** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
This month, the situation so far with the South Cambridgeshire “Byways” petition is detailed. Progress is slow, but we are hopeful of an eventual positive outcome. Experience has suggested that nothing in which local government is involved moves swiftly!
Long-term readers of “Cantab” will recall our East Anglian Rivers theme in past years. The Fen Rivers Way project took us in sections along the Rivers Cam and Great Ouse from Cambridge to Kings Lynn, and the West Anglian Way followed the Stort Navigation for much of its length. In this issue, we thank David Elsom, Chairman of the RA Cambridge Group, for an introduction to walking The New River Path, following the water-course from Hertford to Islington, as enjoyed by some members of Cambridge Group earlier this year.
The Progress of the Byways Petition
What it was
During walks last Autumn, RA Cambridge Group circulated a petition amongst its members, and to other groups walking in the Cambridgeshire Area. The petition read:
“A number of important Public Byways in Cambridgeshire are impassable to walkers and riders during the Winter, having been turned to morass by irresponsible use of recreational motor vehicles. We, the under-signed call upon Cambridgeshire County Council, as Highway Authority, to apply seasonal traffic restriction orders to more of such byways, especially the Aldreth Causeway (Willingham Byway 9); Fox Road (West Wratting Byway 1 and Weston Colville Byway 4) and the Roman Road near Balsham (Linton Byway 23 and Balsham Byway 4).”
The Aldreth Causeway going towards the Isle of Ely, was Hereward the Wake’s Road, and like Fox Road, and the Via Devana (more properly Wool Street) have historical and archaeological significance and well as walking routes.
Thanks to those who signed it
Cambridge Group were indebted to the 350 walkers who signed the petition. It was clear that 100% of those approached supported the issue, and we could have gone on obtaining signatures indefinitely, had we but been able to contact more members. However, it was decided to finalise the petition in January 2006, and to present it to Cambridgeshire County Council.
Having located the correct person within the County Council to receive our petition, it was 20 March 2006 before a date could be arranged to present the petition to Cllr Mac McGuire, Cabinet Lead Member for Highways & Delivery, on the steps of Shire Hall. We were pleased that a representative number of walkers turned up, and to two cyclists, emphasising the different types of user affected by the issue. Subsequently, Cambridge RA Group S.Cambs Footpath Officers discussed the petition with Kate Day, the County’s Countryside Access Team Leader on 30 March. On 18 April, Roger Moreton, for RA Cambridge Group, was invited to speak on the petition for 3 minutes to The County Council’s Cabinet meeting, and to answer questions.
The formal reply came from Cllr Mcguire,
on 10 July 2006, and is quoted in full:
I was pleased to accept your petition on the 20th March which was considered by the County Council’s Cabinet on the 18th April. I am pleased to be able to offer you the Councils considered response and would welcome further dialogue on the matter.
The County Council is responsible for ensuring byways are accessible and properly maintained for all legitimate users but primarily for use by pedestrians and horse riders. There are 400km of byway in the county out of a total length of 3200Km of ROW. This is a higher proportion than many neighbouring counties.
Byways often represent a considerable asset for biodiversity if appropriately managed. The total area of Cambridgeshire byways is equivalent to a large Country Park and therefore has value beyond countryside access. Some of these green lanes are designated in their own right for their wildlife value e.g. a significant part of the Roman Road SSSI running from Cambridge towards Haverhill. We have been working with the Wildlife Trust (Cambridge Green Belt Project) and English Nature on the Roman Road near Cambridge and on the Ashwell Stret near Royston, and are nearing completion of restoration work (reclamation of the full width, drainage, re-seeding and hedgerow replanting and management)l on the Bullock Road in Hunts.
In these cases traffic on the routes has been limited by Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) and I note your desire to see this type of traffic management extended to other routes where appropriate. This is a matter the Local Access Forum (LAF) have also considered and something the Countryside Access Team report on to each LAF meeting .
The County Council’s Procedure for using TROs was approved in January 2005 based upon Government Guidance and Best Practise. In essence, the County Councils approach can be summarised as follows:-
- Ensure that adequate management has been carried out
- Try voluntary restraint through liaison with user groups
- Test the effectiveness of temporary orders
- Test limiting (width, height, weight) traffic regulation orders
- Only then resort to a full prohibition of traffic order
When considering applying for a TRO, consideration is given to previous history of use and complaints, use of private rights, soil conditions, heritage and biodiversity issues, maintenance issues, source of damage (2 or 4 wheeled users, farm machinery).
Seasonal TROs are applied and have been effective. Our ability to undertake this type of regulation is limited by resources. A typical TRO costs up to £3000 to make and enforce. Cases are currently dealt with according to the escalation process above. The volume of cases is expected to escalate as restricted byways come into force (under the Natural England and Rural Communities Act, 2006) in neighbouring counties. Priority will be given to those routes where environmental damage is most significant and potential benefit for users is the greatest. We will be consulting on the application of a further 4 seasonal TROs in West Hunts (Eynesbury Hardwicke, Waresely, Old Weston, Upton & Coppingford) shortly.
We are investigating the cases highlighted in your petition (Willingham 9, West Wratting 1, Weston Colville 4, and the Roman Road) to ensure proper consideration has been given to all the issues and all proper avenues pursued in line with our Enforcement Procedure.
One further point to note is a new requirement on Highway Authorities to produce a Highways Asset Management Plan. The County Council aims to have a plan in place by April 2007. Officers are currently evaluating the condition and extent of information we hold about all our highways, including rights of way, and the resources required to maintain those assets. A better under-standing of the condition or our Highway network and the costs of maintaining it will enable the County Council to bid for and target resources most effectively. This will not necessarily bring additional funding to rights of way, and byways in particular, but the process will identify the costs issues that arise in maintaining these routes.
We would welcome information on those routes where significant improvements could be made for path users through the Councils adopted Byways Management procedure & the application of a seasonal TROs. This is a difficult issue and we welcome the very positive way in which all parties have worked with us to address it.
Cllr Mac Mcguire
Cabinet Lead Member for Highways & Delivery.”
Following RA Cambridge Group Committee discussion, a reply was sent on 31 July. We welcomed Cllr McGuire’s summary of the issues at stake, but remain concerned that many byway sites in Cambridgeshire remain under threat. The purpose of the petition was to indicate the strength of feeling on this issue amongst walkers, and to give a sense of the urgent need for action against accelerating damage. The three byways selected to illustrate the problem are some with long histories of public complaints, and where attempts at management have been frustrated by repeated overusage by motor vehicles during the Winter months.The effect on these byways is to make them impassable (and therefore obstructed by virtue of their surface condition) to a great majority of users during the Winter & early Spring.. Appended to the letter are three long lists of reports of problems on the byways in question, extending over several years, together with responses (or lack) from the County Council. The Group would be happy to discuss the matter further.
We have yet to receive a formal reply to this letter. However, an e-mail dated 4 August from Kate Day suggested that one of her officers had been detailed to have discussions with landowners in Willingham adjacent to the Aldreth Causeway.
What else can we do
At present, we can only wait a little longer. We had hoped to see the application of TROs before the coming Winter, but that is now looking unlikely.
Meanwhile, you can help. Write to Cllr McGuire, at Cambridgeshire County Council, Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge CB3 0AP,* emphasising your desire to see seasonal traffic regulation orders on these byways. Describe your own experiences of routes obstructed by mud, of having to turn back, of being sprayed by dirt from passing vehicles, or of deciding just not to use these routes in Winter, and hence spoiling an otherwise attractive circuit.
THE NEW RIVER PATH
LINKING HERTFORD WITH ISLINGTON
After about ten years work, this path was opened by Thames Water in 2003. It follows the New River, built in 1613 by a group of “adventurers” led by Sir Hugh Myddleton, to carry fresh water for about 30 miles from the springs and rivers in the Hertford/Ware area into the City of London. Even today 10% of London’s water supply is delivered by this route.
The Path starts from Hertford, and is essentially rural until reaching Enfield, but even then often forms a green finger through the North London suburbs. On reaching Canonbury and Islington the line of the New River is preserved through a series of narrow public parks, until reaching New River Head, off Myddleton Square and close to Saddlers Wells.
A group of Cambridge RA Saturday walkers recently completed the walk in three stages, using the two distinct railway lines serving Hertford:
- Hertford East railway station to Cheshunt station, which is about 12/13 miles, lunching at Broxbourne, in the park set up by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority
- Cheshunt railway station to Bowes Park station [near Alexandra Palace]. For this stage we parked at Hertford North station, walked to Hertford East to catch train to Cheshunt, and then caught train back to Hertford North. Lunch was enjoyed at Forty Hall, a magnificent house at the centre of a London Borough of Enfield country park. Plenty of pubs in Enfield Town, as we discovered. Old Enfield was a revelation to us all.
Another 12/13 miles
- Bowes Park railway station into the City of London, returning from Kings Cross to Hertford North, where we had parked to travel down to Bowes Park. Lunch was taken in Clissold Park, where there are good facilities and pleasant gardens.
Only 8/9 miles
It is not very complicated to do this walk, and by doing it on a Saturday or Sunday, parking at the Hertford stations is plentiful and cheap [£1 all day]
Thames Water produce a good booklet “The New River Path” ***, which is essential [though the street map of Cheshunt area is wrong—ring David 01223 842074 for illumination]; OS Explorer 174 Epping Forest and Lee Valley covers all but the last two miles of the walk; and in general the signage is good.
For a surprising and different walk, do give it a go.
*** ring Thames Water 0845 9200 800 to obtain your copy of the free booklet
Did you know that…
— The bridge over the Cam on Coe Fen, which has been under conversion for joint use by cyclists and walkers, is at last open for use, but clearly unfinished. The bridge itself looks rather a mess at present, quite apart from the adjacent disturbed ground.
—A new footbridge is being constructed by Cambs.C.C. over Braham Dock on the Fen Rivers Way between Little Thetford and Ely. Walkers currently divert along the North bank of the dock (where there is no recorded right of way) and close to the railway across uneven ground. The new Footbridge will be at TL 5400 7738, on Ely Footpath 23. It will span the dock in a N-S direction at the E end of the dock. The steel structure will have a wooden footway and handrails, and will be 24m long, 1.5m wide, and give 3m clearance above water level. Work is likely to start during the second half of September, and last for ca. 6 weeks, and the footpath will be closed while works are underway. An alternative route will be signed.
Information from John Sargeant, Cambs.C.C. firstname.lastname@example.org 01223 718 408
—Sections of Devil’s Dyke between Newmarket and Stetchworth have recently re-opened, following tree work. Cambs. C.C. announced this in August. We were not aware that the path had been closed, in spite of using it at intervals through the Summer! You will see a few large trees have been removed from the wooded section, and some overhanging branches cut back, but fortunately, there is nothing like the wholesale clearance of trees and bushes made previously on the Reach section of the Dyke.
—The AGM of the Icknield Way Association will be held in West Wratting on Sat.7 Oct., preceeded by a walk on the recently diverted path network in West Wratting. For a 6 mile walk, meet at The Causeway (leading to the church), Explorer 210 TL 605 524 at 10 am. The AGM and tea will be held in the village hall in the afternoon.
Icknield Way contact – Chris James 01462 742684 email@example.com
Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post: Issue 38.
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This is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or of the author of an individual item. Janet Moreton 01223 356889
Issue 38; Price 20 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2006.