As you are aware Network Rail are attempting to close 62 foot crossings in Essex. The Essex Area Update contains letter written by members against the closures. Our website contains the letter sent on your behalf to our MP's.
I write to ask for your support on this issue. We all know public opinion changes things and the more letters of complaint that are written the better chance we have of stopping Network Rail not only this time but in the future.
All of the letter writers are happy for others to use their words. The letter on the website to MP's is also available to use in the same way.
It would be of great help if your Groups and members were able to add to the letters sent. It can be MP's, local Councillors, local papers or even to the new Ramblers Chief Executive, or anyone else that could help.
I do not ask this lightly but because this will directly effect all Ramblers and we have this one chance to stop it.
Welcome to the Basildon Greenway Group. The Group is a local branch of the Ramblers Association covering the Basildon, Billericay and Wickford areas of Essex. We take our name from the Basildon Greenway footpath, a 32-mile path devised by Basildon Council to link many of the walks and nature reserves in the area. Every week, we lead short Tuesday morning walks and longer Sunday walks. Once a month, we also organise a longer Tuesday walk. The short morning walks are generally about 5 to 6 miles starting at 10am and finishing approximately 12:30 with a short break half way The longer Sunday and Tuesday walks are about 9 to 12 miles usually with a pub stop at lunchtime, start at 10am or just after and finish late afternoon. All walks are lead by our local volunteers. The Tuesday morning walks are particularly popular. Most walks start at a car park in the countryside around Basildon, Benfleet, Billericay, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Hockley, Laindon, Pitsea, Stanford-le-hope and Wickford. Occasionally we walk further afield, for example in Kent, Suffolk or London. Our walks are a great way to get outside, make new friends and discover how walking boosts your health and happiness. You’re very welcome to try walking with us, or to get involved in looking after paths and green spaces and opening up new places to explore.
Ramblers Walkfinder and Revised Format for the Walks Programme
The Ramblers have introduced a nationwide “Walkfinder” website which will list all walks led by Ramblers Local Groups throughout the country. This will enable members to locate walks anywhere on any given day and provision has been made for any Group to download its own walks from the website and print its own programme therefrom. This in turn will relieve the Group newsletter editor and walks co-ordinators from the laborious task of assembling the programme from details submitted by leaders and will also enable every Group’s walks programme to be produced in the standard format which has been used in our walks programme which follows. Any observations regarding the new text format vis-à-vis the tabulated format used hitherto by the Group should be made to the newsletter editor or any Committee member.
Ramblers are also encouraging walk leaders to upload their walk details directly on to the Walksfinder site; our computer expert Ralph Hawtree has written a guide for members explaining how to do this and this will be sent to all recipients of the newsletter electronically in a separate email as an addendum to this newsletter. If anybody who receives a printed copy of the newsletter would also like a printed copy of this guide the newsletter editor can supply one on request. It is emphasised that leaders will be under no obligation to upload their walk details themselves, should they prefer not to then walk details should be submitted to the walks co-ordinators in the usual way and a small team of Committee members can then upload them. Any walk leader uploading walk details him/herself should advise the relevant walks co-ordinator that they have done this. Once registered on the site it will be possible to view all forthcoming walks as soon as they are published.
As always when introducing a new system there are likely to be “teething troubles”, if any gremlins do find their way into this first newsletter to be produced under the new procedure the forbearance of members will be appreciated!
Events on some recent walks have highlighted some aspects of the Group’s policy in organising walks which call for clarification.
We have always eschewed a rigid set of rules and regulations and endeavoured to keep our walks as pleasantly informal as possible. However the large number of participants on many walks, particularly the shorter Tuesday morning walks, does on occasion cause difficulties for leaders, particularly when the group becomes strung out over a considerable distance and, for the successful and safe conduct of the walks and especially for safety of all participants, the following general principles should be observed:-
i). The leader has responsibility for setting a pace of the walk which is comfortable for all participants; walkers should avoid forcing the pace or walking on ahead of the leader unless with his / her agreement as this puts unnecessary pressure on the leader who already has a difficult task in keeping a large group together. Likewise, leaders should periodically check that all members of the group are in sight and should ensure that all participants are present at the end of the walk.
ii). The leader should appoint a backmarker who should stay at the back of the group and ensure nobody is left behind, and ideally should carry a map or satnav and mobile phone in case of emergency; mobile phones should be kept on throughout the walk.
iii). It is essential that if a gap develops, whenever the route changes direction, particularly in wooded areas, all walkers should ensure that those behind are aware of the change thus ensuring that those behind do not get lost.
iv). The location and start time of the walk are specified in the walks programme; leaders should not depart before the stated time, likewise participants should ensure they arrive in good time as the start cannot be delayed to await latecomers other than by prior arrangement with the leader. The post code of the start point is usually given, however this should be taken only as a guide as, especially in rural areas, post codes can cover quite an extensive area; the six-figure grid reference usually pinpoints the start more reliably. Those who have internet access and are registered on the Ramblers website can also check the details on the website version of the walk, which includes a small map extract giving the precise location of the start. At times of exceptionally inclement weather it is also advisable to check with the leader beforehand in case it is considered necessary to amend or curtail the walk.
v). All walkers should carry their own basic First Aid kit as well as the leader and backmarker; some leaders have their own, but the Group now has kits of its own which are normally offered to leaders at the beginning of the walk. Although leaders may carry a First Aid kit it does not put any responsibility on them to carry out basic First Aid.
The success of our walks programme depends on the willingness of leaders, who are of course all volunteers, to take on the responsibility of arranging the walk and ensuring as far as possible that all enjoy the walk and complete the course in safety. It is not an easy task, particularly on some of the Tuesday morning walks which can attract up to forty or fifty participants, and the co-operation of all walkers will greatly assist leaders in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
Local Footpath News
Following a lengthy period of consultations and a public enquiry Essex County Council have now issued a Confirmation Order establishing a Public Bridleway 253 extending from Lee Chapel Lane, Westley Heights, throughout to Dry Street via Beeleigh Avenue, Homestead Drive, un upgraded section of Footpath 176, Kingston Hill, the existing section of Bridleway 253 to Southway and extending along Southway to its junction with Dry Street. The effect of this is to formalise as an official bridleway on the definitive map a route which in practice has been used over the years by ramblers and equestrians but has hitherto been a mixture of footpath, bridleway, private driveway and public highway; ramblers can therefore now use this route legitimately throughout its entire length and the route will be added to the definitive map.
As has been extensively publicised, Network Rail have issued a statement to the effect that they propose in the long term to close all level crossings where public footpaths cross operational railway land. If fully implemented this will have a drastic effect on the National footpath network as in many cases there is no acceptable alternative. Ramblers’ policy is to agree to closure proposals where an acceptable alternative is proposed, subject to the closure not taking place until the alternative route is in place, but to vigorously oppose any closure where the alternative is not acceptable, e.g. where a longer route along a road - potentially in many cases far more hazardous than the railway crossing it is replacing - is involved. The only two crossings in the Basildon Greenway Group’s patch - the Basildon Borough Council area - are what is known as Motorbike Crossing a hundred yards or so West of Pitsea Station on the Tilbury loop line, and the footpath between Beauchamps Drive, Wickford, and Rawreth Shot, which crosses the Southminster Branch Line between Wickford and Battlesbridge. The former is part of The Basildon Greenway Footpath, also the Thames Estuary Path; Network Rail propose diverting the footpath along the South side of the railway through the grounds of Cromwell Manor which would, if effected, provide a more attractive walk than the existing route over the crossing and north of the railway to Pitsea Station, but would inconvenience anybody walking from the residential area north of the A 13 to Vange Marshes. The latter crossing is on a path little used by ramblers as it cannot be easily incorporated into an attractive circular country walk; its main users are persons employed at the Rawreth Industrial Estate and local dog walkers.
For further information re the crossing closure proposals see Ramblers national publicity and recent copies of Essex Area Update which are sent to all members with email facilities.
"To all members, but particularly walk leaders, you may be aware that National Rail are proposing to close a number of footpath crossings, and have already closed some. I would suggest you look at the Essex Area website for a message from Alan Goffee (Essex Chair) and details of meetings shown on the National Rail website."