Quarterly Bulletin: 1

As the Friends of the Community Forest Path have been in existence for four months, a quarterly Bulletin is overdue – so here goes!

During its first months, the Friends of the Community Forest Path have already achieved results within the unitary authorities around Bristol by virtue of our very existence. I had envisaged work parties out clearing scrub by now, and that is likely to happen soon, but so far the very fact that such a group as ours exists  seems to have stimulated the authorities to clear the scrub for us.

 We are helped by the fact that we are not alone in trying to promote access to the countryside from the urban area – Ron Phelps of the Ramblers recently attended a Bristol Walking Strategy meeting in the Colston Hall, where he found that an audience of local government officers and others was enthusiastic about his proposal to create routes out of the city into the countryside. It is an idea whose time has come.

Another by-product of the formation of the Friends of the Community Forest Path has been a resurgence of interest in the Green Man Challenge – the standing challenge to complete a circuit of the Community Forest Path between dawn and dusk. There are three solo efforts due to take place in March and a group attempt by members of Bristol and District Triathlon Club (BAD Tri). The solo runners are connected to Town and Country Harriers and Mendip Hash House Harriers. BAD Tri have got some hilarious ideas up their sleeves that ought to increase the appeal of the challenge.

The Friends do best when working with others. Our chief partner in mapping the Community Forest Path and the essential loops off it is JLAF (the Joint Local Access Forum). Here we are involved with a sub-committee charged with developing templates for mapping and other publicity materials to promote use of paths, bridleways and cycle tracks. This is likely to bear fruit in the next financial year.

We are also involved with the Public Rights of Way Liaison Groups for Bristol and South Gloucestershire, and with other groups in developing access to the Community Forest Path.

Forest Gateways have proved to be our most powerful tools for putting this into practice. As you may recall, this idea was first promoted locally by the Forest of Avon Partnership under the influence of the national Forests for the Community scheme. We have been able to simplify the idea, because we are concerned with access and are not burdened by the other aims of the Forest of Avon. For us a Forest Gateway is simply a way out of the city into the countryside.

Each of our Gateways leads to the Community Forest Path and at least two circular paths, one clockwise and one anti-clockwise off the Path, which are designed to be accessible to general walkers and runners. There are dozens of potential Gateways, but we have given priority to those Gateways where there is some threat and /or opportunity or other.

St Andrew’s Gateway  This one is really opening up. I attended a meeting of the Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership, which was also attended by Julian Cox of Parks. As a result, a footpath on council owned land that has been blocked by brambles for years has now been marked out and is due to be cleared by contractors during this financial year.  Once this is opened up, it will be possible to create a link from the centre of Bristol via the Malago Green way to Chew Magna and on to the path that is being developed around Chew Lake.

There remain a number of improvements that need to be made to the path between Dundry Slopes and Chew Magna, and there is one field where the path tends to be ploughed.

Lawrence Weston Gateway Acting through Town and Country Harriers in association with the Avon Riding Centre for the disabled, 200 people have been introduced to this neglected piece of countryside within the city boundary and two PROWs have been cleared of brambles. In a separate development, the PROW team has come up with a scheme to improve the FP around Bankleaze School.

There is scope for claiming three additional paths if we play our cards right.

Ashton Gateway Here the threat brought about by the proposed new football stadium is balanced by the opportunity to secure a connecting stream side walk alongside Colliter’s Brook through the site of the old stadium. I doubt that we can succeed in holding up the stadium for long, even if it were in our interests to do so, as there seems to be a political consensus in favour of the stadium and Mr Lansdowne seems to have liquidated enough assets to see the project through. Our role here is mainly to support those in the authority who share our aim of improving off-road access alongside the Brook and out into the countryside.

However, we continue to support the Ashton Vale Heritage Group in their struggle.

Our next target here is the tunnel under the railway, which we hope will become a shrine of some sort – possibly Buddhist – we are looking into permissions.

Orpen Gateway  Here a locked gate blocked a long distance green route across Bristol. The gate is still locked to protect a building site from drug dealers and fly-tippers, but it now carries a prominent sign describing an alternative route and acknowledging a public right of way. The path will be restored after the houses are built (start date is supposed to be June.)

This is potentially part of a Victory Path between Horfield Church and Stockwood open space and on to meet the Community Forest Path in Dundry.

Charlton Gateway This is an official Forest of Avon Gateway threatened by an office development associated with the new Concorde Museum. A relationship has been established with Patchway Town Council to sort this one. Paradoxically, a planned housing development on part of the airfield may prove helpful.

There is an opportunity for bramble clearing in association with the Patchway Conservation Group.

If you can offer help or know of any other opportunities to develop Gateways to the Community Forest Path, please get in touch through Chairman Chris Bloor Telephone: 0117 9624088 or E-mail chris_bloor@tiscali.co.uk

4th March 2010

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