Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best foot forward

An article published in 'Inside Wilmslow & Alderley Edge' magazine, and several others in the series

By Vince Chadwick

 Do you walk our local footpaths? Do you ever wonder who maintains them; who cuts back the brambles and the nettles, keeps the stiles in good order, or installs those nifty ‘kissing gates’ that are increasingly replacing stiles to make walking easier for those whose knees are not as flexible as they were? It’s our local council, Cheshire East who oversee this; in particular, the Public Rights Of Way (PROW) team. They work with farmers and landowners to ensure hedges and other overgrowth are cut back, stiles and gates are in good order, paths are clearly way marked, and that they are not obstructed.

We are fortunate that PROW take their responsibilities for our local footpaths seriously. The same isn’t always true elsewhere as anyone who has tried to use footpaths in other parts of the UK may have discovered. But dedicated though PROW are, they are a small team and they have just over 1,900km of public rights of way to oversee, and rely on reports from individuals and organizations such as walking groups to help them ensure that the paths are kept in good order.

One such group is the Alderley Edge, Wilmslow & District Footpath Preservation Society. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but what it boils down to is a bunch of friendly folk who get together on Sunday mornings to walk the paths of East Cheshire. To many of our members, this is just a pleasant country walk of between four and five miles. But the Society, of which I am the Secretary, was founded in 1913 for a particular purpose; to ensure our local rights of way remain open and useable by walkers. In addition, we have played a major role in negotiating the substitute paths needed as a result of developments such as expansion at Woodford Airfield and Manchester Airport, and of the building of the Wilmslow by-pass and the new Alderley Edge by-pass. 

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000), every highway authority in England was required to prepare and publish a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) for its area, to consider how the rights of way network can improve quality of life for all sectors of the community. The former Cheshire County Council published its first ROWIP in 2006, and a revised ROWIP for Cheshire East is currently being prepared by the PROW team, who have asked for help from local walking groups in doing this.


To maximise efficiency, PROW wish to allocate responsibility for checking particular areas of the East Cheshire footpath network to specific groups. These walking groups will report back to PROW in a co-ordinated and consistent manner so that PROW can quickly build up and maintain a database of the condition of all the paths in its area. If you want to be part of this initiative, or even if you just fancy a relatively gentle Sunday morning stroll in our beautiful Cheshire countryside in good company, please join us on one of our walks. If you enjoy it (and you will!), you are welcome to join our society. You can find us at, or call Hilary, our walks organiser, on 01625 583321 for details.



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