Friday, 4 February 2011

Progress in Cornwall for Ramblers (4/2/11)

I'm in Cornwall on a return visit, six months after I was here to launch the Ramblers 'Dead End for Walkers?' campaign to highlight the risk of local authority budget cuts to our national path network. 

At the time, some people suggested we were exagerating the threat. Six months later, with proposed cuts of 100% to staffing in Bolton, 80% to capital spend on the Isle of Wight, 50% to staffing and budgets in Nottinghamshire, and many more to come, it's clear that in many parts of the country our worst fears are being realised.

But here in Cornwall, there's at least some good news.    

Six months ago, I walked two footpaths here with Graham Ronan, Area Chair, and Jack Burling, one of Cornwall's Footpath Secretaries, as well as council rights of way staff.  They were both picked at random - and both were impassable. They were some of the worst footpaths I've walked in Britain - in an area heavily reliant on walking tourism.  After the visit, we wrote to all Cornwall councillors to tell them what we'd found, and I promised to come back six months later to see if there were improvements. 

I'm pleased to report that much progress is being made - through a combination of council action, Ramblers volunteers, and landowner assistance. 

-  Some landowners have been pursuaded to cooperate, removing footpath blockages and putting in drainage. 

-  The council is still in discussions with others, but I'm pleased to see its perseverance. 

-  Both Ramblers volunteers and council staff have been working together at weekends to clear away decades of overgrowth. Last weekend, 22 volunteers were out helping. (Graham has ordered some of the 'Improved by Ramblers Volunteers' plaques, to use on the restored footpaths, to help encourage membership - you can order some too from here: )

-  It's good to see some local businesses starting to get interested - seeing the potential for walking routes from holiday homes. 

We've fixed a date for me to come back in July for an official opening, by which time we expect the footpaths to be fully usable. We'll be inviting all Cornish councillors, and everyone who's helped, to the opening and celebratory walk. 

There is, of course, so much more to do - here in Cornwall let alone everywhere else. The notoriously unworkable path maintenance prioritisation scheme in Cornwall (Gold, Silver and Bronze grading), has resulted in many Cornish paths falling into disrepair. But I think this case shows what can be achieved through a mixture of pressure, persuasion and graft, and when people work together.  Well done to council staff, Ramblers volunteers, and the farmers and landowners who have helped.

By the way, don't forget to report YOUR footpath successes to help with campaigning, recruitment, and fundraising.   

Tom Franklin
Sent from my iPhone


The Ramblers' Association is a registered charity (England & Wales no 1093577, Scotland no SC039799) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 4458492). Registered office: 2nd floor, Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TW.

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