2012 a total of 144 hours, including 90 volunteer hours, were dedicated to access improvement works along the proposed trail. The initial focus of these works was on improving a path on the Arniston Estate, thus enabling local access between Temple Village and Braidwood Bridge.
A draft leaflet was designed in conjunction with local landowners, volunteers from the Midlothian Paths Groups and the Esk Valley Trust. It highlighted the cultural and natural heritage features along the South Esk Trail. A press release was also drafted to promote the project and to inform local people of the progress of the project.
The Path Development Plan sets out a proposed route for the South Esk Trail and facilitates the implementation of access enhancements. The plan reflects the outcome of on-going negotiations with land owners and path users, and aims to establish sustainable access to the natural and cultural heritage sites along the River South Esk.
CSGN funding enabled a dedicated project officer to be employed to assess the feasibility and practicalities of implementing the South Esk Trail. Once fully delivered, the South Esk Trail will create sustainable links between communities and will connect the urban populations of the area to the natural and cultural heritage sites along the River South Esk. It will also facilitate active travel, thus promoting healthy and active lifestyles.
This project provides opportunities for people to engage in outdoor volunteering activities; developing new skills and gaining valuable work experience. In an era of local government spending cuts, the contribution of local volunteers was essential to delivery of this project. It has helped to foster a sense of pride in the project and to build stronger relations amongst communities along the South Esk Valley.
Midlothian Council continues to work with landowners for the establishment of the South Esk Trail. Once landowner agreements are in place, a wider consultation will take place within the local community.
The access and signage improvements identified within the study will be implemented once agreement is reached with individual land owners. It is envisaged that most works will be carried out by the Ranger Service with support from land owners and local volunteers. Funding for the work will be provided by Midlothian Council's access budget, individual land owners and external funding.
|2011||CSGN Development Fund||5,889|