On 20 June I carried out my fourth and final bird survey around Tetsworth in Oxfordshire, for the River Thame Conservation Trust and found that the public paths are still in a terrible state.
My first visit was on 17 November last year when I encountered and reported several illegal obstructions, ie so-called stiles, on the paths. Not one of them has been fixed. And on 25 May I reported a padlocked gate obstructing bridleway 28, one the few routes across the A40, which leads to Oxhouse Farm and beyond. That too was still padlocked a month later. I see on the council’s website that it was first reported on 1 April.
If I can find out who the landowner is I may send a warning, pointing out this is a criminal offence under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, or serving a notice on the county council (section 130A).
When I looked on Oxfordshire County Council’s path-report map I found that many of the problems here were reported over a decade ago, and have not yet been addressed. Does no one want to walk and ride in Tetsworth?
In addition to the awful stiles, I found one path obstructed with a crop of beans
and another with a crop of barley.
Footpath 18 is overgrown and cropped.
I have reported all three.
However, unlike the paths, the birds were good. I logged 29 species which I saw or heard. The hedgerows were full of whitethroats and yellowhammers, with many skylarks singing overhead.
Because of the distribution of paths, in order to walk for two hours within my tetrad (SP60Q) I had to leave the square near Latchford (stopping the clock, as I needed to spend at least two hours in my square). I re-entered the tetrad where the path crosses the Haseley Brook, the boundary between Great Haseley and Wheatfield parishes. I happened to pause here, and am glad I did, for I heard a faint whirring and wondered whether it was a grasshopper warbler.
I had to come back the same way, so about an hour later, at 8.15, I stopped to listen. Sure enough, there were a few short snatches which sounded very much like a gropper. I checked with Nick Marriner who runs the surveys, and sent him photos. He came straight back, commenting that they go quiet quite quickly but do have a bit of a second wind, and he confirmed it was the right habitat. A year tick and much joy for me.
Top numbers this time were wren and blackbird (13), whitethroat (12), woodpigeon (10) and yellowhammer (9). Despite the state of the paths, I have enjoyed discovering the evidently forgotten country around Tetsworth.
Below, just for interest, I have set out the problems which I have reported (and found that others had reported previously). I’ll let you know when anything happens!
Path problems at Tetsworth which I have reported (and others have reported previously)
|Date reported||Path no||Grid ref||Problem||OCC ref||Prev
FP12 & 29 jct
|19.01.20||FP22 & BW28||SP682018||Padlocked gate||704241||07.15||None|
grown & cropped