National Cycle Route 1 runs from Dover to the Shetland Isles in Scotland, with its stunning scenery and cultural landmarks attracting cyclists and hikers from around the world. The route also forms part of the North Sea Cycleway.
It includes a 23 mile stretch through County Durham. The Council is keen to encourage green travel and has received a £999,445 grant from the Department for Transport, through the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, to enhance the route. The work will include surface improvements at South Hetton and between Cold Hesledon and Dawdon, as well as upgrading the boardwalk at Pesspool Wood, near Haswell, to improve accessibility.
The improvements to this multi-user route will enable pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders to access and enjoy this beautiful part of County Durham. With the surge in active travel and exercise, all users are reminded to share with care and follow the countryside code.
And, as the route passes through sensitive environments, habitat improvements will be made to benefit wildlife and to ensure the route is a joy to visit throughout the year.
Residents and community groups will be invited to get involved in clearing up the sites, with the aim of creating a safer and smoother route for people to enjoy for commuting and exercise.
Cllr Charlie Kay said: “Cycling is a fantastic way to travel and exercise, and it has been great to see so many people getting out on their bikes in recent months.
“We want this to continue and are extremely grateful to Sustrans for funding these improvements to National Cycle Route 1 in County Durham. The route is very popular with long-distance cyclists, but is also a great facility for local residents, both for exercise and as a safe and eco-friendly way to commute to school or work.
“These improvements will make the route more accessible, while also helping local businesses to support staff to travel to work sustainably. At the same time, it will make the route more appealing to visitors and will showcase what a fantastic place County Durham is.”
Jonah Morris, Sustrans partnerships manager for the North East and Cumbria, said:
“Traffic free paths where people can access nature and walk or cycle everyday journeys are even more important at the moment.
“This is one the most important strategic routes in the National Cycle Network, used by local residents and tourists alike. Our recent review of the network highlighted this section as poor quality, so we’re delighted to help fund these improvements. It is part of our work across the UK to help improve the network and create paths which are accessible and safe for everyone to enjoy.”
Preliminary work was carried before the coronavirus lockdown, including feasibility and ecological studies, route user surveys and vegetation clearance. Works will begin again on site as soon as this is possible, and it is anticipated they will be completed by September 2022.