Dereham footpath survey highlights signposting and access problems

Walking a footpath near Dumpling Green are (left to right) Dereham mayor Tim Birt, councillor Linda

Walking a footpath near Dumpling Green are (left to right) Dereham mayor Tim Birt, councillor Linda Goreham, footpath warden Ken Hawkins, councillor Phillip Duigan and Martin Sneesby of the Ramblers. - Credit: Archant

Town councillors are seeking a meeting with county highways officers to resolve problems with Dereham's public footpaths network, after a survey found less than half to be both well-signposted and accessible to the average walker.

A series of six walks, devised by footpath warden Ken Hawkins, was completed by councillors this week, encompassing all 35 of the town's public rights of way (PROW).

Mr Hawkins' summary identifies 13 routes with inadequate signs, six that have 'major problems' with their access, and three which were completely impassable, either due to overgrown vegetation or, in one case, ploughed over by a farmer.

Mr Hawkins, a volunteer and member of the Ramblers, said: 'If we discount FP9 as beyond redemption, that still means that nine out of 34 – more than a quarter – present difficulties to an average walker not well-versed in their rights, while a further 13 would not be obvious to a walker without a map, and, again, good knowledge of their rights.

'Significantly fewer than half are both accessible and well signed, even though only a handful require substantial action to bring them into order.

'These are not major problems if you have a GPS or a map and you know your rights, but there are several segments that would represent a challenge to the people who we want to use these footpaths around our town.

'If you are just taken by the idea of going out for a walk, but you don't know your way around, the signage becomes very important because it gives people the confidence to know that if someone looks at them the wrong way, they are not trespassing.'

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Mr Hawkins said the series of survey walks had highlighted some 'wonderful countryside footpaths' around Dereham that many people may not know about – including the path across Rush Meadow and up through the woods to Humbletoft.

It also has included some even lesser-known and mundane paths, like a handful near the town centre that run along roadways without any indication that they are also public footpaths.

Councillors will report the survey's findings to Norfolk County Council – which is responsible for maintaining PROWs and enforcing private landowners to comply with their legal obligations – and they hope to set up a meeting with highways officers to discuss how the problems can be resolved.

Town mayor Tim Birt said: 'The town council, with Ken's considerable input, has taken a pragmatic view of what can be done.

'However, we will do much more than simply ask the county council to keep some paths clear. We want them connected into a useful network of circular walks with tracks which allow access places of interest.'

What do you think about the accessibility of Dereham's footpaths? Contact

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