Active Valleys is a Sport England funded initiative which brings together partner organisations to build healthier, more active communities in the Valley. The Deerness Valley Railway Path is a valuable asset for physical activity in the area; it follows the route of the River Deerness through a mixture of arable and grazing land, woods, and herb rich meadows. Mike Ogden, the Access and Rights of Way Team Leader at Durham County Council, is a key partner in the Active Valleys pilot. Through the partnership, Mike and his team have already improved paths here to make them more accessible to everyone. There are multiple plans in the pipeline for further improvements.
Working collaboratively with Northern Saints Trails, Public Rights of Way have sourced a supplier for a people counter in the Active Valleys area. There are plans to improve another section of the path and install the people counter which will measure the number of people using it. Once this is completed, Active Valleys waymarkers will be installed to promote the route. Using the data from the people counter before the installation of the waymarkers and during the promotion period, Active Valleys will be able to measure the impact of their promotion by monitoring changes in the number of people using the path. This opportunity will be also used to develop a marketing campaign, educating residents about the safe and social use of paths.
Active Valleys recently spoke to Mike about physical activity on the Deerness Railway Paths and his involvement in the pilot.
Why is physical activity important to you?
“In simple terms, public rights of way are just historic lines on a map unless people are using them, so encouraging people to use paths means not only are individuals getting opportunities for low-cost physical activity in the fresh air, but they are also helping to keep part of our shared heritage alive. Walking, cycling and horse-riding on public rights of way are all great ways to be more active and to explore every corner of the county.”
What do you see as the main benefits of being involved in the Active Valleys pilot?
“The Active Valleys project is the first time there has been an attempt to link physical improvements to paths to a programme of working with local communities to raise awareness of opportunities for physical activity. For me, it has been an opportunity to work with a variety of colleagues and realise how we can help each other. Covid made it more difficult to work with communities, but it also resulted in a lot more people exploring their local area to exercise and discovering paths that they never knew existed. I think Active Valleys will help us to understand how we can support as many people as possible in the future to have the confidence to enjoy their local rights of way.”
Active Valleys are pleased to be working in partnership with Durham County Council’s Access and Rights of Way Team and look forward to measuring the impact of the improvements along the Deerness Valley Railway Path.