MORE than a mile of idyllic coastline is about to get more accessible for hundreds of people who use it every day.
The Souter bridleway at Whitburn is a popular spot for dog walkers, horse riders, and tourists.
But the 2km bridleway, which circles Souter Lighthouse, has become overgrown in places and the well-worn stretch gets muddy during the winter months.
Now a £25,000 scheme is under way to resurface key sections of the bridleway and create areas for horses and pedestrians to pass safely.
The National Lottery-funded Limestone Landscapes Project is working with South Tyneside Council, the National Trust and the environmental regeneration charity Groundwork on the initiative.
Over the next three weeks, a team made up of Groundwork employees and volunteers from the community will resurface pathways using about 100 tons of carboniferous limestone.
They will also cut back bushes and shrubbery and install information panels to direct people to different parts of the site.
Ian Moran, interpretation and community engagement officer for the Limestone Landscapes Project, says the work will make sure people get maximum enjoyment of the bridleway.
He said: “A lot of horse riders and other pedestrians are using the site and this will help them all to use it without getting in each other’s way.
“In the winter, because it has been a naturally-surfaced bridleway, it gets very muddy. The aim is to make it safer for people to use it, and we also hope it will help people enjoy this beautiful area.”
Lisa Tracey, South Tyneside Council’s public rights of way officer, said: “This is a worthwhile project which will have long-term benefits for the area.”
The scheme includes a small team of volunteer workers, including Peter Gardiner, of New Road, Boldon Colliery.
The 49-year-old is happy to offer his time and skills. He said: “I enjoy working outdoors and it’s great to be working in these surroundings and what we are doing will make a difference to a lot of people.”
Some of the volunteers working on the scheme are part of Groundwork’s practical conservation course at South Tyneside College, in South Shields.
Geoff Dawson, Groundwork operation’s manager said: “The volunteers are getting hands-on experience and are also doing something they can really be proud of.”
The work at Souter bridleway is part of a wider £2.8m regional initiative on the Durham Magnesian Limestone Plateau, which stretches from South Tyneside to Teesside.
A total of 25 projects are taking place.
Next month, more work will begin in South Tyneside, when dry stone walls will be restored, and lime will be mortured near Cleadon Windmill.