Ecclesmachan, Threemiletown and Uphall

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Bringing local paths up to standard

 

Name of Access Authority: West Lothian        

Name of group: Ecclesmachan and Threemiletown Community Council

Location: Around Binny Craig,    

Project: Ecclesmachan, Threemiletown and Uphall Countryside Path

                 Improvement Project

Key points: Importance of planning projects

                        Carry out a proper survey of your paths

                        Enlist the support of relevant organisations

                        Establish and maintain good relations with landowners

 

About the Ecclesmachan and Threemiletown Community Council

The Community Council was concerned that there were no paths in their area included in the Access Authority’s proposed Core Paths Plan. The community was keen to have the local importance of ‘their’ paths recognised as they felt the heart of West Lothian would have no Core Paths and that they should be   ‘adopted’ for local people and visitors. The group, therefore, set about planning improvements to the paths and ensuring ongoing maintenance for the future.  

Finding resources (people, money, tools and materials, training, time)

People

The only path suitable for volunteers to work on, the Threemiletown to Philipstoun path, was overhauled in 2009 by a team from the Community Council. Since then more work has taken place as part of an ongoing development and maintenance adoption process.

A local contractor was appointed following a competitive tendering process to carry out the physical work on the other paths. Along with ensuring skills and experience to complete the work, selection was also made on basis of cost and availability.

Volunteers came from the Community Council and Volunteer Gateway Scotland. They carried out ‘lighter’ tasks such as clearing vegetation.

PFA training and advice was essential to as project had come to a halt. Advice and help received from PFA particularly over a proper path survey. A survey and report allowed the group to apply for funding with a good idea of costs and other financial requirements. A quantified survey with recommended specifications also formed the basis for the tendering package sent to contractors and acted as checklist/ ‘aide memoir’ as the work was carried out to completion and final ‘sign-off’.

The co-operation of landowners was another important factor for the success of the project. The group was fortunate that the three landowners involved were all supportive. However, it was felt that one of the main reasons for this support was the time taken to talk to the landowners at an early stage about the groups plans and to demonstrate that they and the contractor working on their land knew what they were doing.

The group also got help from their local Outdoor Access Officer with detailed CROW (Catalogue of Rights of Way) maps showing the path routes the group were concerned about.

Money

The Community Council has been particularly successful in attracting funding from a range of sources for particular uses. The most important of these were successful applications to Awards for All and the West Lothian LEADER Programme which funded equipment, materials and labour costs.

Tools and materials

Any specialist plant and equipment was brought in by the contractor when the paths were being repaired. However, the group now have their own brushcutters and the Community Council has ensured there is adequate health and safety procedures in place as well as appropriate clothing and equipment. By having their own equipment the group can quickly tackle most small scale tasks.

Training

The PFA Path Maintenance and series of pilot courses were felt to be particularly helpful for the group to gain the confidence to take on the idea of path maintenance and management.

Three members of the group attended a LANTRA course on the use of brushcutters.

 

LANTRA provide a range of courses principally for those involved in land-based and environmental sectors. However, many of these courses will also be useful for voluntary groups working in the outdoors.

Insurance cover was a major stumbling block for the group as they had assumed that as they were a sub-group of the Community Council they would be covered by insurance from the local authority. However, this insurance only covered members of the Community Council when they were attending meetings in their hall and not for path repair work. The group got their own insurance when they discovered that they could affiliate to the British Trust for Conservation (BTCV) and benefit from being covered under the BTCV insurance scheme at a competitive rate. BTCV were renamed ‘The Conservation Volunteers’ in May 2012.

  

See www.tcv.org.uk for details on insurance and other help and advice.

 

Time

To make best use of volunteers limited time most of the path adoption work is carried out in a planned pro-active way with a prepared path maintenance schedule. In this way issues such as clearing out drains and ditches is done before they become a potentially bigger and more expensive problem as a result of paths being damaged by flooding.

Each path feature is inspected and individually recorded depending on the level of risk attached to it with particular attention paid to items such as gates and steps.

Plans for the Future

The group are currently in the process of adopting more paths to add to ‘their’ local path network. However, they will also be continuing to look after the three main paths from the first project.

One of the main aims and benefits of the Community Council’s work and hope for the future was given at the end of the project leaflet:

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, we trust that you will enjoy these historic and wonderful local walks for many years to come’

This long-term vision is an important part of Adopt A Path projects.

See www.ecclesmachan.org.uk for a copy of the leaflet and further details of the group’s work on the paths in their area.

 

Lessons Learned

1. Using local knowledge of what path network is like in different weather conditions and how the paths are used (walkers, cyclists, horseriders) and by whom (locals and visitors) helped identify required path specifications.

2.  Volunteers come with different knowledge and understanding about paths in terms of acceptable /unacceptable condition and what might realistically be required to bring path up to standard. They also have different skills.

3. A structured path recording scheme reduces time and costs.

4. It took a lot longer to go through the whole process to plan, fund-raise and properly survey the paths than was first realised.

5.Make sure that your contractor has the required skills and  experience and that you are confident they will do a good job. Sensitive lowland path construction skills were more important than cost in this case.

6.  Ensure you establish and maintain good relations with local landowners. If a path is planned for their ground they should hear first from you, not by reading about it in the local paper.

7. Double-check your insurance cover.

8. Check and monitor throughout the whole path project process.

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh