Many Shaftesbury residents love walking along our wooded slopes, ancient hollow ways and sunken lanes. And Shaftesbury Town Council want’s you to tell them which ones aren’t good enough.
In the last year, the town’s Walking For Health group has extended its programme of guided walks. Up to forty locals regularly turn out for each of their short strolls or strides. And on Sunday, the next stretch of the White Hart Link footpath, which circles North Dorset, will open between Blandford and Shaftesbury.
Shaftesbury Town councillor, George Hall, says he appreciates how important walking is for both locals and tourists and he wants us to report the Shaftesbury paths that urgently require Council attention. “It is one of the biggest activities in Dorset. People come to this place to walk and use the outdoor space. We live in a fabulous part of the world. Let’s get out there and enjoy it,” he says.
George chairs Shaftesbury Town Council’s Recreation and Open Spaces Committee and he wants to compile a list of routes that require remedial action. “I know, having a labrador and being out on those paths, that some are in great nick while some need work and ‘tlc’. There are some around Breach Common and on the Eastern Development going into Wiltshire that are blocked. We want to draw up a list of our top three targets,” said George.
George accepts that Breach Common presents a challenge. “Just by its very nature, it’s a common that is not farmed because it is so wet. In the summer its paths are hard but in the winter, especially if there is a wet period, there can be thick, horrid mud that is quite a few feet deep. They have done some work down there recently but it’s a process of continual improvement.”
George says repair work will be appropriate and residents need not worry that these paths will be concreted over. “It’s just a case of ensuring that the access is good, including the stiles. The paths need to be clear and safe.”
Not all of the poorly paths are in rural locations. George is concerned about the steps that link New Road and Yeatman’s Lane. “They are pretty horrid,” said George. “In the last year we’ve tried to get the Dorset Rangers in there to improve them. We will continue to work with them. I wouldn’t say that they are the safest, especially when it is wet.”
Obviously routes into Wiltshire are beyond the Town Council and Dorset County Council’s authority. “It is difficult for us to commit manpower or finances if the paths are on somebody else’s land. There is a body of work to do with landowners and both Wiltshire and Dorset councils,” said George.
George says that once locals have responded, Shaftesbury Town Council staff will tackle the worst offending footpaths. “We will allocate resource, whether that’s financial or our own labour, into improving these, so we can encourage everybody in Shaftesbury to get out onto the footpaths and enjoy what is so fabulous about the town – our green, open spaces and the views that we all have and love.”
You can report paths for improvement to the Town Hall by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
George says work should be underway later this autumn. “Our Grounds Team do have spare capacity within the winter months when they’re not grass cutting or doing other works. They can look at these projects and see what we can do.”