Work was ongoing to finish the design of the Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2 (ROWIP2) and it was close to being finalised. Due to GDPR regulations, a new picture would be taken of LCAF members as the current one was over two years old. Members confirmed they were happy for their photograph to be used in the publication, which would be distributed as hard copies and made available online.
It was noted that a big publicity campaign would be done to celebrate the launch of the new publication.
An update was given on the actions completed so far:
ROW for all:
- A map showing furniture (e.g. step-over stiles) and accessibility was being created which would be made available to the public as an online map on BFCs website. Volunteer Path Wardens were collecting the data as part of their BVPI monitoring of Rights of Way and this was then being captured on GIS.. The map would also include dates of when it was updated so improvements carried out over time could be monitored.
- The P&C rangers and volunteers (e.g. South East Berkshire Ramblers) continue to work in partnership to improve the accessibility and Rights of Way. This includes removing inaccessible squeeze and step-over stiles and where appropriate installing accessible pedestrian / bridle gates.. Path surfaces had also continued to be improved. The forum was informed about the replacement of the bridge at Shepherd Meadows. The new bridge has been designed to be more accessible to the public and it is hoped that it would last a long time. The additional path works carried out to further improve accessibility at this site is part of SANG improvement works.
- The newish kissing gates at Wildmoor Heath were mentioned as being less accessible than what is usually desired. It was noted that the boardwalks had normal accessible pedestrian gates on the other side, which meant that those with disabilities could travel to the end and have to turn around due to the reduced access. It was confirmed that it was the landowner who installed the gates and it would be their responsibility to address this, a fact which would be recorded.
(Action: Graham Pockett to contact Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) about the kissing gate and about the potential to add a sign on the other end of the footpath advising users about the reduced access of the kissing gate)
It was reported that there had been some improvements carried out to Allsmoor Lane to make it more accessible. New surfaced paths had been created at Pope’s Meadow to improve access at this Green Flag Award winning site and Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). Both of these improvements were delivered using s106 funding.
An update was given on Devil’s Highway following a report at the last meeting that the surface of the Restricted Byway (RB) was in a poor state of repair and was almost impassable in places. This particularly applied to the section of the RB that allowed access to the Crown Estate owned car park, which was being damaged by heavy motorised vehicular use.
A meeting had taken place between The Crown Estate and Bracknell Forest Council to discuss how to best address this issue. It was noted that historically this was a Forestry Commission car park and the issue of the degrading surface (of both the RB and the car park) was a long-standing and costly issue to address. The Crown Estate gave justification of why providing access to Crowthorne Forest from this location was detrimental to the condition of the Special Protection Area (SPA).In light of these points both parties agreed that they should close access to motorised vehicles along this section of RB, which would mean also closing the car park. They acknowledged that there was demand for parking access in this area, which would be addressed via a new public car park being provided as part of the TRL SANG development.The new car park is off Old Wokingham Road and there’s space for around 20 cars. The closing of the current facilities would coincide with the opening of the new car park at the end of July.
It was noted that fly-tipping and littering was also an issue in this location which could be addressed by restricting vehicular access. The Crown Estate would spend 2 days each year litter picking here, as well as the Crown Estate Rangers regularly picking up fly-tipped waste.
The restricted byway will be restored to its intended function by narrowing the width and improving the surface of the right of way. Encouraging vegetation on the margins will improve the rural character. Hoggin from the closed car park could be used to create an improved surface for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
It was confirmed that the new surface would be suitable for its intended users, including horse drawn carriages. It was legally permissible to take a carriage down that that section but the first stage would be to design a mechanism to prevent motorised vehicles but allow horse drawn carriages. Talks were ongoing with local landowners to see if this could happen.
It was noted that progress was moving forward in partnership between The Crown Estate and the Council in a cost effective way.
Residents would not be able to walk out of the SANG but the SANG will have a new a varied walk.
It was emphasised that any decisions taken recently by The Crown Estate have not been specifically to restrict access to recreational opportunities, but to address issues caused by informal parking in and around Crown Estate land. For example, informal parking and increased number of visitors was causing potential public safety issues and was adding increasing pressures on the SPA.
Routes and Links
A path had been proposed at Cabbage Hill SANG which would go to Hazelwood Lane. Currently the only way to get between two sites is along Forest Road and there are no safe grass verges to walk on.. Thames Water own land north of Forest Road that could accommodate a permissive path which would also give access opportunities to the northern areas of Bracknell. There would be some furniture work to be done and some signs to highlight pedestrians crossing to make it safer.
It was noted that this had been looked into previously by Graham Pockett and Thames Water were initially supportive but had not made progress with the land. Thames Water were also starting to think about the commercial value of the area which meant that although the path could be permissible, it would not necessarily be permanent.
The current Biodiversity Officer Iain Crump would be contacted by Graham Pockett.
(Action: Graham Pockett)
It was questioned whether Warfield Parish Council and LCAF would help encourage it along.
It was noted that there were no horse facilities at the Cabbage Hill end of the route which should be approached with caution therefore it would be a footpath and cycle path only. The possibility of creating a bridleway on the edge of Cabbage Hill SANG to West End Lane should be investigated to give a through route between existing bridelways and quiet lanes.
It was confirmed that LCAF supported the action listed above and would send a letter to Thames Water. From experience, results had been positive after writing to the Chief Executive and this approach would be taken. A copy would also be sent to the Biodiversity officer.
(Action: Colin Bird)
Information and marketing
So far there had been 10 publicised ranger led walks and publicity for national bike week. The publicity included highlighting how cycle ways link open spaces.
Request was made by Colin Bird for BFC to advertise the WOW! Week of Walks, which are organised by The Bracknell Forest Society
Hugh Fitzwilliams was currently leading rambler walks on Tuesdays. The opportunity to brand these walks as being led by LCAF was discussed.
It was suggested that appointing a social media champion on the Forum would help LCAF and BFC to identify and promote local recreation and access opportunities. Colin Bird offered to take on this position and he will provide relevant updates to Rose Wicks.
(Action: Colin Bird and Rose Wicks)
It was noted that Phil Burke would be delivering a cycle event on 28 June at Waitrose with free MOTs for bicycles and would include a bike which blends smoothies by pedalling.
The concerns regarding the issue of fly-tipping along Hazelwood Lane was discussed. The section of the Bridleway is an access track for Thames Water vehicles to the sewage treatment plant. Thames Water had initially requested that BFC clear the latest fly-tips, but BFC had presented them with historic evidence that Thames Water had agreed it was their responsibility to address this issue, as it was the vehicular access that was leading to the problem. Thames Water had informed BFC that they were going to install electronic bollards which would allow for their vehicles, and to users of the bridleway, but would prevent unauthorised use of the bridleway by fly-tippers.
Preserve Rural Character
Avery Lane was going to be crossed by a new road leading to the new Newell Green housing development. This would cross the middle of the byway so a traffic regulation order would be put in place to stop motorised vehicles using it and give a proper waiting area for horses by the road with a carefully designed crossing.
Watersplash lane would also be closed to vehicles and there will be a temporary diversion put in place by Redrow for the duration of the construction works and it would then will reopen the RoW to cyclists pedestrians and horse riders following completion.
It was recommended that messages should be circulated via social media as this would be a temporary measure and a permanent solution would be put in place as part of a long term plan.
This was looking to happen in around 6-8 weeks once the order was in place.
It was noted that updates on how development will affect Bridleway 26 (Hedge Lane) would reported on at the next LCAF meeting.
The Forum was shown new cycle way pictures by Amen Corner North which now had disabled access.
Colin had attended a meeting set up by P&C senior ranger Chris Swatridge, that proposed the idea of setting up a new Bracknell Forest Green Spaces Forum. A talk was given by the chairman of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces on this matter. The feeling was that, that there had been a slightly disappointing turn out at this event. Most people who did attend were already part of environmental or conservation volunteer groups who already had a good network of contacts. The attendees took away an action to create a distribution and communication list, but enthusiasm was limited.
It was noted that the Forum could be a good platform for communicating between council activities, The Crown Estate and volunteer groups to tell them what is going on e.g. changes to footpaths.
There wasn’t much co-ordination between voluntary groups currently and the Forum could improve this.
(Action: Steven would follow-up with Chris Swatridge)
The LCAF recruitment leaflet was being continued and Rose would keep distributing as much as possible.
(Action: Rose Wicks)