West Glos & Dean Forest
Motor Cycle Club

Celebrating 66 Years of Motor Cycling 1953 - 2019

Limekiln Repair - A good write up from TRF.

Words By Kelvin Varney

Kelvin's report was published in the TRF Trail Magazine with some really good pics. It shows some of the great work the TRF, GLASS and other groups are doing with our responsible attitude to our use and enjoyment of the countryside. Kelvin is a sometime member of WG and this year finally got to ride and did a pretty good job on his first attempt dropping just 43.

LIMEKILN AS IT'S generally known. or Chapel Hill Road as it is officially known, is a classic green lane in Tintern in the Wye Valley, Monmouthshire. It rises uphill in a southwesterly direction and starts quite close to the popular Tintern Abbey ruins. The lane is popular with trail riders both local and from further afield. It is a challenging lane noted for the slippery rock steps halfway up. It is also known as Hole in the Wall, or Coldwell Lane, Coldwell being the stream that runs alongside the lane into the River Wye.

A minor landslip had occurred in the sunken part of the lane approximately two thirds of the way up and close to the start of the Coldwell stream. Water running off and under the adjacent land appeared to have eroded the bank and exposed tree roots. Several tons of soil plus a few small trees had slipped into the lane creating a blockage. With the high banks and fields on either side there was no alternate route. The lane surface in the area was also quite muddy and ruts had been formed by passing traffic.

I first became aware of the issue on 19 January when a post was put up on the TRF Trail Facebook page by Dean Allen reporting that the road was closed. Further research indicated the lane had been closed since a council engineer's inspection on 31 December 2018. A six-week temporary traffic regulation order came into force on 30 January 2019. From other Facebook posts it appeared the local GLASS area rep, John Askew, was already aware of the issue. Having recently joined GLASS in December, I decided to make contact with John to see what help I might be able to provide. It was evident that John had good links with Monmouthshire County Council, as he had mapped the county lanes by studying council documents. He had also been trained by them in the use of a chainsaw. A good man to know! John had made contact with the engineer in charge and together they had visited the site to establish what needed doing. Separately Rod Jones, a member of West Glos and Forest of Deanmotorcycle club and also a TRF member, had been chivvying the council to make progress. Rod being this year's Clerk of the Course for the Wyegate long distance trial, knew that the lane was a key feature of this classic event. At least one, and sometimes three, sections are marked out on the lane. I had ridden the lane a few times both up and down and was entered in last year's Wyegate LDT but couldn't make the rescheduled date. The original date was cancelled due to the heavy snow at the time. If I wanted to ride Limekiln in the Wyegate this year, I needed to do something to help get it open again, the trial being scheduled for the end of April.

On 13 February 2019 the local newspaper the Monmouthshire Beacon ran an article reporting that the landowner on the landslip side had been confronted by Monmouthshire County Council, which said that they would pass the bill for the repair onto the landowner. In a later edition letters were published from locals complaining about the use of the lane by MPVs. John Askew contacted the reporter and managed to get a balanced reply, putting the motorised green lane user's perspective, published the following week. As people started to offer help in reply to more information I'd posted on the TRF Trial Facebook page, I decided to get more involved. From reading about previous TRF and GLASS activity in helping to conserve green lanes I realised there was a risk the council would, or could, do little or nothing. Or it would take a long time to repair the lane, MCC, like most councils, being strapped for cash and having more pressing priorities. Further, there were noises of a campaign to challenge the green road status of this lane.

GLASS arranged a groundworks contractor to visit the site and quote for the repair work. I thought it worthwhile getting a competitive quote a new South Wales TRF member offered and quoted for the work. GLASS ultimately stayed with the contractor A. P. Price, who they had previously used to repair a green lane in Happy Valley in North Wales. The council's requirement for £5m public liability insurance on highways limited who could do the work. Monmouthshire County Council agreed to provide the stone needed to grade the muddy part of the lane. At about the same time GLASS asked if the TRF would like to go halves with the repair cost. Reading the Conversation section of the TRF website led me to think that we could do this by raising funds via the Just Giving site and the TRF's matched funding scheme. I set about compiling the Just Giving page and was staggered to have the needed £750 in just over 24hrs from starting it. I promoted it on the TRF Trail and local TRF group Facebook pages as well as through West Glos and Forest of Dean motorcycle club. A couple of great donations from Bristol TRF and WG&FDMCC. and in total 44 donations from the trail riding community, meant the fund raising was in a good place. I submitted the application for matched funding to Dave Carling. the TRF Conservation Director, and he replied that this is just the sort of initiative that the scheme was set up for GLASS/Treadlightly footed half the contractor's cost and the TRF members and West Glos and Forest of Dean MCC footed the other half.

A date was set for the beginning of March to conduct the repair work. Fortunately the landowners on both sides trimmed the hedges unprompted a few days before and a little further pruning in the lane provided the access needed for the machinery. The contractors were offered volunteer help but declined. This was probably no bad thing from a safety perspective as the lane is quite narrow and no wider than a dumper truck from the top down to the slip. It was also quite muddy at the slip and the machinery needed to move up and down the lane frequently to move the stone. However, many thanks to all those who did volunteer.

The contractors moved in on Friday 1 March. The stone was dropped at the south (top) end of the lane, right at the entrance, so the contractors had to clear a path through the stone to get their machinery onto the lane. They used a digger to level the lane and distribute the landslipped soil and then back-filled the uneven and softer parts of the lane with the stone using a dumper They also removed the remains of the tree stumps that had slipped into the lane. The landowner recruited labour to trim the trees on the north side in preparation for re-fencing at some future point. The bank along the north side of the lane at the section of the sunken parts remains susceptible to water erosion. It is hoped that cutting the trees back at this time of year will promote root growth and help to bind the bank soil. The work by the contractor took three days to complete and. on 9 March, just nine weeks after the original slip, the Road Closed signs were removed and the lane reopened after a council inspection.