RAMBLERS have been told to take precautions at a popular walking spot in the Barnsley countryside as work on a two-year scheme to channel power cables underground stepped up over the Christmas period.

The National Grid’s so-called ‘visual impact project’ along the Trans Pennine Trail at Dunford Bridge was approved by Barnsley Council last year and work - which began in November - picked up pace last week with the closure of some sections of the route.

According to site bosses, for the next four weeks trail users will be able to use an alternative two-and-a-half mile circular walk that takes in the existing trail from Dunford Bridge and loops back north of the River Don, opening up views of the Dark Peak landscape.

It is one of the first projects anywhere in the world to bury the electricity network underground for entirely landscape reasons and has been developed over several years with input from Barnsley Council, the Peak District National Park Authority, the Trans Pennine Trail Office, Natural England, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Dunford Parish Council and members of the public.

Once the cables have been installed and connected, the first pylons are due to be taken down permanently in summer 2022.

Muhammed Ali, senior project manager at National Grid, told the Chronicle: “The circular route we have created offers the perfect option - we’re working with partners at Barnsley Council and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to encourage people to use the loop.

“Users of the trail will then have the chance to use the diversion until later in the year when we will close it and reopen the existing route once the cables are buried.

“Views from the diversion should be particularly good during springtime with all the riverside flowers brightening up this classic Dark Peak view, while the extensive ecological work we’ve been doing is creating the ideal habitat for the very rare willow tit to help it to thrive in the area.”

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It is part of a major landscape project to remove seven pylons and replace 1.5km of overhead electricity line with underground cables, transforming views around this eastern gateway to the Peak District National Park.

The high-voltage line was constructed between 1966 and 1967 and serves as an ‘integral connection point’ for the local distribution network.

The area was originally chosen from a list of more than 100 possible sites by a national advisory group chaired by environmentalist Chris Baines and including organisations such as the National Trust.

Chris, who has overseen the development of this and the other projects, added: “This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been involved with and will transform an area I know well and have great affection for.

“The result will turn the area around Dunford Bridge into a wonderful eastern gateway to the National Park and will enhance the enjoyment of the millions of locals and visitors who come to the Peak District every year.

“When those first pylons come down in 2022, it will spell a wonderful new chapter for Barnsley, the Trans Pennine Trail and the national park.”