Godalming & Haslemere Ramblers

Footpath Reports

Work Party Report for AGM 2018

I am happy to report that once again your workparty stalwarts have toiled their way through a year of challenging weather. Rain, blazing sun, strong winds but they don't bother us; after all we're RAMBLERS. Altogether we put in 98 man/woman days just short of the 101 we achieved last year.

We cleared bracken, briar, nettles, grass and ubiquitous brambles and other assorted vegetation from Frillinghurst Wood, Hydon's Ball, behind the piggeries on Vann Lane, the footpath South of Witley church, footpath at Alfold, footpath north of Cranleigh golf club, the hillside over the top from Hascombe, the footpath near Markwick lane, at Ellen's Green and the footpath opposite the White Horse at Hascombe.

We also installed two kissing-gates which have been donated by the group (both near Dunsfold) and one sculpted kissing-gate which was purchased by the landowner. A drain was installed at the base of an existing kissing-gate to try to dry up the large mud puddle around the gate, and a culvert was cleared and moss and other growths cleaned off a bridge.

Next we come to steps which seemed to feature quite strongly this year.

We had our first experience of trying to build a set of steps out of the latest reclaimed plastic mock wood. Unfortunately, we weren't told the plastic was black and there we were working in a shady, gloomy light trying desperately to see our cutting marks of pencil and light scratches on black plastic. Well there was a period when it looked like we could have sold our efforts to the fairground wobbly house – you know the one where everything is not square – but with some judicious levering and the addition of several more screws and braces we came up with something that looked vaguely like steps.

Then there were the steps which come East off Church Lane, Witley some of which we had prepared earlier, around 2007. Unfortunately, they were now somewhat rotten. So we installed a whole lot of new steps and replaced several more. All done to a detailed plan with instructions of replace step 7 add a new step between 12 and 13 etc. put 2 new steps between 16 and 17 and re-align 17 etc. and much to my surprise it all seemed to work.

Our next set of steps were over the top of the hill to the South of Hascombe, near New Barn. Again these had been previously installed by us this time in 2010. This task really became a bit like ski-training as the steps were situated on a very steep hill and there was a significant amount of sliding going on as we moved up and down the hill with tools and materials. Our first attempt to fit steps directly on the slope failed so we decided we had to dig the steps into the hill. This did need quite a lot of material to be dug out and it was quite balletic at times with people slowly sliding down the hill whilst simultaneously throwing shovelfuls of soil off to the side.

We installed a new handrail (without the steps) up the hill opposite the White Horse to replace the one we did earlier in July 2008.

Finally we have bridges. We are getting quite good at bridges and this year we replaced the decking and bearer strips on two bridges; one at Alfold and one north of Cranleigh golf club. In our spare time we also installed eight waymarks and one finger post.

Thanks once again to all our volunteers for the great work done throughout the year.

Now as always we are still looking for new volunteers, you don't have to be super fit or particularly skilled but it helps to have a sense of humour and an intense dislike of brambles.

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

Saturday, December 15, 2018