Peter Borrows, a stalwart of the Valley, and Chairman of the Marlow Bottom Valley Residents Association, recently brought to the attention of the Parish Council an upcoming change in legislation, which means that some of our rights of way will disappear in 2026. That sound a long way away, but the time will fly by!
Official rights of way, the term that covers both footpaths and bridleways, are shown on a Definitive Map held by counties. Buckinghamshire is fortunate in this respect as the county has maintained the map better than most. However, over the years, rights of way have disappeared through lack of use or landowners blocking access unchallenged: and there many unofficial footpaths that don’t appear on any map.
In 2000, Parliament decided that unrecorded ways should be extinguished at the end of 1 January 2026 unless formally recorded on a definitive map. The intention was to provide clarity to landowners, but it follows that public access to informal tracks may thereafter be denied. This could be very limiting as those of us who walk around Marlow Bottom will be aware. However there is a process by which rights can be confirmed or asserted, but it involves documentary research, followed by application to the county authority or possibly the Secretary of State (The Planning Inspectorate).
The COVID crisis has been an opportunity for many people to renew their acquaintance with the network of footpaths and bridleways in and around Marlow Bottom. It will have been evident that state of these varies, many in want of attention, either from overgrown vegetation or from rubbish dumped by those who see them as convenient resting grounds for garden waste. Garden encroachment is another issue in places.
The present lock down presents a unique opportunity to address this issue in our valley. A purposeful and coordinated programme of walks and research could lay the groundwork for ensuring that the freedom to walk around our valley is secured for the future.
We are therefore seeking your help, and we want that in one of two ways.
The easy job, once we’re organised, will be to advise us of issues with footpaths and bridleways, and in particular to advise of footpaths and bridleways which are not shown on definitive maps, and will therefore be lost to us all in 2026. There will be tool available to help you to this – more info will follow in due course.
The much harder job is for someone to project manage this.
That volunteer will need good project management skills, will need to have the time available to make this happen (perhaps retired, perhaps on furlough), and a love of the countryside will be an undoubted benefit.
If you want to volunteer to be a walker for us, either just during the lockdown or longer term, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to advise. For now, you’ll just go on a list, but you’ll soon be allocated some work to do. To help us to that in a way that doesn’t break any of the lockdown rules, please include your full postal address within that email.
And if you think you have the skills, the motivation, and the time required to be the Project Manager, please let the Clerk know via the same address. All you’ll be committing to is a conversation to learn more about what’s involved. If no-one steps up, we may well lose a valuable local asset. If you’re even a “vaguely maybe” please do get in touch.