Lord Gardiner Visits Norfolk as Part of England Coast Path Announcement

As part of the update on the England Coast Path, Lord Gardiner, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, came to visit Norfolk to see how the project was progressing. On the morning of 1 September 2017 he visited Great Yarmouth, where he sampled a newly constructed boardwalk built to provide improved access to the beach there, linked to the England Coast Path.

Four RA members, three of them on Norfolk’s Area Council, met him at Waxham – Richard May (Chair), Ian Mitchell (Footpath Co-ordinator), Ken Hawkins (Secretary) and Catherine Hawkins. Ken and Catherine had surveyed the England Coast Path proposals before implementation; Ken and Ian had met several times with NE staff to discuss RA views, and drafted the formal RA response to the NE proposals when they were issued. All three had subsequently taken various roles in making comments for improvements to Norfolk County Council after the two stretches were opened.

Lord Gardiner made plenty of opportunities to talk (and listen) to all present – Natural England staff, members and staff from Norfolk County Council, Martin Sullivan (Chair of Norfolk Local Access Forum) and the contingent from The Ramblers. He came across as knowledgeable of both the context and specific issues, and expressed interest in the wider environment (eg the sea defences at Sea Palling, and the pipes which had come adrift and were awaiting ‘rescue’). He also generously bought ice creams for everyone in the party from a van parked at the start/end of our short walk.

Comment had been made to Lord Gardiner that we thought it would be beneficial to local businesses in widening their season. This had been taken up with an interview at Great Yarmouth (Munchies), and a similar discussion was had over lunch at the Waxham Barn Café, where he spoke both to the owner Helen and a member of her staff who walked to her job there from Sea Palling, in preference to using the road (which was derestricted and without a footway for a substantial part of its length).

The Minister was responsive and interested in hearing about the concerns of the Ramblers and we hope to continue that engagement. We were also pleased to see the level of media interest on the day, with Anglia TV covering the event. The day was a great success and we’re delighted to see progress being made on the England Coast Path, a project which the Ramblers has been heavily involved with both locally and nationally.

Walkers in Norfolk one step closer to enjoying England Coast Path

People in Norfolk are one step closer to being able to walk around the entire England coastline as Natural England have announced today (1 September 2017) that work has started on every stretch of the England Coast Path.

The England Coast Path is an inspirational project to create the world’s longest continuous coastal trail. In Norfolk there are 4 stretches included in the project:

  • Sea Palling to Weybourne which has been open since December 2014
  • Hopton on Sea to Sea Palling was opened last November
  • Weybourne to Hunstanton is still under consideration, with Natural England expecting to issue its proposals fairly soon
  • Hunstanton to Sutton Bridge is also still under consideration, with proposals expected late 2017 or early 2018

Ramblers’ director of advocacy and engagement, Nicky Philpott said:

“This is a huge milestone in the story of the England Coast Path and one we should celebrate. Building sandcastles on the beach, dipping toes in the sea and taking a stroll along clifftops are favourite activities that cross generations and bring us all together.

So it might surprise you that until recently, a third of England’s coastline was inaccessible. The Ramblers has long dreamed of a country where everyone can freely enjoy our beautiful coast, so we were pleased that after years of campaigning, in 2010, work started on the England Coast Path.”

At almost 3,000 miles long, the path will stretch around the entire English coastline. Not only will this open up new paths, it will create new areas of open access land so people can freely explore headlands, cliffs and beaches, right up to the water’s edge.

Natural England has been working with landowners, local authorities and others to open up stretches of the path and Ramblers’ volunteers have worked tirelessly to walk and survey swathes of coast, mapping out the best route for walkers.

Nicky added: “We’d like to thank our wonderful volunteers who have spent hours exploring possible routes for the path. Using their local knowledge and thinking with their feet they are helping to ensure that the England Coast Path is not just a path, but one of the most incredible walking trails in the world.”

In Norfolk, Ken Hawkins took on liaison between Natural England and The Ramblers during the planning of the route. He said, “Right from the start, The Ramblers put forward proposals for the route, and these always received full consideration from Natural England. Since 2013, we have had a number of productive meetings and a regular exchange of ideas. More than that, after the opening of each section, members of The Ramblers have walked the routes and offered ‘fine tuning’ suggestions to Norfolk County Council, which took over responsibility for them once open.”

The Government hope to complete the England Coast Path by 2020, and the Ramblers is keen to ensure that plans are put in place to maintain the path once it’s complete and has become a National Trail.

Local Press Feature Our Work in Clearing Paths

The Dereham Times has published an article featuring the work done by Dereham Walkers are Welcome and the Ramblers in making paths more accessible. It also makes reference to the plaques that have been put up to improve the signage on the route.

Peter James, pictured above in the article, is fast becoming the poster boy for Norfolk Ramblers with all the publicity his path clearance is generating! He helps run numerous path clearance teams where volunteers go out and clear overgrown paths to make them more accessible.

The full text of the article is also available on the EDP’s web-site.

Hike Norfolk Go Canoeing

Hike Norfolk, one of our Ramblers groups in Norfolk, don’t just go walking on a regular basis, but also try other activities. Last week was the annual canoeing trip in Bungay, which was attended by fifteen people.

The canoeing went well and there were no incidents, although the famous toppling incident when Clive was attacked by a swan two years ago is still often talked about. The group members enjoyed a paddle along the river to a lunch spot before canoeing back to stop off at a pub to discuss the day (and other gossip). Some of the participants got a bit competitive, whilst some of the others enjoyed a slow and sedate paddle.

Liam decided to try and swing out over the water and had to be rescued to avoid him falling in   🙂

Other social events taking place over the forthcoming weeks include a day out on a Broad cruiser, a weekend trip to Budapest & Visegrad, tubing at the Norwich dry ski slope, pub nights and a day of cycling. Take a look below for further details about these events!

Norfolk Area Ramblers events on Meetup

Have you seen our Meetup Account?

For those who haven’t seen it, we have a Meetup account at:

We have just under 800 members and it’s primarily used by two of our groups, Hike Norfolk and Legstretchers. There are lots of events listed on there and Hike Norfolk now use this as their primary way of advertising new events, so keep an eye out!

At the moment, in addition to the weekly Hike Norfolk walks, there are also pub nights, a canoeing trip, a cycling day out, a tubing evening out and a Norfolk Broads cruiser day trip.

It’s free to join – so sign up and see all of the events that we list!

Got a problem with a path? Please report it!

Summer is here (mainly), and so is the season of rampant crop, nettle and bramble growth, when walking can become more difficult on some paths. I suspect most of our members will have experienced repeated problems with certain paths. They may have reported them to the Council. They also may have done this on several occasions and given up doing so as they felt that little or nothing seemed to happen. This, though completely understandable, would in my view be a mistake.

From April this year, Norfolk County Council restructured the departments dealing with rights of way and those other routes supported by Norfolk Trails. The new structure, brought in at least partly because of pressure from The Ramblers and colleagues in CPRE, Open Spaces Society and U3A, is still settling down, and it is too soon to have a full appreciation of how it is working. But there are already signs of improvements and benefits. The most obvious change has been the appointment of three Countryside Access Officers, with specific responsibilities for public rights of way. Not only do these augment the previous two people holding equivalent positions, but they have been moved from their central positions in County Hall, to be based in defined geographical areas, and so be close to the nettle face.

The three areas are:

• West – King’s Lynn and West Norfolk: Manager Chris Alston, Countryside Access Officer David Mills
• North – North Norfolk, Broadland, Great Yarmouth: Manager Karl Rands, Countryside Access Officer Sarah Price
• South – Breckland, South Norfolk: Manager Grahame Bygrave, Countryside Access Officer Jody Thurston

David and Sarah are the previous centrally based officers, while Jody is a new appointment. As my own area is Breckland, I have already met Jody twice and a very positive experience it has been, even though she is still getting to grips with the role.

Which brings me back to my starting point. However enthusiastic and hard working the officers are, what sways management and councillors tends to be statistics. If the figures seem to suggest there are few problems, it will be assumed that current resources are fully adequate. It is therefore vital that all problems are reported; and if nothing happens, follow it up. And if still nothing happens, consider making a complaint. If you have access to the internet, this is the best way to report and monitor problems. Go to http://maps.norfolk.gov.uk/highways/#, zoom in to the area concerned until the paths become visible, click on the one which has a problem, and choose Report a problem. You will be invited to set up an account. You don’t have to do this, but if you do, you will get updates on what is being done about your report. It has to be admitted that these updates are not particularly informative, but they are better than nothing, and we continue to make representations to have the system improved. It will also help if, when you are aware of a change in the situation (eg the path cleared, or a route cut through a crop), it will help NCC colleagues if you also report this – and a word of appropriate thanks never goes amiss.

Some of you may be using The Ramblers’ Pathwatch app: by all means continue to use this, but please be aware that this is no substitute for making a direct report to the Council. Pathwatch data comes out only at intervals, and in a format which is not easily compatible with the Council’s systems: under time pressure, you can guess how much effort might be made to decode what is being reported.

Enjoy your walking – but please report all problems.

Ken Hawkins, Area Secretary.

Benefits of Joint Working – Dereham

Last year, Dereham Town Council put in claims to have a number of paths in the town registered as Restricted Byways.  The claims were put together by the Town Clerk, with input from Ian Mitchell.  Much of the evidence submitted related to historic usage of the routes, and was collected both by The Ramblers, and through local advertising, including a ‘drop in’ morning at Dereham Windmill, which lies adjacent to one of the routes claimed.  The issue was also complicated as a planning application was being processed which affected some of the routes, and the Town Council ensured in discussions with the developer that they were aware of, and accommodating, the claims.

The initial response from Norfolk County Council in reviewing the evidence submitted, was to propose making orders for some of the routes to be Restricted Byways, but others only to be Public Footpaths.  In practical terms, the Town Council and The Ramblers both thought this was a nonsense, as it would have resulted on users of the Restricted Byways having to turn back where the only continuation was on a Public Footpath.  Ian sought advice and input from The Ramblers national office, while the Town Clerk conducted his own review of past decisions, as the County view appeared to be based on the validity of evidence regarding cycle usage.

We are pleased to note that the orders now made by the County are for Restricted Byways for all of the claimed routes.

The attached file illustrates the affected routes.

Brambles Beware! Path Clearance in Dereham.

 

As is well known, Spring is the growing season.  Unfortunately for walkers, growth is not restricted to those nice flowers in your garden, but also includes rampant growth of brambles and nettles across public rights of way.  In Dereham, two paths are particularly prone to this – Restricted Byways 30 and 31.  These carry the legal right for horse and carriage drivers to use them between Neatherd Moor and Northall Green, but at their best, they are currently suitable only for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.  And even those users can find their way blocked by nettle and bramble growth, so to tackle this before the route became impossible, Dereham Walkers are Welcome and The Ramblers together cut the paths on 3 May.

Peter James, the Area Treasurer, laying new protective covers for the path, from a previous path clearance day.

Not in the pictures were Rambler Gerald and Ken Hawkins from Dereham WaW.  Try these paths for yourself – and let us know of any potential blockages on these or any other paths. We like to keep Peter busy!  🙂

 

2017 Ramblers General Council

The beautiful Southampton University campus

Ramblers’ General Council, which is the national organisation’s annual meeting, took place on 1st and 2 April 2017 in Southampton. Four of us went from Norfolk, with Richard May going as a trustee candidate, Julian White and Peter James going as delegates and Ian Mitchell going as a visitor.

Pre-GC walk around Southampton Common

There was a walk before the formal proceedings of General Council began and this went around Southampton Common. The local Hampshire group led this and ensured that we given some interesting historical facts and it was a great opportunity to meet other delegates from across the country.

The meeting was opened and chaired by Des Garrahan, the national chairman, who balanced a professional and informal approach. The new Chief Executive made her first speech to General Council and I hope she is able to move forwards on her central theme of improving and enhancing communications. Our new President, Stuart Maconie, was also announced.

Richard during the Saturday hustings

Richard May, our area chairman, was standing again for trustee after losing out last year. He was one of 15 candidates, although one didn’t turn up to General Council because of other commitments, and one, Hugh Dyer-Westacott (who has written a book), withdrew during the event.

With regards to the motions, Norfolk area had an amendment to motion 4 on ploughing and cropping.

Motion 4 was proposed by SYNED (South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire) group. They opposed our amendment and we felt, after discussion with them, that General Council would likely not support our amendment based on these comments. We decided on that basis to withdraw our amendment.

We proposed a motion on funding lost ways, which is essentially about appointing a project officer and establish funding for the 2026 project, also ensuring that volunteers are co-ordinated and offered national assistance. The board of trustees proposed an amendment which we were content with and accepted. Cheshire East proposed a motion which essentially said that we should focus only on key routes, not trying to put in a claim for all footpaths. We opposed this, and it was a close vote, which fortunately went in our favour as the amendment wasn’t passed. Our original motion was though passed unanimously.

The results of the trustee elections was a little complex as there were three places for three years, two places for two years and two places for one year. That meant two elections throughout the day, but in short, the results were:

ELECTED IN FIRST ROUND

Rebecca Dawson – 87

Paul Rhodes – 80

Richard May – 78

ELECTED IN SECOND ROUND

Teri Moore – 80 (will serve two years as a trustee)

Sophie Clisold-Lesstor – 77

Peter Carr – 53 (will serve one year as a trustee)

Peter Rookes – 51

Richard’s official victory photo

Well done to Richard, our area chairman!

The organisation from the national office was excellent, and there were plenty of staff on hand who made an effort to engage with the delegates. The event ran smoothly in terms of timing, technically and in ensuring all members were able to get their voice heard.

The meeting ended with a contribution from the European Ramblers, and they have a very positive agenda and the Danish chairperson came to speak. She spoke about the importance of getting people out into the countryside, whether on foot, by bike or on horseback.

It was another really useful weekend for everyone who attended, great for meeting other delegates and putting forwards the view of Norfolk Ramblers to the national organisation. Next year’s event will be held in Bangor in April 2018 and anyone who is interested in attending can let us know at any time over the next few months!

Norfolk Ramblers AGM – A successful and enjoyable day!

It was our annual AGM this week and we were delighted that it was well-attended. It was held in Acle and Great Yarmouth group did an excellent job at leading an interesting walk and ensuring that an extensive range of cakes were provided!

The pre-AGM walk went around the Norfolk Broads and was only partly muddy!

Richard May, the Chairman of Norfolk Area Ramblers, opens up the meeting. Ken Hawkins, our secretary, is on the left and Peter James, our treasurer, is on the right.

Richard presented Ian Mitchell, our Vice-Chairman, with a certificate marking his extensive work to protect the footpaths of Norfolk. He has worked tirelessly, and has a knowledge which is unparalleled in the county, to help the Ramblers and his honour is very well deserved. He now goes on to a national award at General Council in Southampton in early April 2017, and our fingers are firmly crossed.

The wonderful range of cakes provided at the end of the AGM. Walking is important to the Ramblers, but so is food   🙂

Des Garrahan, the national chairman of the Ramblers, gave a talk about the future of the organisation and how volunteers were helping to achieve our aims. He also gave further information about the 2026 deadline of when paths have to be recorded on the Definitive Map to ensure that they are protected.

Lloyd, the beautiful Guide Dog!

Graham, with his guide dog Lloyd, is partially sighted but was able to complete our pre-AGM walk with assistance, showing  that this no barrier to walking with the Ramblers! Helen Sismore came from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and gave a fascinating talk on how we could welcome those with sight difficulties and ensure they can take part in walks. There will be a future blog post about this!

Julian White, the External Communications Officer, said:

“This was a lively and interesting AGM where there were discussions covering several areas, particularly regarding the 2026 deadline. It was great to have Des present so that we could ask questions and so that our members could hear more about what is planned. Helen also gave encouragement and ideas on how we could welcome more blind and partially sighted people to our walks. And thanks to Great Yarmouth group for the cakes!”