Parish Volunteer Footpath Strimmer - Somerset Strimmer Project *
The Somerset Strimmer Project is run by Somerset County Council (SCC). It uses Parish Councils and volunteers to help the SCC Rights of Way Service maintain its duty for keeping public footpaths, bridleways, and restricted byways clear of vegetation. The use of volunteers is fully funded directly by the SCC. Volunteers are given appropriate training and the use of a strimmer and protective equipment to do the job.
In July 2015 High Ham Parish Council advertised for a volunteer to strim its footpaths. One volunteer from the Parish came forward, Tony Whitford.
Tony attended a LANTRA Awards one-day training session on 30th in the use and maintenance of a strimmer. SCC delivered the equipment at the end of August 2015.
Strimming operations are broadly made up of two phases: the first involves inspection of the site/ location to check out any H&S issues, access and the scope of the work to be done; the second involves the actual strimming. Inspections are often carried out on separate days from actual strimming.
High Ham Parish has over 20 public footpaths. Over the period 1/9/2015 – 1/4/2016, 16 of these footpaths had inspections and/or strimming operations. A total of 31.5 hrs of volunteer time was used.
• Lack of use – Apart from the central footpaths in High Ham and Low Ham, most footpaths are barely used. This is evident by overgrowth of stiles and gates particularly on the moors.
• Stiles, Gates and Signage – Many stiles, gates and signs are in a state of poor repair or missing altogether. It is disappointing that no action has been taken on defects reported to SCC over the past year.
• Obstructions – Crops are grown over some footpaths, unclimbable temporary structures are placed across footpaths to contain cattle, cattle troughs are placed alongside stiles gates causing unpassable mud pools, drainage trenches dug across footpaths.
• Breach Wood – Increased firing operations are severely limiting time for footpath use and with clearing within the wood and surrounds
The Way Forward
Inspection and strimming operations will need to continue throughout the summer and autumn. The parish should consider making plans to:
• encourage greater use of the parish footpaths - (see EVENTS page for information - Parish Walks) also PC noticeboards
• develop stronger links with SCC to improve maintenance of the footpath infrastructure and
• encourage landowners to respect the footpaths that cross their land and remind them of their H&S obligations regarding cattle, fencing
Tony Whitford, Volunteer Strimmer
Recent Strimmer Activity
Ready to set off - Parish Walk led by Tony Whitford (behind the camera)