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December 2022

Stinsford Parish Council December 2022

Footpaths and bridleways are important in any rural parish. This is especially so in Stinsford because of its proximity to Dorchester. While much of the footpath network is heavily used more remote areas leading up to Waterston Ridge and the Northern Ridgway track attracted many more walkers during the pandemic as residents sought quieter less well used locations. (Please click on the Footpaths and bridleways tab on this website.)

Last year the parish council did an assessment of much of the rights of way network and submitted the results to Dorset Council. The submission listed blockages and other issues. Not surprisingly footpaths and bridleways appear at several points in the Stinsford Neighbourhood Plan. Most of the section recording what residents considered as ‘important local views’ are identified from the footpaths network. It is from the footpath, more than anywhere, that is possible to survey the rich and diverse landscape of the parish from the high sweeping downland to the north to Thorncombe Wood and the water meadows in the south.

There are still issues with the footpath network. There are safety concerns especially where bridleways cross existing roads. Project 6 in the Stinsford Neighbourhood Plan calls for a 20mile speed limit on roads crossed by bridleways. The high usage of the network around Higher and Lower Bockhampton, Stinsford and Thorncombe Woods suggest a need to expand the area that is frequented by footpath users. This would mean creating safe crossing places to reconnect footpaths severed by the A35 so reconnecting the higher and lower parts of the parish. It is easy for footpaths to fall out of use where they do not form part of a rational route or offer a pleasant walking environment. Sometimes routes are diverted by landowners with out consent. Even when this is for the best of reasons for the footpath user this can lead to future difficulties in re-establishing a legal right of access.

Besides network issues there can also be problems with the maintenance of footpaths. Paths can be blocked by fallen trees, flooded, made unusable by cattle, difficult to find because of a lack of signage  and so on. One issue that the parish council has addressed recently is the maintenance of the river bank at Lower Brockhampton. We want to ensure that bridleways are safe for pedestrians with adequate and sustainable surfacing to allow for cyclists and horses. Likewise styles and narrow, difficult or badly rutted tracks can act to block footpaths and access to the countryside for people with mobility issues or pushing buggies.

In a relatively large rural parish, identifying issues about the maintenance of the network and indeed about any gaps in the network invariably depends on information provided to the parish council by residents. The message is simple – please let us know of any issues that you come across while out walking or any gaps in footpath provision that you feel could create a more joined up network.

Of course addressing footpath and bridleway issues like so much else is very often dependent on having councillors to raise issues and pursue them with the rights of way team at Dorset Council. Currently there are three vacant seats on Stinsford Parish Council. If you think that acting as a councillor could be of interest to you then please contact myself, any of the other parish councillors or the parish clerk and we would be happy to talk through what is involved.

Sarah Pattison,Chair, Stinsford Parish Council