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Essex Walks: News

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The Problems of Planning a Quality Walk.

24th June 2014

If you look at an Ordnance Survey map of Essex, you will see a network of 3700 miles of footpaths, bridleways and byways. You have a legal right to walk any of these highways, and the lovely thing is that the recreation is entirely free.

Great Wakering
Great Wakering

So it's easy to find out where some footpaths are, and then off you go for a walk in the countryside, right?

Not really. If only it were that simple.

In 1988 a survey by Countryside Commission found that more than one half of all rights of way were effectively unavailable to those without the skill to use a map and the confidence to assert their rights. Moreover, on a typical two-mile walk, walkers faced a 2-in-3 chance of meeting an impassable obstruction on a walking route randomly selected from paths shown on an OS map.

Thanks to the sterling work done by the PROW team at Essex County Council, things have improved since those days, but keeping the footpaths and bridleways clear is a continual battle.

Blocked FP
Footpath near Toppesfield

Some footpaths and bridleways are so wet and muddy that getting along them would require waders. Elsewhere, brambles and nettles have been neglected and an otherwise pleasant walk turns into an assault course from which you emerge scratched, bleeding and covered in nettle rash.

Some cross-field footpaths are often obstructed by crops. They are not supposed to be. Fields can be ploughed and sowed over footpaths, but the farmer has a legal obligation to reinstate the surface after ploughing, and keep the path visible after the crops has grown more than 6 inches. Some farmers simply can't be bothered, which is daft really as it just means that people wander all over the field trying to find the way, resulting in more crop loss than is necessary. Although it is not allowed, some farmers will plough up to the very edge of the field where a field-edge path runs, making walking impossible.

Of course, while neglecting their responsibilities, many will continue to be in receipt of CAP subsidies, a requirement of which is Cross Compliance - which includes good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC) standards designed to provide a baseline for protection of landscape features, in order to maintain bio-diversity, public rights of way and amenities, and historic aspects of the landscape. Cross Compliance Guide 2014 pdf

Compliance with GAEC 8 requires farmers in receipt of these grants and subsidies to:

This is the contract which farmers agree to when they apply for agricultural land subsidies from the Rural Payments Agency. They don't do it as a favour. The problem is, some don't do it at all. It is worth remembering that it is us, the public, the walkers, that are ultimately paying for these subsidies under the agreement, via taxation and the country's hefty EU contributions.

Of course, crop and vegetation overgrowth tend to be a seasonal problem, and some routes are fine if you walk just after the winter crops have been harvested. But there are some areas of Essex where you just know that you are going to have problems. It usually relates to just one or two landowners that just don't accept their legal responsibilities as caretakers of the land. Their objective is to deter walkers as much as possible, so they don't have the bother of keeping paths clear. Fingerposts mysteriously get damaged, gates get permanently padlocked, or signs about savage dogs running loose appear on gates where there is a long-established right of way.

Over the years, we have planned many walks which look great on paper. They even look good on Google Earth. To avoid retracing your steps, we look for circular routes - which is not easy in itself as many paths just terminate at a busy main road and don't connect with another footpath for miles. As we try to maintain a reasonable quality standard, we look for the minimum of roadside walking, and try to get some picturesque or historical interest built into the route.

Intimidating sign
Tresspass and Dog Threats
re perfectly legal Right of Way

On innumerable occasions, we have had to abandon publishing a walk on this website because the only way to get from A - B was via a footpath that the landowner clearly didn't want people using. It might be your "right" to use a public footpath, but who wants the likelihood of an argument with someone when you are supposed to be out relaxing and enjoying yourself? One of the downsides of rural life in Essex is an increasing number of ex-urbanites that have moved into the countryside and brought a highly territorial "Me & Mine" attitude with them. The problem isn't so much a ruddy-faced farmer with a shot-gun bellowing "GET ORFF MOI LAND! ". Even despite the very serious and growing problem of rural crime, over the years the vast majority of farmers have been happy to have walkers strolling through their farmyard, and will smile while passing on a tractor. It's all part of country life.

In our experience, the real threat to countryside recreation is the increasing number of farms that have been bought up for development as luxury apartments or holiday lets, as part country-home and part enterprise. These are rarely people who have any understanding of the countryside, and think that illegal obstruction of time-honoured pathways through the countryside is their "right". People buy these properties knowing that public rights of way through them exist, but then try to stop up these rights of way either illegally or by applying for an official "Extinguishment of Path". Their short-term gain is the public's long-term loss. The opportunity to find a pleasant walk through inter-connected pedestrian ways in rural Essex is hard enough now. But the aspirational or nouveau-riche urban wannabees will permanently deprive us all of our heritage if we let them.


Site News

26th March 2014


DiscusThe Disqus commenting system has now been installed on every page. It may not get a lot of use as people will need a Disqus /Twitter/Facebook account to log on: guest comments are disabled as they are likely to be spam.

The comments area at the bottom of the page can be toggled off and on by clicking the "Comment" button on the bottom bar. We hope people won't be afraid to use it. Please give it a try...


22nd March 2013

Essex Walks on a New Server

For the last five years, the Essex Walks website has been hosted by a small Manchester company called Orchard Hosting. As well as being competitively priced, the reliability of their service, and the fast and friendly way they dealt with any queries, has been exemplary.

Sadly, on 13th March their boss, Tom Yates announced that they would cease trading at the end of May.

One of the reasons we went with Orchard Hosting originally was their very fast server response times. Here's a traceroute of my access to Essex Walks via my Zen ISP account to the Orchard Servers. What's important is not just the delay, the 'latency' in each connection, but the number of data-hops. As the illustration below shows, there were only 6 stages in the traceroute and the lower the number of intermediary hops, the lower the chance of breaks in the chain. Traceroute


It was tempting to go for one of the bigger web hosting companies as their prices are very low. For example, one UK site I was looking at recently seemed very slow. The server, run by Go Daddy, is located in the USA and this is the sort of traceroute response we were looking to avoid: Traceroute

There are so many web hosting companies that seem to offer the same kind of thing. One of the most important things is the level of customer support. If you are thinking of running a website, it's definitely worth trawling the online reviews. There are countless stories where people have been badly let down by the various web hosting companies. When the customers get into difficulties, they find their only help seems to come from a not-very-bright robot cutting and pasting pre-written scripts back at them. "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"


Orchard Hosting recommended a Preston-based firm, Clook. This company has its servers based in the Gyron Centro datacentre in Hemel Hempstead, a modern state-of-the-art facility. While not cheap (£96 p.a.), the reviews of Clook's customer support are absolutely glowing. Having checked the ping and traceroute of other websites that Clook hosted, I put the order throuigh to transfer from Orchard on the 20th. Nothing could have been less trouble-free. 2 days later, the site is fully functioning now that the Domain Name Server changes have percolated through the internet.

Here is a traceroute to the new host - only 6 hops, and very fast. Traceroute


2nd March 2013

Update: Met Office Weather Widgets

The Met Office have just released a new look Weather Widget.

This is a big improvement on the previous version as it provides 5 aspects of the weather - sun/cloud, percentage probability of precipitation, temperature (celsius), wind speed (mph), and wind gusts.

The map can be scrolled sideways to show cloud, rain, pressure and temperature, and clicking on the map will take you to the main Met Office website for a more larger map overview.

You can change the location of the map by clicking "options". The help button at the bottom of the widget explains the symbols used.

All we need now are some accurate forecasts for a change.

Also, now in a whiter shade of pale. Thanks Met Office!


5th January 2012

Update: Google Maps API V3

gmaps Google Maps driving directions has been added to the map. If you are travelling to the start of one of our walks, you can simply enter your departure location and Google maps will plot a course to the walk with distance and estimated jouney time. Full written directions are also available in a pop-up window.

22nd December 2011

A Christmas Present: Google Maps API V3

Street View: Goats Hall Lane, Galleywood

The OS/Google interactive route maps have been upgraded. The Google Maps part of these is now running using the latest Version 3 engine. As before maps can be displayed as a road map, a topological terrain map or as a satellire view of the green pastures of Essex, using the top right buttons on the map. When clicked, the numbered map icons display a pop-up information box, and in this version, more than one window can stay open at the same time.

The biggest change is, however, the introduction of Google Street View. This feature, originally available from Google Earth, allows you to see 360° photographic shots of the roads and lanes in an area and to virtually navigate around streets. To start Street View, drag the little yellow man on the Google map onto the area you want to inspect: to return to the ordinary map click on the 'X' top right.

The programming required to convert to this new version was far from straightforward. As always, if you think something isn't working as it should, please drop us an email, so we can, hopefully, fix it.


6th December 2011

The Centenary Circle, Chelmsford

Centenary Circle logo It's been a long time coming, but at last we're pleased to say that the long distance path the Centenary Circle is up on the site at last. The Centenary Circle is a circular footpath circumnavigating Chelmsford. The 21 mile long route has been broken into five sections starting at the village common in Galleywood, south of Chelmsford. The anti-clockwise route then visits Sandon, Springfield, Broomfield and Writtle before returning to Galleywood. We decided to do the walk in one go, and inadvertedly picked what was to turn out the hottest day of the year. If you wish to break the walk over more than one day, each section starts near a bus stop which will take you back into Chelmsford town centre.

Centenary Circle Overview


21st September 2011

Train Stations

Train Station Map The latest improvement to the site is a map showing where all the Essex train stations are. Each icon is clickable to provide a link to the current arrival/departure information for the station, and links to the excellent "Accessible UK Train Timetables" web site designed by Matthew Somerville. He's provided a user-friendly form to get train times to and from destinations and display the information in a simple accessible way.

A link to the map is on the Links page under Travel. Take a look: Essex Train Stations
It should be useful when planning your journey to an Essex Walk.


11th June 2011

CC Essex Walks is currently undergoing a slight revamp behind the scenes and as part of that we will be breaking walks into two sections - quite simply "Short Walks" and "Long Walks".

What defines a short walk is very much down to the individual's ability and the time and effort required for a walk. To keep it simple, we've called 'short walks' anything under 20 miles, but most new 'Short Walks' won't be anything as long as 20 miles. In response to people who've kindly contacted us, we will be concentrating on mainly circular walks of about 5 - 7 miles, preferably with a nice pub at the end of it.

Long walks will be a section for Trails - long distance footpaths that can't be walked in a day, for example The Essex Way. We are currently working on more Essex long-distance paths for the web site which will hopefully provide better (free) documentation of certain routes than is generally available at the moment. The trails will be chunked into walkable sections with the emphasis on getting to the start and finish of each section via public transport, as not everyone has someone able to pick them up in a car at the end of a day's walk.


21st November 2010

The Essex Way

Essex Way

The complete guide to the Essex Way is now complete.
It's a little different to most you'll see, not least, it's backwards - from Harwich to Epping.

The Essex Way


14th October 2010

Ordnance Survey Search

A new facility to look up placenames, postcodes and GB Grid References has been added to the site. A link is on the main menu under "Map Search".
This doesn't have any walk routes - these are under the "Walks" heading, but it does provide the opportunity to scroll over an Ordnance Survey map of the Essex area, and includes a new zoom level of detail called 'OS VectorMap™ District' released under OS OpenData.
The general idea was to provide an easy way to find out the Grid references and co-ordinates of points on the map. The map allows you to place a marker pin on the map, which when clicked, will pop-up to show the marker's position with a GB Grid reference, Longitude/Latitude Co-ordinates (in decimal format), and a 12 digit grid references. (For an excellent explanation of these systems see Grid References).
There is a restriction on the number of map tiles that can be loaded from the Ordnance Survey server, so at the moment this service is restricted to the general Essex area. Sorry!


9th August 2010

We thought 'how can you have a website called "Essex Walks", without the biggest Long Distance Path in the the county - The Essex Way - being included?'.
Well we're working on it. We're composing a guide a little different to most you'll see, not least, it's backwards - from Harwich to Epping. This should be up on site by the end of November.


26th March 2010

OS OpenSpace Gallery

This site is featured on the Ordnance Survey OpenSpace application developer's Gallery.


28th January 2010

Web site development began in mid-August 2009, and is still very much a work-in-progess.

A large backlog of our favorite walks remains to be uploaded.
Now that the snow has melted, more walks are planned.


National Walking Month

5th May 2013

Apparently, this month is "National Walking Month". An organisation called Living Streets has announced this with the scintillating tagline "Walking takes you places".
It would seem that you have to register with them before you are allowed to go walking.

Your Duty is To Walk It's strange, but I thought you could walk in any month of the year, not just in May. So sorry to all those people out there who we've inadvertently encouraged out on a beautiful Essex walk in late summer or autumn.

We wouldn't be running a site devoted to facilitating walking in the Essex countryside if we didn't think that people wouldn't get some enjoyment from it. But this combined campaign, from Living Streets and Walk England, to get people walking has a decidedly Big Brother feel.

Of course there are various benefits to walking, but does this campaign have to sound so Utilitarian about it?

People like walking for other reasons than the fact that it's allegedly going to save the NHS £17 billion pounds if we all do it for 20 years, every single day, rain or shine. (Even if this were possible, the cost to the taxpayer of changing transport infrastructure would be many times that). They say that £106 billion is the estimated cost of mental health problems to the UK economy in 2009/10. Certainly, a good walk in green surroundings lifts the spirits. But do you, as walkers, go out into the rural landscape so that you can save the UK economy some money? Of course not.

Their 'infographic' goes on with more reasons to walk in May: 'It boosts the local economy'. 'Shoppers on foot tend to linger and spend more and shows that making town centres better for walking can boost trading by up to 40%.'
Apart from drive-through fast food outlets, I've never seen a shop where shoppers are NOT on foot, or in a wheelchair. What on earth are they on about?

Every individual has their own reasons for walking. Of course trying to keep fit might be a motivation for some, but for many it's the need to escape the containers we find ourselves in so much of the time - the house, car and office. For others, walking is an opportunity for contemplation, a chance to clear the head and think about things. Photographers and naturalists will enjoy a rural walk because of the opportunity to see nature in all its glory. A long walk in the country provides an incredible amount of visual stimulation. People with an interest in history get a glimpse at first hand of how lives used to be led in villages and hamlets, the importance of footpaths and green lanes to agricultural life, and the importance of the local church and pub in small isolated communities. All these aspects of walking are part of enjoying the richness of the outdoor environment.

The idea of trying to get unfit people to walk on the grounds that they will save our glorious State some money seems to be written from the perspective of a paternalistic state quango. It is Utilitarian in that it justifies its admonishments to get us out walking on economic terms. It is not our "Duty" to take up walking. It is a fundamentally erroneous view of human psychology to think that "nagging" ever motivates people. Like crash diets, people may fling themselves into something looking for a quick fix, but people who take up walking just to lose weight will probably 'boost the local economy' buying Mars Bars in the shop after the walk has tired them out. If they are not open to the more experiential pleasures of walking, they are far more likely to return to more comfortable patterns of behaviour.

By all means, get out and walk - but not because it's a way of achieving something else. Do it because you like it - it needs no other justification.

Buds 2013
Snowdrops: Layer de la Haye
Catkins: Hook End
shoots 2013
Buds 2013

Back on the Path Again

1st March 2013

2012 was an awful year for walking in Essex because of the atrocious weather and the summer that never came. After Easter 2012, the county had a year's rainfall in three months. After that, with little sunlight to raise temperatures, or warm dry wind, the ground stayed permanently waterlogged, if not flooded.

Winter sky

For Carol and I, it also coincided with a serious illness which forced our upkeep of Essex Walks onto the back burner. It basically wiped out the year. Carol is due for a check-up at University College London Hospital this month and we're hoping for the "all-clear" so we can move forward again.

Emerging from the hospital treatment towards recovery, is similar to emerging from a long cold winter into spring. The cycle of life carries on, and after the dark days of winter, we gradually get to see the first signs of the irrepressible life-force fighting back against decay and entropy. In winter, the forests are resting and conserving energy, waiting for the next season. The ancient Chinese believed that human beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment. Winter is the time of year to reflect on our health, replenish our energy and conserve our strength.

Winter s

At long last, we're now at the beginning of the new season. The recent photographs to the right show that life is returning to the countryside. Snowdrops are out, buds are pushing out from twigs, and catkins are blooming. Life is returning, and Essex Walks will similarly be bursting and blooming with new walks for 2013.

Let's hope that this year's weather and renewed energy will allow us all to do a lot more reconnecting with nature.


What happened to Summer?

15th July 2012

4x4 use doesn't help green lanes in this weather Fields are waterlogged, green lanes are ankle deep in mud, while stiles and footpath are overgrown with brambles and weeds. Since spring, the dull relentless downpours have put off all but the hardened walkers from venturing into the countryside. The lower than average "summer" temperatures have failed to dry out the mud, while the absence of regular walkers has meant that the footfall on rural footpaths has been insufficient to stem the growth of grass, weeds and shrubs.

As 'Sue R.' wrote to us recently:

I've just got back from the Saffron Trail - Battlesbridge to Chelmsford and just want to let you know that we didn't make it to Chelmsford, in fact we were intending to turn round at Danbury. But for the majority of the walk we were battling through very overgrown paths, very long grass and LOTS of mud. Granted it had been raining a great deal so we expected wet and muddy but the overgrown grasses and hedges were at times almost impassable. In a few weeks time walkers will need machetes to cut through the paths.
Not sure how the paths are maintained but I thought you should be aware of the struggle we had. It made for a very tiring walk.
We still enjoyed it though and appreciate your website greatly.

Met Office figures for June show double the average amount of rain has fallen, making it the wettest June since records began in 1910.

This is the second record breaking month of rainfall this year, with April also topping the rankings. The period from April to June is also the wettest recorded for the UK.

It is also the second dullest June on record with just 119.2 hours of sunshine, narrowly missing out on the record of 115.4 hours set in 1987. To complete the disappointing picture, it has also been the coolest June since 1991 with a mean temperature of 12.3 deg C.

Movements in the track of the jet stream, a narrow band of fast flowing westerly winds high in the atmosphere, have contributed to the weather we have seen. Normally, the jet stream is north of the British Isles, allowing warm dry air from the south to reach us. However, in recent months the jet stream has been stuck in a position south of the UK which has drawn in cold unsettled weather systems from the north Atlantic.

How does the jet stream affect UK weather?

This June has seen periods of heavy and prolonged rain, as well as short but exceptionally heavy showers. The total UK rainfall was 145.3mm - exactly twice as much as you would normally expect compared to the 1971-2000 average. This beats the previous record of 136.2 mm set in 2007.


Walking in park better for mental health

21 June 2012
Copy Wood GLASGOW, Scotland, June 21 (UPI) - Walking or jogging through a forest or park reduces the risk of mental health problems, researchers in Scotland found.

Professor Richard Mitchell of Glasgow University surveyed nearly 2,000 physically active people in the 2008 Scottish Health Survey.

"There was around a 50 percent improvement in people's mental health if they were physically active in the natural environment, compared to those who weren't and exercise in a gym," Mitchell told the Daily Telegraph.
"These aren't serious mental health issues, more struggles in general life, things like mild depression, not being able to sleep, high stress levels or just feelings of not being able to cope."

Only activities carried out in a natural environment outdoors were associated with a lower risk of poor mental health, Mitchell said.

Being in areas that have lots of trees and grassy areas help people calm us down and reduce the body's stress response, Mitchell said.


The Footpath Network and High Speed Rail (HS2)

11th January 2012


Footpaths form part of the highway network, allowing public access to private land along specified and defined routes. These routes have often existed virtually unchanged, for centuries. As such, footpaths are part of the historic fabric of the English countryside. Many, many footpaths have been lost over the years but still, looking at the pattern of the remaining paths in an area can illuminate the importance of individual manor houses. churches and farms in times gone by, give pointers to the location of villages and pubs which have long since disappeared, and can show ancient droving and trade routes.

It's a shame when any of these old routes are destroyed or disturbed, because that part of our history is gone for ever. But local councils do try and keep the paths alive, by for example, creating crossing points, bridges and tunnels to allow foot passage across new road developments, or to replace a rural path with an urban one where there are new housing developments.

The adjacent Ordnance Survey or Google Map looks at the proposed High Speed Rail route (HS2) between London and Birmingham, to assess the impact on the footpath network. There are upwards of 160 paths which will be directly impacted by the new rail line. Although none of the affected paths are in Essex, still for the nation as a whole we hope the rush to get through the countryside 30 minutes faster will not destroy the glories of low speed, low tech access into the countryside along the paths which have, so far, lasted longer than any railway in the world.

NB: The map of affected footpaths and bridleways according to the 'HS2 Revised Line of Route Maps' published by the Department of Transport on 10th January 2012 was extracted from the official DfT ESRI-format data file published on 18th January 2012!. This map is intended for illustrative purposes only - please refer to the original DfT documents for accurate plans.


Access Essex Newsletter

22nd December 2011

Access Essex

Here's a little plug for an online newsletter that should be of interest to walkers in Essex.
The Access Essex Newsletter is published quarterly by Essex County Council's Public Rights of Way team, and provides updates and information for anyone with an interest in Public Rights of Way within the county. Each edition provides updates from local groups, information about improvement programmes, and an events diary.

Esssex Council Access Newsletters

National Trust to Create 100 miles of New Footpaths

Fiona Reynolds

The National Trust is planning to create 100 miles of new footpaths in 2011. The organisation is concerned that its public image focuses too much on country houses, and wants to promote the 660,000 acres of land that they look after.

Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, commented that people have lost their ability to connect with nature, and that as a result, people are scared. There is a feeling that unless there is a nice marked path, walkers might be trespassing or get lost. The footpaths that the charity is going to be creating will make it easier for people to get out of the gardens attached to country houses and into the parks, woodlands and surrounding lands.

Dame Fiona Reynolds said: 'We want to play our part in helping to reconnect the nation with outdoor spaces, whether in the Lake District or a local park. Over 100 years ago, one of the trust's founders, Octavia Hill, argued that quiet, air and exercise, together with the sight of sky and growing things, were human needs common to all people. A growing body of research backs her intuition, but over a century later we still don't seem to value enough the physical and spiritual refreshment we get from our surroundings.'

The project will culminate during the October half term this year when the charity will hold a 'walking festival', and members of the public will be invited to help finish off the 100 miles of new paths and take a walk in the countryside.


Forest Sell-Off


25th October 2010

Ministers are planning a massive sell-off of Britain's state-owned forests as they seek to raise billions of pounds to help cutting the deficit, the Telegraph reported.

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, is expected to announce plans within days to dispose of about half of the 1.85 million acres of woodland overseen by the Forestry Commission by 2020, according to the newspaper report.

The controversial decision will pave the way for a huge expansion in the number of Center Parcs-style holiday villages, golf courses, adventure sites and commercial logging operations throughout Britain as land is sold to private companies, the report added.

"We will ensure our forests continue to play a full role in our efforts to combat climate change, protect the environment and enhance biodiversity, provide green space for access and recreation, alongside seeking opportunities to support modernisation and growth in the forestry sector," a spokesman said.

Allan MacKenzie, the secretary of the Forestry Commission Trade Unions, warned that they would fight the sell-off.
''Once we've sold it, it never comes back. Once it is sold, restrictions are placed on the land which means the public don't get the same access to the land and facilities that are provided by the public forest estate,'' he told The Sunday Telegraph. ''The current system means a vast amount of people can enjoy forests and feel ownership of them. It is an integral part of society.''


'Green' exercise good for your mind

Kent Downs near Aylesford

2nd May 2010

Just five minutes of exercise in a "green space" such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.

There is growing evidence that combining activities such as walking with nature boosts well-being. In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem.

The research looked at many different outdoor activities including walking, gardening,and horse-riding and in locations such as a park, garden or nature trail.

The biggest effect was seen within just five minutes.

With longer periods of time exercising in a green environment, the positive effects were clearly apparent but were of a smaller magnitude, the study found. Participants were found to be significantly less angry, depressed, confused and tense after engaging in the activities and all their self-esteem levels significantly improved.

Green and blue

Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water - such as a lake or river - generated greater effects

Study leader Jules Pretty, a researcher at the University of Essex, said those who were generally inactive, or stressed, or with mental health problems would probably benefit the most from "green exercise".

Full journal article as PDF Adobe pdf


Rights of Way - A Big Step Forward

25 March 2010

Natural England Report highlights a new way ahead for old public rights of way

Representatives of the key national interests in public rights of way united today in delivering a ground-breaking set of recommendations to Government designed to improve the law and procedures concerning old public rights of way.

Fields between Debden and Abridge

The Group's report - Stepping Forward - is a blueprint for wide-ranging change that would deliver real benefits for the general public, landowners, farmers and local authorities alike.

Old rights of way have long been one of the most difficult areas of access legislation. At present, many old rights of way such as footpaths and bridleways are not recorded on the official 'definitive map' held by county councils. The result is a lack of clarity for the public about which routes they can use, plus periodic concerns for landowners when claims to record such routes suddenly arise.

To look for solutions, Natural England - with the approval of government - convened a special working group at the end of 2008, with balanced representation from the main interest groups in public rights of way. The result is today's report which has achieved unexpected consensus among all of the Group's 15 members.

Squarely in the Group's sights is the bureaucracy of the existing procedures for recording pre-1949 rights of way. The Group identifies a range of ways to make the procedures simpler, quicker, more flexible, and more cost effective. It also suggests measures to make them less adversarial and more constructive, with new scope for authorities to agree practical solutions with occupiers where old routes conflict with modern land use.

The Group has also recommended retaining the 2026 cut-off date contained in current legislation whereby pre-1949 routes that have not been recorded by 2026 will be extinguished. Fixing a date will deliver greater certainty in the future about where public rights exist, while the Group's detailed recommendations will help ensure that the process to record or otherwise protect useful or potentially useful routes can be completed ahead of the 2026 deadline.

Natural England has forwarded the Group's 32 unanimous recommendations to Government, which will now consider its findings.

Poul Christensen, Chair of Natural England, said: "Rights of way are a vital means by which people can enjoy our beautiful countryside and engage with nature, farming and their local heritage. Through this remarkable consensus, the Group has shown how these benefits can be secured for future generations while removing much of the uncertainty, bureaucracy and cost currently involved in the recording process - and promoting practical solutions to potential conflicts. The Group's Stepping Forward report is a triumph of pragmatism, fairness and commonsense and we commend it to Government unreservedly"

For further information about Natural England please visit:


The Wild Places of Essex

08 February 2010
Rainham Marshes

BBC2 - Essex Wildlife on Wednesday 10th February 2010 at 8.00pm

This looks promising! One of the new Essex RSPB Conservation areas - Rainham Marshes- is covered in this BBC2 programme, which is a coincidence because Essex Walks plans to feature this site for a new walk route for the spring.

Multi-award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane sets out on a journey to explore the unexpected landscapes and natural history of Essex, revealing that there is far more to the county than the stereotypes of white stilettos and boy racers.

Macfarlane spends a year travelling the county's strange and elemental landscapes of heavy industry, desolate beaches and wild woods. He encounters massive knot flocks over the Thames, peregrine falcons at Tilbury Power Station, water voles within sniffing distance of the municipal dump, deer rutting in earshot of the M25, barn owls, badgers and bluebells in Billericay as well as a large colony of common seals.
Link: The Wild Places of Essex- BBC Website


NFU and Ramblers team up for safety

26 August 2009
NFU Dog Sign

The NFU and The Ramblers are urging people to enjoy the countryside, but to enjoy it safely, and have provided new signs and advice for walkers with dogs strolling near cattle.

Walkers will see the new yellow and black signs reminding them that dogs can harm or scare farm animals. The signs give a clear reminder to those using public footpaths to keep dogs on leads but - importantly - to let them go if they're being chased or feel threatened by cattle.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: 'Farmers take care before placing livestock into fields, particularly those with a footpath, but equally the public should also be aware and must know what to do if cattle approach them. That is why we support the advice of the Ramblers for walkers with dogs. However we must not forget that the countryside is where farmers earn their living and that is where cattle and sheep will be grazed.'

Tom Franklin, CEO of the Ramblers, said: 'The British countryside is working land where animals graze in close proximity to walkers, which is why it's such a pleasure to walk in. As with any working environment there are certain risks and it is untenable to remove all those risks from our surroundings.

'Incidents of people being attacked by cattle are few and far between, thankfully, and it would be counter to the interest of people who walk and farmers alike to see cattle closed off behind fences in fields. We urge people who walk not to let the very low risk of cattle attacks put them off enjoying the countryside when it is at its loveliest.'


There is also some simple advice that walkers can follow to minimise the risk of an accident happening:



Essex RoWIP

31 July 2009

Essex County Council launched the Essex Rights of Way Improvement Plan (RoWIP) on 31st July 2009.

Overgrown footpath

The RoWIP assesses whether the existing rights of way network (footpaths, bridleways and by-ways) meets the present and future needs of the population of Essex, including specifically the ability of blind and partially sighted people and those with mobility problems to use rights of way. Also it looks at the opportunities for open air recreation and enjoyment provided by rights of way.

Essex County Council will use the RoWIP to identify changes to be made to the network - both in the way rights of way are managed and maintained, and improvements to the network - in order to improve provision for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and people with mobility problems.

As part of its research for this, Essex County Council surveyed many thousands of households and interviewed interested groups. They concluded that the greatest priority for rights of way was better maintenance (including cutting back overgrown vegetation, clearing dog mess and litter, and improving or replacing unsafe stiles), followed by clamping down of the illegal use of motor bikes and other motorized vehicles.

Other priorities include better signage and reducing fragmentation of the network.

To read the full report click Essex PROW Improvement Plan pdf