‘Meopham and District Footpaths Group is a model for local action groups throughout the country.’ So said our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, at the Meopham Footpath Group’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations today (Saturday 18 August).
‘For the last 50 years the group has combined campaigning for its local paths with an excellent walks programme. The Open Spaces Society relies on local campaign-groups to help us achieve our aims of protecting paths, common land and village greens.
‘The founder and president of the Meopham Footpaths Group, the indefatigable 95-year-old Pat Wilson, is also our local correspondent for part of Medway and she is still a force to be reckoned with—a thorn in the flesh of developers and path-blocking landowners.
‘The Meopham Footpaths Group was founded when the official maps of public paths were far from complete and paths were not shown on Ordnance Survey maps. North Kent was bandit country for walkers. The group has made a great difference in the state of the paths. It conceived the Wealdway long-distance footpath, originally from Meopham to the Weald, and now running 80 miles from Gravesend to Eastbourne.
‘Today, the Open Spaces Society and the Meopham Footpath Group are needed more than ever. Our countryside is threatened with development, the government is selling off open spaces, local authorities’ path-budgets are being slashed. But together we can encourage and inspire people to fight for their rights to paths and open spaces, and lobby their MPs and councillors to secure the best deal for walkers and riders, in town and country.’