Celebrating the work of our
Footpath Officers

The valuable contribution Richard Smith has given as Footpaths Officer has been recognised by the North Yorkshire County Council by a presentation of a handmade miniature fingerpost.

Richard, of Lower Wharfedale Ramblers, has stepped down after ten years but remains an active member of the Group. His role responsibilities have been divided between Richard Brook – who leads the Group Working Party, and Antonia Woosnam-Savage, who has become Footpath Officer. Splitting the workload makes things easier and Richard Smith welcomes the chance to involve more people. He also says that after ten years, new people in key roles brings a fresh perspective and approach, a good example being Antonia, who only joined the RA one year ago. Lower Wharfedale Ramblers enjoy a full committee, with about 25 members involved in footpath maintenance projects, and the Chair, Keith Wilman, is keen to introduce succession planning, so that committee positions do not go unfilled in future.

Lower Wharfedale deals with three local authorities, but the partnership with North Yorkshire County Council began when they wanted to adopt a more productive and proactive agreement. Richard remains a member of the Local Access Forum and intends to continue to work alongside Richard Brook as a member of the Group Working Party.

They both agreed that the work is immensely satisfying, improving accessibility, whether by building new footbridges or repairing stiles. “Often when you finish [projects] people come past and notice something has changed, and they are very appreciative.” Richard Smith also explained that whilst a handbook exists, setting out the basic techniques required to conduct maintenance and construction projects, an exciting element was that every situation is different, requiring a unique solution.

Lower Wharfedale complete projects on a needs-must basis, probably 10-12 over a 12-month period. Within the Working Party, Richard Brook explained that a team of 12-15 conduct the ‘heavy work’ i.e. construction projects, with a wider group involved in footpath clearance. It’s the responsibility of the Area Footpath Officer to pass on reported problems to the Local Authority, who prioritise the jobs to be completed.

Footpath maintenance, as part of preserving and protecting rights of way, is a crucial element of the work of the Ramblers Association. To find out how you can get involved, please contact your Group Footpath Officer – no experience necessary – only enthusiasm is required!

Caroline Spalding