Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Health and Safety has gone mad again

'Health and Safety' - there's a provocative phrase! The reason I'm blogging about it now is because of what I saw on a walk last Sunday morning. As I mentioned in my last piece we had super weather last weekend and I decided to cross over into Devon and walk down river to Morwellham and back, about six or seven miles I suppose. Now the Tamar Valley AONB has been engaged in developing trails through the woods on the eastern bank of the Tamar: I had always been able to walk over to Morwellham from here but they are extending the path network and inevitably incorporating some Health and Safety work into the proceedings.

The outward route I followed is a high level one, mostly through quite dense woodland, but there are three rocky outcrops in particular from which one can obtain far reaching views. But there are almost vertical drops from these vantage points into the valley below and, for someone like me not too comfortable with heights, it's sensible to not get too close to the edge. The first of these viewpoints 'Chimney Rock' is almost opposite my cottage and if I lean forward slightly and crane my neck I can see it from this chair. Further downriver and just north of Morwellham one passes in quick succession 'Pleasure Rock' and 'Morwell Rocks', the other two vantage points on my walk. With commonsense there shouldn't be any accidents, my only worry would be of young children running ahead of their parents and getting a little too exuberant. So a degree of physical checking at these three locations might seem to be in order.

In their wisdom the authorities have fenced of these viewpoints in their entirety but it's possible to climb the wooden post and rail fences to stand on the rocks if desired. My attention had previously been drawn to the safety measures at Chimney Rock because prior to the dense woodland coming into leaf some of the fencing there was readily visible from the Gunnislake side of the Tamar and, quite frankly, was an appalling addition to the view. On arrival at Chimney Rock on Sunday I could see that there was far far more fencing than was necessary but I noticed that the centre of the three rails had been removed on four bays probably by locals as it it is well visited by people in the village. The AONB had conceded that the Chimney Rock fencing had been overdone and that they would alter it. Much of the same 'protection' was visible at 'Pleasure Rock' and 'Morwell Rocks', in the case of the last mentioned there had been a short fence that acted as a warning to take care but there was no problem in walking either side of it to access the top of the outcrop. This had seemed a sensible compromise to me but evidently now not good enough.

Now all this was way too much in my opinion but there was worse. Along certain lengths of the path there was more of the post and rail fencing, in some sections with sheep netting attached. One particular section that was fenced was a wide track, on the level and without precipitous drops. For the life of me I just cannot understand why it was done. It was just as if they had some fence posts, rails and sheep netting left over and they thought "we need to use this up". Granted that there are potentially dangerous mine workings in the woods but they shouldn't affect walkers on this path. (A really large open shaft fairly close by is very securely fenced off and I don't have a problem with that).

The decision making process regarding Health and Safety on this walk seems totally bizarre. I think I shall be asking questions of my friends at the AONB sometime about this.

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