I have recently taken on my home parish of Turville for path checking for the Ramblers, in addition to Piddington and Wheeler End. The plan is to walk every path in the parish at least once a year and to report any problems to Buckinghamshire County Council, the highway authority. I normally do my path checking in late summer, but this year I had completed Turville by the end of April. It is a nifty occupation for lockdown and I highly recommend it.
I have lived here for more than 30 years, and at some time walked every path in the parish, but there are some which I had probably only walked once. So it was good to rediscover them.
Turville parish is about 2,328 acres with about 50 path links. It lies eight miles west of High Wycombe, and borders on Hambleden, Ibstone and Stokenchurch parishes in Bucks and Watlington and Pishill with Stonor in Oxfordshire. It consists of the village of Turville (with the Ibstone boundary running behind the houses so many of my very local walks are in Ibstone parish), and the hamlets of Turville Heath, Northend and Southend which adjoin commons and signify enclosure from the waste.
I walked the paths over three days, inevitably repeating some routes. It was a joy to wander through beech woods bursting with leaf and bluebells, and across commons, fields and parks. It is a varied landscape.
I did not expect to find many problems; the Chilterns paths are well walked and we don’t have extensive arable land. However, there were a few which I reported.
At the northern end of the parish, close to the Oxfordshire boundary there is a short cross-field path which is never marked out after disturbance. A misleading waymark directs walkers round the edge. I walked it first on 5 April, and then again on 25 April. It had not been restored. This is not the first time I have reported this abuse of the path and the need for a waymark in the field.
This path joins the bridleway which follows the county boundary from Northend (where there is a missing signpost) south to Firebrass Wood. A lone oak tree marks a former hedgerow, indeed there was probably a hedgerow on both sides of the path.
Turville has its share of difficult stiles (which ought anyway to be gaps or gates), the worst was on footpath 10 just south of the hamlet of Southend. It was overgrown (I dealt with that with my secateurs), has three steps and a dangerous nail sticking up. The waymarks have faded so that it is not clear it is at a junction of paths.
The stile leading into the wood on footpath 4A north of Turville Heath has a wobbly step, and again it should be a gate.
It was good to see new gates installed by Turville Parish Council in conjunction with the Chiltern Society’s donate a gate scheme.
It was also encouraging to see a cross-field path which had not been disturbed at all, leaving a nice wide grassy strip: an example to other farmers who claim they cannot avoid ploughing a cross-field path.
It took me about eight hours to walk all the paths, and I put in six reports. I realise nothing will happen quickly but Bucks County Council staff should be able to contact the landowners to resolve the problems.
I strongly recommend this lockdown activity for those who live in rural or suburban areas. It is really useful to check the local paths and report any problems to the highway authority.