No Way Through!

 

A pleasant walk on the Fylde close to the radio transmitter station at Inskip.

Fact file:

 

Start. Near Chesham House Farm small lay-by on B5269 Preston Road, Crossmoor PR4 3YJ
 

Distance 1 mile there and back.

Time: 25 minutes
 

Grade: Impossible

Map: OS Explorer 286 Blackpool & Preston
 

Directions:

From the lay-by continue along the B5269 towards Elswick. After 50yds turn left onto a footpath over a stile embedded in the hedge.

 

Cross the paddock to an awkward stile (lacking steps)

 

and then continue to a field corner. Here too there is another awkward stile (lacking a helpful post.)

 

Now with hedge row on the right traverse the next field to what was a ladder stile.

 

If you are young and athletic or a seasoned limbo dancer you may be able to cross this obstacle which is now an arrangement of timber and of no practical use whatsoever. Otherwise retrace your steps to the lane because for you this walk is over. And this is likely to become your experience on a number of public footpaths and bridleways in the near future unless more local government money is spent on maintaining them.

The footpath described above was one of a number shown to me by Rodney Swarbrick

 

on an outing we went on last month. He took me to four locations where he as a walks organiser had experienced difficulties of such an order that he was unable to use routes on the walks he was planning. On the Glasson arm of the Lancaster Canal he pointed out a concrete block obstructing a bridge over the waterway.

 

This seemed to have been placed there deliberately by the landowner and while could be just about circumvented would undoubtedly deter walkers of a larger girth than myself. Further on at Cock Hall Farm we viewed a stile on the path leading towards Batty Hill.

 

This was a broken ladder stile almost impossible to cross but that was of not much consequence as it was unreachable because the plank bridge spanning the brook just before it had been damaged by winter floods and was no longer serviceable.

Near Wharles we checked out a footpath closed in 2013 because of a slurry spillage and seemingly not yet re-opened. Again using it would have been a waste of time as it led to an impassable stile made so by rampant brambles. Rodney explained that this was a problem on another path adjacent to Junction 3 on the M55 motorway. Looking at this in January the bramble problem was in remission

 

but Rodney assured me that in spring and summer you needed to me armed with a machete if you were to descend the flight of steps from the top of the embankment. Again there would be a degree of futility in doing so as further along the path (constrained by an unnecessary barbed wire fence) the stile on the footbridge crossing Medlar Brook is in a poor state of repair.

 

Broadly the maintenance of public rights of way (PRW) rests with the County Council and unitary authorities Blackpool and Blackburn & Darwen which has prompted Rodney to conduct a vigorous one person campaign to notify Lancashire CC of the faults on public footpaths and bridleways highlighting the locations described above.
The seriousness of the problem was a subject of an article in the Lancashire Post last November when Brian Ellis reported that the Ramblers (previously the Ramblers Association) whose local groups endeavour to check the state of public rights of way systematically have recorded a marked deterioration of some footpaths with over 4,500 faults noted last year. This compares with 790 faults in 2010.
 

From Lancashire County Council's side there are questions on how best to deploy dwindling resources to attempt to keep PRW open. The maintenance team which once numbered 17 has been reduced to 10 which explains the upward trend in faults. Next month the Countryside Ranger Service will cease to exist. This seems likely to have a profound impact on the quality of amenities in our countryside. In the past this column has praised the work of the service in helping to make the countryside accessible for all with the creation of tramper trials across the county. Initiatives like these will not be possible in future unless priorities change.

My tour with Rodney as a delightful companion he proved to be was a depressing experience. We could see how a vicious circle might be created - footpath faults are not dealt with speedily, walkers become deterred from using footpaths with faults, so why maintain footpaths that no one uses? It is well evidenced that walking is one of the best activities for promoting health and well-being but without good access into Lancashire's beautiful countryside people might be discouraged from trying it.