Parish Volunteer Footpath Strimmer

Parish Volunteer Footpath Strimmer - Tony Whitford

 Recent Strimmer Activity

October '17

September '17

 

                 

                                       Ready to set off - Parish Walk led by Tony Whitford (behind the camera)

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.

Main Issues

•       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

* Rights of Way – Somerset Strimmer Project 

This is a joint scheme between local volunteer groups, Parish or Town Councils and Somerset County Council Rights of Way Service to provide training and equipment to enable local individuals to clear vegetation on the footpaths and bridleways.  
 
After a successful pilot scheme in South Somerset parishes, Somerset County Council has rolled out the scheme across the whole of the county.  If a volunteer group, Parish Council or Town Council identify an individual or a number of people interested in taking on the role of a strimmer volunteer then the cost of the training can be shared evenly.  Once trained, individual(s) then have the loan of a petrol driven strimmer during the spring and summer months with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), maps and signs.  This allows them to be more proactive during the vegetation growing season to keep the local paths clear and empowers them to take ownership of the ongoing maintenance. 
 
Somerset County Council Rights of Way Service currently spend over 20% of their annual budget to pay contractors to clear the path network at set times during the summer months.  This clearance doesn’t allow for changes during the growing season; for example the wet summer in 2012 meant that some paths required four cuts rather than the usual two. 
 
If you have any questions, or require any further information or assistance, regarding the Somerset Strimmer Scheme please contact the Rights of Way Team using the contact details given below. 
 
For further information please contact: Rights of Way Maintenance and Development Team Tel: 01823 358250 Fax: 01823 356114 Email
More information can be found at www.somerset.gov.uk/rightsofway