Have you ever wondered what it takes to manage a network of footpaths, bridleways and byways? Well you need wonder no more. The helpful Countryside Access Team at Surrey County Council has kindly written this month’s iFootpath guest blog. Learn all about their work, the challenges they face and how they rely on us walkers to help spot and report problems on the public rights of way…
Surrey’s network of public paths is a wonderful asset and is freely available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for everyone to explore our valuable and varied countryside. iFootpath showcases some of the best routes for walking, but there is also a whole world of lesser known paths out there to explore with just an Ordnance Survey Explorer map and an inquisitive mind (oh and some suitable footwear and a waterproof just in case!). In Surrey, we have more than 2,000 miles of public paths running over some of the rarest heathland in Europe, spectacular rolling downs with views all the way to the English Channel and pretty wealden landscapes of farmland, woodland and more than enough rural pubs to refresh both body and mind after your adventures.
Keeping all those paths open takes some effort and Surrey County Council, along with landowners, parish councils, contractors and volunteers, work throughout the year on an endless cycle of maintenance. Cutting back vegetation during the spring and summer is perhaps our biggest task with contractors and volunteers clearing around 500 miles of paths each year. This is the equivalent distance of London to Liechtenstein (that's a whole lot of strimming!).
We install over 500 new signs every year and work with landowners to make sure gates and stiles are in good order and paths can be used easily and safely through farms and woodlands, where the 'working countryside' can be explored and enjoyed. Fallen trees are cleared, paths surfaces are repaired, with much of this being done without people knowing just how much goes into maintaining our public paths.
In recent years, public funding for this work has had to be cut back and Surrey County Council, along with most other local authorities, are facing real challenges keeping paths open. Walkers, cyclists and equestrians can all help out by reporting significant problems and by participating in volunteer work programmes to tackle some of the maintenance problems. This can be a great help to the local authority and provide a rewarding and healthy way of working to protect access to our countryside.
Find out more about Countryside Volunteering in Surrey
Use the online form to Report a Problem on a Surrey Right of Way
Steve Mitchell, Countryside Access Team Manager, Surrey County Council
24 January 2017