A purposeful path

On an evening last July I walked from Hambleden in the Bucks Chilterns on a circuit with two friends. From Luxters Farm we rambled through Cadmoor Wood and came out on the sunlit slope, with the Hambleden valley spread before us.  Then we followed the path on its direct route down the hill to the Skirmett road near Colstrope Lane.

The Hambleden Valley from the edge of Cadmore Wood

The Hambleden Valley from the edge of Cadmore Wood

A few weeks later I was dismayed to learn from Bucks County Council that the new owner of the field at the bottom, Culden Faw Estate (an amalgam of the former Culham, Hambleden and Fawley estates), had applied to divert this footpath, Hambleden 46, from its route across the field to the field edge, breaking that direct, purposeful line and introducing two pointless, time-wasting dog legs.

Proposal for diversion

Proposal for diversion

My sketch map shows what was proposed, the direct NW-SE route between A and D was to be diverted via C.   The estate said that it would create a path inside the hedge from B to E if the diversion was confirmed.  The creation would enable people to walk in the field,, avoiding a narrow stretch of road.

Proposed creation inside the hedge

Proposed creation inside the hedge

I was anxious that Hambleden Parish Council should oppose the diversion and I went to its next meeting and spoke in the public session.  I explained that the diversion must be considered on its own, without reference to the creation which was entirely separate.  The diversion could only proceed if it met the tests in section 119 of the Highways Act 1980, and I spelt out why I considered that it did not.


The definitive route from point D by the road

The definitive route from point D by the road, a direct way

A diversion must be not substantially less convenient to the public.  This diversion was roughly one third as long again as the definitive route, and wandered around the field instead of taking people where they wanted to go.  The views were inferior too.

Diversion route from D looking to C

Diversion route from D looking to C

The effect on public enjoyment of the path as a whole must also be considered and in this case the path as a whole runs between Luxters Farm and the Skirmett Road in an almost straight line.  The diversion would destroy this direct route.  It failed the tests.

Definitive route from A looking to D

Definitive route from A looking to D

Diversion route from A looking to C

Diversion route from A looking to C


I spoke to the landowner’s agent who explained that the proposal had come about because a local person had asked for the route inside the hedge to link the footpath at B with Colstrope Lane at E, and the landowner wanted something in exchange.  He also said he intended to have livestock in the field through which footpath 46 runs, so that whether or not the path is diverted, it will be fenced (the new owner has a large number of polo ponies).  He said that the field containing the proposed creation would not have any livestock and would not be fenced.

The Ramblers and Open Spaces Society objected, along with those dependable campaigners David Parry and Dave Ramm.  Unfortunately the parish council, after giving it careful consideration, decided it wanted the sweetener (despite its irrelevance) and therefore did not object; the Chiltern Society likewise.  There may well have been other objectors.

Not expedient
I was delighted this week when the county council wrote that it agreed with us that the diversion did not meet the tests and that ‘the offer of a creation does not make the diversion expedient’ (another of the tests).  So it has decided not to proceed with a diversion order.

It would be nice if the estate would anyway create the route inside the hedge which locals have requested, or at least make a permissive path.  It has already posted notices preventing people from claiming any route on the land unless they already have historic or sufficient user evidence.

Notice to prevent acquisition of rights of access

Notice to prevent acquisition of rights of access

Since the estate has no plans to use the field for anything other than grass, it would cause it no inconvenience to create the new route. Meanwhile, we shall have to hope that it does not decide to fence in footpath 46—but even if it does, that is a less permanent measure than diverting the path round the field.

It is good to have saved this valuable, purposeful, path.


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.
This entry was posted in Access, AONB, Bucks, Chilterns, Public paths, walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A purposeful path

  1. Gaslight Crime says:

    It distresses me that some rambling group officers fail to oppose some appalling diversions.

  2. An excellent result. @Gaslight Crime is spot on, I am pretty sure that the consulted ramblers groups just over the county border from me would not have opposed this diversion.

  3. Geoff says:

    I’m hoping to use the same arguments at a Public Enquiry to be held next year. The Environment Agency plan to breach a footpath running along dunes and a sea bank in north Lincolnshire to allow high tides to flood farmland, and they have constructed a desperately uninteresting new flood bank with a new path running along the top further away from the sea. This, at a time when we are trying to open a coastal path. The new route is slightly longer, but has no interest for walkers, and no views of the salt marsh and sea that walkers using the current path enjoy.
    Local Ramblers are not interested, saying that the EA will always get their way, and the job has to to ahead.
    We shall see!

  4. Objection should be made where it is valid! I’ve objected to proposals I’ve seen while on holiday on the I.O.W in 1971 at Newtown and near Winterton on Sea in 1982, both of the proposed diversions were thrown out.I live in Northants, and it pays to be vigilant wherever you are.Well done Kate.

    • Dear Bob, How lovely to hear from you, I know you are vigilant and very effective. I am sorry to hear about all the development threats around Desborough but it’s good to know that you are on the spot.

  5. lesh says:

    I often walk this path and was relieved to hear the successful outcome. Although the subsequent road walk can be tiresome and even dangerous due to the ever increasing traffic, I agree that the “sweetener” is a separate issue. This does highlight the issue of how far the footpath network needs to adapt to modern conditions rather than to be preserved in aspic. When the definitive maps were drawn up in the 1950s it was more feasible to continue on foot along minor roads such as the one in question. Do we see a need to campaign specifically to create new link paths to avoid busy and dangerous roads?

    Going back to the main story, I am confused as to the transparency and openness of the decision making process. Aside from oblique references in the parish minutes, I could find no other information about the proposal and how to get involved: no signs on the ground, no information on the County website, no adverts in the press. It was only after reading your article that I even knew the outcome. Was this informal consultation with known interested parties, to be followed up if appropraite by a formal process involving the general public? If so, it strikes me that by this stage minds would be made up. The fact that two of our representative bodies were prepared to concede makes me wonder why Joe Public is left out?

    • Dear Les, Thank you for your comment and I’m sorry I didn’t know of your opposition at the time. The first phase was informal consultation with a prescribed list of organisations, including the parish council and user bodies (Chiltern Soc, Ramblers, Open Spaces Soc etc). If the council had made an order, it would have been published in the press with notices posted at both ends of the proposed diversion and any member of the public could have objected. Fortunately, due to opposition from Ramblers and OSS, it never got that far. Although I don’t live in Hambleden, I did speak at the parish council meeting but I was a lone voice. If any other such cases arise in the area I’ll let you know. And yes, I agree, it would be good to get paths created which enable people to get off narrow roads. Agri-environment schemes used to have an access element which meant that owners and occupiers made permissive paths, but when that stopped a lot of those paths were withdrawn.

    • Bob Martin says:

      Hi Lesh, In my part of the world, the townsfolk of Desborough (north of Kettering, Northamptonshire) are gradually becoming aware that the local paths are continually under threat.
      Recently there was a consultation to a new”development” along the Ise Valley, and a pleasant quiet valley adjoining it. This is being promoted by the “sharing caring” Central England Co-op being short of cash, wish to obliterate this area, frequently used by selling the land off. The site follows the Ise for about 2 kilometres and then heads up the Damms valley to the ancient church of St Giles. There was a “consultation” and no one could find out about it in detail, it was hidden away in the Neighbourhood plan, showing a block on the map around 3 cm long. A local pressure group got the details a couple of weeks before it was due to happen and had 4,000 leaflets printed off, and a team of us delivered them around the town in a few days. So when the exhibition opened it’s doors in the local Community Hall, nearly 700 people flooded in overwhelming the consultants, much to their surprise! They were absolutely flumoxed and hopelessly outnumbered! So it does pay to out manoever this secretative bodies who think they can hide away.
      The problem now is to put across a strong message that we want our breathing spaces even if we’re in a small town. Bob Martin, Footpath Warden & R.A committee member.

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