Works at Luxulyan Valley

Published: 26 November 2020

Luxulyan Valley - Landscape and enhancement works

In recent weeks, work has commenced on a number of activities within the World Heritage Site which will result in subtle, but meaningful, improvements to the visitor experience, the biodiversity, and long term management within the Luxulyan Valley.

The Cormac design team have been tasked with producing detailed designs for improvements to the existing carpark at Blackhills, together with investigating the possibility of providing additional parking in the currently overgrown site opposite.

Visitors will notice that bramble clearance has been undertaken which has allowed access for a topographical survey to be completed. A tree survey, commenced at an earlier date in order to draw up a comprehensive 20 year management plan, also covers this area. Plans will shortly be drawn up, proposing new surface treatments to the car parking that will solve the problem of uneven ground and poor drainage, whilst maintaining a sense of rural isolation befitting the site. Minimal tree works are envisaged, but where necessary, poor quality specimens, particularly Ash, which are susceptible to die-back, will be removed to facilitate these improvements. To compensate for any losses, native Oak will be planted to encourage a more age diverse tree structure.

In conjunction with these works, it is proposed that new steps are provided to the leat adjacent to the carpark, and a bound gravel path provided to a proposed picnic area between the carpark and the viaduct. A natural glade exists quite close to the carpark which is thought to be ideal for this purpose. Given the level nature of the ground, fully accessible picnic tables, together with chunky timber seating, are proposed for this area. The possibility of providing a ramped access path to the leat avoiding the steps, is being considered which could allow easier access for many.

Clearly there are severe difficulties, some insurmountable, in providing full wheelchair access to the pathways alongside the leats. However, an in-depth survey of all paths within the valley between Blackhills and Ponts Mill has recently been completed. This has identified areas and specific locations where remediation is required, and funding is in place to carry out these works.

The timing of these path improvements will be co-ordinated with leat and penstock repairs, which initially identified in general terms by earlier consultants, have recently been the subject of detailed investigation by Cormac engineers. Repair works are likely to commence in the next few months once consultation with World Heritage Site officers, the local countryside ranger and Cormac’s engineers and landscape architect have been completed. Again, it is fortunate that funds are in place to commence these vital works which will enable the leats to function as originally intended.

In the vicinity of the Ponts Mill viaduct near the bottom of the incline plane, work is underway by Cormac to complete the stabilisation of the the embankment slope of the elevated Par river. Temporary measures were put in place some time ago to support the vulnerable river channel from breaching in times of flood. Recent works will provide long term bank stabilisation, through the use of structural membranes, backfill and hidden drainage overflow pipe work.

Engineering works are well advanced, and landscape reinstatement works have recently been agreed which will create an open glade of meadow grassland with a wildflower component. The opportunity to create such a setting has been welcomed by ecologists and local volunteers, since a glade provides a space within which butterflies and moths can flourish, and bats and owls can hunt for food unhindered by dense tree cover.

Once engineering works are complete around the end of the year, the grassland seeding will take place in early Spring. Additionally, vegetation management will be carried out alongside the path adjacent to the site. Understorey shrub planting of Hazel, Thorn and Willow will augment species variety and improve opportunities for diversity.

In response to the obvious need for additional seating in the valley, a trackside accessible picnic table and a chunky timber bench will be provided in this location, which has the added advantage of the imposing railway viaduct to appreciate.

Over the coming months, long awaited investment and enhancement will become evident in the valley, and long term woodland management initiated. Allinterventions will be carefully considered in order to maintain the integrity and sense of place which those who use and appreciate the valley expect to be protected and managed for future generations.

Jenny Heskett
Countryside Ranger
Cormac Solutions, Ltd.