Anger at closure of Wherryman’s Way footpath which will stay closed until summer assessment
A popular Norfolk footpath which follows the course of the River Yare has been closed between Hardley and Loddon causing frustration to visitors and residents.
The area around Hardley Flood, which forms part of The Wherryman’s Way - a 35-mile footpath running between Norwich and Great Yarmouth - has been closed by Norfolk County Council due to the erosion of two bridges and the path becoming unstable.
The council has said work to assess the problem will not start until early summer, causing frustration among residents, councillors and businesses which are losing trade as a result of the closure.
Andrew Milner, who lives in Chedgrave and has been walking the route for the past 25 years, said: “Last winter two of the four bridges at Hardley Flood started to collapse because the bank washed away.
“In the summer they extended the closure back to Chedgrave Common and now they have extended it all the way back to Chedgrave itself.
“They have closed off a huge section of the footpath which means that the circular walk is now closed off, as well as the short walk people do from Chedgrave to the common and to the bird hide on Hardley Flood, which brings lots of tourists in.
“It is a walk that is recommended in regional guides and pub walks, so it brings a lot of people to the area and is good for local businesses.
“Tourists have been coming who don’t know the walk is closed and it is making them cross.
“Word will get around and then people will stop coming completely.”
Loddon parish councillors have been campaigning for work to be started sooner, along with Colin Gould, South Norfolk councillor for the Loddon ward.
Loddon clerk Christine Smith said: “Loddon is a focal point on the route because it is about half way and we have the beautiful Hardley Flood area which is very popular with bird watchers.
“The footpath brings a lot of visitors into Loddon and locals use it all year round.
“My main concern is that they are not going to do anything until next spring or summer, and by that time we will have missed another summer tourist season which is going to have a big impact on local businesses.”
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said the problem has been caused because of flooding and changes to the way the water is managed on the river which has undermined the river bank.
She said: “It would simply not be responsible of us to keep the pathway open under the current circumstances.
“We know from our people-counting surveys how popular these paths are, but the number of walkers using the Wherryman’s Way at this time of year is low, which means fewer people – and local communities - will be affected during the winter season.
“But unfortunately, there is no quick fix and we can’t resolve it alone. We have to work with the Broads Authority, who are responsible for managing the waterway, and the Environment Agency who have responsibility for flooding, to find a long term sustainable solution for the river bank - and one which doesn’t simply push any problems upstream to other areas. We will be working with them as part of a multi agency group to carry out a detailed assessment of the area in early summer which will help to generate proposals for sorting out the problem.”
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