Godalming & Haslemere Ramblers

Footpath Reports

Work Party Report October 2017

In June we were at Hascombe, installing two kissing gates, to avoid a seriously muddy section of track. Whilst there, we did note that, alongside the bridleway, there were a large number of giant hogweed plants, which were obviously spreading.

July was rest days and holidays because, in spite of lots of effort, we could not get landowners’ agreement to proceed with any of our several choices of task.

In August, we had the prospect of a nice simple summer task to replace three stiles at Chiddingfold. The day dawned sunny and dry—an ideal day—that was until we found that the ground was like rock, there were tree roots everywhere, the vegetation was a complete tangle of brambles and branches and it was blazing hot. Amazingly, even the copious amount of sweating didn’t seem to loosen the soil. We persevered, but the end of the day saw some seriously tired volunteers heading off for a nice cup of tea and a lie-down.

September saw us at Dunsfold, replacing two stiles, repairing one and installing one kissing gate, whilst cutting back various forms of vegetation. The day started cool and wet in all senses. We had temporarily parked in front of a nearby kennels (waiting for John, our SCC rep, to arrive and confirm that we could park up the road in front of the manor house) when the owner came out and tore a strip off us for blocking his drive. So we moved to a nearby forestry road, only to be immediately met by a forestry worker who needed access. However, it all ended well and we successfully parked up and got the jobs done. Plus it didn’t rain all day and the kennel owner apologised to John, saying he was having a bad day.

Next, after much waiting and pressurising, September also saw the culmination of lots of people’s efforts, with us ready to install some gabions (wire cages filled with stones) at Busbridge Lakes. This job is aimed at reinstating the bridleway, closed for a number of years. Initial interest from our volunteers was high, as this was going to be a somewhat novel experience. However, as the day dawned, the surplus of volunteers had quietly vanished and we were left with a hardy four, plus one friend, and only six tonnes of rock to place. The rocks were wheel-barrowed to the site by some sturdy volunteers from Surrey Choices. At first, we couldn’t get the wheelbarrows close to the job and ended up throwing three tonnes of limestone rocks up the hill next to the gabions. This was our warm-up exercise. Then we had to lift the rocks into the gabions. For the second load of three tonnes, we managed to run the wheelbarrows up a rather precarious sleeper and did get closer, but we still had to lift them all into the gabions. No need for any more exercise for the rest of the week; just a long soak and gentle straightening of backs

Work Party Report June 2017

February saw your enthusiastic team shake off the sloth of winter and start hacking through the vegetation, replacing several steps and refurbishing a bridge near Sydenhurst Farm at Chiddingfold. As part of the bridge task we spent a fair amount of time on our hands and knees brushing and scrubbing all the bridge planks to remove accumulated moss and debris and at the end it looked sparklingly clean. However on behalf of the team I must say that this should not be taken as us revealing a skill for scrubbing floors—this was an entirely different skill.

March saw us back in Chiddingfold revisiting two stiles and some steps we had installed in 2008 and replacing them with kissing gates and new steps. Hopefully the new kissing gates will last longer than the old stiles otherwise we are going to just keep going round our last nine years of work replacing stuff yet again as the wood rots out.

A change of scene then saw us in Alfold clearing vegetation and fitting two kissing gates and finger posts. Part of the vegetation clearing was alongside a path which we had cleared in February 2016 where we had removed a barbed wire fence (with Surrey’s permission because they had just bought the adjoining field for development of a care centre). So what do I find when I go to check the sterling work done by our veg cutters? Surrey CC (probably through their contractors) had removed the original fence and re-instated a barbed wire fence even closer to the hedge causing a real hazard for walkers. Cue an irate letter to the countryside team saying how come they can’t control their own work, let alone landowners. I am assured they are looking into the problem.

May found us tackling yet more step repairs, this time at Grayswood, on a path where, after a couple of years waiting, they have finally tackled the drainage problems. Fortunately, the weather had been very dry and the drainage works had settled down, so we missed out on another mud experience—hurrah!

Don’t forget that, with the continuing slashing of the Surrey Countryside budget, there is plenty of work to go round, so why not come and try out a new exercise regime with the Work Party Step aerobics class or the vegetation swing, snip and move formation team?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017