Yesterday with my two friends, Drusilla and Mary, I ventured into West Berkshire, for a six-mile walk in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I saw examples of good and bad practice in path maintenance.
We started at Snelsmore Common, north of Newbury and followed ramble 11 (Winterbourne Village and Boxford Common) in the East Berkshire Ramblers’ book Rambling for Pleasure: Kennet Valley and Watership Down. All credit to David Bounds and Dave Ramm for a well-described and interesting walk.
The route takes in the hamlets of Winterbourne and Bagnor, the woods of Snelsmore Common and Boxford Common, and cross-field paths with extensive views over the Kennet, Lambourne and Winterbourne valleys and the downs beyond.
The footpath from Winterbourne Holt to Winterbourne, which strikes out over a number of fields, is a fine example of how cross-field paths should be (see photo above), with a firm, wide surface. The path problems were largely overgrowth: with councils slashing their path budgets, vegetation clearance is likely to be reduced.
However, I was annoyed by the anti-dog stiles at Boxford Common. There is a sign on them inviting people to keep dogs on leads, so the owner knows that dog-walkers come here.
But he then makes it difficult and cumbersome for large dogs, like Janet the golden retriever, to cross them.
These stiles should be replaced with gates, to British Standard 5709, to ensure people of all abilities, with their dogs, can enjoy this lovely route. It’s the landowner’s duty to do it, and West Berkshire Council’s to ensure it happens—but perhaps the energetic West Berkshire Ramblers could give a hand?
I have reported this to West Berkshire Council using the online report form. I’ll let you know what response I get.