THE LONG awaited work to complete a "Pennine Way" for horse riders across the Yorkshire Dales will begin this week - weather permitting - with a helicopter airlift lift to carry stone to build foundations across parts of Malham Moor.
The National Trail Bridleway, which will eventually cross 52 miles of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, was first proposed some 20 years ago by the late Lady Mary Towneley, wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, and much of the work bringing it north from Derbyshire and into Lancashire is already complete.
However, the Yorkshire Dales section threw up unexpected difficulties both in the landscape - some of which demands highly delicate environmental work - but also planning objections from a small group of residents in Upper Ribblesdale.
Later this week - unless the snow gets worse - helicopters will begin lifting 3,500 tonnes of stone to parts of the so-called "Malham loop" which is inaccessible to motor vehicles.
The bridleway, funded by the Countryside Agency with a £1.8m grant from Sport England, covers about 350 miles in total, of which 52 miles run through the national park from Long Preston in the south to Hell Gill Bridge on the Yorkshire/Cumbria border.
The 10 mile Malham loop, which starts and finishes in Settle, stretches east to Grizedales and will be open later this year ahead of schedule to provide a day trip excursion for horse riders, mountain bikers and walkers.
The YDNPA's Pennine Bridleway Project Officer Gareth Evans, who has been responsible for all the work so far, said: "It is a huge job because of the scale of erosion to the track surface and to surrounding, fragile moorland.
"There is a lot of work involved before we start building - the authority has already undertaken archaeological and ecological surveys along the line of the route. As a direct result of this survey work we have excavated the remains of what are believed to be three 18th century culverts."