The Offa’s Dyke Association’s charitable objects:
To promote for the public benefit, in the border counties region of England and Wales, the conservation, preservation, protection and understanding of Offa’s Dyke and similar or linked sites and structures of archaeological or historical interest.
Arguably the most important object, for which there is some urgency, is the conservation of the Dyke. The ODA, in partnership with Cadw, Historic England and Shropshire County Council, is a member of the steering group overseeing the Offa’s Dyke Conservation Project. In 2018 the ODA made a contribution towards the cost of a field survey of the condition of the full length of the Dyke in both England and Wales and the headline finding made for sober reading. It was already common knowledge that sections of the Dyke were in a poor condition but the survey report revealed that: “only 8.7% of Offa’s Dyke condition sections are assessed by the Offa’s Dyke Conservation Management Plan as being in favourable condition”. That makes 91.3% as being in an unfavourable condition.
The status quo for the monument was clearly not sustainable. Cadw and Historic England agreed to fund a new post, that of Conservation Project Officer, and in November 2022 Helen Upson was duly appointed. The ODA actively supports Helen, the ODC is available to her as and when she requires it, also our Conservation Fund. We are seeking grant funding to purchase an outdoor video camera to record and document her project work in the field and we are going to establish a volunteer wardening scheme for the full length of the Dyke.
This all comes at a cost. As we draw money from the conservation fund it needs to be topped up and sales of the walkers’ Passport, membership subscriptions and donations are ways that Trail walkers and visitors can make a very practical contribution towards ensuring the future well being of the monument. You can also donate to our general campaign fund at the Charity Aid Foundation (CAF). Make either a single or a regular donation and if it is Gift aided then CAF will also liaise with HMRC to reclaim funds on our behalf.
ODA funded projects
In January 2023 the ODA funded works to clear scrub and bramble from a section of Offa’s Dyke at Sedbury in Gloucestershire. Project managed by Gloucestershire County Council’s countrside unit, the county’s government funding paid to clear the actual line of the National Trail but not the wider Dyke corridor, hence the ODA’s involvement. We have also, in December 2023, approved further funding for phase two clearance in early 2024 of an adjoining section of Dyke at Sedbury.
These before and after photos of scrub and bramble clearance of a section of Offa’s Dyke at Sedbury in Gloucestershire. The vegetation will be removed in phases over a number of years. Contributions to our CAF campaign fund will enable the scope of works each year to be increased.
The following report of a conservation-based project on the path and monument in the Wye Valley was originally published in ODA Newsletter 132 Summer 2017
We are very pleased to announce that our second Conservation Fund award, of £1,500 to Gloucestershire County Council, has helped to secure the permanent diversion of a section of Trail near to the Devil’s Pulpit in the Wye valley, from the crest of the monument to level ground alongside. The following site report, by Jeff Wheeler, Public Rights of Way Inspector, Forest of Dean / West Gloucestershire; Amey, was originally published in the summer edition of our Newsletter.
Improvement Works to path at Worgan’s Wood near Tidenham Chase
Scheduled Monument No. 34851 / 102065
Offa’s Dyke: section approximately 700 metres south east of the Devils Pulpit.
Historic England had already reported that they were very concerned about a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path through Worgan’s Wood near Tidenham Chase. For this section of path the Public Right Of Way (PROW) still ran directly along the top of the Dyke and the resultant damage was clear to see with thick mud almost making the route impassable. The next step (no pun intended) was to identify what work was required to move the line of the path into the adjacent woodland and then acquire quotes from our sub-contractors.
The existing path on this section of Dyke was some two metres higher than the surrounding woodland, and so the challenge was to establish how we could link up the sections of path which came along either side of the Dyke. It was believed that the best solution was to create a wooden raised stairway over the Dyke and a raised boardwalk over the adjacent scheduled area to meet up with a new pathway some six metres away but parallel with the existing Offa’s Dyke Path.
Where the new path crossed the Offa’s Dyke Path the surface would be protected by the use of a protective membrane and Type 1 aggregate to a depth of three inches and a width of two metres. This would prevent the erosion that was happening on this stretch of Offa’s Dyke. The use of a raised stairway and boardwalk would also mean that the application to obtain Scheduled Monument Consent from Historic England would stand a greater chance of being approved.
The Gloucestershire Public Rights of Way (PROW) team were notified that an underspend by Natural England could mean that some funding was available to assist with this project as long as the project was completed by the end of the current Financial Year (31 March 2017). Funding would also be possible from the Offa’s Dyke Association Conservation Fund and Historic England if Gloucestershire PROW could match the sum being offered. This was agreed and quotes were obtained for the work from our sub-contractors.
The first stage of the work involved the Forestry Commission clearing trees and scrub from the adjacent woodland which they owned and where the new path was planned to be placed. Luckily with the tight timescales involved at the end of the Financial Year it meant that this work could commence in January 2017 before approval was granted by Historic England and then the new pathway could also start to be constructed by the selected sub-contractor.
In mid-February the area around the Dyke was CAT Scanned as part of the safety process before the contractor could make the small post holes in the surface which would support the wooden structures. By late February the Scheduled Monument Consent was finally granted which then left only four weeks for the sub-contractor to construct the stairway and boardwalk.
Luckily the dry weather in March prevailed through the month and some sterling work meant that the boardwalk and stairway were completed before the end of the financial year. The diversion now seems to be working very well and all departments involved and walkers alike have praised the completed job which is a work of art. This section of path now connects two previously resurfaced areas of the Offa’s Dyke Path and with the superb views of the Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey from the Devils Pulpit is it one area worth walking if you have never been there before.
The timber walkway and steps now carry walkers safely across the monument without causing damage and erosion
The following site report of conservation based works at a site called Scotlands in Shropshire is by Andy Lipa, Area Rights of Way Officer, Shropshire County Council. It was originally published in Newsletter 131 spring 2017. The ODA made a contribution of £1,000 towards the cost of the project.
Surfacing and drainage work at Scotlands near Springhill
Scheduled Monument No: SM 32500, HA 1020900
Offa’s Dyke: section 730m south east of the Yew Tree
Work carried out on Tuesday 16th & Wednesday 17th August 2016
There has been an age old problem with a natural spring part way down the hillside between Springhill and Lower Spoad near Scotlands. The spring runs across the National Trail and once fed a long gone pond on the other side. Trail Walkers have always had to skirt around or through the wet area at most times of the year, so the decision was made to improve the drainage and to slightly raise the level of the path. This would be achieved by installing a pipe as near the surface as practicable so as not to disturb the scheduled area of Offa’s Dyke, then applying a layer of locally sourced stone on top of it to try and overcome the problem.
We first of all had to apply for Scheduled Monument Consent from Historic England which was granted in 2015, after which funding was then applied for. This was forthcoming from the ODA Conservation Projects Fund, Natural England and Shropshire Council budgets.
A local Contractor was appointed and then over a two day period in the middle of August 2016 the job was carried out and now seems to be working really well. It might be worth incorporating the site into one of your walks sometime and see for yourselves.
Water permeable membrane laid across drainage pipes taking water away from the affected area
Wearing course of aggregate laid on top of membrane