The officers, group representatives and interested parties attend three meetings a year, which are our area council meetings for Norfolk Area Ramblers. We also have a rights of way sub-committee which meets a similar number of times a year to discuss matters of importance to the paths network.
This sub-committee met last week, and in a bid to help explain what goes on, and the importance of the committee, we’ve (many thanks to Ken, the area secretary) put together a short summary of what took place. For anyone who is interested in this type of work, do let us know, we need help in numerous areas such as footpath officers, assistance with 2026 and help monitoring planning applications. At the meeting, representatives from across the county considered a range of issues, the following amongst them.
1 – Big Pathwatch: the Big Pathwatch app is still active, though now used only by a small number of people – only 200 adverse reports were received in the last 18 month, many from just a couple of individuals (who are not identifiable to us). Reports of the problems are sent on to Norfolk County Council (NCC), but we are not clear about the extent to which they are used. We have asked Central Office about their use of the data, and are told that they were working on getting the information live on the website to show the different problems that are being reported across the country. It was noted that this was separate to the Big Pathwatch report which was carried out in a systematic way to show the condition of the footpath network at one point in time. We are planning to add path names to the reports we receive to see what use we can make of them. Our main concern is that, as we are unsure of the use to which NCC puts the reports, we continue to urge everyone encountering an issue to report it directly to NCC, ideally through the online reporting system, which has been improved recently.
2 – Norfolk Local Access Forum: two of our members (Ken Hawkins and Vic Cocker) are also members of the LAF. Ken, who chairs the LAF Public Rights of Way Subgroup, reported to the Subcommittee on a number of issues being taken to the next LAF meeting in July:
(i) – agreement to put a proposal to get NCC Departments (and later others) to formulate a vision of Norfolk as a quality destination for walkers and others, using the tourism and health (including the financial side) benefits, including better co‑ordinated use of volunteers (via proposed parish seminars), all based on the Norfolk Access Improvement Plan (currently going through the final stages of approval)
(ii) – NCC concerns about how it manages roll back of the England Coast Path where there is rapid erosion – NCC is seeking guidance from Natural England on methodology
(iii) – Parish Council seminars to bring together all volunteers and work for public rights of way; the first is planned for October
3 – Actual and proposed changes to the public rights of way network: the Subcommittee reviewed a number of changes, where necessary agreeing the response to be made by The Ramblers. This work depends heavily on the activity of Ian Mitchell, our Footpath Co-ordinator, in maintaining awareness of what is happening, making visits where needed, and presenting the relevant information to the subcommittee for comment.
4 – Restoring the record: Ian also reported on his involvement with the national Ramblers ‘2026’ work, under the title Don’t Lose You Way. He continues to attend a Volunteer Board meeting, roughly every two months.
5 – England Coast Path: responses to the consultation on the route from Weybourne to Hunstanton were noted; both we and NCC were concerned particularly about (1) access to the salt marsh areas in a number of places where Natural England proposed to restrict or ban access, (2) the derisory sum offered for the establishment of the route and (3) the proposal to route the path alongside the A149 near Titchwell.