The battle of Battlemead

It’s such a simple request, that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council should dedicate a path across an open space which it bought, for £1.2 million in 2018, ‘for all residents to enjoy’.

The land is Battlemead Common (sadly not a registered common), more than 100 acres at the north-east corner of Maidenhead, close to people’s homes. Currently there is no access to more than half of it: East Field which links the open space to the Thames Path National Trail, is out of bounds.

The Thames Path near Battlemead Common

I crossed East Field when we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Maidenhead millennium walk last September—the council allowed us to use the path for that event. This direct route is the missing link in the walk, which is an important trail linking Hurley with Maidenhead riverside; it connects with the Thames Path at both ends and provides several pleasant circular walks. 

The causeway on Battlemead Common, open for the millennium walk anniversary last September

At all other times walkers are forced to follow the northern boundary of Battlemead, unable to enjoy the direct route which links to the Thames Path, with glorious views of Cliveden which emerges from the wooded hillside.

Prime view of Cliveden from East Field

The reason for banning the public from East Field is on the tenuous grounds of wildlife protection. Wild Cookham and Wild Maidenhead say that the path is ‘a threat to the protected wildlife area’, which is over the top. East Field is extensive, and one fenced path across it is unlikely to cause any threat at all. Indeed, by enabling people to enjoy nature we increase their awareness and commitment to protecting it.

The council is to agree a management plan for Battlemead Common on 3 August, including the proposed access arrangements. The Cookham Society, Maidenhead Civic Society (led by the indefatigable Ann Darracott) and Ramblers, with support from the Open Spaces Society, have written to all councilllors urging them to agree to the path across East Field.

Battlemead Common

They have reminded councillors that the council bought the land to deal with an under provision of public open space in the borough. The council noted, when agreeing the purchase, that ‘the land will enable the council to compete the boundary walk and one of the remaining links in the millennium walk, and increase the council’s overall open space/playing fields and will be available for all residents to enjoy.’

Sign at the entrance to the open space

A subsequent news release stated that ‘ … future generations and wildlife can continue to enjoy the area as an unspoilt outdoor space, with breath-taking views of Cliveden and the surrounding countryside’. (However, the view of Cliveden can only be seen from East Field, so it was clearly the council’s intention to provide access there.)

Cliveden from East Field. Photo: Ann Darracott

Whatever the council agrees on 3 August I am confident that the access bodies will not give up. We can be sure that the Maidenhead access champion, the late Margaret Bowdery, would have fought on, and so shall we.

Margaret Bowdery (Ramblers) and Ann Darracott (Maidenhead Civic Society) in 2012, celebrating the publication of the millennium way leaflet.

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, campaigns, green spaces, National trail, open spaces, Open Spaces Society, Public paths, Ramblers, walking and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The battle of Battlemead

  1. pippalangford says:

    Hi Kate, there was a case a few years ago of a council seeking to reduce public access on land acquired for public enjoyment in the interests of nature conservation. The council lost. Best wishes,PippaSent from my Galaxy

  2. John Bainbridge says:

    The idea that wildlife keels over because people walk past is nonsense.

  3. Alli Templeton says:

    A battle worth fighting. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome. If not, never give up.

  4. histman says:

    Hope there’s a good result today. The common is well “named”.

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