Footpaths Working Group
In Spring 2016 a comprehensive survey of the Parish’s 28km of footpaths was carried out by parishioners and Parish Councillors. Pleasingly, this showed that 78% of paths had no problems or only minor problems, but that nevertheless there were issues that needed dealing with.
In Autumn 2016, the Parish Council made footpaths one of its strategic priorities for the next two or three years, and a Footpath Working Group involving Parish Councillors, parishioners and representatives of interest groups was set up.
The purpose of the Footpath Working Group is to help ensure the short and long-term viability of footpaths in the Parish and to develop them for access, recreation, enjoyment and healthy activity for all ages and abilities.
Walking is a key part of healthy living and keeping fit for everyone. The Parish Council and the Footpath Working Group intend to make using the Parish’s footpaths as enjoyable and satisfying as possible for everyone.
Footpaths are one of the features of Chalford Parish that make it what it is. It’s not just the sheer number of paths, but also their variety. The narrow hillside paths on Rack Hill provide spectacular views as well as access to homes. There are peaceful walks through the countryside along Toadsmoor Valley and through Dimmel’s Dale. At the eastern edge of the Parish there are paths through Oldhills Wood which link to the quiet road to Valley Corner. The canal towpath can be followed along the south of the Parish, with boards erected by the Cotswolds Canals Trust by the canal at the Round House (across A419 London Road from Christ Church) providing interesting information about the canal and the history of Chalford.
Training for footpath volunteers
Five Parish volunteers have attended excellent training provided by PROW. The training covered the history of rights of way; the scope and priorities of the work carried out by PROW; legal aspects and relevant Acts, including the responsibilities of PROW and landowners; how to report footpath problems; and the contribution volunteers can make to footpath maintenance and improvement. A walk on paths near the Northleach venue and led by PROW staff, were chosen to illustrate typical issues and helped put all this into context.
Stroud Rambling Club has received a grant of £2030.36 from Ramblers’ Holidays Charitable Trust for the installation of 4 kissing gates and 1 self-closing gate.
Recent work by the footpath practical group include clearing debris from the long flight of steps up from Chalford High Street past The Old Chapel, and similar debris clearance on the long path along Rack Hill running from the Church Hall on Coppice Hill to the top of the steps past The Old Chapel.
Three other footpath improvements are being planned in association Cotswold Wardens, who will be providing skilled (voluntary) labour. Two of these involve replacing decaying steps. The first is on the path past The Old Chapel and the second is on the path running from Marle Hill to Commercial Road, known as Jacob’s Ladder. The Parish Council will be providing the materials. The third planned improvement is clearing debris from a length of path just above Chalford High Street’s Community Shop, and putting in retaining boards to help prevent future accumulation of debris. The path is part of the link from Coppice Hill to the Community Shop, and is much used.
From Coppice Hill to Dimmel’s Dale
The Footpath Working Group has made good progress in the past year. A volunteer practical group has been set up to carry out tasks such as clearing rubble, removing weeds, or cutting back overgrown hedges. The first task was carried out in April on the popular path leading from Coppice Hill to Dimmel’s Dale – hedges and brambles encroaching on the path were cut back, making the path much easier to use. Comments from walkers show the volunteers’ work was much appreciated.
It is anticipated the group, which has ten members, will carry out work improving the Parish’s paths fortnightly.
Cowswell Lane steps
One longstanding Parish footpath problem has been fixed as a result of intervention by the Footpath Working Group. The steps on a path that leads from Cowswell Lane in Bussage to the fields along Toadsmoor had become dangerous, particularly when wet. Work by Cotswold Warden volunteers using materials supplied by Gloucestershire County Council has made using the steps much safer.
Commercial Lane to Marle Hill
Last week the group made a great impact on a steep staircase from Commercial Road to Marle Hill. See the image in the gallery below.
Planning is well advanced in dealing with two other longstanding footpath problems in the Parish. These need help from groups such as the Cotswold Wardens, or schemes such as the Community Payback, and may need to employ contractors. It is expected this work will be completed in the next few months. Watch out for updates.
A huge boost to the Parish footpath network has been made possible by a generous grant from the Ramblers’ Holidays Charitable Trust. The purpose of the RHCT grant is to improve public access to walking and footpaths, so it has been decided to replace stiles by kissing gates in the Old Bussage area, making it easier for those who find stiles difficult to enjoy our countryside.
If you know of a footpath which could be improved by some tender loving care, please contact the Parish Office, and we’ll see what we can do.
December 2016 – Canal Towpath
Work by a member of the Parish Council Footpath Working Group has resulted in the resolution of a longstanding problem on the canal towpath where it passes under the railway, near St Mary’s Mill. For years there has been flooding in wet weather at the entrances to the pedestrian tunnel, to the extent that the path has sometimes been unusable. The commitment and persistence of Peter Ashcroft, a parishioner member of the Footpath Working Group (FWG), resulted in volunteers from the Cotswold Canals Trust, helped by Peter and Parish Councillor Steve Beioley, spending a Sunday in mid-December putting drainage in and surfacing the path with stone. Anyone who has walked the path recently will appreciate the improvement.
The work on the canal towpath was carried out with the approval of Gloucestershire County Council’s Public Rights of Way Inspections Officer for the area, Sarah MacAulay-Lowe.
The FWG was fortunate to have Sarah attend its meeting at the end of November. She explained the opportunities and constraints her work provided and what the Parish FWG could do. A major constraint is finance – there are about 3500 Public Rights of Way in Gloucestershire, and a budget for the area that works out at about £14 per path per year. As a result her work is essentially reactive and help and practical support from parish councils is very welcome. Priorities are dangerous paths and broken bridges.
The Footpath Working Group is planning a leaflet illustrating a series of circular walks making use of these paths. It is intended that some of the walks will be easy, whilst others will be more demanding. Plans are at an early stage, but the intention is that the leaflet will include items of interest, pictures by a local artist, snippets of local history, and wildlife notes as well as help navigating the paths, and that there will be walks in the East and West of the Parish.