Whist clearly this blog is not in the same league as the “Lynx Effect” Path Watch is clearly having some effect. Our aim of improving the humble ramblers lot in the Holme Valley slowly progresses. Signs going up, some obstructions removed and although there are Some Quality Control Issues. the examples below are positive.
The thing is most of the issues being picked up are fairly minor and easily fixable without going to any great expense. But left untended my generation may be the last to know these quiet corners of the local countryside.
Back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s I began exploring the public path network in the North York Moors national Park. Armed with a tatty 1 inch to the mile OS map,youthful enthusiasm and navigation skills learned from a stint serving Queen & Country in the Army Cadets what could possibly go wrong?
Looking back many of the paths I tried to follow had fallen into disuse,were unsigned, not waymarked and obstructed. It was clear I might have been the only fool along many of them for years. The state of those paths back then is almost identical to a large proportion of the path network in Kirklees in 2019.
However the North York Moors paths have been transformed in the intervening 40 years into an attractive,used and usable network. It’s worthwhile to ponder why this is so.
Clearly the National Park has a much narrow remit than a Metropolitan local authority and access to the countryside is a core part of it’s role. On the down side national parks have never been well funded in the UK and have a fraction of the resources of local councils.
Kirklees and it’s predecessor authorities have gone through billions of pounds in the same time period and have have spent millions on public rights of way. Not so long ago there was a well staffed Countryside Unit, Rights of Way Unit (12 staff!), Cycling Officers etc etc. It can’t be said that Kirklees haven’t put the resources in. So what’s gone wrong?
Politics and culture seem to be responsible. Despite North Yorkshire being run by the Huntin’,Shootin’,Fishin’ brigade politically, their National Parks are managed by professionals who actually believe in what they are doing. Clearly no amount of “Get of my land” type assaults have deterred them and the results are plain to see.
Ironically in the People’s Republic of Kirklees control has mostly rested with the Commissars of Batley, Dewsbury and Huddersfield who have always been ambivalent about public rights of way. This was aptly demonstrated with the onset of austerity when the first budgets to be cut were Countryside Unit and prow maintenance closely followed by other unvalued services such as libraries.
This cultural ambivalence towards the countryside pervades the management structures at Kirklees and undermines frontline staff at every turn. The results of this are plain to see out on the network.
Austerity has been a godsend to the political masters and senior managers at Kirklees. In their unhinged view of the world it lets them off the hook for nearly 70 years of maladministration on public rights of way whilst justifying a future of severe neglect if they are allowed to get away with it. On a more positive note it’s only 72 days to Brexit when presumably all this will be fixed as we’re back in control?
Path Watch had always thought the complete lack of helpful waymarking on Kirklees paths was just the Council not doing its job but we were wrong!
It’s true to say that no walker in Kirklees has ever seen more than one waymarker at the same time on any footpath and Path Watch can now reveal the reason why. We’ve had an exclusive chat with the Councils Strategic Director of Pointy Arrows, Frank Heap-Big-Lost.
We smoked a peace pipe at the Town Hall with Heap-Big-Lost who told us that there is in fact only one council waymark on the entire 800 odd miles of public rights of way in the district. But thanks to some “white man’s magic” (a van? Ed) this single waymark, known as Wally, is regularly moved around the area to give the impression that there are hundreds.
“It’s an old Indian trick” said Heap-Big-Lost “to make it look like we out number the enemy.”
Heap-Big-Lost told us that Ramblers can claim a free prize copy of the Council’s Public Rights of Way Improvement Plan if Wally Waymark is spotted 3 times in one walk . Taking a last puff on the Prow peace pipe Heap-Big-Lost gave Path Watch the benefit of his First Nation wisdom “You might want to avoid Wally Waymark after 2 sightings”.
Whilst it is good to see a few footpath obstructions being cleared in the valley it is tempered to a degree by the quality of work carried out. An example is the removal of the weird fence/stile hybrid above but the leaving in place of barbed wire on the slope leading to the new gap and around the posts to either side. It’s a bit like being swallowed by a rural jaws when walking through. You wouldn’t want to wear that new jacket you got at Christmas.
Similarly swapping a couple of hefty pallets with nails sticking out shown below for a gate is great. But….
Look at the gate! I’ll be surprised if it stands up for 18 months and why the barbed wire wrapped around the hanging post?
There is a British Standard specification for gates on public paths and amongst other things it requires barbed wire to be at least 1 metre away from the structure. The British Standard was revised in 2018 and made the needs of landowners more explicit. Both the National Farmers Union and Country landowners association were involved in revising the standard.
The examples here are not isolated incidents. Regrettably even when the council does have an opportunity to influence structures for the better through it’s enforcement work it still falls well short of a nationally agreed standard. Why is that ? (Don’t ask me 🙂 )
The gate below was authorised by the council following the removal of an obstructing fence. It does not meet the British Standard on a few points not least the padlock and chain!
Path Watch is pleased to announce a major investment in rights of way smart technology in Kirklees with the launch of the Ramsden Roadometer(Patent Pending). Our technicians have managed to place a smart meter on the cock up generators in Civic 3 linked directly to our ground breaking Ramsden Roadometer.
The technology is loosely based on Hughie Green’s famous “Clapometer” and is almost as accurate. The Ramsden Roadometer records pounds spent on nothing by the council rather than audience satisfaction.
At present the Ramsden Roadometer is edging up to £6,000 of public money spent on an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order which the council decided not to enforce after a few days. The figure will rise in the coming weeks when costs of the works on site (now abandoned) are run through the Ramsden Roadometer.
Path Watch is hoping to roll out the Ramsden Roadometer to other council cock ups throughout the year and announce a Christmas Number 1 next December!
Of course like the council the Ramsden Roadometer can’t fix your paths or move obstructions but it is guaranteed cock up free and will not cost you a penny!
In a groundbreaking initiative for 2019 Kirklees Council are rolling out an imaginative scheme across all Council departments called “Resolution Revolution”.
Path Watch spoke to the Councils newly appointed “New Years Resolution Zsar” Mr Hogmanay First-Foot. “My job is to assist and monitor the Council’s New Years Resolutions across all it’s departments for 2019. I’m here to help each department to be the best Council department it can be moving forward into 2019” Mr First-Foot told the blog.
Hogmanay went on to outline his Resolution Revolution at Kirklees “Did you know 90% of new year resolutions only make it to February? As I’m new to the job I can’t see Kirklees getting that far but my Everest for the Council is to get to at least January 7th which given we’re all off until then is a realistic goal”
Path Watch asked Hogmanay what Resolutions he had in mind in the public rights of way area. He told us that after careful consideration it was felt that no tall,dark stranger with a piece of coal could bring enough luck to sort the continuing cock ups out and he was therefore giving the Council a gap year from public footpaths just to be on the safe side.