Volunteers help keep countryside visitors on the right path
Oxfordshire is home to some amazing countryside and getting out to experience it in all its glory is made easier by a dedicated band of volunteers who work closely with the county council to maintain our rich network of paths
There are around 2,600 miles of public rights of way such as footpaths and bridleways across Oxfordshire with over 2,000 bridges, 6,000 finger posts and 7,000 gates – all of which take a great deal of effort to keep in good order.
With a limited budget targeted at carrying out the highest priority work volunteer groups play a major role in making sure that the little things that matter in the countryside get done.
Massive network kept in good order
Maintaining such a massive network would only be possible with the help of around 350 volunteers who work all year round to trim back the undergrowth, fix fences and gates and report back to the county council with any problems they can’t deal with themselves.
There are several such groups across the county as well as ‘parish path wardens’ in nearly every parish in Oxfordshire.
Two of the most established groups are the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens who cover the whole of the Cotswolds including the west of our county and the Chiltern Society's South Chilterns Path Maintenance Volunteers (SCPMV) who work across the southern Chilterns, which includes the attractive hilly countryside that encroaches into our county.
Good work shows no signs of stopping
In the last year their team has spent around 1,800 hours installing gates, carrying out repairs and clearing paths and their determination to help people to enjoy the countryside unhindered shows no sign of stopping.
County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “These people really get stuck into their work and have a genuine love for their local area – when people walk down a path or see a new gate in the countryside they may well be looking at the work of a volunteer.
“We work very closely with groups like the South Chilterns Path Maintenance Volunteers (SCMPV) and make a contribution to their expenses. Our officers meet with them regularly and help them find funding to pay for some of the things that they do.
“The relationship between Oxfordshire County Council and SCMPV is mutually supportive; without SCPMV, we would not be able to provide the quality path network we do, and without the support of county council officers including legal advice, landowner negotiations and practical guidance, it would be increasingly difficult for the volunteers’ efforts to be directed to where they are of most use.
“Quite simply they enhance the resources that the county council has and make a massive contribution to people’s experiences when they go out and about.
“Anyone reading this should take a trip to one of the areas in which the volunteers work and see for themselves what they have done and perhaps consider joining a group themselves.”
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