MILES of forest walks in part of Northumberland are no longer marked as a result of funding cuts.
The Forestry Commission has confirmed that 22 miles of trails at its sites in the Rothbury area have had their waymarking removed after a reduction in the money the department has been given by the Government.
One keen walker who visits the forests there has voiced concerns that the trails could disappear and said people could get lost in woodland as a result.
The commission looks after 10,500 hectares of forest in the area, with the main ones at Kidland, Uswayford, Harbottle, Thrunton and Harwood.
Its spokesman has confirmed its 35 miles of waymarked trails in its forests in the Rothbury areas has been reduced to 13 miles. It previously maintained 12 trails, but that number has now been halved to six.
The spokesman said that “in general” the longer routes have had their markings removed and the shorter ones had theirs retained.
He added the public is still entitled to access all the trails, but that some are no longer being maintained to the standard of those that are waymarked.
The spokesman explained that the waymarkings have been removed in order to save the resources needed to check and maintain the trails.
The commission’s car parks in the Rothbury area will nevertheless remain free.
The spokesman said: “The context for this is trying to get the maximum benefit to the public out of limited resources. We have had to rationalise and concentrate resources.
“Like many government departments the commission have had to cut their cloth accordingly.”
Concern has been voiced over the move by keen walker and lover of the countryside Hazel Nieuwjoop, a doctor who lives on a farm at Middleton, near Scots Gap.
She noticed the removal of waymarkings on a recent visit to forest at Holystone and despite having a map, could not find her destination.
Mrs Nieuwjoop has raised the matter with the Ramblers Association.
She said: “If you do not encourage people to walk the paths they will disappear. They have been a great resource for people and if people stop visiting as they will, they will soon get overgrown.
“You are left with logging tracks which will be difficult to walk on. It is bound to restrict access.”
Mrs Nieuwjoop claimed “a great big North forest with no waymarks” becomes a “very different” proposition for a family with young children.
The commission has said it will continue to provide “longer” waymarked trails at its forest centres at Kielder, and Hamsterley in County Durham.