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Looking after Hertfordshire’s footpaths

PUBLISHED: 11:00 24 February 2016

There are more than 5,000 public footpaths criss-crossing the county

There are more than 5,000 public footpaths criss-crossing the county

Archant

Rights of way make up around 2,000 miles of countryside pathways in Herts. Isabel Crozier of the Countryside Management Service explains the work that goes into keeping them accessible

CMS volunteers at a newly installed 'kissing gate' in WalkernCMS volunteers at a newly installed 'kissing gate' in Walkern

Hertfordshire has a network of more than 5,000 paths stretching almost 2,000 miles across our beautiful countryside, towns and villages and the county council’s Rights of Way Service is responsible for their protection, accessibility and legal definition.

Maintenance

The service ensures routes are easy to find with signposts where they leave roads, easy to follow by providing adequate waymarks along the route and easy to use through drainage, surface maintenance and keeping paths clear of vegetation. It also keeps structures such as barriers, bollards, bridges and steps safe and fit for purpose.

Enforcement

Ensuring landowners comply with requirements to reinstate paths after ploughing, prevent obstructions on routes, and maintain stiles and gates.

Development

Advising the 10 Hertfordshire district and borough councils on Rights of Way aspects of planning applications that affect both existing and desired paths and to secure improvements through planning conditions and obligations.

Volunteers

The Countryside Management Service works closely with the rights of way team to deliver improvements to the network through the work of its volunteers.

In the last six months, the four mid-week groups of conservation volunteers have installed or restored 258 steps along rights of way. If we were to calculate this as one continuous flight, it would scale 39m, which is equivalent to the height of nine double-decker buses, stacked one on top of the other.

The groups have also installed 65m of new boardwalk, numerous new waymark posts and cleared encroaching vegetation along hundreds of metres of footpaths and bridleways, which will benefit residents and visitors exploring Hertfordshire’s countryside pathways for years to come.

Volunteers also play a role in monitoring the path network. The CMS Footpath Friends each adopt a path in the county and walk it four times a year.

Each sends in reports of any obstructions, waymarks that needs replacing or overgrown vegetation. These issues can then be prioritised for maintenance to ensure walkers following the many self-guided walking routes published on the CMS website have a good experience. We always welcome more Footpath Friends volunteers. If you would like to adopt one of our newest walking routes into the countryside around Elstree and Borehamwood, contact the CMS.

The Broxbourne Woods National Nature Reserve walkers guide has recently been renewed and reprinted too so contact the CMS to get a copy of this publication and go and explore the many routes including the 11 mile reserve trail.

Ramblers

The Ramblers Association has launched its most ambitious campaign ever, the Big Pathwatch. This encourages walkers to adopt a 1km square area and walk all the rights of way within it, logging any issues on the website or smart phone app. You don’t have to be a member of the Ramblers to get involved and the information is passed onto the Rights of Way Service to prioritise and deal with. To get involved, go to ramblers.org.uk/bigpathwatch

For more information, visit the CMS website hertslink.org/cms, email northeast.cms@hertfordshire.gov.uk or call 01992 588433.

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