Nearly every year we have problems with the restoration and care of Ibstone footpath 5. This path runs between Ibstone House at the south-east end of Ibstone on the top of the hill, and our house in the valley, at the western end of Turville in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Just behind our house the path crosses the parish boundary and becomes Turville footpath 29.
Our most common complaint to the Getty’s Wormsley estate (the landowner) is of failure to reinstate the path after disturbance of the lower stretch across the field (see here). But every so often the fencing is renewed on the upper slopes and each time, it seems, the fence is erected so as to block the path and then has to be moved.
This year we spotted on 28 February that the fencing was being replaced beside the path as it runs along the contour, leaving far too narrow a width (less than a metre).
The next day I reported this to the Wormsley estate, asking for a width of at least three metres. This is important not only for walkers negotiating a path which contours a slope but also for the farmer who must get along the path with machinery to stop the hedge from encroaching.
I am pleased to say that by 3 March the fence posts had been moved out into the field, leaving a decent width.
By the next day fence posts had been put supposedly alongside the path as it heads down the slope towards Turville. In fact they had been placed so that, once the wire was installed, the path would be obstructed. Can they never learn? This is exactly the problem I reported in 2011 when the fencing was last renewed (see here).
So I rang the Wormsley estate and they referred me to Huw Crompton who was managing the project. I met him on site on 7 March with the Chiltern Society’s Ibstone path rep, Janis Harman, so that we could show him where the path runs, a straight line between the two kissing-gates. The fencing was swiftly put right.
Huw explained that the estate, in conjunction with the Chiltern Society and Chilterns Conservation Board, is planting the slope with native trees, such as box, juniper, holly, whitebeam and field maple. The box will be used to make musical instruments. For some years the slope has been given over to the pheasant shoot, with unattractive, tall yellow grasses.
The path on the slope has a fence on the lower side but the upper slope will remain unfenced and I am pleased that it will be three to five metres wide. However, in due course the planting will change the appearance of the slope and will also alter the views from it.
Huw spoke about other possible work: seats, waymarks, upgraded tracks, and I cautioned strongly against this without full consultation. We do not want the hillside suburbanised.