Work has got underway on a new active travel path in the Nithsdale area which will bring a range of significant benefits to local communities.
The 2.6km path, connecting Penpont and Thornhill, will allow residents of the area to safely walk, wheel and cycle between the two villages.
Expected to be completed in autumn 2023, the overall £2.3million project is being led by Keir, Penpont and Tynron Development Trust, which was formed in 2018 with the aim of taking forward key projects identified by an earlier study conducted in the three communities.
The main funder for the project is Places for Everyone, an active travel infrastructure fund backed by Transport Scotland and administered by Sustrans Scotland.
Match funding was secured from SWestrans, South of Scotland Enterprise, Dumfries and Galloway Council Communities Committee, SSE and Annandale and Nithsdale Community Benefit Company (ANCBC).
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.
A safe route to and from the villages will enable better connectivity, allowing people of all ages and abilities to travel safely and economically.
Benefits will include opening up learning opportunities for residents and providing more equal access to retail and leisure facilities, medical appointments, and onward travel to provide further job opportunities and alternative commutes to work.
There will also be environmental benefits, included enhanced biodiversity through hedge planting and under-sowing of wildflowers.
The Trust is run by a board of volunteers and a development officer who work with local people and other stakeholders to develop and improve the area through several focused projects.
They are already working to secure funding to extend the path to attract more visitors to the area.
Caroline Buck, member of the Tracks and Trails Group for 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 safely 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 and our social enterprise transport consultants, Transport, Planning & Engineering Ltd, for guiding us to the start of construction.”
Conor Cross, Grant Manager at Sustrans Scotland, said:
“The new path from Penpont to Thornhill will enable people of all ages and abilities to walk, wheel, and cycle safely going forward.
“KPT Development Trust’s leadership of the project has ensured the project reflects the needs of the community, offering an alternative route to the A702 while still neatly integrating with local public transport.
“We are excited to see the project starting construction and look forward to continuing to support the community in making active travel an accessible choice for everyone.”
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.”
Councillor John Campbell, SWestrans Chair, added:
“Connecting our communities through improved and new active travel links for every day walking and cycling trips will be a key priority for SWestrans in our new Regional Transport Strategy.
“SWestrans has been delighted to provide funding and support to the Trust in their exemplar work to deliver this community-led active travel path between Penpont and Thornhill.”
Lindsay Dougan, SSE Renewables, said:
“SSE is proud to have supported this valuable project.
“The new path will help make the local communities safer and support active travel.”
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 well-planned and executed project.”
Rowena Colpitts, Transport Planning & Engineering Ltd, added they were ‘delighted’ to help get the project up and running.
JH Civil Engineering is working on the first section of path being laid just north of Burnhead.
The next few weeks will see the start of the path’s ramp being excavated as it heads down the slope to Drumlanrig Road.