The section of towpath between Greenwood Lock and the Calder Road bridge is an orphan child denied by everyone.
Yet it is the essential piece to connect the original idea of Dewsbury Riverside Way to Mirfield and Huddersfield to start providing the "transformational change" in sustainable transport between our towns rather than just within them.
This section of towpath formerly serviced the mills of Ravensthorpe located just to the north when they were supplied with bulk materials by barge and at least one senior citizen of Ravensthorpe remembers walking to school along this path as a young girl.
At the Calder Road bridge the ramps can still be seen by which the horses pulling barges left the riverside when the tow path terminated on the north bank to cross the bridge and rejoin on the south side where the towpath continued.
However, somehow this towpath has become an orphan with no-one claiming ownership. Enquiries to the Canal and River Trust, the Environment Agency and Kirklees council have all brought denials of ownership. One theory suggested is that records my have been lost during the run-down of British Waterways and before the formation of the Canal & River Trust.
Not surprisingly, the resulting neglect has led to the path becoming almost completely impassible due both to damaged trees and more particularly the spread of brambles all year round and bracken in the summer months.
The result is that this neglected orphan is almost completely overgrown and almost impassable at the height of the summer growth of brambles and other vegetation.
And then it becomes dangerous..
..and even when the brambles and vegetation have died back in winter they now encroach so far as to make the footpath dangerous. That's just vegetation on the left. Step on it and you will be straight into the river.
Recent work to investigate the problem and possible solution reveals that this is not difficult.. This is a towpath and clearly defined with a stone wall running alongside for almost the entire length. It is the original Victorian route alongside the river and would be clear and level once brought back into use.
The obstructions appear to develop from vegetation flood debris swept up against the retaining wall. This provides fertile ground for brambles that originate on the landward side of the wall and have grown over, taken root and each year's growth has pushed pedestrians progressively further towards the rivers edge.
Each of the sections illustrated below represent about an hours work for one man. (Covid exercise sessions. One hour, on my own, local to me. No complaints, please.)
It is reasonably easy to clear to expose the whole width of the path.
One false step here would drop you straight into the river!
And a surface water drain in the wall from the industrial site above leads to an accumulation of spoil against the wall pushing walkers towards the river edge.
Long term stewardship of the path to keep it clear.
There is no known owner.
Unlike the same towpath where it runs through Mirfield and the local community has made considerable improvements and the canal walk is a feature of the town, this stretch runs along the river side of the Ravensthorpe Industrial Estates. There is almost no public exposure except for users of the path, no residential or shopping streets in the area and therefore no local residents who might feel inclined to support a community effort.
Despite this, it is a key link in the sustainable transport route whether walking or cycling between Huddersfield, Mirfield and Dewsbury.
An innovative solution is necessary based on council and central government policies regarding sustainable transport to recover this attractive piece of our local heritage and bring it back into everyday use.