From the Chairman

Progress on Parish Path Wardens

An initiative in which the Society members have played an important role has been our contribution to the development of the Parish Path Warden network throughout the county, working in partnership with the Oxfordshire Area Ramblers and the Countryside Access Team of Oxfordshire County Council.

Following a survey, we noted that three years ago only a handful of the County’s parishes, located in the Vale of White Horse and Cherwell District areas, reported the equivalent of a PPW in place. On the other hand some parishes in the Chilterns Hills in South Oxfordshire and those in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in West Oxfordshire have benefitted from volunteers working in the Chiltern Society and as Cotswold Wardens.

Seeking to address this state of affairs we sent out letters and posters,asking Parish Clerks to pin these on their Parish Notice boards, inviting people to volunteer to become a PPW. OFS and Rambler Newsletters also asked for volunteers to come forward as PPW volunteers.

The response was encouraging so, in May 2013, we organised a pilot Day Workshop to take place at Wroxton Village Hall, near Banbury. Building on the success of our first workshop, similar Workshop Days were held at Horspath, on October 5th, Eynsham, on October 26th, and Tiddington, in March of this year. We devoted the morning session to short talks on how to access the County’s PRoW Definitive Map and Statement, and how to use the online Interactive Map. Then came a talk from a County Field Officer about his/her responsibilities, and a discussion of the PPW Guidelines.

The afternoon consisted of a practical session - a short circular walk led by the County Field Officer to demonstrate some of the typical footpath issues. Our four workshops have attracted more than 50 participants. The next workshop which is scheduled for Saturday September 20th takes place at East Hanney Village Memorial Hall.

The Countryside Access Team has produced large scale (1:10,000) maps for every single parish, showing the number and the location of every Public Right of Way. This is a valuable reference aid for our PPWs, and maps have now been distributed to every PPW in the county. The format of the list of unresolved footpath problems for each parish has been modified to make it more user-friendly. We have also amended the Guidelines so that PPWs have a clear understanding of how to go about reporting and checking problems.

Recently we received a request from the Countryside Access Team to survey a number of ‘Promoted Walks’ throughout the county, details of which can be found on the Team’s website. A similar exercise has been undertaken on the Oxfordshire Way, which stretches for 67 miles from the west of the County, traversing some 36 parishes, before reaching Henley-on-Thames in the south. The PPWs of those parishes through which the Oxfordshire Way runs have been asked to check the accuracy of the description and to identify any problems found on the route. This is a very similar task to the survey of the d’Arcy Dalton Way, which Society members undertook some time ago, and to the surveys the Society undertakes of various sections of the Oxford Green Belt Way on behalf of the CPRE.

About 75% of Oxfordshire’s parishes now have a PPW in place, and most of the parishes without PPWs are located on the fringes of the County.

If any OFS member wishes to have more information about the role of the PPW please contact me.