Setting Down a Visual Marker – Whitchurch, Hampshire.

Setting Down a Visual Marker – The campaign builds to save the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Whitchurch, Hampshire.

Whitchurch is a gateway town to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which sits on the settlement’s northern boundary. Despite this being a protected landscape, it currently faces a massive threat from opportunist land speculators, trying to develop thousands of houses in this protected area – contrary to national legislation.

Jackie Browne, co-ordinator for Whitchurch Walkers are Welcome says, ‘whilst we all recognise the need for proportionate growth, the proposal to build thousands of houses and industrial units across the walking trails leading to the North Wessex ridge, Watership Down and the Harroway, ‘the old Way’, an ancient long distance chalk trail that dates back some 6,000 years, is simply outrageous, it makes a mockery of the AONB’s protected designation. Increasing the footprint of the town by 33% would destroy its sense of place, its strong rural and heritage identity and threaten the town’s tourism industry.

The campaign to protect the North Wessex Downs AONB at Whitchurch is gathering momentum and has attracted support from notable celebrities including Bill Bryson, who says, “The North Wessex Downs is a rare and lovely landscape, but it is also painfully finite. What a tragedy it would be to lose it.” To remind people of this, Whitchurch Walkers are Welcome and Whitchurch Conservation Group have joined with the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership, to lay down a visual marker and remind people that they are entering a National Protected Landscape.

Other North Wessex Downs Parishes have shown interest and Jackie for one would be happy to see these visual markers at all major gateway points into the AONB.

Pictured alongside Jackie (centre) are David Gosling, Whitchurch Conservation Group, Councillor Lucie Follett Maitland, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Councillor for the ward of Whitchurch, Overton and Laverstoke, Paul Miller, the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council representative to the Council of Partners (CoP) of the NWDAONB, whose aim is to enhance and protect the natural beauty of the AONB and Ann Shepley, Communications Officer for the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership.

Our Walking World by Kate Ashbrook

As delivered to the AGT: 
The pandemic has shown the value of green spaces and paths, and has caused people to walk more than ever. So it is ironic that the government is doing so little to help walking. This year we have been celebrating anniversaries—Offa’s Dyke 50th, Cotswold Way 50th (which was actually last year), and today is the 70th anniversary of the Dartmoor National Park. Ministers then took a real interest in walking, there are photos of them testing out the Pennine Way before it was designated. Today, ministers seem not one bit interested.

The government’s flagship 25-year environment plan, launched in January 2018, pledged that it would make sure that our natural environment ‘can be enjoyed, used by and cared for by everyone and that there should be high-quality accessible natural spaces close to where people live and work’. So far we have seen little action. Despite fine words during the passage of the agriculture bill, and an assurance that public access is a public good that should be funded from agricultural subsidies, we have yet to see any plan for payments for access. This is a lost opportunity because the funding regime could provide more and better access where it is wanted and needed.

The outdoor bodies tried to get access targets in the Environment Bill but our amendments were opposed. The budget, announced last week, had merely £9 million to create 100 parks, which is a pittance as it will not buy new land and will achieve little.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is struggling, with constantly shifting staff and exiguous legal support. Consequently, it is making no progress on implementing the Deregulation Act 2015 and yet the definitive map cut-off looms, only four years away now. We have a strong case for its deferral or preferably abolition.

Things feel better in Wales where we have sympathetic ministers who are prepared to put money into access. It seems that they will ensure access can be funded under their agricultural grant scheme.

Despite the gloom, Walkers Are Welcome Towns have a vital role to play. We are a movement, we demonstrate the value of walking to local economies, the need for good public transport and good paths and access. We know that highway authorities have no money, but relatively small sums go a long way on access and we can make the case to councillors, the decision makers. So we must work together to impress on national and local government the value of what we do in bringing money to local economies, and creating walking communities.

Photo shows Kate testing her new coat from The Walking Hub, Kington.

Wellington Joins in Telford T50 Children in Need Event

Wellington joined in the Friends of the Telford T50 50 Mile Trail‘s event on October 10th for the BBC Countryfile Ramble for  Children in Need . Each mile of the trail was walked by at least one person on that day.  The total on their Just Giving page is well over their initial target.  Wellington’s secretary organised the whole T50 event and  4 committee members walked a total of about 22 miles.  We hear that Market Weighton also took part  in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  Following the Annual Get-Together, there is a suggestion  to encourage more Walkers are Welcome towns and villages to take part in 2022.

10th Wellington Walking Festival hailed as a success

Wellington (in Shropshire) celebrated their 10th walking festival in September.  The celebration was the last event of the week.  The success can really be judged by smiles and happy participants. There was something for every kind of walker, ranging from a tour of the nearby Wappenshall wharf to a 20 mile hilly walk. The local independent cinema showed  “Wild” to coincide with the festival. Feedback forms received  have been positive about the festival with some suggestions for next year.  Wellington WaW report that: they ran a total of 25 events, and also participated in a shared pre-festival event with Ironbridge Walking Festival, giving 26 events in total;  209  people came , with a total of 472 occurrences of someone doing something in the festival;  they estimate that the total distance walked was a shade under 2000 miles. 

The Quantock Hills Walking Festival 2021

Stowey Walking would like to thank all those who contributed to the success of last weekend’s walking festival in and around the Quantock Hills. The event, which was postponed from 2020 due to Covid-19, was based in Nether Stowey and 88 walkers from all over the country took part. The main sponsors this year were The Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme who provided funding and support and EDF & Somerset Passenger Solutions who supplied transport to some of the walk start points. Walks were led by volunteers from various local charities and organisations such as Sedgemoor Ramblers, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Steart Marshes, The Thomas Poole Library and ‘Walkies and Whistles’ dog walking agency.

Plan your trip to the Pewsey Vale

Newly accredited, Pewsey Vale Tourism Partnership has launched Discover Pewsey Vale – an online planner for your trip to the Vale of Pewsey.

Offering a selection of walking and cycling itineraries, the routes follow recognised walking trails but also take you off on local detours that you otherwise may not find. If you love getting out in the great outdoors, then look no further.
Ranging from one-day up to a week and beyond, there are routes and activities for you to select. With lots of ideas on where to eat, where to stay and local transport options, the itineraries provide you with all the information you need to plan your visit to the beautiful Vale of Pewsey. All the information can be found at www.visitpewseyvale.co.uk/discover-pewsey-vale.
Dawn Wilson, Chair of the Partnership, said, ‘These planned itineraries can be used by visitors or by local people – there are lots of ideas for people to use and adapt to suit their speed and the time available to them. They include self-guides for places of interest, as well as GPX files for use on walking apps. The itineraries support our recent accreditation with Walkers are Welcome, demonstrating the quality and variety of walking in the area. We are looking forward to releasing details of our walking and cycling route – the Pewsey Vale Circular Way – later in the year.’
The Itineraries will encourage people to visit and to stay longer in the Vale of Pewsey, helping the local economy in the Pewsey Community Area. If you are a local business and would like to be included in the itineraries, then just contact Susie Brew at susie@visitpewseyvale.co.uk

Market Weighton Canal Trail secures National Lottery Support

Market Weighton Town Council has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant of £44,500 towards the Market Weighton Canal Trail Project aimed at creating and enhancing the public right of way from Market Weighton Town centre to Weighton Lock on the Humber estuary. 

The Canal Trail project provides a North South link to the Trans-Pennine Trail and the Wolds Way and will highlight and inform walkers about the heritage and history of the land it passes through, whilst providing a post Covid healthy walking route in open countryside under big skies. All of which has been made possible through the support of National Lottery players.

The Project Steering Group comprises Town and Parish Councils along the route of the former canal, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Holme Heritage and Weighton Walkers are Welcome. Gateways to the trail will be located at Market Weighton, Newport and the Humber Lock at Broomfleet.  Funding for the project has also been provided by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council Commuted Sums, Sancton Windfarm Fund, the Trans-Pennine Trail and local business sponsorship.

The route between Market Weighton and the Humber encompasses iron age settlements, eighteenth century canal locks and a range of wildlife including kingfishers, swans and herons. Gathering both physical and oral history from local communities and recording the flora and fauna along the route will be important parts of the project.

Organisers plan to involve local schools in the project, produce printed and online media material as well as interpretive boards and information signs along the route of the canal. The Environment Agency and the Ouse and Humber Drainage Board support the project that will help inform the public about the important role that the Canal still plays in flood risk management.

As the project progresses there will be opportunities for volunteers to lead walks and activities and help with organising the project. If you are interested in getting involved then please contact the project manager, Dr. Gordon Shields on 07808 141743 or email consult@amtltd.com

Feature Town – Meltham

Meltham is a town in West Yorkshire. It lies in the Holme Valley below Wessenden Moor some 41/2 miles SW of Huddersfield and a further 3 miles SW brings you to the Pennine Way – the Peak National Park boundary is close-by to the west. They had a population of 8534 at the 2011 census.

Meltham Walkers are Welcome was formed in early 2013 and they still have one of their original founders active today. The have eight active committee members and hold monthly free guided walks. A significant highlight for them was to be one of the host towns for the visit of a Japanese group of walkers in 2019.

They are proud to be able to say that in nearly eight years they have only had to cancel one walk. Their website www.walkingmeltham.co.uk contains 12 documented and waymarked walks with free downloads plus 2 trails.

One of their walks takes in the local famous Folly Dolly Falls which is spectacular when in spate. Their Blue Plaque Trail takes visitors round the rich architectural history of Meltham while their Olde Ale Trail (dry sadly) takes you around the town to buildings (or sites) that were formerly pubs or beer houses. Their thanks go to Dave Pattern for his help in identifying more than 30 in their small town. One of the Blue Plaque buildings is Durker Roods the former home of Sir David Brown of both tractors and Aston Martin DB fame. His tractor factory was situated in Meltham Mills about a mile from the centre of town.  Prior to tractor production the site was a Silk Mill complex owned by Jonas Brook & brothers and employed over 1000 people in the 19th century.

Meltham valley has been inhabited since pre-historic times and there are two Iron Age sites on the hills above the town as well as a stone tool sharpening workshop high on the hills.

They are proud to have a young suffragette in their history. 16-year-old Dora Thewlis was arrested in London, sentenced to two weeks in prison and served one week. She emigrated to Australia and died in 1976.

If readers are considering visiting the area Meltham Walkers are Welcome will be happy to help with walk suggestions. They have a good array of walker friendly pubs, cafes & restaurants.

Hedgerows

We all recognise the importance of planting millions of new trees to help tackle the climate crisis by capturing carbon but how many have considered the plight of the humbler hedge. Statistics tell us how many miles of hedges have been lost either scrubbed up to increase grain field sizes or just totally neglected, particularly since WWII.

Take a closer look at those hedges when you pass by. They are not only beautiful, but they also provide vital habitat and corridors for wildlife. The best hedges are thick and broadest at the bottom with a range of species – blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, spindle, field maple, wayfaring tree, and wild service tree. They are then often interwoven with rambling roses, honeysuckle, brambles, and wild clematis.  Then topped by occasional pollarded oak or ash and decoratively berried elderflower or rowan. At the base of the hedge, there is usually an abundance of wildflowers and grasses.

You will see seasonal fruits – hazelnuts, blueberries, elderberries, hawthorn berries, hazelnuts, and strawberries. Whilst there will be many small animals and insects out of sight, the hedge often chirps with sparrows or bluetits, bumblebees buzz around and butterflies flutter by.

The Government regulates and issues guidance providing some protection for hedges.  Developers are not allowed to remove a hedge that is more than 30 years old without permission with older and ancient hedges having added safeguards. A Tree Protection Order may be applied.  It is recommended not to cut or trim hedges between 1st March and 31st August to protect nesting birds and lay a hedge October to March.  Thirty recorded hedgelaying styles have been recorded throughout the UK with their own organisation, the National Hedgelaying Society. There is a new Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot scheme with standards applied to pay landowners for looking after hedges.

Many hedges are believed to be medieval with the type of species within the hedge helping to inform the age.  Hooper’s Rule (after Dr. Max Hooper) suggests that by counting the number of woody species in a thirty-yard stretch multiplied by 110 years, gives the age of the hedge.   

Some of our finest and impressive hedges are in Devon where an earth bank is topped with shrubs. A quarter of Devon’s hedges are believed to be 800 years old preserved by traditional farming practices over the centuries.

Enjoy the autumn hedgerow colours and tasty mellow fruits but leave some for the wildlife.

Here is a recipe for Sloe Jelly

1lb sloes

1lb apples

1lb sugar (see below)

Prick the sloes and chop the apples without peeling or coring

Put both fruits into a pan and cover with water

Bring to the boil slowly, simmer until soft

Strain overnight through muslin

Put 1lb sugar: 1 pint of juice to heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves, then boil to set.

Introducing a little gin flavouring or juniper and arranging in glasses, gives an adult party jelly.
 

Cestyll Cymru – Castles of Wales

Wales is blessed, or as the medieval Welsh would probably have said ‘cursed’, with a multitude of castles.  In almost all cases these castles were built by foreign invaders seeking to subdue the rebellious Welsh inhabitants.  The website Castles of Wales lists a total of 259!  A map of Wales shows most castles located along the borderlands between England and Wales and around the coastal edges, effectively providing a ring of military control. 

Although a small number of castles had already been built by the incumbent Welsh before the Norman invasion, the major programme of the building began after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  Within a short period, the Normans moved to control the Marches, a buffer zone between England and Wales.  Chepstow Castle was one of the first structures to be built and it controlled the main crossing of the River Wye. It is the oldest stone fortification of its type in Britain and construction began in 1067 under the supervision of the Norman lord William fitzOsbern.  It was an early example of recycling, using stone from the nearby Roman town of Caerwent.  Today it is a key element in the town’s tourism business and the starting point for many of the Chepstow Walkers are Welcome Festival walks. 

A little further north, but still in the county of Monmouthshire, are the three Norman castles: Skenfrith, Grosmont and White Castle known as the ‘Trilateral Castles’ that formed a defensive line across the border to control transport routes between Herefordshire and Wales.  Today, they form part of the Three Castles Walk, a circular hike of approximately nineteen miles that feature as a ‘challenge’ walk in many of the local walking festivals.  English castles continued to be built in Wales for over three centuries as one king after another strove to thwart Welsh aspirations for independence.

In North Wales the recently created North Wales Castles Trail links many of the castles built by Edward I include Harlech, Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Conwy which have been collectively designated a World Heritage Site.  At the time, the design of these castles was considered to be ground-breaking and they have proved to be inspirational to painters, poets and historians.  Many are now under the management of Cadw and the National Trust.  The long-distance path, beginning in Chirk and ending in Caernarfon, covers 217 miles.  The details of which can be found on the website of the Long Distance Walking Association.  https://www.ldwa.org.uk/

The Welsh towns, united under the Walkers are Welcome banner, hold regular walking festivals that often include visits to many castles.  We believe that without exception, every town has a castle, mott and bailey or mound representing their past defensive structures.  Currently, five towns have announced plans for autumn festivals.  These include: Chepstow, Llanwrtyd Wells, Corwen, Wellington (just over the border, but visiting Chirk) see what’s on.  Image is of Chepstow Castle  courtesy of  britishcastle.co.uk

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