** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
In the last edition (Feb. 2002), the Countryside Agency’s Rights of Way Condition survey 2000, and its findings nationally were discussed. We have since received several comments along the lines, “if the paths are so good, why do we find so many ploughed up?!”. One of the answers is, of course, that the survey was carried out during the Summer, rather than in Winter, when problems of lack of reinstatement are always more severe.
The document seems to have provoked advense comments generally, and we scanned a ramblers’ database on the Internet for informed opinions of why the Countryside Agency came up with the optimistic results it achieved. The following article, which is reproduced here by kind permission of the author, expresses the personal views Tony Drake, the veteran footpath worker from Gloucestershire.
Countryside Agency’s Rights of Way Condition Survey – an opinion
“I am surprised that no one … has hit the roof about the completely fallacious conclusions drawn by the Countryside Agency to the findings of its condition survey. The report seeks to show the extent to which highway authorities have achieved the national target of having the path network “legally defined, PROPERLY MAINTAINED, and well publicised”.
“For the indicator, – “easy to follow” the surveyors had to grade the paths into three categories. The all-England total was 62% easy to follow without a map, 34% needed a 25,000 map and 4% were impossible or difficult even with a map. The target of 95% achievement of “properly maintained” was considered to have been reached if the easy to follow PLUS those that were followable only with a map added up to 95%. Thus an authority with 5% impossible paths and none satisfactory would qualify. Surely only those that are satisfactory qualify for the target.
“Similarly the indicator of ease of negotiating crossings such as stiles and gates called for three grades – “satisfactory”, “needs attention” and “unusable”. The breakdown was not given and only the “usable” figure is given for each region (95% for England), which is merely those that are not unusable. Whilst the unusable figure is a matter of concern the more important area for resources is the middle class of those needing attention, but we are not told what proportion that is. The figures must be available.
“The obstructions per 10km is a useful figure though it covers a variety of hazards including growth, mud & cropping problems but not furniture (e.g. stiles, gates etc) difficulties. The English average is 5.2 per 10km, but when combined with furniture problems there is no direct comparison because only breakdown figures of 4.7 for walkers and 7.7 for other users are given so one cannot gauge the number of furniture obstructions per km.
“There are many useful statistics in the report though clearly there must be limitations on any such survey, much of which relies on the subjective judgement of the professional and volunteer surveyors. The whole report however is damned by the overall conclusions as to the achievement of the government target. To regard paths which are unsatisfactory and in need of attention as having achieved the “properly maintained” definition is irresponsible. The achievement table, also shown on the free handout, suggests that 29 regions have achieved the “easy to follow” target & that 9 regions have achieved the “easy to use” target, whereas in fact none of them have achieved any target All that can be concluded is that some of them have less than 5% impossible paths.
The Agency press release, while saying that a quarter of paths are not easy to use, quotes the deputy chair of the Agency as saying that only 15% (5 shire counties, including my county of Gloucestershire) achieved two of the targets wheras none did. Just coming up to county budget decision time we in Gloucestershire. could have done without local paper saying “Gloucestershire was praised for having “easy to follow” and “easy to use” paths”.
“(Ramblers’ Association) Head Office is reluctant to criticise the report as there is so much good material in it, but I think it is undermining our call for more resources for getting the network in order and which gets no subsidies. I would welcome support from those who have read the whole report (£20 from the Agency Publications, Wetherby) or on the Web. I think the report should be withdrawn and reissued with proper reference to the targets.
From Tony Drake, Glos. Area Footpath Secretary, 23 January 2002
-Cambridge City Underpass improvement
The cattle creep under Fen Causeway, linking two sections of Coe Fen has been deepened, and concrete & drains put in, to facilitate clean-footed crossing safely beneath the road. Note purple toothwort started to flower on nearby Robinson Crusoe Island at least six weeks earlier than usual!
We learnt of a Temporary Prohibition of Use Order 2002 until September 2002 for the Crow Dene bridleway, to allow for construction works on the A428.
Bridleway 20 (Rivey Lane, which runs downhill from the water-tower) has a temporary closure order for resurfacing & drainage until July 2002. We hope this will be more successful than previous attempts at improving this wet lane.
Cambridgeshire County Council have put a temporary closure on Black Bridge at Hemingford Abbots until 07.05.02 for service diversion & a new bridge.
Black Fen & Brown Fen Trails
In the last issue, the Black Fen Waterways Trail (62 mile circuit from Ely) and The Brown Fen Waterway Trail (62 mile circuit from Boston) were featured, when it was noted that there was difficulty in obtaining the free A3 leaflet which gives descriptions of both these routes.
However, our Stretham correspondent, Bill Wakefield, now alerts us to the fact that the free leaflets are now available at Tourist information centres in the region (e.g.Ely, Spalding, Boston etc).
Bill emphasizes that it is essential to have the relevant up-to-date large-scale maps of the area, as the leaflet, of itself, provides inadequate detail to accomplish the walks.
West Anglian Way. November 2002 – February 2003
Walk a new long distance path with Cambridge & East Herts ramblers next Winter!
Dates for your diary
1. Sat.2 Nov. 2002. Cambridge station to Whittlesford station
2. Sat.16 Nov. 2002. Whittlesford station to Newport station
3. Sat.30 Nov. 2002. Newport station to Bishops Stortford station
4. Sat.18 Jan. 2003. Bishops Stortford station to Harlow Town station
5. Sat.8 Feb. 2003. Harlow Town station to Broxbourne station (provisional)
6. Sat.22 Feb. 2003. Broxbourne station to Waltham Abbey (Waltham Cross station) (provisional)
(for further information, tel. 01223 356889).
Parish of the Month – Shepreth
Shepreth’s well-kept paths were waymarked this Winter by members of the Cambridge Group of the Ramblers’ Association, led by David Harrison. There are 13 numbered rights of way on the County Council’s Definitive Map, and at least 2 further well-used permissive paths. Shepreth is accessible by rail via the station, with its 1851 buildings.
Prehistory of the parish is described in Rowland Parker’s classic on the neighbouring parish of Foxton “The Common Stream” (in paperback, Paladin 1976), where lines of two prehistoric trackways crossing the parish from North to South are noted. These were recorded on the Inclosure map of 1823, and might be worth following up in any search for paths to be added to the Definitive Map. The remains of a Roman villa and an early village were found, and ancient grain storage pits were found in 1885 and a burial ground excavated in 1895.
Of today’s well-signed paths, Footpath 1 starts along Moor End lane, soon passing the parish church, with its clunch tower, C13th Decorated nave and chancel, incongruous yellow brick south aisle, and well-kept churchyard, with a large carpark behind. The path leads to Shepreth L-moor, 18 acres of grazed marshy pasture in the care of the Naturalists Trust. Over a century ago, much of the moor was dug for coprolytes. Its chalky streams are now home to arrowhead and four species of water crowfoot, and the rough pasture is a good place to see cowslips. Footpaths 1 & 2 cross the moor, using an underpass below the railway which bisects the reserve. Another approach is by the well-used Footpath 3, which starts from a small lay-by at a bend in Frog End road, and by the less-well used Footpath 13, which skirts the W edge of the Moor from Frog End, before passing under the railway. Two exits from the Moor lead onto Meldreth road. Here, turning right (E) leads one back to the village, passing the former crossing-keeper’s house, with its exquisite garden, which may be visited.
Back in the village, across the road from the church is a piece of rough woodland that has grown over an old moated site. This is thought* to be where one of the early manor houses stood. Docwra’s Manor is the name of a very fine house with a shell doorway, on Meldreth Road by Huttles Green, near the thatched village shop. Here is a diffuse multiway junction at the centre of the village.
The short Footpath 5 cuts off the road corner here between Frog End Road and Fowlmere Road. The footpath runs in a meadow behind a former water-mill. One of the miller’s sidelines was brewing, and the associated cottage was a beerhouse!
Cross the old roadbridge over the stream near Huttles Green, and turn NE along Angle Lane. This leads to Willers Mill Wildlife Park. Continue N along the lane beside a clear chalk stream, noting the wolves in their cages to the left. Passing over the railway crossing, Footpath 6 continues on a grassy field-edge track, before turning half-right on a well-trampled path across an arable field, to join the network of paths in the low-lying fields approaching Barrington. A direct return may be made from Barrington Green via Barrington Road, leading to Shepreth station, but a better, though longer option to to return via Five Fools Meadow, a County Council maintained public open space, once part of extensive lands in these parts owned by the nuns of Chatteris. A pleasant but damp permissive path runs a long way through the meadows and woodland to Malton Road, Meldreth.
If however, one turns East off Angle Lane by the green metal sign for Footpath 7, it leads along a gravel track, through kissing gates, between gardens and later behind attractive old pits in a belt of woodland to emerge on the A10 opposite the road turning to Foxton. Note that this path was diverted in 1982, so old maps might not show the present route. Footpath 8 is a backs-of-houses feeder route, starting on Fowlmere Road.
From Huttles Green, alongside the Fowlmere Road is a strip of woodland, where a very attractive permissive path has been signed, taking the walker up to the A10. Here turn right (S) on the footway. Shortly, across the road, a sign points into a belt of woodland, whence Footpath 10 leads across an arable field to Field Farm, and thence to Fowlmere. Alternatively, continue along the footway of the A10, past the Motel, to return toward the church on the attractive Footpath 9, beside the clear R.Shep. Turn left (S) here, to use the charming, well signed path across pastures towards Frog End (note three rather high stiles to climb!). From Frog End, return S to the A10. Cross carefully, and continue ahead through a cut-off residential road, towards the Green Man pub. with its pleasant garden. Opposite this starts Footpath 11 on a grassy farm track, soon becoming a narrow embanked path between trees above the stream, to emerge on the quiet lane in Fowlmere near the RSPB reserve. Daffodils spill from neighbouring gardens, and we have seen kingfisher. Quiet perfection here.
*For more information on Shepreth, and the neighbouring parishes of Barrington, Fowlmere, Foxton, etc.,see also “Valley in the Chalk” one of a set of leaflets published by the Cambridge Green Belt Team, 1995.
Shepreth, South Cambridgeshire is on Landranger 154, and Explorer 209.
Don’t just pass through Somerset
Three of us passed a most enjoyable walking holiday in South Somerset in March, staying near Bruton. Access to this area is via the A303, used by the many en route to Devon.
We used two enjoyable, well waymarked “long distance paths”, each only 28 miles long, which with scenic detours made six days’ enjoyable walking of about 10 miles per day. The Leland Trail (commemorating the C17th tour of the historian) runs from King Alfred’s Tower, near Stourhead Gardens, through Bruton, Castle Cary, North Cadbury, Queen Camel, Ilchester, Montacute, and ending at Ham Hill Country Park. The countryside is pastoral, with occasional sharp hills and attractive small towns and villages. We did not however enjoy the 2 mile section near Yeovilton, where the Fleet Air Arm’s Harrier Jump Jets practised “circuits & bumps” over our heads!
The Liberty Trail continues from Ham Hill to Lyme Regis, passing through West Chinnock, Misterton, Wayford, Thorncombe and Wooton Fitzpaine. This is a most attractive, hillier section, whose only snag is the need to cross the formidable A30. This route is based on the stories of the men who joined the Monmouth Rebellion from villages in Somerset & Dorset, assembling at Lyme in 1685.
Both guides can be obtained from Tourism & Marketing Unit, South Somerset District Council, Brympton Way, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1YR, tel 01935 75272. There are also two series of “Walks in South Somerset”.
Organisation: We mostly used two cars to do these linear walks, but for convenience used a taxi from Lyme back to Thorncombe (cost £15). We needed Explorer series 142, 129 & 116. We stayed at “Steps Farmhouse” in Wyke Champflower near Bruton, where we enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and delicious and ample vegetarian BB/EM for £28 pp/day, against a background of sheep, goats, rabbits, doves and horses, set in tiny hamlet in a bowl of grassy hills. Phone Eileen Lemon & Noreen Daniel on 01749 812788 for details.
Cantab Rambler is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item. Janet Moreton 01223 356889
Price 10 pence where sold. 12th edition
© Janet Moreton, April 2002