In 2004 the Rotary Amble and Warkworth successfully applied to Northumberland County Council (NCC) to adopt the section of the A1068, which connects the two communities of Amble and Warkworth, and rename it Rotary Way. This road is bordered on one side by the River Coquet and its estuary. It teams with wildlife ranging from seabirds to seals and attracts many “twitchers” and photographers. Between the river and the highway are a cycle track/footpath and a two meter high raised verge. On the other side of the highway is an expanse of verge, varying in width from four to ten meters. It is was a neglected weed-infested wilderness. Initially the adoption resulted in a “Rotary Way“ sign and an information board being erected, by our club, to illustrate the wildlife commonly seen in the estuary.
In 2012 the RC of A&W decided to make the development of Rotary Way an ongoing project. Many aspects of the Way were identified as being in need of attention and it was felt that developing Rotary Way would enhance the profile and reputation of the Club, help us involve many other organisations in the work of the Club and improve the profile of Amble and Warkworth. Both places are now tourist attractions—Amble with it’s beaches, harbour and yachting marina and Warkworth with it’s Norman Castle(60,000 visitors a year), it’s C12th church, picturesque dwellings and riverside. Both of these places are tourist attractions – Amble with its beaches, yachting marina and harbour; Warkworth with its Norman Castle (60,000 visitors a year), C12th church and picturesque dwellings and riverside. The issues arising along that part of the A1068 needing enhancement were:- * the terrible road surface and the unkempt lay-byes, * the uncared for cycle track, * the collapsing riverside fence, * cluttered highway signage, * the rotten wooden planters at each end of Rotary Way, * the wide unkempt grass verge * the lack of access from the lay-byes to the footpath below. To bring about these changes we had to engage with not only our Rotary District 1030, Inner Wheel and Interact, but also with Northumberland County Council, The North East Branch of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Northumberland Estates (the Duke of Northumberland), the local Councils of Amble and Warkworth, County and local ecologists, beekeepers, farmers, seed providers and machine hire firms and, of course, the local community. We applied successfully for grants from the Rotary District (in 2004 and 2018), Community Foundation Northumberland Grants Fund, the Sir James Knott Trust, the local Councils of Amble and Warkworth and the Grass Roots Community Foundation Fund. Our Rotary Club also raised charitable funds locally. To help with these grant applications we formed a charitable arm of our Rotary Club “The Coquet Community Trust” which we use to apply, as a charitable organisation, to grant-giving bodies, most of which will support only charitable organisations. In total we have raised approximately £10,000 which has been used to change and maintain certain aspects of Rotary Way. We could not have achieved so much without the engagement with and co-operation of Northumberland County Council. When Rotary Way was chosen as a route for the procession of the Olympic torch in 2012, we found out that there were grants available to councils to enhance these much-publicised routes and, with our prompting, the NCC successfully applied for a grant which enabled them to resurface the highway, the lay-byes and the drains to a very high standard. Our research also found that the footpath along the river side of Rotary Way was a designated children’s’ school route. We pointed out to Northumberland estates (the Duke of Northumberland who owns the river and its banks) that the fence along Rotary Way was unsafe and children had unhindered access to the river and so, following pressure from NCC, one kilometer of the fence was upgraded and repaired. Through their small grants scheme, the Councils of Amble and Warkworth agreed to replace the old rotting planters at each end of Rotary Way with stone planters and both Warkworth and Amble in bloom agreed to look after the planters and change the planting within them three times per year. After extensive negotiation with NCC they agreed to develop and supply a sign which did not actively advertise Rotary but which nevertheless is characteristic of Rotary. This sign is now used on the several Rotary Waysin Northumberland. Following a contribution from The RC of A&W (and others) to the NCC, steps have been built which connect the lay-bye above, commonly known as “The Rotary lay-bye” to the footpath below. This bank has recently been planted with 50 primroses.
Rotary A&W has, to date, planted C.40,000 purple crocus corms along the raised verge, on the river side of Rotary Way. Passers-by are always fascinated to hear about “End Polio Now”. Many members and community volunteers have helped with the planting.
The Club then adopted the policy of changing the neglected verges on the landward side of the A1068 into wild flower meadow areas. This has proved expensive (seeds costs £10 per gram) and clearing the ground in preparation for planting (mowing, spraying, harrowing, seeding and protecting) is labour intensive. Maintenance is also labour intensive as the wild-flowers, once spent, have to be cut with a cross cutting blade, shaken, baled and removed.
Before preparation Spraying after mowing
After Planting Flowering
We prepared and planted 400 meters of wild flower meadow at each end of Rotary Way. We felt this was an achievable and maintainable target. We have obtained grants from the two parish councils which share responsibility for Rotary Way. These grants will cover the cost of maintenance of the wild flower areas for the next six years.
We have conducted innumerable litter picks along each side of Rotary Way and have advertised our presence and achievements on our Facebook page and website to great local acclaim. We estimate that over the years we have donated at least five hundred hours of volunteer time, taking into account grant applications, meetings, presentations, charm offensives and physical graft. One can have little idea how many meetings, setbacks, changes of track and frustration it took to get the County Council to come up with our “Rotary Way” signs in the first instance.
Has it been worth it? Well, when we were taking the photos of our wildflower areas, eighteen months after they had been planted, we came across a juvenile pheasant hunkered down in the wild flowers about two feet from the edge of the busy highway. He was completely oblivious to the traffic and to the photographer wandering about trying to identify the many species of wildflowers – so we took his picture!.…and here he is!
Rotary friends from Dist 1210 visiting us on their Drive for Polio in 2018, showing the new signage and flower planter.
November 2020: Rotarians prepared the final planned stretch of Rotary Way for planting .
JULY 2021 Poppies 0n Rotary Way
This display was the result of scattering a few poppy seeds left from our 1918 Remembrance celebrations. They caused quite a stir in out two communities, drawing over 3000 views on our Facebook page …………..”Rotary Amble and Warkworth”
OCTOBER 2021—Members planted a further 50 primrose plants on the river-facing bank by the steps down to the river, adding to the vista for pedestrians walking Rotary Way.
OCTOBER 22nd, 2021 …..Another 4000 purple crocus corms are planted on Rotary Way
Have we achieved our aims? This has been a fourteen year-long, ever-changing project. It started as a project to create a “Rotary Way”, joining our two communities and enhancing the visitor-experience of our area. Throughout the period concerned the project developed into one reflecting some of the changing values in our society. Ecology and environmental issues have assumed a much greater importance in all our lives. Our Rotary Way project went on to reflect those changes, through our wildflower verges and the wildlife they now begin to attract. Rotary Way has become a very popular walk for the many visitors to our area.
The sign on Rotary Way tries to explain the significance of the 40,000 crocuses and how they serve to remind us, and our communities, about Rotary’s achievements in the fight against polio. They also look quite stunning!