Annual Report for 2008

by

President’s Preamble

2008 was another successful year for us! Our walking groups flourished and our committee organised our affairs satisfactorily under the able Chairmanship of Peter. A great deal of work fell on the shoulders of Brian, as can be detected from his report. At one point he was doing the work of rambles secretary and leading many of the Saturday walks, as well as performing his normal secretarial roles plus dealing with diversions and modifications. We have fortunately made life a little easier for him in acquiring Vanessa to take on the job of rambles secretary. She has already produced a programme for the summer and practically completed her list of leaders. (Check with her if you wish to volunteer)

Clive has continued to do marathon work in reporting obstructions and path problems despite his hospitalisations this year.

We were sorry to hear that Eric has felt obliged to resign as treasurer. He has been in post for three years and managed our affairs with great energy and commitment. Fortunately for us, Jane has expressed interest in taking on the role and he has been showing her the ropes. We welcome her and wish him well in his various commitments and for his residence in Ireland.

As well as producing our newsletter Ken has provided us with a very attractive website, and we hope he will continue to be our webmaster to keep us up to date and to keep newcomers informed about our past and present achievements.

We hope that the AGM will bring us a new social secretary to replace Judy!
We have always been fortunate in having committed members to work for the
Association and it is always pleasant to see new faces on the committee.

Geoff and Shirley are now retiring from their self imposed task of leading New Year’s Day walks. We have enjoyed the festive start with their mulled wine and mince pies for the last ten years, followed by walks in beautiful countryside, usually with perfect wintry weather. Many thanks to them. I wonder if we will find a successor!

My own activities have been centred on the Belvoir Public Enquiry. Regular readers of this column will know that the battle for four footpaths to link Harston in Leicestershire with Woolsthorpe by Belvoir has been going on since 1994. And this year progress of a sort has been made! We managed to bring the case to public enquiry in December. We won’t know the results for some time but we certainly did our best to put our case, against strong opposition from Lincs CC and Belvoir estates. I was very grateful for the tremendous support given by Ken and Brian and by Leicestershire County Council. It will be a matter for general jubilation if we can have these paths put on the map to fill in a black hole in our network of paths for public enjoyment. (Unfortunately the inspector dismissed the appeal and the paths remain private Ed.)

Heather

Chairman’s remarks

I find it difficult to believe that my year as Chairman is nearly over. It has been a most interesting year and mainly an easy one thanks to all members of the committee and the walk and programme organisers.
I have I regret, been absent recently on far too many occasions owing to a dodgy leg but I hope to recommence walking in January. For the majority of our membership the committee work is unknown and in an attempt to remedy this, the AGM will have instead of a guest speaker a sample of the normal activities discussed. I hope you will come to the AGM to give support and to learn some of the hidden activities of your association.

Peter

Secretary’s Report

As I write this report, we eagerly wait to receive the results of the Belvoir Inquiry and
another public inquiry held at County Hall involving a footpath at Newtown Linford. Our
Association were also active in a court case lasting three days at Leicester Magistrates’
Court in attempting to preserve foot and cycle passage over the Bowstring Bridge
(which spans Western Boulevard) in Leicester. Your committee have also considered
many applications involving diversions of rights of way and made our representations
to the appropriate bodies.
Your committee has met on eight occasions during the year with good attendance by
members.

Leicester Local Access Forum

I attended a seminar at County Hall on the 26th March on the topic “green routes for new
urban growth”. Four speakers addressed issues such as ‘green space for good health’, ‘new growth in green infrastructure’, ‘encouraging green exercise’ and ‘green routes for Leicestershire’.
It was clear much is being done to create and promote routes but what appears to be lacking is people regularly exercising on such routes. Polls show across the country only 12% of the population take advantage of exercising in natural environments. The most alarming statistic was 62% of people reported that they would not be motivated to exercise even if their life depended on it! In Leicestershire we have 1800 miles of rights of way. The
Creation of the National Forest, together with other established woodland areas in our County, has resulted in 18% of woodland cover. 94% of people live in urban areas and nearly half of the network of paths etc. are within 1km of where these people live.
Physical activity, walking in particular, could make a significant difference to the health of the nation.
The challenge is how to get people into the countryside to enjoy the environment. No one seemed to have the answer. One good suggestion was for destination, time and distance to be information given on the footpath sign post. Our Association have in the past supported such suggestion but this has not been taken forward by Local Authorities because of the cost involved.

Walking Festivals

The Leicestershire walking festival was held on the 5th July at Snibston Discovery Centre and Country Park in Coalville. Despite extensive publicity, overall attendance was considerably
lower than in 2007. Our Association did not lead a walk but I conducted a map reading exercise for a group of five.
At a review meeting held later in the year, changes have been suggested to the event; in particular to move it closer to Leicester and to spread walks over eight days with perhaps a
final multi activity day.
The National Forest walking festival was held in May. There were 37 walks over a 10 day period. Our Association have been asked to become involved in the 2009 festival and we will
be putting forward three walks for consideration utilising the days we already walk, suggested dates being 19th,20th and 23rd May.

Bishop Tim Stevens Lent Pilgrimage.

In February I was privileged to lead Bishop Tim on this pilgrimage visiting local parishes in the South of the County. The weather was very kind to us and where possible footpaths and bridleways were used in linking up the various villages which were visited. As part of the pilgrimage, calls were made at Gartree Prison and the Care Home at Shangton. The Pilgrimage received considerable publicity in the press and on local radio.

Changing Landscapes.

Major extensions to Breedon and Bardon quarries will affect the countryside to North/North East of both. At Breedon planning permission has already been granted and footpath M14 will need to be diverted and a section of Wilson Road will have to be re-routed. Upon completion of the workings it is intended that the land will be restored to a lake.

At Bardon, informal consultation has taken place with planning permission being applied for in 2009. I attended an exhibition at Copt Oak Village Hall on the 3rd of December to consider the implications for user access. The Quarry company are receptive to ideas and seem to be
willing to ensure walkers in this area will not be disadvantaged by their operations. If quarry permission is given for extraction of the granite then Old Rise Rocks farm will disappear off the map and the outcrop of Rise Rocks will also no longer be seen. The Association together with other walking bodies have made representations to the quarry company.

No decision has been made by the Government on the proposed Eco-town on Co-op land to the East of the Gartree Road. Leicester City Council are in favour of the proposal subject to there being a certain percentage of affordable housing. Leicestershire County Council will decide early in the New Year whether they will support or oppose this project.

On the brightside the National Forest goes from strength to strength. Each year new woodland is planted with many permissive paths some of which link with existing rights of way. New rights of way have been dedicated at the former Hicks Lodge Opencast site, at Donisthorpe and Moira. These consist of bridleways and footpaths over restored land with some lakes to attract bird life. Footpath P38 links Ashby Canal with Measham Road and a new link on the East side of Measham Road now makes it possible to walk through to the Hicks Lodge site with a new footpath number P107.

Dogs and walkers.

Members will be aware of the increase in dogs guarding properties in rural locations. This is all well and good providing they are subject to adequate control. Unfortunately two of our
members have had unsettling experiences in being attacked by Alsatian dogs. In the first instance, John was attacked by three such dogs on the public highway outside Fox Covert farm, Bagworth Heath. In the second, Jim was bitten by such a dog on the driveway approaching Skeffington Vale Farm. Both instances have been reported to the police and owners visited by them.

Bridleway I20, (Mountsorrel Level Crossing)

An emergency stopping up order is currently in force preventing users crossing the main Leicester to Lougborough railway line(s). This right of way is just South of Barrow Upon Soar. There are six lines at this point, two fast lines in both directions, two slow lines and two shunting lines. On the 12th June a train driver reported a ‘near miss’ involving
a pedestrian using the crossing. Fast trains on this line have a permitted speed of 110mph. Whistle boards are provided in advance of the crossing on the two sets of running lines in both directions, but they do not provide pedestrian users with sufficient warning time of
trains particularly on the fast lines.
Network rail have completed a risk assessment and have decided a ground level crossing must be replaced by an overhead crossing. However, as this is a bridleway planning permission needs to be sought for an overhead crossing. At the same time a diversion of the
route is also being considered.

Our Web site.

A suggestion from Martin at last years AGM concerning our Association details be placed on the world wide web has been taken forward by Ken, who is now known as the web-Master. It was left to the committee to implement the suggestion so with a bit of brain storming Chris directed us to the ‘This is Leicestershire’ site run by the Leicester Mercury. For those who know little or nothing about the operation of the world wide web (www) it is a huge network of linked computers which have information on them that anyone in the world can access. We therefore needed to find a computer that would host our information. The Mercury provides space for local groups to publish information about themselves and they do not charge us for the service.

We are aware that members are rightly cautious about personal details being made widely available so we have limited contact details to Brian (Secretary) and Eric (Treasurer and Membership Secretary). From past experience I have found it best to produce a site of interest to avoid the need for constant updates so information tends to be historical. We have not added the programme as this would require regular updating and to have been of any benefit would have needed consent to add leaders contact details.

We invite you to take a look at the site. If you don’t have a computer at home then call at your library and book a session on theirs. For real beginners the start is made easier by using a search engine (Google). Type in “Leicestershire Footpath Association” and our site will be in the list of pages displayed to you. Please offer us feedback, what you like, don’t like, what could be added, what should not be on the site. Please email any news, information or pictures to me and I will pass the material on to Ken to add to the site.

Diversions and Closures

In last year’s report mention was made of our objection together with other organisations to the diversion of the footpath at Barratt Mill, Ashby Woulds. The order making authority refused to support the application and therefore no alteration will now be made.

Heather and I attended the public inquiry to the proposed Diversion of footpath J97(Part) Off Ulverscroft Lane, Newtown Linford on the 10th December. The Inspector’s result is expected in the New Year. The committee has agreed for a presentation to be given
on this right of way at the AGM on the procedures involved in objecting to diversion applications.

Bowstring Bridge, Great Central Way, Leicester.

Together with other organisations we made objection to the closure of the footpath and cycle route across this bridge. Following a three day hearing at Leicester Magistrates’ Court the District Judge granted Leicester City Council’s application to stop up the Northern section of the Great Central Way. The Judge placed great emphasis on the fact that the way was a recreational route and not a highway maintainable at public expense. What he did say was “that the alternative route was mundane and not so attractive as the high level route over the bridge. There was a strong case for retention on historical and aesthetic grounds”

Public bridleway crossing near Manton, Rutland (E190)

Objection has been made to a proposal to divert the above bridleway near Manton. Whilst accepting it would be advantageous to horse riders it would be to the detriment of walkers. It was clear from inspecting the ground there was no evidence of horses using the section proposed for diversion. This was, in my opinion, mainly due to a steep bank which had
to be negotiated and only an accomplished horse rider would be able to do so. The suggested route of the diversion entailed a much longer walk and it was not as interesting as the present route.
Members will be aware of reported accidents involving loss of life and personal injury to the public on unmanned railway crossings. We will have to wait and see whether a formal application is made to divert.

Bridleway K57 at Pocket Gate Cottage, Woodhouse Eaves.

Objection remains to the diversion of the above bridleway where the owner wishes to move the bridleway to the other side of a garage. The order making authority have approved the application and your committee whilst accepting benefits for walkers believes there is a
health and safety issue. The diverted route would pass between the garage and a stream with a width only of 3 metres. We believe, horses, cyclists and walkers cannot safely be accommodated within the width suggested and this situation is very likely to lead to a
serious accident occurring.

Public footpath B95 at Goadby.

Informal objection has been made to divert this right of way either side of “Pine Tree Stud”. The footpath has become obstructed in places by fenced off area, a small fishing lake and a plantation. Whilst accepting a diversion is needed we believe it should be accommodated much nearer to the existing route than what is being proposed by the owners.

Footpath N108(Part) & N28(Part), St. George’s Hill, Swannington.

This footpath leaves St. George’s Hill between houses 63 &67. Technically the definitive line
of the footpath is blocked but users for many years walked up the drive of house number 65.
The relatively new owner of No. 65 obstructed users by the erection of a gate/barrier. This
resulted in a formal application to divert the footpath along the northern perimeter boundary of house no. 81. There then followed objections from local people, The Ramblers Association and the Parish Council and the County Council are now making enquiries into promoting an order along the route local people have walked for many years.

Carlton Park footpath

A public inquiry has now been arranged for evidence to be heard on the claim for the addition of a public footpath Z113 at Carlton Hayes, Narborough. This will take place on Wednesday,
15th April, 2009 at 10.00am at Sparkenhoe Committee Room, County Hall, Glenfield. If the claim is successful, a link will come into operation between “Black Pad” footpath and “Ten Pound Lane”. We are not directly involved with this claim but Narborough Parish Council and
local residents will give evidence in support of the case for a link.

Public footpath R33(Part) off Stanton Lane, Stanton-under-Bardon

WE were initially consulted about a proposed diversion of this footpath in September, 2003. Formal order was made this year. Formal objection was lodged to the order on the 12th June, 2008. The diversion in the opinion of your committee is not in the interests of walkers in view of the increased distance being proposed to walk along Stanton Lane. The Ramblers Association have also lodged objection and a public inquiry will need to be held.

Public footpath J95(Part) at Sandhills Lodge, Parishes of Newtown Linford and Ulverscroft.

This footpath is at present a dead-end route at Sandhills Lodge. In December 2003 an
imaginative proposal was received to link this footpath with J96. The order to formalise this was made in November 2006. Problems have since arisen over clearing the route and
funding for waymarking. Your committee in the New Year will be asked to see if the Association can become involved in perhaps some financial contribution towards way-marking so as to accelerate the opening of the through route.

Obstructions Report

As I commented 12 months ago, the number of reports concerning problems on footpaths had diminished in frequency compared to that I found when I started in 2002. In 2008 there was much the same volume of reporting.
I hope that the reason for this is that the efforts put in by County Hall in response to the reports by us and others such as the Ramblers Association is making a difference to the ‘walkability’ of our rights of way and not that members are not reporting problems they find.
As we regularly use the footpaths and bridleways network as part of our walks programme,
we are in a good situation to find footpath problems.

Your reports to me or directly to County Hall are essential in advising them of problems on our footpaths and bridleways. They rely on us and other network users to keep them informed.

Problems on rights of way can broadly be divided into three groups.
1. Where the footpath is physically blocked, e.g. by crops such as oilseed rape and beans etc., overgrown vegetation, building works, locked gates, barbed wire, electric fences, blocked footpaths, fallen trees, fences etc.
2. Where our passage of the footpath is affected by safety considerations, e.g. rickety stiles,
steps on steep slopes in a bad condition, ploughed up headlands, aggressive animals, dodgy footbridges, stepping stones etc.

3. Problems with the furniture of rights of way, e.g. finger posts, waymarks, waymark posts,
Stiles, gates, footbridges etc.

Most of these problems can be resolved fairly quickly by reporting them to the Rights of Way department at County Hall who arrange for inspectors to check our reports on the ground and recommend action.

The first two groups appear to get priority for attention. County Hall asks either farmers to clear crop obstructions or the Inspector to place orders with subcontractors to repair the right of way.

With respect to crop obstructions, County Hall reminds farmers during the growing season that fields containing cross field paths will need to have paths cleared through crops.

There are some obstructions which take a long time to clear where there is an uncooperative farmer or landowner. These can end up in a legal dispute which can take years to resolve. We do not have many of these situations in Leicestershire.
Currently there are three oustanding issues.
Footpath I98 at Gaddesby which ought to be resolved in 2009.
Footpath V112 at High Cross which is overgrown and meets the boundary of the A5 trunk road managed by the Highways Agency. There appears to be some uncertainty as to where the boundary is and thus who is responsible for clearing the overgrown path.
Footpath U50 at Elmesthorpe which should be resolved by a public inquiry in 2009.

Group three problems appear to be given a much lower priority, and are longer to clear up but do get sorted our eventually. This is probably due to the use of subcontractors, and the need to use them efficiently.
When I send in a report, I usually use County Hall’s website http://www.leics.gov.uk where there is an option to ‘Report a problem on a footpath’. If you use this to send in reports, then include your email address and you will receive an acknowledgement and a copy of your submission.
The advantage of this approach is that your report will be directed by ROW through County Hall’s computer network to the appropriate Highways Inspector. It is his function to go out and assess the problem and decide what action to take.
Because of the temporary problem with my right knee, I have not been able to carry out much
follow up after submitting a report, although group one reports naturally have momentum of their own.
I have been asked if I get replies to reports of action taken. Well mostly I do not, but my experience is that the majority of problems do get cleared up and I refer you back to my opening remarks.
You will be glad to know (I hope?) that I am steadily making progress from my knee operation and will soon be able to pick up problems myself again by going on association walks.

Thank you to all those members who have made me aware of problems and please keep your problems coming during 2009. It is much appreciated. You can telephone me, send me a letter or email, just tell when you see me or use the County Hall website.

One definition of an obstruction is if the clear and safe passage of the right of way is affected.
We help to keep rights of way open by walking them.
Finally our thanks should be given to those who provide such helpful support from the Rights of Way Department at County Hall, and also to the Highways Inspectors who go out and look at the problems on the ground.

Clive

Treasurer’s Report

The accounts for the year show an excess of income over expenditure of £546.31p and therefore the committee agree member’s subscription should remain at £5 for 2009. The interest for the investment account was not available in time for printing this report but should be in excess of £200.

Refunds from the Inland Revenue through Gift Aid boost our reserves and I urge any taxpayer
not taking part to ask the Treasurer for a form.

Membership now stands at 258 personal members including 28 new members and 58 Parish
Councils/Clubs.

Having served as Treasurer and Membership Secretary for three years I shall be handing over the job, at the AGM, to Jane I trust you will give her the support and encouragement that I have received, for which thank you. I spend a lot of my time in Belfast these days and do not feel I can keep up with the job as I would like. I shall continue in membership.
Eric

Evening walks.

The support given to evening walks by members has been disappointing and at last year’s AGM several members volunteered to lead a reduced programme. Committee member Chris has agreed to arrange five evening walks, all on Mondays in 2009. Please give your support to her efforts and make these successful.

Tuesday walks

The Tuesday short walks are going very well with numbers most weeks between 25 – 35. We did reach 40 plus in July.
I would like to thank the Tuesday leaders who have all done a great job. Thank you also to
Glenys for arranging our Christmas lunch at Cosby Golf Club. It was so good we have booked again for 2009. A collection was made for Rainbows Children’s Hospice instead of sending Christmas cards to each other.
We have been pleased to welcome new members this year who all seem very keen. Several have commented on how friendly the group is.
The Tuesday long walks are still enjoyed by smaller numbers of members and will continue fortnightly.
Jenny

Wednesday walks

I would just like to say a few words about leaders.
Most leaders like to be out in front and not to be over-taken by any one. Sometimes this does not happen, much to the annoyance of the leader.
Other leaders sometimes like to drift up and down the line talking to various people. Some still wait at every stile until the last person is over, while others may go 3 or 4 stiles before letting every-one catch up.
All these ways seem acceptable to me, so just respect who-ever is leading, and hope we don’t get lost.
May we welcome all new members who have joined us during this last programme. Weather-wise we had a couple days of rain on the Wednesdays and I put this down to climate change.
Ray

Thursday walks

We have continued to flourish. Numbers on walks have risen to a maximum of 11 (from the lows of two and three in our early days). At our Bring and Share lunch after the walk from Great Glen, we seated 12, with two apologies, around one member’s kitchen table!

We have decided that we can now consider ourselves to be competent enough to plan our own walks, so will be producing our own programme instead of being dependent on the Weds walk meeting places. We hope this gives even more choice of walks for everyone.
Heather

Saturday walks

Many thanks to those leaders who have given up their time in pre-walking and leading allocated walks. Short walks of up to six miles have been reasonably well supported. However, longer walks only seem to attract a half dozen or so of members with two exceptions. A walk arranged in Northamptonshire only had two on and a walk from Old Dalby in atrocious weather in December had a similar number. Several walks in particular were pleasing. We explored new footpaths in the National Forest and at Wolvey in Warwickshire we finished with a strawberry tea and a figure of eight walk from the “John Thompson Inn” at Ingleby, South Derbyshire, where we sat down to a beef dinner. Enjoyable walks were led
From Misterton, Nether Broughton, and Congerstone.
I am resigning as Saturday rambles organiser at the AGM but I am pleased to advise members that Vanessa Moore will be taking over arranging walks in 2009. I wish her every success in this task.
Martin

Autumn Weekend

Fifteen members gathered at the “Bell Hotel”, Thetford, Norfolk where the accommodation and food was excellent.
Two walks were enjoyed in good weather. The town, with it s history was an added attraction.
Once again members support to me was gratifying.
Plans are in hand for 2009. I expect to be able to announce the venue at the AGM.

Tim

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