Meet the Team Caring for Your Countryside Paths

Wooden Footpath signThese strange times have seen many more local residents discovering the many public rights of way that cross the beautiful North Hampshire countryside around Whitchurch. For many this is a new experience and so it seemed the perfect time to introduce to you the Countryside Rangers and the town’s team of Walkers are Welcome volunteers that help maintain our network of footpaths, bridleways and byways.

In Hampshire we are fortunate to have over 4,500km of public footpaths, bridleways and byways and the entire network is available to view on the Hampshire Definitive Footpath Map; RIGHTS OF WAY just drag to position and zoom in.

Meet the Countryside Rangers

Whitchurch is covered by the Northern Area Access Ranger Team  – Mitch, Abi and Gemma. You may have met Mitch and Abi whilst out and about (usually with a chainsaw in hand) – these guys are always super busy working on reported issues such as fallen trees, bridges and boardwalks. Their natural habitat being woodland, green spaces and the Public Right of Way network.

MitchHi, my name is Mitch and I am an Access Ranger for the North Area Access Team. I have been Rangering in one form or another for about twenty years. I work on a daily basis alongside my colleague Abi.

Our work is very diverse with day to day jobs such as waymarking, mowing or clearing up fallen trees and working with volunteers. We also carry out larger projects such as resurfacing work or the installation of bridges. It is the diversity of the work that I enjoy the most. We also get to see some beautiful parts of the Hampshire countryside and its wildlife.

Whitchurch Walkers are Welcome are very grateful for the help and assistance Mitch has given the town’s volunteers, particularly with the heavier improvement work involving specialist equipment.

AbiMy name is Abi and I have the job of my dreams! I’ve been an Assistant Countryside Access Ranger working alongside Mitch for almost 3 years.  I love my job for many different reasons – no day is ever the same and I get to work in all weathers (come rain or shine) . My favourite part is being able to explore Hampshire’s vast Rights of Way network and clearing up fallen trees. I find my work incredibly fulfilling and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing my work is making the countryside more accessible for others to enjoy.

Abi recently helped to restablish access across path 30 (Longmeadow Track towards Southfield Farm). The landowner had fenced across the path some years ago and this had gone unreported.

GemmaMy name is Gemma and I am one of the Community Engagement Rangers for Hampshire Countryside Service. My role includes preparing, organising and running volunteer tasks on our Public Rights of Way, promoting volunteering to different audiences and managing Path Wardens.

Gemma has recently taken over this role and many of the town’s volunteers have already had the pleasure of working alongside her. We expect to see a lot more of Gemma when the social distancing rules are relaxed!

Our footpaths need to be maintained, but with such a large network, and restricted council budgets, volunteer help has been essential in ensuring that the paths remain open.

Whitchurch Walkers are Welcome volunteers have been active in helping to improve and maintain the local footpath network since the town’s accreditation as a Walkers are Welcome town in autumn 2015. Paths are walked regularly and any problems are either dealt with or flagged up with Hampshire County Council. 

P1010925(1)Whitchurch Town Council are currently able to nominate  5 Priority Paths for vegetation cutting once a year; this work is carried out by contractors usually between late May and July. In recent years the town’s volunteers have covered a further 5/6 paths of the inner path network and troubleshoot further afield, where they are able. This collaboration with the Access Team is not unique to Whitchurch, there are similar volunteer teams across much of the area and all are contributing to keeping the footpaths accessible for people to enjoy. 

There will be much to do on the footpaths by the time the social distancing rules are relaxed. Vegetation will have encroached and the Priority Path clearance across the area is likely to be delayed. The town’s volunteers are expecting to be very busy; if you would like to volunteer for litter picking, vegetation clearance or footpath maintenance work we would like to hear from you. Whitchurch Walkers are Welcome provide hand tools and have Public Liability Insurance for the general work they undertake. Other tasks are tackled alongside the Rangers and volunteers are then covered by Hampshire County Council.

Please contact Jackie or Barry, Walkers are Welcome co-ordinators at www.walkersarewelcome@whitchurchassociation.org.uk  or  Hampshire Countryside via https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryside/volunteering

Walkers-Are-Welcome official logo from town website