Survey of the Beachamwell PROW network

In the past few days I have walked or cycled the complete network of 20 miles of public footpaths and bridleways in Beachamwell. It is pleasing to note that generally the network is in pretty good condition. Access, path surfaces and signage are satisfactory for most routes. There are two cases of obstruction (BR1 and FP13) and a couple of cross-field paths not restored after cultivation.

BR2 looking north

BR2 north of The Lodge. Easy walking along this broad track.

SOME OUTSTANDING ISSUES
(View a map with route numbers HERE)

BR1 (Searchlight Drove)
At the N end walkers are faced with a ‘Beware of the Bull sign’. The exit from BR1 on to the A1122 is blocked with barbed wire

BR2
There is a locked bar across this bridleway at its junction with the A1122. Walkers and cyclists could pass, but not horse riders.

FP10
The footpath through the woodland belt is not marked. Low growing branches and fallen branches obstruct the route, but it is possible to find an alternative way round.

FP10 obstructed by fallen branches

FP10 obstructed by fallen branches

Although the cross-field sections of FP10 have now been marked, the surface has not been restored with the consequence that walking in the soft and wet earth is difficult.

FP12
At the southern end the path has not been restored following cultivation. At its northern end the footpath doesn’t follow the correct route. It should cross the asparagus field to end in the corner by the old school.

FP13
The long-standing obstruction of FP13 at Hall Barn remains the one major problem of access in the network. The Parish Council has been pressing Norfolk County Council to resolve this matter but no progress has been made so far.

FP21
Following the recent removal of pigs this field has been ploughed and a section of FP21 not yet made good.

BR19a near Furze Hill. Accessible now but at risk of obstruction by plant growth in the summer

BR19a near Furze Hill. Accessible now but at risk of obstruction by plant growth in the summer

SIGNAGE

Provision of fingerposts and waymarks is not bad, but there is scope for improvement. In a few place it would be helpful to have new posts for way marks.  As previously noted in this blog there are four places in the Beachamwell network where a path meets a metalled road but the required sign is missing. The local highway authority has now promised to install these fingerposts.

In November 2016 a ‘Public Bridleway’ fingerpost appeared in Drymere (next to the BR3 route to Warren Farm) at a point where in fact there is no right of way . No one seems to know who was responsible, but again Norfolk County Council Highways are panning to remove it in the near future.

2026: only ten years to go

Norfolk County Council, like all similar councils, is required to draw up and maintain a ‘definitive map and statement’ of the rights of way in its area. The record of a path on the definitive map is conclusive evidence that public rights exist over it.

At present paths can be added to the definitive map if the relevant evidence is produced. However in 2026 this possibility comes to an end. Any path which came into existence before 1949 and that has not been requested to be on the map by 1 January 2026 will be lost – forever! As one estimate suggests that there could be as many as 20,000 public rights of way missing from the definitive map this is an alarming prospect.

An old path

Is this path on the definitive map? If not, do old records show it open to the public?        ©Alan Heardman

2026 probably seems a long way off, but the work involved in the careful checking of historic records and maps is inevitably time consuming. Collecting the necessary evidence and putting together a claim also takes time. In addition it is important that researchers co-ordinate their efforts so as to avoid duplication and also to ensure complete coverage in an area if possible. For this reason several organisation keen to promote access to the countryside are encouraging local people to work together and make sure that historic rights of way are not lost.

The British Horse Society has been in the forefront of raising awareness of this issue and also providing information and advice on how to find and restore ‘lost’ paths to the definitive map. Although they focus on bridleways, the research and processes involved for footpaths are just the same. Two of their members have published Rights of Way: Restoring the Record. Rights of Way: Restoring the RecordThis is an excellent guide to finding and using the relevant maps and documents, and preparing an application to have a path added to the definitive map. (This book is actually  an incredibly useful tool for any local historian; it gives very clear information on where to find and how to use a wide range of archive material that would be of use for many research projects.) Unfortunately it is currently out of print with a new edition expected at the end of 2016. However, it can be borrowed from Norfolk Libraries, and also Beachamwell Local History Group holds a copy which could be borrowed by local residents.

In Norfolk, the British Horse Society is working with the Open Spaces Society and The Ramblers, each committing funding to undertake research in a systematic and co‑ordinated way. Initially, the funding is being used to get copies of records held at The National Archives in Kew and make them available to all doing this work locally.

What this work also needs is volunteers willing to review the records in a systematic fashion so that we capture every route in Norfolk which is a public right of way but not yet recorded as one. Some of the funding from The Ramblers is being used to hold practical workshops for anyone (not just members of The Ramblers) willing to spend some time on this, to show them just how it can be done. The workshops will be led by Helen Chester of BHS and will include:

  • the evidence available on line, how to collect it and what it shows, through a live application.
  • other types of evidence available at the records office with examples of what to look for
  • standard recording templates with a worked example on how to use them.

If you are interested in attending workshops or getting involved in this work, please contact Ken Hawkins of The Ramblers and CPRE Norfolk.

Tips on saving lost paths (as suggested by the Ramblers)
Talk to local people, especially older residents, about where they walk now and have done in the past
Be methodical – start with individual parishes and check all walked routes, or take one OS map square at a time
Study old maps (such as OS first editions) and compare them with what’s on the ground and map now
Mark anomalies on the map and list all unrecorded or under recorded routes
Check for gaps and inconsistencies in the network, such as dead end or disconnected routes
Do your historical research – look at tithe maps, Inclosure awards, Inland Revenue valuation maps and other evidence
Organise yourselves by forming a group with a range of different skills and share your experiences with others

Links to further information:

Definitive map and statement for Norfolk

British Horse Society online toolkit for claiming missing paths

Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way

Open Spaces Society Find Our Way

Rights of Way: Restoring the Record

Beachamwell Local History Group

Signs at junctions with metalled roads

Highway authorities (in Beachamwell’s case Norfolk County Council) have a duty to erect and maintain signposts wherever a footpath, bridleway or byway leaves a surfaced road. (Oddly there doesn’t seem to be any requirement for a signpost at the junction of one metalled road with another.) In Beachamwell there are 25 points where paths etc meet the road. This seems quite a large number, but Beachamwell is a big parish and has some 20 miles of public rights of way. I have recently surveyed all of these junctions to check the presence of the required fingerposts. Four are missing, and this Google map shows their locations:

Even where the necessary signposts are in place there may still be problems. For example the fingerpost at the southern end of Bridleway 11 (opposite the junction of the Cockley Cley road with the Beachamwell to Swaffham road) is set several metres back from the road and is becoming obscured by vegetation. Certainly a traveller on the road would be unaware that there was a public right of way joining the road at this point:

The fingerpost to BR11 to the right is set back from the road and obscured from view

The fingerpost to BR11 to the right is set back from the road and obscured from view in the trees

Similarly the fingerpost pointing to Footpath 7 at Greenway Corner is being swallowed up by the growth of the laurel hedge:

The sign to footpath 7 is gradually disappearing

The sign to FP7 is gradually disappearing

Information about the four missing fingerposts has now been forwarded to NCC Highways department, and so replacements should be installed in due course.

ASBOs for walkers?

There are, extraordinary as it might seem, some footpath users in our village who are determined not to use a designated and available footpath but who insist on walking on the adjacent cultivated field and damaging its crop. This is happening in Beachamwell on Footpath 14 (which runs from behind the Great Danes to Stambles Plantation). Signs asking walkers to keep to the footpath have been removed or defaced, as this picture shows.

Defaced notice on FP14.

Defaced notice on FP14. The footpath along the edge of this field is perfectly walkable.

It is difficult to understand this bizarre and quite unnecessary behaviour. Good relations between walkers and landowners are a key part of the legitimate enjoyment of the countryside. It is disturbing to see this relationship being threatened by anti-social behaviour.

Drymere trig point

In 1936 a 4 foot high concrete pillar was erected in a field in Northamptonshire. It was the first trig point of thousands that were to be installed across Britain during the next 26 years. They enabled the greatest undertaking by the Ordnance Survey since the early 19th century: the Retriangulation of Great Britain. Before 1936, although triangulation had been used to produce OS maps, the process had been piecemeal. The new trig points would enable a unified (and more accurate) survey as a basis for the maps.

In Beachamwell we have our own trig point positioned at the junction of BR18 with the road at Drymere. View a location map here.

drymere trig point

Drymere trig point on BR18 with BR3 continuing on the other side of the road.

Each trig point needed to have a clear line of sight to at least two others and so it makes sense that this one stands at almost the highest point in the parish: 42m above sea level. But where are the neighbouring trig points that enabled the triangulation?  The answer is that in flatter parts of the country the Ordnance Survey often used tall buildings, almost always church towers, as trig points. Thus the neighbouring marks for our trig point were probably the towers of Swaffham Church, Gooderstone Church and possible the spire of St John’s Church Oxborough (which collapsed in 1948). It should also be noted that two radar masts at Narborough were also used as trig points. Modern technology – the Global Navigation Satellite System –  has rendered the trig pillars redundant but they still act as a beacon for walkers.

Find out more about trig points at www.trigpointing.uk (although perversely this website prefers to name our trig point ‘Shingham Heath’ rather than the more obvious ‘Drymere’.)

Footpath 10 again

A couple of months ago I reported that Footpath 10 over Toot Hill, often a problem for walkers in recent years, had been re-instated in grand style.  However once again using Footpath 10 is problematic. The northern section beyond the belt of trees towards the Lodge has been cultivated and ridged. The line of the path is visible, but not easily walkable and of course the farmer should have made good the surface of the path.

FP10: Looking south from near The Lodge.

FP10: Looking south from near The Lodge.

A more sympathetic issue affects the southern section – nesting birds. It’s a moot point whether a landowner can close a path in these circumstances but I’m sure we wouldn’t want to endanger the eggs or young of wild birds, and it may very well be illegal to do so.

The start of FP10 looking north

The start of FP10 looking north

Footpath 10 re-appears in style!

Footpath 10 was the subject of one of the first posts on this website in October 2015 when it merited attention because the footpath in question had more or less disappeared. It’s pleasing to report that it has been now been re-instated and that the route is now clearly marked by a handsome 6 foot wide path. The belt of trees which crosses the path half way along its length is the only part where the line of the path isn’t marked on the ground but the general direction is fairly clear. The surface of the path across the fields is pretty soft and currently slow going, especially with the the amount of rain recently. Lets hope that dry weather, and regular walking by ramblers will soon create a good walkable surface.

Looking north from the beginning of FP10

Looking north from the beginning of FP10 towards the belt of trees

Looking back from near the top of Toot Hill towards Beachamwell

Looking back from near the top of Toot Hill towards Beachamwell

Looking from the belt of trees north towards The Lode

Looking from the belt of trees north towards The Lodge

Norfolk Local Access Forum is recruiting

Norfolk Trails

Norfolk Local Access Forum is recruiting new members
Do you have a passion for the outdoors? Are you keen to see Norfolk’s public access network provide a range of brilliant experiences for its users? Then you could be exactly who we are looking for.

About the Norfolk Local Access Forum (NLAF)
The NLAF aims for a more joined up, better quality public access network that provides benefits for a range of population groups, businesses and the natural and historic environment.

Providing strategic advice to a range of public bodies, the NLAF is made up of members representing a variety of countryside interests, kindly giving their time on a voluntary basis. Meetings are held four times per year and members also have the opportunity to attend relevant conferences, events, meetings with other groups and to visit some of Norfolk’s stunning access sites.

The NLAF is particularly keen to hear from you if you are involved with the education/youth, business/tourism, voluntary, environmental or community sectors including ethnic minority groups.

WalkersMore information and how to apply
If you are interested in applying to become a member of the NLAF, please take a look at the website and application pack for more information.

View the website and download the application pack: www.norfolk.gov.uk/nlaf 

The closing date for applications is Friday 12th February at 5pm.

 

A Question of Length

From time to time the question comes up: what is the total length of Beachamwell’s footpaths and bridleways etc? Online mapping tools now make it easy to answer this kind of question, and so here is a list:

Footpath, Bridleway etcKilometres
BR12.2
BR21.8
BR33.1
FP41.6
RB54.0
FP61.25
FP70.675
FP80.925
BR91.5
FP101.4
BR111.7
FP120.980
FP130.620
FP141.0
FP150.280
BR160.400
FP170.630
BR180.850
RB190.400
BR19a1.1
FP211.1
BR221.25
FP230.200
BR241.0
Green Drove*1.6
Total31.56

Would it be possible to walk all the rights of way in a single day? 31.5 kilometres (20 miles) in a day is clearly feasible but in reality the exercise will exceed this distance. Paths don’t follow each other in a consecutive route. There are linking sections of road, and paths would  also need to be re-traced on occasion. And so the question now is: what would be the shortest itinerary that would include every part of the Beachamwell rights of way network?

That’s a question that will take a bit more working out I think. Let me know if you have an answer.


* Norfolk County Council Highways Department allocates Green Drove to Barton Bendish. In fact it follows the boundary line between the two parishes. However I have no hesitation in claiming it as part of the Beachamwell network, since it is actually closer to Beachamwell and I am sure it is walked more by Beachamwell residents and visitors. And as a clincher the local Beachamwell farmer helps to keep it clear of scrub (and much appreciated)!

Footpath 10: not much changes

A recent post reported problems with Footpath 10 over Toot Hill. However difficulties with this path are by no means a current phenomenon.  This photo shows the late Mark Pennell replacing a waymarker on Footpath 10 in 2000. Norfolk County Council had just installed a new waymarker here a couple of days previously, but it had almost immediately been removed (!)Mark Pennell installing way marker on Footpath 10, Beachamwell

Many thanks to Sue Pennell for this picture. Sue has been a persistent and tenacious guardian of our rights of way in Beachamwell since moving to the village in 1976, and  Footpath 10 warrants a large file in her correspondence with NCC Highways over the years. However she points out that when she first came to Beachamwell nearly all the rights of way were impassable, so there has been a great improvement over the years, even though some problems continue.