Annual report for 2009

by

President’s Preamble

Last year began badly, as far as I was concerned.  My faith in the legal system was sadly dented with the news that we had lost our appeal for paths around Belvoir.  Fortunately the work involved in the production of the book of walks proposed at the AGM took my mind off my disappointment.  When I made the suggestion that I could resuscitate a book I had prepared, but not published, ten years previously, it was in response to the request for ideas for spending some of our money on projects that fitted in with our Charitable status.  I really didn’t envisage such enthusiastic agreement, nor did I realise what work would be involved!  I can now say with Mrs Beeton: “I must frankly own, that if I had known, beforehand, that this book would have cost me the labour which it has, I should never have been courageous enough to commence it”.

The trouble began when I discovered after a laborious search through old computer files that my script only existed in a paper print out, that the files had long been lost on an old computer and that the back up floppy discs were useless on its replacement.  It was then a case of LCC to the rescue!  The Rights of Way department have been very supportive of the project and when they were told of the problem offered the use of their OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to scan my copy and get it back onto my computer (not as easy as it sounds as you lose all formatting in the process).  As soon as the text was in a readable state, 20 pairs of volunteers were recruited to foolproof the text. They all returned their scripts by the allotted date.  Well done, foolproofers’!

It was interesting to see the changes that have occurred over the last ten years (awkward stiles had become metal hand gates, views had changed with plantations of trees in the National Forest, new surfaced paths had been laid, way marks had been added and in at least one case, a road had been built across the path).  The text has been amended to take account of these changes.

We have contacted the publisher (of our “Well Trodden” path book) and have received a printing estimate.  A book something like the size of the Leicestershire Round with a clear and readable font required a great deal of editing and cutting and space had to be left for maps and pictures.  Jennifer and I recently had a very busy day proof reading and the text is now ready.  We have applied for an OS licence for maps and the Rights of Way department has offered assistance for overdrawing and numbering our routes.  Hopefully, they will also provide us with the cover.  We are now waiting for this to be arranged. 

The next stage will be up to you.  We will need someone to organise a group for selling and distributing the book, as we want to keep prices down by working through local small shops and garden centres etc.  Cordee and County Council will help with their outlets.  Fingers crossed that we can get the book out into shops by Easter 2010.

Your committee has been busy keeping the home fires burning.  Some of the team have been working despite difficulties.  Clive has been struggling with his health and we are grateful for his continued work on obstructions.  It was sad that Tim was not able to join in the lovely walks he had planned for his arranged weekend near Kenilworth.  We were all grateful to Brian and Glenyss for stepping into that breach.  We have been fortunate in having Vanessa and Jane as additions to our team.  You can see from the following report how much work is done by members in running the association, but I would also like to thank also those ‘behind the scenes’ people who play their part in helping preserve our footpaths. 

Heather MacDermid.

Chairman’s remarks

My second year as Chairman has been notable for the injuries sustained by our members.

Many did not happen in the field but in the home – proving just how dangerous our homes can be.  We wish all who have suffered injury or had an operation a speedy recovery and return to full mobility.

This leads me to remind you about the first-aid course that Roger advertised in the winter walk programme.  Unfortunately after 17 members expressed interest only four people signed up to do the course.  This was too few to run it and the plug was pulled.  It was a shame as not only had a lot of work been put into arranging it but the LFA had offered to contribute to keep our costs reasonable.  I feel strongly that we should have a body of First-Aiders in our midst.  Hopefully we can try again another year. 

We have worked with Andrew P from the LCC to fix new “way-markers” along The Round.  This task was organised by Roger (ITMA) in 15/16 mile stretches and carried out by Brian, Glenyss, Roger and myself.  If you notice any unmarked posts whilst out walking The Round, please draw them to our attention. 

We have been talking to Andrew P regarding amendments to The Round’s route.  In its 25 years existence things have changed in many places.  Mountsorrel has a very busy by-pass and a new housing estate.  The A46 by Ratcliffe College is dangerous to cross.  Rutland removed all the markers although they should be back by now.  Other parts are in need of change for a variety of reasons.  This will not happen instantly but it is hoped our discussions will be finalised by 2010/11.

Heather has been actively working on her new project but I will leave her to explain all.  We hope to see the results about Easter time.

On a serious note it has been observed that on some occasions we do not always ensure that we stay together in the crocodile we often become.  Please watch when changing direction that those following you realise where you are going.  Having a back marker is essential but only fully effective if every one is following the leader. 

My thanks to all who have walked, the leaders of the walks, the programme organisers and Roger (ITMA) who collated and arranged the printing.  My thanks go also to your committee.  We meet every 6 weeks for less than 2 hours to ensure that the LFA runs smoothly, aspiring to be the leading local walking group.  Just a random thought whilst enjoying a brandy after a Christmas meal: the LFA members walked collectively a distance equal to going round the Equator during 2009.

Best wishes to all members for 2010 – Let’s hope it’s a good walking year.

Peter B

Secretary’s report

I am pleased to report your committee has met on eight occasions throughout the year at Thurnby United Reform Church with good attendance.  We have considered many alterations to the footpath network albeit of a minor nature, insurance cover for seats in the countryside, walking festivals, cycle tracks, wind farms, dogs and cattle in the countryside.  Let me start by mentioning “Arthur’s seat” which was erected in 2008 on Stafford Bank, near Fearn Farm in memory of Arthur Hopson.  An issue has arisen over who would be responsible for any injury caused to farm stock or persons using the seat. It has been agreed to arrange for an annual inspection of the seat to be made with a view to ascertaining its condition as two of our members erected the structure. 

Leicestershire Walking festival

Your Association was active in supporting this festival held from 19th to the 27th September.  Two walks were arranged, one for the first Saturday and the other for a Thursday.  The average attendance on all walks (79 advertised) was 14 per walk.  The nine days of available walks provided greater opportunity for the public to participate than the single day festival held in 2008.

Plans are now being made for the 2010 festival to be held in June.  This will allow for more use to be made of evening walks.  Your committee discussed our further involvement limited to short walks based around families and people considered to be “novice” walkers, ie. those with little experience of walking through the countryside.  It is hoped by targeting such people they will become regular walkers in Leicestershire and in other parts of the country.

 National Forest Walking festival

Your Association was active in providing three walks during this festival held in May.

37 walks were arranged over 10 days ranging from 0.5 miles to 12 miles.  Average attendance per walk was 17.  Our walks were all arranged from Thornton in what has become a particularly attractive part of the National Forest to walk in. 

Cycle Tracks Act, 1984

In July your committee considered an application for the conversion of a footpath to shared use cycle track between Forest Road and King Edward Avenue, Narborough.

We raised no objection during the time limit allowed; nor did the Ramblers Association and the Parish Council.  However, later it became apparent local residents had objected.  Public notice in a local paper had been given and notices erected at each end of the right of way.

As a cycle track is not a category of a way required to be shown on a definitive map, the effect of converting a footpath so shown into a cycle track, is to require its removal from the Definitive Map.  However, Section 36 of the Highways Act, 1980 provides on conversion the cycle track becomes a highway maintainable at public expense.

Where only part of the width of the footpath has been converted (this was not the case at Narborough) there will be two distinct but adjacent ways; a cycle track and a footpath. 

The latest position is that this application is with the promoters of the order, together with all objections received within time.  A decision will now have to be made whether a public inquiry will be held taking into account the cost and time of such a hearing bearing in mind the number of local objections from residents.

Wind Farms

The need to generate more renewable energy has resulted in planning applications for wind farm developments.  Wind turbines do make a significant impact on the appearance of landscapes and should it be argued developers must be expected to demonstrate that it is in the least harmful of locations. 

Your committee discussed whether the Association need to adopt a policy on applications for wind farms.  It was decided each application must be looked at and judged on its merits and where turbine development will damage the enjoyment of a particular right of way an objection would be justified. 

The Secretary of State, John Denham, ruled on the 4th December, 2009 that a controversial development on farmland at Swinford, near Lutterworth should go ahead.

The benefits apparently out weigh the limited impact the wind turbines, each 410 feet high, would have on the local landscape.  A further development at Gartree is being considered by district council planners, and if approved, will see three, 410 feet turbines set up between Foxton and Lubenham. 

Dogs and Cattle in the countryside

Litigation in the High Court this year has resulted in a large award for damages granted to  a walker seriously injured when out walking accompanied by a dog. This decision I understand will be subject to an appeal by the farmer and the National Farmers Union.

You may have noticed increased notices displayed on gates and fences advising walkers accompanied by dogs when stock are in the field and for dogs to be kept on leads.  Your committee would remind all leaders of walks when walking through fields where cattle are grazing, especially with young calves to be extra vigilant and give wide berth to them.

Diversions and Closures

Your committee have considered twenty-five applications for modification of rights of way.

Members will be aware of our lost claim for new rights of way at Belvoir.  Unfortunately the evidence which had been obtained was not sufficiently persuasive for the Inspector conducting the hearing to make the necessary orders.  A further set-back followed, when a different Inspector allowed the diversion of a footpath at Newtown Linford (J97).  The inspector found the diversion was in the interests of the landowner and the new route comparable with the existing one. 

On a more positive note, I can report on the successful opening of a through route for what was a dead end footpath.  J95 ended at Sandhills Lodge in the Parishes of Newtown Linford and Ulverscroft.  There is now a through route linking Ulverscroft Lane.  A donation of £300 by our Association assisted with the way marking of the footpath.  Saturday walkers joined with members of the CHA walking club on the 17th October and completed a circular walk utilising this new addition to the footpath network. 

Continuing with more good news, I can report on a new footpath Z113 at Carlton Park. Narborough Parish Council applied for this right of way and provided sufficient evidence through users to convince an Inspector, members of the public had walked between “Black Pad” footpath and “Ten Pound Lane”.  Our Chairman, Martin and other members have now walked this new addition. 

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

A public inquiry has been arranged for the 23rd October, 2010 at Coalville, into four orders which have been applied for.  I have submitted a statement of evidence concerning past use by members of our Association when walks took us along this right of way.

The true line of N28 can not be walked and the public in general had walked a short way up the drive of No. 65 St. George’s Hill and then joined the footpath.  The new owner of No. 65 has applied for the diversion of the right of way.  The diversion application is made in the interest of the landowner who keeps horses and to improve the security of his property.

Addition of bridleway E353 at Wood Lane, Wardley.

In March the above bridleway was added to the definitive map.  This route provides a link between Wardley village and Wardley wood.  The maintenance of the route leaves much to be desired particularly in summer months.  However, I was very pleased to lead a Wednesday walk in October when this bridleway was combined into a circular walk from Sweet Hedges farm.

Footpath B95 at Pine stud farm, Goadby

In last year’s report I said objection had been lodged provisionally against the diversion of this footpath.  Following a site visit and inspection of the new route it became apparent there were visual benefits on the diversionary route.  Consequently our objection was withdrawn.  The new route is now open and this takes you to the East of the farm.  Saturday walkers on the 7th November walked the diverted route and were satisfied with the way marking and enjoyable views.

Unclassfied County Road (D107, North of King’s Lane and Restricted By-way D74A,

Borrough on the Hill.

On the 5th August, Melton Mowbray Magistrates’ Court confirmed the above orders.  Preliminary negotiations commenced over nine years ago in attempt to downgrade these two routes to bridleway status.  Heather MacDermid and Ken Brockway attended the hearing as observers and spoke with County Hall officials.  Our Association were content with both routes becoming  bridleways but do have concerns with horses having to cross open cultivated fields, particularly when the ground is saturated. 

Proposed diversion of footpath U50(Part) and proposed extinguishment of  U50A at Elmesthorpe. 

In 2001 preliminaries inquiries commenced in attempts to regularise the position of these two paths.  U50A is a dead end but U50 has been obstructed for many years.

The owners of Billington Rough farm have constructed a series of fishing lakes to the South of the farm obstructed the true line of U50.  The footpath at its commencement to the north, leaves Elmesthorpe Lane (No signpost) through the garden of a house, at its junction with Bridlepath Road.  A series of planning applications has further complicated the situation.

The latest proposals are to divert the footpath to the West of the farm and at the North end to move the footpath from the garden of the house, some distance to the East, in order for the path to become more direct.   Your committee have agreed to support these proposals and hopefully a clear defined route will become operational sometime in the future! 

Kellams Farm, Bardon – footpath O35(Part) 

On the 23rd October 2009, a further extension for five years was confirmed by order.  Re-instatement of the footpath along its original line cannot take place due to infilling of a void.

Members may be aware Bardon Aggregates are making proposals for the extension of the existing quarry eastwards.  A few members of the Association visited a display at Copt Oak village hall at the beginning of the year to look at the proposals and the Company’s intentions with regards to rights of way.  Generally these are acceptable but we have supported a request made by the Rambler’s Association for provision to be made for a car park near to Copt Oak so as to allow members of the public to park their cars when visiting this part of the County to walk.

Addition of Restricted By-way, Washdyke Lane, Kirby Bellars.

In 1999 our Association applied for the route between Washdyke Lane, Kirby Bellars to Sysonby Grange to be recorded on the definitive map as a By-way open to all traffic.  Legal objections resulted in this not progressing.  However, in April following discussion with County Hall legal section, it was agreed an application for a restricted by-way can now be processed.  Further consultation is now taking place with landowners, parish councils etc.

Addition of Bridleway D106 Melton Road to Sandy Lane, Burton Lazars.

Following a hearing on the 29th September, an Inspector has confirmed the addition of this route as a restricted By-way.  This now provides a useful link for users on an East to West line, just to the North of the disused Burton Lazars Leper hospital.

Brian Jenkinson

Obstruction Officer’s Report

During 2009 the number of our reports submitted to County Hall has fallen off compared to previous years to such an extent that numbers per month are now in low single figures.  In December there have been none, with only 30 in the full year plus a handful for paths in Notts. and Northants.

Whether this is due to their being nothing to report during our association’s walks or whether problems are easily avoided and thus deemed not worthy of reporting, is not clear.  In the early 2000’s during the early days of my tenure of office, figures of more than a 100 per year were common and there were 162 reports in 2002.  Of course this could be a compliment to our colleagues at County Hall in their response to our reports and to those sent in by others who walk rights of way.  The footpaths could have been improved to such an extent by their efforts that there are only a few problems to report.  The new gates must have helped and the campaign on crossfield paths has transformed many walks, but brambles and nettles still grow and other little used paths must be affected by these and other factors.

Just to remind members of the kinds of problems for which we are looking:-

  1.  Where the footpath is physically blocked, e.g. by crops such as oilseed rape and beans,   etc.
  2. Where the passage of the footpath is affected by safety considerations, eg. Unsafe stiles, steps on steep slopes in a bad condition, ploughed up headlands, aggressive animals, unsafe footbridges, quagmires etc.
  3. Problems with furniture of rights of way, e.g. finger posts, way marks, way mark posts, gates, bridges 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.

The first two groups appear to get priority for attention.  The inspectors arrange with farmers to clear crop obstructions or place orders with sub-contractors to repair the furniture of the rights of way.  County Hall has a system whereby they remind farmers during the growing season that fields containing cross field paths will need to have paths cleared through their crops. 

The third group seem to have a lower priority for action but they do get resolved in time.

The most difficult obstructions to resolve that we come across, are where the right of way has been effectively closed to all but the intrepid and persistent walker.  The landowner is uncooperative to approaches by County Hall, so the issue can result in a legal dispute taking years to resolve.

It is most important to make reports when problems of all kinds are found because the volume of reports received is used in part, as a basis for assessing the budget allowance at County Hall for the maintenance of rights of way.  Both the political parties who are likely to form the next government after the forthcoming election are inferring that there will be cuts in local government expenditure.

Thank you to all those members who have made me aware of problems and please keep your problems coming during 2010.  It is much appreciated.  You can telephone me, send me a letter or email, or just tell when you see me.  However, I appreciate that I haven’t been around as much as I used to, because the recovery from my knee operation has taken at least as three times long as I expected.  I hope to be more visible soon.

 90% of reports come from current or ex-members of the committee.  Could we get more response from a wider proportion of our membership?

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

 Webmaster’s Report

The current web-site, hosted by the Leicestershire Mercury at http://beehive.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/default.asp?WCISiteHome&ID=15690 provides the wider world with information about our Association.  The home page comes top of a Google search for ‘Leicestershire Footpath Association’ and for some unexplained reason the ‘Arthur’s Seat’ page also shows as a link.  I do wonder if those searching for the more famous Arthur’s seat occasionally find themselves in Leicestershire.

You are welcome to submit material for inclusion on the site.  I’m very careful to ensure that full names and telephone numbers are not included.  Reports of walks, outings, social events and pictures are more than welcome. 

Unfortunately we have no way of knowing how many people visit our site only perhaps from new members who tell us they found us on the web and there have been some.  The site is very restrictive in how we display the material and allows only one picture per page, hence my efforts on montage.  There is also concern because ‘This is Leicestershire’ no longer allows new subscribers, they may cease to host the site and our presence will disappear. 

With this in mind, I have been looking at alternative sites and some time back put some of the information on a blog at https://leicestershirefootpaths.wordpress.com  

Ken Brockway.

 Treasurer’s Report

The funds continue to increase this year despite the donation of £100 to the AirAmbulance and a £300 contribution to the Leicestershire County Council way marking at Ulverscroft.

I have had a difficult 1st year as Treasurer, taking over part way through the year and having more family commitments than anticipated.  Therefore I have not as yet applied for the Gift Aid but will be doing so shortly.

Again the interest statement on the National Savings Investment Account has not yet arrived and will be too late to include in this year’s financial accounts.  It will be interesting to see how it compares with last year’s figure.

Membership now stands at 267 and new enquiries are arriving regularly.

Many thanks to Jim G for his help with the mail merge and also to the Thursday group for their co-operation with the ‘postings’.

Jane Dewes.

Saturday walks

The walks vary in length from 5.5m to 9 miles and generally finish in time for you to have the afternoon free.  Attendance inexplicably varies a lot from as few as three to ten walkers, so navigating stiles is not too time consuming.  In the 2010 programme there are several interesting walks planned with either morning coffee, afternoon tea or lunch included.  We are also joining forces with two other rambling groups on some Saturdays.

We hope to see new faces this coming season.

Tuesday walks – Long and Short

We have had a really good year with an average of thirty walkers each week on the short walks.

The weather on Tuesdays has been excellent with very little rain.  I would like to thank all the Leaders for their time and effort put into this task.  A special thank you to John J for a super coach ramble in August.

We had a collection for the Air Ambulance at our Christmas meal on 15th December and the magnificent sum of £100 was raised.  Many thanks.

Tuesday long walks is a smaller group of ten regular walkers who meet fortnightly.  They are very keen and enjoy their walks of ten miles and upwards.

Vanessa

Wednesday walks

Welcome to all new members who have joined us in 2009.  We now have around twenty plus on most Wednesdays.

It becomes harder to find complete new walks but we did find two or three including, Sweet Hedges Farm and Rutland Water.  We even had rain on a couple of Wednesdays!

It has been an eventful year for some of our members who sustained injuries on walks or at home. I am glad to report most have returned.  Best wishes to all.

Finally, once again many thanks to Janice and Roger for the mince pies and hot wine on 16th December walk.  Also congratulations to Chris A for completing the Coast to Coast walk and raising £4500.00p for LOROS.

Ray

Thursday walks

It has been an interesting year in many ways.  Our numbers have increased to an average of 8 walkers per week and sometimes it has risen considerably higher.  On one occasion we had 22!

Since the setting up of the Thursday group, we have all learned how to map-read and are now leading walks throughout the year.  This can, for me at least, feel rather daunting but with the knowledge that there is the support of others on the actual walk, makes the task less stressful.

A number of us from the group have embarked on undertaking the Leicestershire Round which we hope to complete by the end of April.  We meet once a fortnight on a Saturday morning and are thoroughly enjoying the experience, although we do not always have a full complement and so some stretches will need to be completed at other times by those who have missed them.  Needless to say, no one will do their missing stretch(es) without being accompanied by others in the group.

Evening WalksThe evening walks went well in the Summer months, helped by managing to choose five fine evenings.  The lowest number of walkers was 11, averaging 13.6 people plus 1 or 2 dogs.  They were spread around the county starting from Barkby, Burton Overy, Blaby,

Botcheston and Barrow-upon-Soar.  It has been decided to arrange a few more evening walks in 2010 to be held fortnightly commencing on Monday, 10th May.  Look out for them on the new programme.

Chris M

 Autumn Weekend

21 members assembled at the Holiley Court Hotel, Nr. Kenilworth for our Autumn break. 17 of whom walked on Saturday and Sunday, with Brian deputising as Leader.  Three crocks and myself, hired a taxi on the Saturday and spent the day in Kenilworth on a sight visit to the town and its Castle. The weather was reasonably good but Sunday dawned misty and damp.  All members expressed satisfaction with the accommodation and food at the hotel.

I have made provisional arrangements for a similar break in 2010.  Hopefully, I will be in a physical condition to complete arrangements!

Tim

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