Volunteers clear the way for countryside walkers

Spring is on its way and Oxfordshire’s countryside is preparing to bloom and blossom once again making it a great place to visit for a quick walk or day out.

If you are new to Oxfordshire’s great outdoors and want to take your first steps into the countryside you can find out more about what’s on offer here: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/public-site/countryside

All you need to do to get started is find a location or footpath you like the look of and give it a go. Spring is a good time to start as the weather and light is improving and, if you really get into it, you will see how the different plants, trees, animals and insects appear as the season progresses.

Keeping it all in good shape

So with nature doing its best to put on a good show there’s always lots of work to be done to keep paths, signs, fences and gates in good order – have you ever wondered who the unseen people were who did all that?

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 – many of which are looked after by a dedicated band of volunteers who work closely with the county council.

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.

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.

Why not join in and help out?

There are several volunteer groups across the county as well as ‘parish path wardens’ in nearly every parish in Oxfordshire, but there is always something to be done and more volunteers are welcome.

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.

To find out if there’s a group near you, and if volunteering could be something you could get into, visit Countryside Access web pages or get in touch

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.”