Derek Bodey, Area Officer, Derbyshire High Peak
This article is from Signpost 61, Autumn 2019
My wife and I moved to Buxton some 8 years ago. Both of us have always been involved in our local community and saw no reason why we should not continue this in our new surroundings.
As walking, alone or with friends, has always been one of our principal ways of relaxing, putting issues into perspective, it seemed natural to join the Peak and Northern Footpath Society in order to volunteer as an inspector. What a great decision! I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know “my patch” - half a dozen parishes around Buxton, discovering hidden views and nature reserves. It continues to surprise me how much good countryside there can be so close to major quarries. The map suggests a path that will be boring and spoilt, industrial even, only to discover orchids and other wild flowers. I failed to get round all my paths within the hoped for two year cycle but they are in better condition than when I started! It all helps. If you are a member and yet not an inspector, we need you – please do think about taking on a local parish.
As the years have gone by, under the expert tutelage of John Harker, I have chosen to become involved in some of the issues and started to deal directly with landowners and footpath officers. Replacing bleached out and missing waymarks instead of reporting the fault (and being frustrated because nothing seems to happen) has been a real joy as it addresses the issue immediately and solves the problem. I have on occasions also talked with landowners directly (sometimes being dismissed but usually a welcomed dialogue). This has enabled issues to be moved on successfully for the benefit of walkers, although, even when there is agreement, it does seem to take soooo long!
Whilst I accept this is not appealing to many inspectors, I would encourage having some waymarks and nailing up replacements (if your local authority allows this as Derbyshire does). It’s satisfying, reduces faults and allows Local Authorities to concentrate their signing budget where a new sign is the only answer.
With the Society short of Area Officers, it seemed a small step from what I was already doing on “my patch” to take on a wider area, helping other inspectors with issues. Hopefully they will think it’s a good thing!
So, with much to learn, limited time (it has to be fitted round grandparenting duties and other similar issues), I am looking forward to the challenge and trust that High Peak inspectors will work with me on addressing problem footpaths - I certainly will not be able to be effective without their support and detailed local knowledge.
Next: National Parks Review
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