Our teams of H&G volunteers work in close partnership with the Countryside Access Team of Oxfordshire County Council.
Below: Volunteers improving access by replacing a stile with a kissing gate.
Apart from regular walkers, most people are not aware of how much work goes into looking after our footpaths: There is summer growth to keep in check, fallen branches and whole trees to clear after strong winds, surface erosion, broken gates and stiles, waymarking to do as well a lot of behind the scenes work to ensure paths stay open.
Walkers are blessed in the Chilterns with having so many footpaths and bridleways to choose and, happily, there are always people willing to give their time to ensure they are looked after. In our area, Oxfordshire County Council Countryside team has the statutory responsibility for Rights of Way but they do rely on volunteers like us to be their eyes and ears and to help in practical ways.
Footpath Officer: Most Ramblers Groups have one member of their Committee to undertake the role of Footpath Officer. Their role is to seek to resolve path problems; they work closely with statutory authorities, landowners and voluntary groups to ensure rights of way are kept open and looked after. Footpath Officers watch out for and respond to applications to alter footpaths and planning applications which may affect them.
Problems: The most common minor problem is plants growing across paths. A simple and most effective solution is for walkers to arm themselves with a pair of secateurs so they can snip off any brambles or vegetation encroaching on paths. But if you come across bigger problems, like obstructions and diversions, please take a photo if you can and notify your Footpath Officer so they can take appropriate action.
Wardens: Unlike the rest of the County, the paths in the hills around us have been looked after for many years by volunteers, many of whom are Ramblers, coordinated by the Chiltern Society. They allocate a Path Warden to each Parish to keep an eye on paths. They carry out minor maintenance and report major problems.
Maintenance: As with the Wardens' network, the Chiltern Society also organise volunteer work teams to carry out some of the heavier maintenance tasks under the direction of the County Council. These could include replacing gates and stiles, mowing paths, brushcutting and often involve using machine tools for which training is supplied.
Given the extent of our path network there will always be a risk that something goes wrong somewhere. If you find a problem with local paths or want to find out more about volunteering or anything else on this page, please don't hesitate to contact me. Please tell me if you would like to be added to the Chiltern Society circulation list for information about volunteering.. You will then get their fairly regular notifications about work done and volunteers needed for work coming up.
John Case,Footpath Officer, Henley & Goring Ramblers.