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Signs, Stiles and Strimming: The World of Countryside Management

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…

friday street 0669Surrey’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!).

icon 1600We 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.

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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

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The length of our walking guides is given in miles and rounded to the nearest full mile (whole number) for simplicity. For short walks (of less than 2 miles) or walks that have a length that ends in .5, a more accurate walk length may be given in the first section of the walk introduction. For example, the Length in the header may be listed as 6 miles, and the introduction may confirm that the exact length of the walk is 5.5 miles. The walk length is calculated from the GPS file that was created by the walk author GPS tracking the walk whilst walking, using the iFootpath App GPS Tracker, meaning it is very accurate. Our bespoke tracker is particularly detailed and plots a walkers position about every 10 seconds. The tracker is calibrated to match two other reputable map and walking sources, Ordnance Survey and Nike. As with all standardised walk and map lengths, the distance does not take account of hills and slopes, just the distance you would measure using a piece of string on a flat map version of the terrain, so hilly walks will feel longer than stated. If you track the route using another GPS App or Tracker App or Fitness Device, you can expect the distance you record to be different due to different calibrations. This is particularly true of those Apps and devices that count your motion and steps – these can only guess the distance you have travelled with each step and so are much less accurate.

Grade (Boots)

The grade of a walk is an indicator of how difficult the terrain is that you will encounter along the way. This does not take into account the walk length but does suggest how challenging the walk will be. It takes into account things like hills, path surfaces and obstacles (like stiles, gates, steps and rock scrambles). An easy walk, graded as 1 (and shown as 1 Boot) indicates a walk that is essentially flat, has no sharp hills to climb, has no stiles, is easy to navigate (probably along a well-worn path) and is suitable for most levels of fitness. A difficult walk, graded as 5 (and represented by 5 Boots) indicates a walk that is strenuous and involves steep ascents and/or descents. It may be technically challenging involving difficult terrain or obstacles that require scrambling with your hands. Please note that the grading for walks is subjective and open to interpretation and should only be used as a guide when selecting a walk.

NOTE: Do be aware that the level of stamina required for any walk will vary depending on both the walk length and the difficulty grade - you should only walk within your limits.

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