It is now almost two years since we last had a piece on this website about the state of our district’s public footpaths (see Save Our Footpaths).
There are around twenty miles of field-paths and other rights of way in the Draycott/Cresswell/Totmonslow area; and sad to say, things have hardly got better for them since that last article, and are in fact are now much worse.
It’s bad all over
Since our last article, the Ramblers Association has published the first ever national survey of the state of footpaths (November 2016). They reported thousands of signs missing and not replaced, and it looks like our region (West Midlands) is one of the worst for this.
Across England & Wales, a third of all paths need improvement, and one-tenth of paths are blocked altogether!
Sadly, that story is replicated in Draycott, where even some stiles are impassable, simply being drowned in vegetation or missing. There are even local paths which appear to have been deliberately blocked.
The biggest problem of all (say The Ramblers Association) is that county councils, which are primarily responsible for clearing and maintaining paths, simply aren’t coping. Councils, hits by cuts, say they just don’t have the resources.
And so… the footpath network declines, fewer people use it, and the vicious cycle goes on.
Local walkers have let us have photos of local problems (see the gallery below) – but, even so, not all the local issues have yet been photographed. (If you too have local photos, please email them to us).
Thanks to everyone who has already sent in photos and thoughts about our local footpaths.
Incidentally, many of these photos were taken before the recent rains, so don’t go thinking that all that vegetation growth is simply because of the wet weather. These photos reflect what is a normal state of affairs.
The most shocking thing is the blocked path up near NewHouse, south-west of Painsley (the path known as Checkley 63). It passes through a copse, and someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make it impassable.
But mostly, the problems are lack of maintenance and sheer vandalism.
It’s all not bad news.
The county-council did restore a number of fingerposts a few months ago and repair some gates.
It seems some money may be made available for repairs in Draycott, with Brookside earmarked to receive the cash.
And the Cheadle-to-Cresswell Railway-path group has big plans to clear the old rail-track and make it passable for horses as well as walkers.
It’s not much though, compared to the overall decline.
Stopping the rot
How do we stop the rot?
Draycott Area-Parish Council must do more. One of the few direct responsibilities that such area-councils have is to monitor their local footpaths-network… and many small councils do do their bit – but there is little evidence that here in Draycott councillors are doing more than grumble. Action would be nice.
In fact, we were promised a footpath report from them two years ago. But nothing has ever appeared. Let’s see one!
The council’s basic responsibility is to defend our interests in a coherent way, so a little leadership would also help. How about the council creating a sub-group (with volunteer residents) to cope with the issue?
Second: it’s up to us, as individuals. It is quite legal to carry a pair of secateurs with you and snip away at vegetation overhanging paths or stiles. (Only snipping, mind! More than that will require permission).
There is, unfortunately, no local Ramblers branch (the nearest are ones at Stone and Leek), but, if you are keen on saving paths in general, you could join The Ramblers.
Thirdly: we can all report issues. The Ramblers Association is urging us to report path problems through their ‘Pathwatch’ scheme (they will then alert the local authority for you). They’ve even created a mobile-phone app that allows you to report features on the go – straight from your pocket.
And, if you want to keep Draycott Council on their toes, you can also report problems to them.
Landowners have a responsibility too. Farmers who receive Common Agricultural Policy payments should keep to cross-compliance rules, which say that visible public rights of way “must be kept open and accessible”.
But first… let’s have that report from our parish council. It’s well overdue. Then we can really get started on looking after our local footpaths network – a valuable (and free and healthy) public amenity.
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