During our recce for the February work party (near Springbok Farm around Dunsfold), we came across a footpath (FP411) which was being seriously restricted by vegetation from a household hedge and a barbed wire fence which had been installed inside the field fence. We decided to challenge the location of this barbed wire fence and Alan (our Surrey County Council rep) went off to find out about the landowner and make contact about the fence. Success—it turned out that the land owner was Surrey County Council who had just purchased the property for it to be made into a respite care home.
So in February we installed another kissing gate, removed an old stile, placed the revetment in front of two kissing gates, installed an extra sleeper, repaired the planking on a footbridge and removed the barbed wire fence and gave the hedge a serious cut-back. A good day’s work.
March was all change again. Alan Brown had moved on and Nicky Scott was back from her travels to act as our SCC rep. This time we were just north of Ewhurst at Isemongers Farm, installing two kissing gates, one of which appeared to span the line of an underground high voltage cable. So we eventually got everyone assembled at the farm and set off for the gates, plus some veg clearance and checking of way marks, then the heavens opened and it poured down (which it did almost all day, with occasional interludes of sleet). It turned out the choice was either deep sticky mud or careful digging looking out for high voltage cables, whilst soaking wet using metal tools. It’s a tribute either to the amount of hard work everyone was doing or what a hardy bunch these ramblers are, that no one suffered from exposure that day.
April must mean that the weather is improving and things are looking up—well, yes and no. The weather was certainly better and we trooped off to Holmbury St Mary to erect a new set of steps, finger posts and waymarks and to clear a blocked section of path on the Greensand Way.
Unfortunately we also learned that Nicky Scott and James Browne, our two key contacts with Surrey County Council, had both resigned, together with another member of the Rights of Way team. Nicky has been our contact and support for work parties for a number of years now and has always shown an unstinting enthusiasm and energy to get the most out of our work parties. This would include her getting up really early to load up vans with materials and tools so she could be at worksites before we arrived, providing doughnuts to keep us all going when we were flagging and dealing with the muddy mess of tools we had thrown in the back of the van at the end of the job. Overall, these resignations mean the loss of vast amounts of local detailed knowledge about our footpaths, including the history with various landowners. We sadly said farewell to Nicky at the April work party and are now facing a period of uncertainty whilst we wait to see if SCC can recruit replacements and train them to act as liaison/support for the volunteer teams.
The May work party was cancelled and it looks like all work parties are now on hold until we get some progress from SCC.