by Gill Caves, Group Footpath Secretary
What we aim to do on this page is to keep you informed about issues affecting Rights of Way (public footpaths, bridleways etc) and access for walkers. This will include any path closures we are aware of and more general issues affecting the management and maintenance of the path network.
You may remember some time ago a paragraph on this page about “Lost Ways”. These are old established paths which might still be in frequent use by the public but which are not (for whatever reason) recorded on the council's Definitive Map and Statement. These paths may be lost forever if they are not properly recorded before the deadline. In England the deadline is January 2026; the Welsh Assembly Government has yet to clarify whether the cut-off date will apply in Wales, but in the meantime we should work on the assumption that it will. Ramblers are keen to ensure that we don’t lose our old paths and have been providing training and support to help volunteers in researching them and restoring them to the records. They have recently appointed a project manager, Jack Cornish, to help take this work forward. You can find out all about the project on the Don't Lose Your Way page of the Ramblers website.
Meanwhile, do you know if the paths you use are actually recorded on the definitive map? It would be good to have as many of our members as possible double checking that the paths and roads they walk are on the definitive map. We’ve noticed a few critical little gaps, which could become a problem if access was barred. There are also various 'white roads', tracks which people may assume are public roads but which are not recorded as such nor as rights of way. It’s worth checking, or you may find in a few years’ time, the landowner can legally stop you from using these paths and roads.
Latest footpath news April 2018 - footpath closures.
From time to time it is necessary for the Highways Authority (Gwynedd Council) to close a right of way temporarily, usually for reasons of public safety or to enable works to be carried out. Temporary closure orders are made for 6 months but the closures are often in force for a much shorter period. If the closure is required beyond 6 months then the Highways Authority (Gwynedd Council) need to make an application to the Welsh Government. During the closure period there should be notices and a map on site advising of the closure and the alternative route(s). If you want further detailed information about any of the closures please contact me.
With effect from 1 January for a period not expected to exceed 6 months, footpath 35 will be closed from its junction with the A487 trunk road by Pont Evans (SH 755060) in a general west, north-west direction for approx 500 metres and then in a southerly direction for approx 300 metres to reach a forestry track (footpath no. 37) at SH 749060. The closure is to enable tree clearance work to be undertaken and unfortunately there is no alternative route available during the closure period.
With effect from 2 January for a period expected to exceed 3 months, footpath 46 which runs alongside Ffestiniog Railway will be closed between SH5837 3787 near the stone steps by the A497 (next to the Boston Lodge Railway Yard) to approx 120 metres to the west of the stone steps at SH5825 3792, . During the period of closure an alternative route will be available via the cycle path by the Cob and should be signed on site. The closure is necessary for health and safety reasons whilst engineering works in and around Boston Lodge are undertaken. UPDATE Jan 31st 2018. Having used this crossing today there is a new gate to use where the path meets the Ffestiniog Railway Line at Boston Lodge and no diversion was necessary although engineering works were underway and maybe diversions will operate at other times during the official closure period.
Other footpath News
Over several years there has been an ongoing debate over whether there has been an historic right to walk in front of the properties of Mawddach Crescent, Arthog, South Gwynedd to enjoy the views over the estuary rather then be routed behind the properties that form the crescent. The issue has divided residents, members of the local community and indeed walkers themselves. However, the matter as to the route of the path is one which must be decided on a matter of fact, not opinion. In early February there were press reports which said that the matter was to be determined at a Council meeting later in the month with an officer recommendation that permission be refused, the consequences of which would be for walkers to be diverted to the rear of the properties. For undisclosed reasons, the report and recommendations were withdrawn from the agenda of the February meeting and it is unlikely that the matter will not now go before the planning committee until April at the earliest. It may be that the recommendation to the committee changes but until the planning meeting this will not be known. Irrespective of what Gwynedd's planning Committee eventually decide, it is possible that their decision will be appealed and the matter will then be decided by an independent inspector appointed by the Welsh Government.
Huw Roberts (ex-local resident) has been campaigning for the right of way to be confirmed in front of the houses and whilst he has in the past gathered evidence to support the historic use of the path he is anxious to gather any more evidence that will help him make his case to the Council. If you have any reminiscences about walking the path in front of the properties and particularly any photographic or other hard evidence, please let me know. You would not be required to get involved in any meeting or inquiry.
The February storms have brought down many trees in Meirionnydd which are blocking paths. The already hard pressed staff from Gwynedd Council who look after our footpaths will be working with contractors and NRW to clear these as soon as possible but we shall need to be patient and also report problems that we come across.
One casualty of the storms has been a well-used footbridge over the river Artro at Pentregwynfryn, near Llanbedr Grid Ref SH597272. A tree came down on the bridge and both the tree and the remains of the bridge are in the river. The path has been signed as closed from Pentregwynfryn, and when safe for staff to access, will be signed from the other side too. A new bridge will be needed so please avoid this crossing although it is not clear when a replacement bridge can be put in place.
Recognition for our Rights of Way contacts in Gwynedd:
If you are a resident of Gwynedd Council and received the latest edition of Newyddion (the one with a centre page fold showing 2018/19 Council Tax charges) you may have seen an article on ‘2018 Gwobr y Bobl’ winners. At our January Committee meeting we agreed that we should nominate Liz Haynes and Sam Hollingworth from the Rights of Way section of the Council for this award to recognise the excellent service they deliver to us and all those who use the rights of way network in Gwynedd. We are pleased that those in the Council responsible for choosing the winners from public nominations agreed that they were worthy of recognition and the certificate and trophy they were awarded is now on display in their office.
If you go over the bridge today you are in for a big surprise! Or at least that was the case recently. The old Toll House at the Barmouth end of the bridge is covered in posters and there is a shoot into the building inviting a donation (of £1.00) from the Bridge Troll. Having made enquiries with Gwynedd’s Coastal Path team they advise that this was believed to be the work of squatters who took over the Toll House for a time. I am not sure who is responsible for the Toll House (and removing the posters) but please do not a pay anything at this point since the ‘fees’ are not being collected legitimately.
Reporting Rights of Way problems - December 2017
We always encourage our members and other walkers to report any footpath problems that you find while out walking but you may wonder if, with Local Councils so hard pressed, reporting problems does any good. The answer is a resounding "yes", as shown by the before and after pictures below. While on a group walk near Llanfachreth in July, we came across a narrow, slithery path which was really difficult to negotiate. Now, thanks to prompt action by Gwynedd Council we have a safe and easy flight of steps.
So carry on sending in your reports, either directly to the Local Authority (in our case Gwynedd, see their website for information and reporting forms) or via myself. You can also use the Ramblers PathWatch system - there is information on the Ramblers website about how to download and use the easy PathWatch App. But if you prefer to go out with a pen and paper in your pocket, then make a note of the location of the problem (community and grid reference) and the details of the problem itself and let me have the information on your return - my email address is at the top of the page.
Gill Caves, Footpath Secretary