In spring 2019 the Offa’s Dyke Association (ODA) is launching its walkers’ Passport scheme for Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail. It will operate with the full knowledge and co-operation of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail Officer and will use the official National Trail acorn branding on its cover.
Trail passports are popular with walkers and they can incentivise people to make repeat visits to an area. In Spain, the Santiago de Compostela has its ‘Pilgrim’s Passport’ while nearer to home the Hadrian’s Wall Path passport, perhaps the most successful of the National Trail passports, has operated very successfully since that trail opened in 2003.
The Offa’s Dyke Path Passport will be a paid for souvenir. For two years now the ODA’s Conservation Fund has drawn from its charitable reserves in order to award grants towards conservation projects along the Dyke and National Trail. The ODA wants to continue to help pay for projects, for example to re-align the Trail and associated path furniture off the upstanding monument onto more level ground alongside, but in order to do so it must first raise the funds. The cessation of its Tourist Information Centre funding from Powys County Council at the end of 2017 means that a new way must be found to bolster the Conservation Fund.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path Passport is a paid for souvenir selling for £5 and it is made very clear on the front cover that the money raised will help to pay for essential conservation works to the Trail and monument. Having set up the scheme myself in 2003 when the Trail opened I can vouch for that. The Hadrian’s Wall Path Passport is also seasonal, between May and October each year, in order to encourage long distance walkers to walk the Trail during what are normally the drier months of the year.
Basically, in winter when soils are saturated the risk of erosion to archaeological earthworks increases and using long term mean soil moisture data published by the Met Office it was clear that the so called dry season on the Wall, when soils are normally in moisture deficit, is between May and October.
It is proposed to run the Offa’s Dyke Path Passport scheme in more or less the same way with a cover charge and on a seasonal basis. Monthly Water Situation Reports, published by Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency, graphically illustrate the general soil moisture trends for the Welsh Marches. They suggest that the dry season is more or less May to October but is that window a realistic one for the Offa’s Dyke Path Passport?
On Hadrian’s Wall Path the passport was introduced in 2003 when the Trail opened but Offa’s Dyke Path is almost fifty years old. There may be concerns that the seasonality of the passport might harm accommodation businesses but the Trail has always had its own winter close season and on Hadrian’s Wall Path the passport actually encouraged more repeat visitors. They were the short break walkers who would walk a section of Trail, over say a long weekend, who would return maybe the following spring or summer to walk another section of path and collect more passport stamps. They would eventually complete the collection – and hopefully buy an official souvenir achievers’ badge and certificate.
Proposed Offa’s Dyke Path Passport season
It is proposed that the Passport season operates between Easter and the end of October each year. Of course Easter is either early or late so the proposed season is a trade off between monument conservation and achieving the support of the Trail’s accommodation providers.
It is also proposed that at some future point in time, when considerably more of the National Trail has been re-aligned away from the upstanding monument, that consideration be given to extending the passport season. That would require another conversation involving all of the individuals and organisations with an interest in the Dyke and Trail.
Comments by 9th September please to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave McGlade Chairman, Offa’s Dyke Association