Tag Archives: Norfolk County Council

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.

Ramblers and Open Spaces Society Call for Norfolk County Council to Do More


Norfolk Area Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society have today published a news release calling on Norfolk County Council to do more about the state of our county’s paths.

The release reads:

Little satisfaction with our public rights of way network

The Ramblers and Open Spaces Society have today called for Norfolk County Council to take action to improve on its poor reputation in maintaining and promoting its rights of way network.

Only a few weeks ago, the Council celebrated the opening of the latest stretch of the England Coast Path, from Hopton on Sea to Sea Palling. At the opening, the Chairman of the County Council, David Collis, joined Lord Gardiner (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Andrews Sells (Chairman of Natural England) to tell the gathered audience about the great benefits that walking – and the availability of footpaths – brought to the whole community: individual benefits in physical and mental health, and economic benefits to the county.

The Ramblers – who agree entirely with this – wondered then why the same considerations did not apply to the rest of the county’s 2400 mile public rights of way network. We wrote to the Chairman to ask about this, pointing out that the Council as Highway Authority has a duty to assert and protect public rights of way in Norfolk. Since then, the results from the 2016 Highways and Transport Network Survey have been published .

The Council is rightly pleased that, for the third year in a row, it has been in the top 3 of 28 similar counties for Highways and Transport matters overall. But it overlooked the fact that, also for the third year in a row, it is in the bottom half dozen for ‘Satisfaction with public rights of way’ – this year being 25th out of 28.

The Ramblers and Open Spaces Society have therefore put a question to the meeting of the Council’s Environment, Development and Transport (EDT) Committee on 11 November, to ask: If Norfolk is serious in aspirations to promote itself as a preferred tourist destination, public satisfaction scores should be brought towards the top of the list. Will the Committee refer this as a significant concern to the LAF* and ask them to bring forward proposals, or does the Committee have other proposals to address this?

Norfolk has an amazing network of public rights of way, but fails to promote and maintain them, and thereby fails to secure the health and financial benefits that are there in return for modest investment and effort. We hope the EDT will take an initial step to change this. Ken Hawkins will be attending the meeting of the EDT at 1000 on Friday 11 November to hear the response.

For further information, please contact Ken Hawkins on 01362 691455 or 07505 426750.

*The LAF is the Local Access Forum, which represents a variety of countryside interests with regards to improving public access across our beautiful county, and provides independent strategic advice to the County Council and others where there are issues around public access – see https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/nlaf.

The Big Pathwatch Survey Results Are In!


Over a six-month period starting in July last year, walkers up and down the country have reported on what they found when using our extensive network of public rights of way. These results have come in from walkers who took part in the Big Pathwatch which was run by the national Ramblers organisation.

Here in Norfolk, some 1,800 kilometres of paths were walked, and reports made covering 3,600 square kilometres of town and countryside. We are really grateful to everyone who has assisted with the Pathwatch project as it gives an overview of the situation that we have now.

Walkers were asked to report what they found – good, bad and indifferent. 827 positive reports were made, of attractive views (251 reports, almost two thirds of which were of open country), sightings of flora and fauna (90 reports, a quarter of them birds and another quarter trees), as well as interesting buildings, lakes and other natural features (a further 76 reports). 245 reports were also made of welcoming signs, helping walkers find their way.


Unfortunately, there was some bad news as well which can be seen on the above chart. 2316 reports were made of unwelcome features and difficulties and this represents nearly three quarters of the reports made, compared to a national average of only 54% of reports being of poor features.

The largest causes of concern were missing signs, either where the right of way left a road (289 reports), or along the route (400 reports). In almost 1 in 10 of these reports, the walker said that this made the route unusable rather than just inconvenient.

The next biggest issues were ploughing across the path (137 reports), crops across the path (117 reports) and overhanging or surface vegetation (241 reports). Again, in approximately a third of these cases, the walker said that this made the route unusable rather than just inconvenient.

We have been reporting this information to Norfolk County Council as the survey has gone on, and we know that officers have looked into the difficulties reported. We are unable to say just what action may have been taken, but we are particularly concerned at the lack of enforcement action being taken when reports are made about paths being ploughed or cropped over, and not reinstated within the legally required timescales. Whilst appreciating the difficulties that the Council faces in taking enforcement action, we – and they – are well aware that they have a legal duty to pursue such action, which includes the ability to recover their costs in doing so.

The Ramblers nationally plans to continue to monitor the state of our public rights of way, as we will do here in Norfolk, and will be pressing the County to make significant improvements this year.