Good and bad path-practice in West Berks

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.

Well-restored cross-field path east of Winterbourne

Well-restored cross-field path east of Winterbourne

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.

Unfriendly stile

Unfriendly stile

web dog sign

But he then makes it difficult and cumbersome for large dogs, like Janet the golden retriever, to cross them.

Getting Janet the retriever over the stile

Getting Janet the golden retriever over the stile …

... is not easy

… is not easy

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.

West Berkshire Ramblers' volunteers' 100th gate

West Berkshire Ramblers’ volunteers’ 100th gate, on Winterbourne Road




About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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2 Responses to Good and bad path-practice in West Berks

  1. I’d never previously considered this issue as I’ve only had a small dog and I could always carry her over the stile under one arm! But you make a great point. Around Bristol and Somerset, I’ve seen an increasing number of ‘dog-welcoming’ signs attached to stiles that aren’t exactly canine friendly.

    On the odd occasion though, I spot this kind of ‘dog gate’ fitted beside a wooden stile, which you can manually lift (it slides up) and some dogs (although probably no the largest) can walk through. First time I saw one on the Quantocks, I couldn’t figure out what it was and assumed it was some kind of kid’s toy!!

    If you get your response then I look forward to reading it.

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