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After 25 years the pioneering Kington Footpath Scheme in Herefordshire has come to an end. The scheme was invented and run by Peter Newman, our trustee and north-west Herefordshire local correspondent, with Herefordshire Council and the Hereford Probation Service.
Offenders on Community Payback worked with Peter and the council to install about 800 stiles and gates, a similar number of waymarks and fingerposts, and many notice-boards and footbridges. They have maintained countless footpaths, bridleways and byways in 16 parishes in north-west Herefordshire including parts of Offa’s Dyke National Trail and the Mortimer Trail.
The scheme had its final day on Sunday 31 January when the workers erected a notice-board at Bollingham, three miles south of Kington, to hold a map of the area’s public paths. This is at the entrance to a green lane which was recently added to the official map and reopened thanks to Peter’s efforts. The route is part of an ancient ridgeway which it is believed was used to convey greenstone axes from Wales to the Midlands.
Peter is moving to Powys and therefore is unable to continue with the scheme.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary who is also patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network: ‘The scheme has done massive good for this rural area. By opening up paths and making them easy to find and use, the offenders have also helped the local economy. People come here to walk and ride, but will only return if they have a good experience.
‘Kington is one of 100 Walkers Are Welcome Towns in Great Britain. Thanks to Peter’s scheme the paths round about are in good condition and really do welcome walkers and riders.’
Will Steel, Network Regulation Manager for Balfour Beatty which undertakes public-path maintenance for Herefordshire Council, said: ‘The Kington Footpath Scheme has been an amazing achievement, having delivered huge improvements to the condition of local public rights of way. Balfour Beatty Living Places is proud of the opportunity to have worked with and supported Peter Newman and the Open Spaces Society over the last few years. Peter’s consistent endeavours to improve the local area for residents and visitors alike through signposting, waymarking, clearing vegetation, replacing stiles with gates and numerous other projects, is truly commendable.
‘Even in its infancy, the project was far more advanced than others of its time and it offers a pillar of exemplary community-led engagement in today’s world of localism and devolution of services.
‘Peter will be sorely missed but we know that his efforts across the county have left a lasting, life-long, positive impact.’
Adds Maurice Clother, supervisor of the probation workers: ‘After a run of 25 years, the Kington Footpath Scheme is ceasing its involvement with Hereford Community Service/Unpaid Work. Generations of offenders have reopened overgrown green lanes, footpaths and bridleways. They have built bridges and stiles and maintained these routes. In fact their work has substantially helped to put Kington firmly on the tourist map, as a centre for walking. Peter Newman has given up his Sundays throughout this time and worked alongside the supervisors and offenders to achieve all this.’
Says Mrs Elizabeth Banks, Mayor of Kington, in a message to Peter Newman: ‘I would like to thank you personally for what you have done to open up the footpaths around Kington and in consequence played a large part in creating Kington as a place to come and enjoy using the footpaths. Your work maintaining them with the help of young offenders has contributed greatly to the benefit of the Town and no doubt to those helping you.’
Photos by Barrie Trumper