Regatta rows

Thirty years ago today, Sunday 8 July 1990, I was threatened with assault.  I was walking Fawley footpath 12 through a hospitality tent at Henley Regatta which had been placed firmly across the public highway.

The tent’s lessees wanted to throw me in the river as, dressed in shorts and t-shirt, I strode purposefully past the elegantly-dressed, champagne and caviar-quaffing guests, pursued by the photographer.  I told him to keep snapping so that I had evidence of assault.

Henley regatta

Altercation with the lessees. Photo: Bucks Free Press

The tent had been pegged out by Simmons & Sons, the Henley estate agents, on behalf of corporate hospitality firm Palmer Jeffery.  The path was obstructed by walls of canvas and the most convenient alternative route was through the tent, past the champagne-laden tables.

I became aware of the blocked footpath earlier in the week and I first walked it with a camera crew from Television South.  I then issued a press release and followed it up with calls to the national and local press.

The Evening Standard did a great story.

Evening Standard 5 July 1990

Evening Standard, 5 July 1990

Later it was reported in the Times and many local papers, but not the Henley Standard which presumably did not want to upset the regatta.

Times 28 July 1990 crossed out

The Times, 28 July 1990

I reported the offence to Bucks County Council which considered prosecuting Simmons but decided against it after receiving an abject apology.  However, Bucks reinforced this with a letter confirming that the officers would be especially vigilant at the 1991 regatta.

 

BCC to Simmons 7 Nov 90

Bucks County Council’s letter to Simmons

Simmons did not repeat the offence, but the following year the path was blocked in a slightly different place by the ‘Hospitality Group Corporate Village’ marquee, on land owned by the Congregation of Marian Fathers, a Polish Roman Catholic order of monks based at Fawley Court.  Once again Bucks County Council wrote a stiff letter and Father Papuzynski replied, claiming ignorance and expressing regret.

1991 obstruction

The obstruction in 1991

As I said at the time, the Congregation would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 49.11: ‘and my highways shall be exalted’.

geograph-5250248-by-N-Chadwick

Fawley Court, © N Chadwick, Creative Commons Licence

 

Posted in Access, campaigns, Henley-on-Thames, Obstructed path, Open Spaces Society, Public paths, walking | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Green islands in immense sands

A year ago today, 6 July 2019, I made a brief visit to the Lomas Jatosisa, about 40 kilometres south-east of Lima in Peru.  The lomas is an invaluable ecosystem, found only in Peru and Chile.  It is created by the cold Humbolt current which rolls in from the sea and traps humidity which allows a lush green vegetation to grow on the seaward-facing slopes of the hills.

Our visit was after the end of the conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons, which I attended with colleagues from Gloucester University’s Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI): Chris Short, John Powell and Dilshaad Bundhoo.  Chris arranged this visit through a friend, and we had a tour led by the cognoscenti: Gabriela Garcia, Margarita Rabonal, Miguel Arbulu, Rocio Garcia and Aurora Garcia—who are part of the Defensores de la Lomas pressure group defending the Lomas from development and exploitation.

Pachacamac
We started with a visit to the impressive Pachacamac Museum, on the site of a ceremonial centre for pre-Hispanic societies, with the remains of temples, plazas, palaces and other buildings.

Mamacona

The Mamacona, an Inca temple dedicated to the sun god (1470-1533 CE)

We then moved on to the lomas and walked up into the fog which settles over the hills throughout the Peruvian winter. (Ironically, during our nine-day visit we only saw the sun as we took the taxi back to the airport.)  It was a joy to breathe fresh air and to be in green surroundings after a week in the smog-ridden city of Lima.

Lomas

A feature of the lomas is the yellow-flowered plant Ismene amancaes, a type of Amaryllis.  It had nearly finished flowering when we were there, but I managed to photograph one.

Amaryllis

Ismene amancaes

Other plants are Nasturtium and Begonia, which slowly create the heavy soil which supports the greenery.

The lomas is recognised by UNESCO as being of global importance, for its rich ecosystem: ‘green islands in immense sands’.  The lomas covers 0.64% of the Peruvian territory, 738,000.00 hectares that are capturing carbon from the atmosphere.  Thus it has a symbiotic relationship with the cities, reducing pollution and preventing flooding.  There is plenty of evidence of habitation through the ages, and it is an archaeological treasure-house.

Remains of summer settlement

Remains of summer settlement

Sadly, there is too little recognition of the crucial importance of the lomas, and it is exploited for industry, especially quarrying, and encroachment by private individuals.  It is enjoyed for recreation too, and so the Defensores de la Lomas can call on visitors to help in the fight.

Joy riders

The lomas is enjoyed for (not necessarily quiet) recreation

Our conference had been about global commons.  The lomas is a common, providing immeasurable public benefit, but it can only do so if all the interests care for it and nurture it.

We walked up a long track through the fog, and could just make out some ancient settlements,

ancient circle

A stone circle is just visible through the mist

and the occasional thrush-like bird with a white eyestripe (although I noted Huanchaco in my notebook I have not found it yet, and wonder if it was a Peruvian meadowlark).

We then repaired to a farm restaurant, Comida de Campo, where all the food was reared or grown on the farm, and cooked to order.  It was a slow meal, which meant we had plenty of time to talk and appreciate our surroundings.

Slow cooking

Slow cooking

I shall remember that green walk through the fog as a highlight of my short visit to Peru.

Lomas 2

Posted in Access, commons, International Association for the Study of the Commons, Peru | Leave a comment

Verba renovata

Libertas spatiandi: libertas cogitandi, (Freedom to roam: feedom to think): the words greet you as you walk west through the gate on Cobstone Hill’s access land above Turville in Bucks (grid reference SU 768915).  With help from Buckinghamshire County Council, I arranged for the gate and sign to be installed in 2013 when the Wormsley estate renewed the fence across the access land, restricting the public’s freedom to roam here.  I was keen for people to enjoy the whole of this lovely hillside—as is their right.

Imagine my dismay when in early June the sign disappeared.

Gate without sign 2

The sign had gone

 

Gate without sign

 

 

 

 

 

It is a puzzle how it was removed as the screws were still in place.  I searched for the sign nearby but couldn’t find it.  I hope that whoever took it treasures it.

Cobstone Hill 1

Cobstone Hill looking west with the gate in the distance

I contacted Stuart Gulliman of the Chiltern Society’s Donate a Gate scheme, through which I had provided the gate.  Stuart was quick to respond and a month later he had fixed a new sign to the gate.

Sign restored 1

The sign restored

Sign restored 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope it does not disappear again, and that people are encouraged to enjoy the freedom of this flower-rich hillside—thanks to the Chiltern Society’s swift action.

Cobstone Hill 2

Posted in Access, AONB, Bucks, Chilterns, Open country, Turville, walking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Whose legs were those?

Forty years ago today, 30 June 1980, I went for my first job interview with a national organisation, as secretary of the Council for National Parks (now the chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks).  It would have been a big step for me as I lived in Exeter, had a limited knowledge of national parks other than Dartmoor, and was uncertain about working in London.

The interview was held in the basement of 4 Hobart Place, where the then Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) had its office.  CNP occupied a couple of rooms on the top floor.

4 Hobart Place

4 Hobart Place. The blue plaque says that Felix Mendelssohn stayed here. Photo: Google Street View

At that time CNP had 33 constituent organisations (mostly national bodies and the national park societies of England and Wales) and a council of about 50 members.  The job description included (in this order): prepare agendas and papers for meetings and write minutes; write replies to government consultation papers and keep the council’s views before appropriate statutory and voluntary bodies; produce a newsletter; maintain contact with national park officers, civil servants, MPs and ministers; pay bills, collect subscriptions and keep financial records; and obtain publicity for the council’s views, by giving speeches, issuing press releases etc.  The salary was £4,500 a year.

The application form requested all the standard information, but did not require applicants to explain why they were well suited for the job; there was merely a space at the end to use ‘for any further relevant information you would like to add’.  I mentioned the walks books for which I had written chapters, and various articles, my petition against the Dartmoor Commons Bill, and talks I had given on behalf of the Dartmoor Preservation Association.

2a Fur Tor

The Dartmoor commons: High Willhays from Fur Tor

I am amused to see that at that time I listed my recreation and leisure pursuits as ‘walking, classical music, bird watching, archaeology, riding, knitting and stamp collecting’.

Upshot
The upshot was that I was invited for an interview at 2pm, and so, after eating my sandwiches in Grosvenor Gardens, I went along to Hobart Place and descended to the basement.

The interview panel was large, and all men: Len Clark, Chris Hall, Alan Mattingly, Frances Ritchie and Chris Smith (later Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury).  I knew them all at least a little, except for Chris Smith.  They told me they were interviewing seven people—a busy day!  (Nowadays the panel would be half that size and mixed gender, with probably only four interviews.)

Interview men only

The chairman of CNP was Gerald Haythornthwaite of the Sheffield and Peak District Branch of CPRE but he was not present.  Alan Mattingly chaired the session.  All were friendly and pleasant, asking me about what would I think of living in London, would I be prepared to do fund-raising, what did I think of the public-inquiry system and the calibre of inspectors, how would I cope with promoting a view which was different from my own?  We discussed the pros and cons of national park boards versus county council control which was a current issue.  I was recognised as a fighter so they asked how I would cope with being diplomatic when meeting ministers.  What did I think about the hang-gliders becoming members of CNP?  I was against.

Wensleydale

Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales National Park

The interview was supposed only to be half an hour, but lasted an hour, so the timetable went awry.  Through the basement window I saw the legs of the next candidate arriving—were they the legs of Fiona Reynolds?  She got the job, and this was her entrèe to the amenity world and the start of her distinguished career.  A very good choice it was too; Fiona excelled in that job and her subsequent ones.  And CNP is still a terrific campaigning organisation, having remained small and nimble.

Fiona Pembs Coast 1982

CNP visit to Barafundle, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (PCNP), 1982. L to R: Basil Woodruff (ex-chair PCNP); Fiona Reynolds, Bob Powell ( PCNP member); Neville Hopkins (PCNP ranger); Lord Hunt (president CNP); Joan Asby, Marion Herbert and Guy Hains (PCNP members).

I had mixed feelings about not being offered the job, and I did not regret it for long—I wasn’t ready to leave Dartmoor, and I became the voluntary secretary of the Dartmoor Preservation Association six months later when the incumbent, Dr Frank Beech, died suddenly.  That gave me some great experience of running an organisation.

After an unsuccessful application with CPRE, I applied for the job as general secretary of the Open Spaces Society nearly four years later in February 1984 and was interviewed by another all-male panel: Len Clark, Chris Hall, Frances Ritchie and Guy Somerset.  That proved to be the job for me, and 36 years later I am still there.

Posted in campaigns, Dartmoor, National parks, Open Spaces Society, wild country | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Not this year for Nottingham trail

My calendar had a sad message this morning which I had forgotten to delete.  It reminded me that today I was to open the Nottingham town trail which follows the route taken by the annual Nottingham inclosure walk.  The event has, of course, been postponed.

The trail was designed by the redoubtable June Perry, chair of the Friends of the Forest which campaigns to protect Nottingham’s network of ancient green spaces.  The Friends work closely with Nottingham City Council.

7 June and tree

June Perry in October 2015, with the second inclosure oak

June also organised the event in October 2015 when I planted the second inclosure oak in the Forest, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the inclosure award of 1865 (made under the Inclosure Act of 1845) which protected the forest—in the same year that the Open Spaces Society was founded.

Nott Post

The second inclosure oak, ready for planting. Photo: Nottingham Post

The five-mile inclosure walk and the town trail link the open spaces which resulted from the 1865 award. starting by the River Trent at Wilford Bridge and ending by the original inclosure oak of 1865, which is still going strong.

3 inclosure oak

The 1865 inclosure oak

And the little tree which I planted is also growing well (a screenshot from the video of the town trail which you can watch here).

New inclosure oak small

The 2015 inclosure oak, now a little over five years old

June has described the route:

geograph-4158551-by-Stephen-McKay

Nottingham Station by Stephen McKay, © Creative Commons Licence

‘The pieces of “allotted recreation ground” as they are called, are more or less linked up already, except for Queens Walk, which is separated from most of the remainder which are on a northern semicircle of the old town.  Queens Walk has been eroded by, first, the rebuilding of the Meadows which involved cutting off about a quarter of its length at the station end, and then the extension of the tram taking the centre of the walk for its tracks.  So the fine view from the station to the riverside as the first glimpse for travellers to Nottingham was removed, and the view back to the church of St Mary’s was made more difficult.

‘After Queens Walk Park, which is next to the Walk, the old town must be crossed to reach the next allotted recreation ground.  This one is Victoria Park, which had started life as Meadow Platt cricket ground, but later in the century it was refashioned as Victoria Park with attractions for the numerous children round about, trees and a drinking fountain.  It is next door to an old cemetery, known as the cholera cemetery, where Bendigo’s monument can be seen.  The wall between has now been opened and the tombstones removed to create additional green space.

‘After following St Ann’s Well Road to the bottom of Robin Hood Chase, the route is almost continuous.  From the Chase to Corporation Oaks, St Ann’s Hill, Elm Avenue, the Arboretum Approach, the Arboretum, the General Cemetery, Waterloo Promenade and the Forest the only break is from the top of the cemetery at Canning Circus to Forest Road West, and the backstreets between these have their own historic and visual interest.

094__WFP2656

The Forest

‘We decided to finish the Inclosure Walk at the inclosure oak, which commemorates the final award of the act, partly because it seems an appropriate place to do so and partly because the Rock Cemetery, just beyond, is one step too far for most walkers.  In 2015 a second inclosure oak was planted ceremoniously by the secretary of the Open Spaces Society, to celebrate the passing of 150 years since the planting of the first oak, with a visit from the Sheffield Giants and a Morris team.’

Town trail information boards have gone up through the town, marking the stages of the route.

Trail board small

Town trail information board

I have already booked 27 June 2021 in my diary when I fervently hope I shall be able to open the town trail, and to thank the Friends and June in particular for all their hard work.  Only two digits on June’s beautifully prepared invitation will need altering.

Invitation small

The invitation

Meanwhile, the Friends and Nottingham City Council continue to work together to keep Nottingham’s precious and ancient open spaces in good order.

Forest small

The well-kempt Forest

 

 

 

 

Posted in Access, campaigns, green spaces, Open Spaces Society, walking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mr Sussex Walker

Ben Perkins, who personified walking in Sussex, has died aged 86.  He was chairman of the Society of Sussex Downsman (now the South Downs Society, also known as Friends of the South Downs), a founder of the Ramblers’ Brighton and Hove Group, creator of the Sussex Border Path, and author of many walks books.

I first met Ben on 18 March 1989 when I was invited to a meeting of the Society of Sussex Downsmen to give a talk on ‘the role of the amenity society in Mrs Thatcher’s Britain’.  Ben was a keen advocate of the South Downs National Park and persuaded the Downsmen, who were less enthusiastic, to support the campaign.

web-campaign

Rally on Harting Down for the South Downs National Park, 8 July 2007

Ben was also active in the Sussex Area Ramblers and I saw him at many of their events.  In September 2016 I was honoured to cut the ribbon for the relaunch of the Sussex Border Path, which was created by Ben and Aeneas Mackintosh, and it was a delight to join them on a walk from Wivelsfield.

with founders

With Ben (left) and Aeneas Mackintosh on the Sussex Border Path

John Templeton, an active member of the Youth Hostels Association and South Downs Campaign, has written:

‘It is very sad news that Ben Perkins has passed away.  I first met him in 1997 when, as Chairman of the Society of Sussex Downsmen, Ben joined the South Downs Campaign executive committee.

Waymark wikipedia

Sussex Border Path waymark

‘Ben allowed the South Downs Campaign to meet in the society’s Hove offices and I recall one late evening when, at the end of our meeting, we found we had been locked in by the society staff who forgot we were on the premises.  We had to escape through the French windows!

‘Ben was Chairman of the South Downs Access Forum; he devised the Sussex Border Path; prepared maps for the South Downs Society for people to download on how to reach major areas of access land mapped under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, and wrote fortnightly walks for the Brighton Argus until he had to give up to care for his invalid wife. He wrote numerous books on walking in Sussex both on the downs and in the high weald.  

Mike Bates of the Brighton & Hove Ramblers’ group, of which Ben was a member, has written this lovely tribute and allowed me to reproduce it.

‘With the death of Ben Perkins on 6 June, at the age of 86, Sussex has lost arguably its foremost ambassador for walking and rambling in the county.  To most local ramblers, Ben was simply “Mr Sussex Walker”.

‘His love of walking and the Sussex countryside had been with him since childhood.  It followed him throughout his working years as a family GP in Patcham, and culminated in even more intensity after his retirement in 1996.  Over his lifetime Ben published 14 books on walking in East and West Sussex.  Sadly most of these are no longer in print, though you may be lucky enough to come across the odd edition in good local or second-hand bookshops.  He also contributed to a further two AA walking books.  His first book, South Downs Walks For Motorists was published in 1979, but all of the others appeared during his retirement in the period 1996 to 2008.

Pub walks in the South Downs

Ben’s Pub Walks in the South Downs

‘Ben was also a prodigious contributor to the Argus.  Every fortnight between 1984 and 2012 he wrote a column highlighting a particular walk, many of which have been responsible for inspiring ramblers to take up walking.  Ben has estimated that his Argus columns covered some 70-80 per cent of the 2,000 miles of rights-of-way in East Sussex.

IMG_4719

Cuckmere meanders below Alfriston, East Sussex

‘But perhaps Ben’s finest legacy will be the Sussex Border Path, which he co-designed with Aeneas Mackintosh, and which is the subject of one of his books.  This 150-mile trail, stretching from Emsworth to Rye, highlights some of Sussex’s finest scenery.  Ben was also involved in the design of the Sussex Diamond Way [a 60-mile route between Midhurst and Heathfield, created in 1995 to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Ramblers].

Sussex Border Path

Ben’s book on the Sussex Border Path

‘As a dedicated and passionate walker, Ben was a member of the Ramblers for decades.  He was subsequently one of the founding members of the Brighton and Hove Group in 1982, but only became an active member in his later years.  Since 2016 he was rarely absent from one of the group’s Thursday or Saturday walks.  Latterly he also joined a growing number of the Brighton and Hove health walks programmes.

Ben and Aeneas

Ben and Aeneas

‘Ben was not simply a walker however (even though he used to walk most days of the week): he was active in so many aspects of the countryside, working and campaigning for the protection of public rights of way.  At various times he was involved with the Sussex Area Council of the Ramblers and the path-clearing activities of the Sussex Rights of Way Group, and was footpath secretary, responsible for the maintenance of footpaths in four East Sussex parishes.  He was also one time chairman of the South Downs Access Forum, vice-chairman of the Society of Sussex Downsmen and an active member of the Society of Sussex Wealdmen.

Ben Award 2017 small

Ben with the certificate awarded to him by the Ramblers in 2017

‘Those of us who were privileged to walk with Ben will remember him as a knowledgeable and unassuming colleague.  Universally popular, he had an equable manner, always cheerful, always ready to offer advice, always positive—a true gentleman of the countryside.  He was the first to wear shorts during the season and the last to switch back to wearing long trousers.  He was never without the local OS map.  His modesty was infectious.

‘I recall one occasion when a new rambler asked Ben, upon learning who he was, to autograph one of Ben’s books.  Ben was completely flattered.  On another occasion, during a Ramblers’ group walk, Ben was knocked over by a horse, unsettled by the strong wind, which charged him from behind.  Ben took quite a nasty fall, but still came up smiling, playing down everybody’s concern as if nothing had happened.

‘Ben, we are all going to miss you.  Wherever you are, I’m sure you’re still wearing your walking boots and looking forward to your next coffee and slice of cake.’

The Argus tribute is here.

Ben Perkins, 4 May 1934 – 6 June 2020

Posted in Access, campaigns, National parks, Obituary, Open country, Public paths, Ramblers, South Downs, walking | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tetsworth bridleway reopened

I am delighted that Tetsworth bridleway 28 has been reopened.

I reported it to Oxfordshire County Council as illegally obstructed with a padlock gate (two padlocks) on 25 May and again on 20 June.  In fact it was first reported on 1 April.  So for 12 weeks walkers, riders and cyclists were denied their right to use this important path which provides a rare crossing over the M40 from Tetsworth to the countryside to the south and west.

4 BW 28 padlocked gate small

Bridleway 28 looking south-west: padlocked

After my second report the council’s rights-of-way officer, Jackie Smith, promptly contacted the landowner, with the result that the gate was reopened the same day.

BW28 reopened small

Bridleway 28: open

The parish council checked that the path was indeed open and provided a photo.  Good teamwork.

Now we must sort out those dreadful stiles, crops and missing waymarks.

Posted in Access, Obstructed path, Public paths | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ambassadorial visit

Dame Karen Pierce recently took up post as the first woman UK ambassador to the United States, I am trying to find a home for a portrait of the first woman US ambassador to the UK.

Anne Armstrong was the ambassador from 1976-77, when my father was the chairman of the American Club in London.  Anne and her husband Tobin visited the club on 25 March 1976.Invitation 25 Mar 76 background

 

I found some photos of the event.  Clearly Dad said something which made Anne laugh.

Armstrong May 76 1

Left to right: Tobin Armstrong, ?, Dad, Anne.

Armstrong May 76 2

What’s the joke?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armstrong May 76 3

A presentation is made

Dad painted a portrait of Anne which hung at the American Club until it closed in the 1980s.  Then he took it back to Wrango where it was stored in the basement.  I haven’t room for the painting so I offered it as a gift to the US embassy.

Anne Armstrong

Portrait of Anne Armstrong by Jay Ashbrook

Unfortunately, the cultural division replied that the State Department’s art committee had decided not to accept my gift because the embassy already has an official portrait of Ambassador Anne Armstrong, and ‘it was determined that an additional portrait would not sufficiently enhance the collection (a key criterion of any new addition)’.

That is sad news.  I shall now try to contact Armstrong family members in Texas to offer them the portrait.

Meanwhile, I presented Dad’s portrait of the late Kingman Brewster, US ambassador from 1977-81, to University College, Oxford.  Kingman was master from 1986 until his death in 1988.

Kingman Brewster

Portrait of Kingman Brewster by Jay Ashbrook

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Terrible Tetsworth (pathwise)

On 20 June I carried out my fourth and final bird survey around Tetsworth in Oxfordshire, for the River Thame Conservation Trust and found that the public paths are still in a terrible state. 

My first visit was on 17 November last year when I encountered and reported several illegal obstructions, ie so-called stiles, on the paths.  Not one of them has been fixed.  And on 25 May I reported a padlocked gate obstructing bridleway 28, one the few routes across the A40, which leads to Oxhouse Farm and beyond.  That too was still padlocked a month later.  I see on the council’s website that it was first reported on 1 April.

BW28 (3)

Bridleway 28, obstructed with padlocked gates

BW28 (5)

Two padlocks

Oxhouse Farm

Oxhouse Farm

If I can find out who the landowner is I may send a warning, pointing out this is a criminal offence under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, or serving a notice on the county council (section 130A).

When I looked on Oxfordshire County Council’s path-report map I found that many of the problems here were reported over a decade ago, and have not yet been addressed.  Does no one want to walk and ride in Tetsworth?

FP 382-17 stile

This obstruction of footpath 17 was reported in January 2010. I have reported it again

In addition to the awful stiles, I found one path obstructed with a crop of beans

FP 382-12 obstructed by beans

Footpath 12 should go to the pole in the distance, but is illegally obstructed by beans.

and another with a crop of barley.

FP 382-12 obstructed by barley

Footpath 12 should head off from the track over the field. It is illegally obstructed by barley

Footpath 18 is overgrown and cropped.

FP18 overgrown and obstructed with crop

Footpath 18 is overgrown and obstructed with crops

I have reported all three.

However, unlike the paths, the birds were good.  I logged 29 species which I saw or heard.  The hedgerows were full of whitethroats and yellowhammers, with many skylarks singing overhead.

Haseley Brook
Because of the distribution of paths, in order to walk for two hours within my tetrad (SP60Q) I had to leave the square near Latchford (stopping the clock, as I needed to spend at least two hours in my square).  I re-entered the tetrad where the path crosses the Haseley Brook, the boundary between Great Haseley and Wheatfield parishes.  I happened to pause here, and am glad I did, for I heard a faint whirring and wondered whether it was a grasshopper warbler.

Haseley Brook1

By the Haseley Brook, looking south-east, where I heard a grasshopper warbler

I had to come back the same way, so about an hour later, at 8.15, I stopped to listen.  Sure enough, there were a few short snatches which sounded very much like a gropper.  I checked with Nick Marriner who runs the surveys, and sent him photos.  He came straight back, commenting that they go quiet quite quickly but do have a bit of a second wind, and he confirmed it was the right habitat.  A year tick and much joy for me.

Haseley Brook 2

By the Haseley Brook

Haseley Brook 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top numbers this time were wren and blackbird (13), whitethroat (12), woodpigeon (10) and yellowhammer (9).  Despite the state of the paths, I have enjoyed discovering the evidently forgotten country around Tetsworth.

Below, just for interest, I have set out the problems which I have reported (and found that others had reported previously).  I’ll let you know when anything happens!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Path problems at Tetsworth which I have reported (and others have reported previously)

Date reported Path no Grid ref Problem OCC ref Prev

reports

Action
20.11.19 BW28 SP682013 No waymark 957439 None
20.11.19 BW28/

FP12 & 29 jct

SP677

017

Terrible stile 158885 None
20.11.19 FP14 SP675013 Terrible stile 576080 06.15 None
20.11.19 FP13,14,17 SP678014 Terrible stile 876736 01.10 None
19.01.20 FP22 SP684018 Terrible stile 943292 01.10 None
19.01.20 FP22 & BW28 SP682018 Padlocked gate 704241 07.15 None
25.05.20 BW28 SP682018 Padlocked gate 985645841305 04.20 None
20.06.20 FP12 SP677015 Beans 214845 None
20.06.20 FP12 SP674014 Barley 525372 None
20.06.20 FP18 SP67504 Path over-

grown & cropped

136720 06.13, 11.17 None
20.06.20 FP17 SP678014 Terrible stile 623337 01.10 None

 

Posted in Access, Birds, Obstructed path, Public paths, walking | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Two birds with one survey

This year I have taken on a third tetrad for the British Trust for Ornithology’s breeding bird survey (BBS).   This one is combined with the Chiltern Conservation Board’s Tracking the Impact project.  My square is at Piddington, just west of West Wycombe in Bucks and, conveniently, takes in part of my path-checking parish for the Ramblers, enabling me to check some paths at the same time.

The bird survey involves an early-morning walk along two, parallel, one-kilometre routes across the one-kilometre square, each divided into five sections.  I record all the birds I see and hear, distinguishing calls from songs, and the distance from the line I am walking (ie less than 25m, 25-100m and beyond 100m).

The Piddington square had been surveyed before and so I was given set routes.

Transect map

My two transects, the parallel lines show the 25- and 100-metre bands for recording all the birds I see and hear

First, I walked these to record the habitats (such as farmland, human sites, woodland, and then subsets of these) and to check where each section begins and ends.

Landmarks
It starts on the A40 opposite a small industrial estate, and heads eastwards along the sidewalk.  I identified landmarks for each of the sections: starting with a parking sign, then a gate, a tree, a road junction and a tractor sign, and ending at a tree opposite Myze Farm.

x1 section 1 start

The start, looking east along the A40

x4 section 2

Section 2, looking east along the A40

x6 section 3

Section 3 looking south

x8 section 4

Section 4 looking north to West Wycombe mausoleum with an array of verge-side flowers (thistles and poppies). The road sign is the end of the section

x13 section 5

Section 5 ends at the tree on the left, opposite Myze Farm

I have never had reason to walk along the A40 before, and so had never seen the Polish shrine, almost opposite Myze Farm.

x14 section 5

Polish shrine (the words mean ‘eternal rest’)

There are also numbered studs in the sidewalk at regular intervals, I have no idea why.

IMG_7183

I then had to walk a further half kilometre along the A40 to the western end of West Wycombe.

x West Wycombe

Then I took a really lovely path westwards up the hill.  This path is always kept clear through crops; it is a straight route up and along the brow of the hill to Green End Farm in Radnage parish.

x16 FP WWY1

The path from West Wycombe looking west. Great Cockshoots Hill is on the horizon

The second part of the bird-survey route starts near the top of the hill.

x19 start of section 6

From the start of section 6 looking east towards High Wycombe

This is just east of Great Cockshoots Wood the boundary of which is also the eastern boundary of Piddington and Wheeler End parish, my path parish.  East of the wood the path passes through meadow land, white with oxeye daisies (sections 6 and 7), my favourite part of the whole walk.

x20 end of section 6

The junction of sections 6 and 7 looking east

Then it enters the wood as footpath 25.

x22 Gt Cockshoots Wood s7

The eastern entrance to Great Cockshoots Wood

The path crosses the whole of the wood.

x29 section 8

Great Cockshoots Wood (section 8)

It is difficult to find identifying features to divide the sections: I went for a track across my path and a prominent tree.

x31 start of section 9

Prominent tree to mark the junction of sections 8 and 9

After about half a kilometre in the wood the path comes out on bridleway 17, heads north for a short stretch and then turns west, along the edge of a large field of arable with great views south.

x39 view from s10

Section 10, looking east

It ends at a stile by a hawthorn tree.

x38A end section 10

The end of the walk, looking west. The path continues along the ridge to Green End Farm.

For the survey itself, I set off at 5.50 on Sunday 14 June.  The sun was breaking through the mist and there were cobwebs and a heavy dew.  It felt a bit autumnal.

x cobwebs

Cobwebs

This was the only time of day when one can walk alongside the A40 and not encounter traffic, although the vehicles which passed me were going at an appalling speed.  Pleasingly, there was a screaming swift at the start at Piddington.  The A40 stretch was dominated by chaffinches, blackbirds, song thrushes, wrens and robins, with the odd blackcap, chiffchaff, dunnock and goldfinch.

The walk up the field was very lovely in the misty morning light.

x fp in mist

Misty morning

At the top, where I started my second stretch, there were dunnocks and a whitethroat in the hedgerows and among the daisies, while skylarks sung overhead.  In the wood were wrens, robins, thrushes and blackbirds.  And then on the last section, in the open farmland, there was a buzzard and kite.

Path checking
When I had completed the survey I did a little more parish path-checking to get back to my car.  I took the path which goes down to Ham Farm, footpath 24.  It has five stiles, and none is to the British Standard 5709; all are awkward and one of them was broken.  I had hoped that, having reported them previously, they might have been replaced with gates.  Coincidentally, I learned that another walker had been there the day before.  We have both reported them to Bucks Council, and hope for some action.

PWE 24-1 (2A)

Broken stile on footpath 24

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