Exmoor National Park Rangers teamed up with the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) yesterday (Wednesday) to move 60 tonnes of local stone needed for repair work along the Two Moor’s Way, near Simonsbath in Exmoor National Park.

Two huge Merlin MK3 helicopters from CHF’s 846 Naval Air Squadron collected the crushed stone in underslung bags from a nearby farm and delivered them to an eroded section of path near Wheal Eliza, which forms part of the Two Moors Way. The repair will improve the accessibility of the path, enabling more people to enjoy the stark beauty and tranquillity of the ancient Barle Valley.

The operation took place as part of routine training undertaken by 846 Naval Air Squadron for pilots new to the Merlin to gain experience in real-life specialist manoeuvres and helicopter handling.

The Two Moor’s Way is a 102-mile coast-to-coast walking route passing through some of the most dramatic and remote landscapes of Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. A programme of major improvement work, including new signs, bridges and surface renovations, was kicked off in 2016 for the 40th anniversary of the route, together with a new website and pocket guide available at National Park Centres.

Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Access and Recreation Manager, said: “The Two Moors Way is an iconic long distance walking route and it’s our mission to make sure people of varying ages and abilities can get out and enjoy it. The path between Simonsbath and Wheal Eliza is level, dry and easy to use, meaning it’s a great spot for those with young families, or even Tramper mobility scooters, to get off the beaten track and explore this breath-taking landscape.

“It’s great that 846 Naval Air Squadron has been able to help us get the job done as part of their training exercise, as to get the stone shifted over land would have been considerably more challenging and costly.”

Lieutenant Commander Andy White from 846 Naval Air squadron said: “It’s important and very rewarding to be able to occasionally undertake tasks such as this to reinforce that we are part of those communities in which our own family’s live. Today has formed a link with the Exmoor National Park Authority in undertaking a pretty huge task. We fly and exercise over Exmoor and Dartmoor frequently and it is gratifying that we can say thank you in some meaningful way.

“The Commando Helicopter Force, which is part of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm comprises Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel. It is a deployable Force on notice to move anywhere in the world at short notice to undertake humanitarian and defence tasks and operations. To be able to do that with skill and confidence all its personnel need to constantly train and keep their skills honed. Not only is CHF based in Somerset but many of our personnel live in communities across the south west of England.”