From Penpont to Thornhill: Excitement Builds as Nithsdale’s Active Travel Path Progresses

Local school children attend Safety Session on new Nithsdale active travel path

On the 12th of December, pupils from Penpont Primary School attended a path safety session delivered by Transport, Planning and Engineering [TP&E], to celebrate a new active travel link in the Nithsdale area.

Phase 1A – the first in a multi-stage project – has created a traffic-free path which stretches from Penpont to the Drumlanrig access road, and is due to finish construction on the 22nd December 2023. When phases 1B and 1C are complete, a 4km path will connect Penpont and Thornhill, enabling residents to safely walk, wheel and cycle between the two villages.

This will open up learning opportunities for residents and provide more equal access to retail and leisure facilities, medical appointments and onward travel throughout the region.

There will also be environmental benefits, with hedge planting and under-sowing of wildflowers along the new path enhancing local biodiversity and greenspace.

The project is being led by Keir, Penpont and Tynron Development Trust (KPTDT), backed by £1,557,806 of funding for design and construction from the Scottish Government, administered through Sustrans Scotland’s Places for Everyone programme.

Match funding was secured from SWestrans, South of Scotland Enterprise, Dumfries and Galloway Council Communities Committee, Scottish and Southern Electricity Renewables, and Annandale and Nithsdale Community Benefit Company (ANCBC).

Benches and bike stands have also been installed at two placemaking areas along the path, enabling people to rest while enjoying views of the surrounding landscape. This was made possible by funding from Sustrans Scotland’s ArtRoots programme.

Funding previously secured from the Scottish Land Fund and Sustrans enabled the Trust to purchase the appropriate land for the path and Buccleuch Estates, Church of Scotland and David Kirkpatrick have provided support by leasing parts of the route.

An official community event to mark the completion of phase 1A will be held in March 2024.

Work is ongoing to secure funding to complete phases 1B and 1C.

Maureen Halkett, Chairman of the Keir, Penpont and Tynron Development Trust, said: “We have had incredible support from all the funders and local landowners, who have helped our small rural development trust realise its dream of ensuring residents can safety embrace active travel.

“The new path will bring health, wellbeing environmental and economic benefits for local people and visitors.“We are also indebted to our patient mentors from both Sustrans Scotland, our social enterprise transport consultants, Transport, Planning & Engineering Ltd, and JH Civil Engineering for guiding us through the construction process.”

Conor Cross, Grant Manager at Sustrans Scotland, said:

“We are delighted to see work finish on the first phase of the new Nithsdale active travel path between Penpont and Thornhill.

The route has created a vital traffic-free space for walking, wheeling and cycling, making it easier and safer than ever for residents and visitors to the area to travel actively. We hope this will give more people, regardless of age or ability, the confidence to make healthier and more sustainable choices for their everyday journeys.”

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, said:

“SOSE is committed through all we do to supporting a Wellbeing Economy and all the positive things that it brings for communities, the natural environment, and healthy lifestyles.

“Moving to using bikes for commuting and leisure pursuits can help address issues such as fuel poverty, community isolation and improve resident’s health and wellbeing.” Ian Blake, Chair of the Council’s Communities Committee added :

Our Council is committed to the second Active Travel Strategy for Dumfries and Galloway.

The strategy promotes more collaboration across Council services and improves the way that we plan, design, and deliver active travel infrastructure and supporting policies to incentivise a shift towards healthier, connected and more sustainable communities.

“I’d like to congratulate the Kier, Penpont and Tynron Development Trust on the completion of the first phase of this vital active travel link from Penpont to Thornhill. This is a clear example of how our Active Travel Strategy can deliver this vision by empowering the local community to attract further investment in the region. This is something we are keen to replicate across the region as we work towards a just transition to net zero.”

Lindsay Dougan, SSE Renewables, said:

“SSE Renewables recognise the vital importance of active travel routes in rural areas. Our donation to the Penpoint to Thornhill path will ensure safe travel for future generations” David Booth, Chair of ANCBC, added:

“ANCBC is very happy and privileged to have played a part in this excellent well-researched and multi-funded project.

“This is a very important path which will provide better and safer access to local facilities and will increase contact for people in this rural area. “Congratulations to the Trust on a wellplanned and executed project.”

Rowena Colpitts, Transport Planning & Engineering Ltd, added :

We have now been involved in this project for a full 4 years and are excited to see this first stage – 3km Phase 1A – be developed and delivered on the ground. As a rural project it has not been able to lean on any existing infrastructure and so has required attention to detail at every step working with the landowners, residents and stakeholders. The support from the local area and its eagerness to see the project complete is an encouraging indication that this path will be used often and well. We look forward to continuing the design for 0.5km Phase 1B up to Nith Bridge and 375m Phase 1C up to the Gill Road Triangle where a complete safe walking and cycling route will be realised into Thornhill.