Community Forest Path problems in South Gloucestershire

When attempting the Green Man Challenge (a continuous circuit of the Community Forest Path) we have come across a number of problems on the South Gloucestershire portion of the route.

Beginning at the County Bridge at Keynsham and working anti-clockwise, there are no problems until Londonderry Wharf. From this point to Willsbridge Hill, the CFP is basically un-runnable in the last field leading to the car park of the Queen’s Head – to the extent that we usually use the Dramway Path instead, which also has the advantage of a safer road crossing.

There are no further problems until Southway Drive. The problem is the transition onto the Dramway Path, which is not obvious. We generally turn right on Southway Drive to pick up the Dramway between the warehouses.

Some people have had trouble navigating through Warmley Forest Park to Goose Green.

The enclosed path from Goose Green past Cherryorchard Farm is usually blocked with nettles, particularly near the beginning. One person was misled by the angle of the CFP sign where the enclosed path opens out into a field.

The section up to Shortwood Hill is OK apart from long grass caused by the agricultural depression, which prevents the grass from being cropped.

The path up through the wood on the north side of Shortwood Hill is often difficult to follow due to brambles and other vegetation.

There are no more problems until we get to the other side of the M4.

There are sometimes problems with the gates of the field before the field that contains a disused mine shaft (possibly Parkgate Colliery.) The problem is that there is no proper gate, so when there are cattle in the field, the farmer tends to tie up a barrier with barbed wire. 

There are no more real problems until we reach the built up area, where the lack of CFP signs has proved a problem for some.

The only other problem is the enclosed path between Ash Lane and Badger’s Lane, which is regularly nearly impassable due to nettles etc. The dogs at the stables at the Badger’s Lane end of the path can also be intimidating.

The middle section of the stretch from Badger’s Lane to Easter Compton is not a problem at the moment, because it is down to grass. But the last time it was ploughed for arable crops, it was not restored on the correct line (although there were wide conservation-style headlands, which may have been intended as a substitute.)

The rest of the route is fine.

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Rhineland progress report

South Gloucestershire rights-of-way officers have the blocked paths in hand and have instructed their contractors accordingly.

The stile/footbridge was damaged by another set of contractors, who were employed by Redrow to remove a hedge and make my directions harder to follow! A search of the internet revealed that Redrow have had outline planning permission to build on this land since 1957. The latest scheme was for the Severnside Stadium plus housing, but this ran into difficulties due to objections to increasing traffic on the road from Pilning to Easter Compton.

I doubt whether another scheme will be put forward before the end of the housing recession.

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Updates 07-07-08 – 3: Rhineland

Updates are available on 3 routes from Beyond The Urban Fringe (B-tuf 2 – The Wild West, B-tuf 16 – A Bird in the Hand and now B-tuf 3 – Rhinelend)

We decided to walk the Rhineland route from the Fox at Easter Compton under a threatening sky, but luckily the threat did not develop. I read the instructions aloud over the first section and my wife commented on their accuracy or otherwise. The light made the views of the two motorway bridges even more obvious than it says in the text.

The first problem we came across was a new green gate on the descent from Spaniorum Hill (point 2).  This might cause confusion if you are not using an OS map (154 or 167) in conjunction with the book as recommended. There is a perfectly good pedestrian gate beside it, so it is only a psychological problem.

The second problem was caused by an improvement to the path between points 6 and 7. Here the footpath has been re-established on the “correct” side of the hedge as shown on the OS map. So, you need to turn right and then left over a new bridge (at ST559835). From here, follow the hedge on your left , crossing a stile and bridge and another stile to emerge on a farm track at 7 (ST557838).

The path over the next stile was blocked by vegetation at this point, so we followed the farm track round to the right, which brought us to a point between the second and third stiles descending from the track or road, which is on an embankment at this point.

The instruction to go straight ahead over the third stile is misleading at this point, because, although the path does go straight ahead in a general sense, you have to turn left from the point of view of a person getting over the stile. The confusion is made worse by the fact that two sets of stiles on the way to point 8 are not mentioned, which could potentially cause a crisis in confidence. The first of the second set of stiles leads onto a bridge is broken and difficult to negotiate. Also the first of the two gates is now missing. In short this section would be very confusing without an OS map.

In view of the problems with the last section, I wished I had mentioned the stiles into and out of the muddy grassy track, and the fact that you have to turn right on a track to reach the main road.

There were no futher problems on the way to the White Horse, where we stopped for a snack lunch and pint of Thatchers and an orange juice and soda. This is really an excellent local pub. There were 3 horse drawn vehicles pulling out as we arrived, including one small carriage ideal for weddings I should think. There are also better views of the Severn Crossing than I remembered on the way there.

On the way back to the pub, there were no problems until we reached the corner of Mill Rhine Plantation (ST579846), where we found a stile next to the gate, which had previously been hidden by vegetation, and there was no hemlock this year.

We decided to omit the Raven’s Tail and explored the new woodland instead. There are some new permissive footpaths through it that open up possiblities for a nimber of new routes.

The only other real problems were the nettles blocking the path from ST587830 and ST586827 in Over. This was particularly disappointing as this is a section of the Community Forest Path. My wife was also menaced by a pair of dogs from the stables adjoining the spot where the path joins the tarmac lane.

A completely different attitude is displayed by the farmer who owns fields between here and Easter Compton. He mows his headlands to allow people to walk around his fields is comfort, rather than trample his grass by walking on the strict line of the right of way.

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More progress on the Moor

Following up on signs of work I saw in the distance on Tuesday, I went along to Avon Riding School for the Disabled opposite the Blaise Estate car park on Thursday to see what was going on. Apparently the riding school has leased the moor and has built a track onto it, together with a new gate. This means that it is now possible to get off the moor via the path leading to Corbet Close. That is not particularly helpful for the Wild West route in itself, but it does mean that the moor is likely to be cared for. Nick the manager was out digging up Ragwort, (Senecio jacobaea), which is poisonous to horses, when I visited. When this has been done, the fields will be mown for hay, which ought to improve access.

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Progress report

South Gloucestershire Technical Officer (Public Rights of Way) Natalie Meese-Kennedy has come up trumps with the blocked path onto Lawrence Weston Moor (Path OAY 106) and has handed the job onto the contractors who deal with these things. With any luck at all that means that the Wild West Route will soon be open again. (I’d give it at least a fortnight.) However, there are nettles elsewhere on the route, especially as the path from Berwick Lodge Farm emerges into a field from the track alongside the motorway, so shorts are probably risky. The path around Bank Leaze Primary School wil probably take longer to shift, but the route through the nature reserve is preferable in any case.

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Wild West – blocked path alert

The nettles are robust everywhere this year due to the warm wet spring, but they are particularly terrible on the Wild West route (the second one in Beyond the urban fringe or B-tuf 2). Nettles combined with brambles have made the route impassable at point 9 on the sketch map, where the route goes under the railway next to the motorway (Ordnance Survey ST549796). This means the route is not usable at the moment as there is no good alternative route onto Lawrence Weston Moor. There is a path in from Hill End Drive/Darley Close, but that involves a considerable distortion of the early part of the route, and, although this route is passable, it is by no means nettle free. If you do get onto the moor, you will need to find a route through the nature reserve as the path around Bank Leaze School is still blocked.

Something should be done about this problem as Lawrence Weston Moor is supposed to be a Local Nature Reserve. It ought to be accessible to walkers.

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Blocked paths crossing the City Boundary

I have recently received the following e-mail from the Bristol City rights of way department about a blocked footpath between Whitchurch and Maes Knoll that I complained about some time ago.

Dear Mr Bloor

The current situation is that Bath & North East Somerset need to obtain committee authorisation to permit Bristol City Council to process an order on their behalf. The diversion for them is at the top end of the path, so that it follows the field boundary and exits at the existing kissing gate. Their next committee is  in the first week of July. At that stage I can get the dedication agreement signed and a diversion order advertised.

The result will be a public footpath connecting Tannorth Rd up to East Dundry Rd and onwards to Maes Knoll.

 Thank you for your interest,

Mary Knight

This looks like good news, because the blocked section is part of a route that I left out of the first Crossing Boundaries book because of the blockage.  You can find the route, which is nicknamed “The Caterpillar”, amongst the CTTC free routes on www.closertothecountryside.co.uk

The e-mail reminded me of other blocked paths, so I sent the following back:

Dear Mary Knight,

Your e-mail about the path at Dundry Hill Farm, Whitchurch, reminded me of a couple of other places where I have had problems in the past, both on paths that cross the boundary of the Bristol unitary authority.

The first of these is the path from North Hill Farm, East Dundry, to Bishport Avenue. This path is useful as part of of a circular route, which links the countryside around Dundry with Wilmotte Park, Crox’s Bottom and the Malago open space to Bishopsworth Library. Unfortunately the path from the city boundary to Bishport Avenue passes through land, which is, I believe, owned by the council, and is usually very nearly unpassable.

I have not visited this path lately for that reason, but I would be delighted to hear that the path is now properly maintained and marked so that it would be worth visiting again.

Similar problems exist on the path from Hallen across Lawrence Weston Moor to Atwood Drive. There are two pinch points. The first is where the path goes alongside the motorway under the railway line from Filton to Avonmouth. I suspect that the section that is usually severely overgrown and impassable is in South Gloucestershire, but it is hard to be certain as the railway forms the boundary at this point. If it is a South Gloucestershire problem, perhaps you could bring it up in an appropriate forum.

The second pinch point is around Bank Leaze School where the path has been confined to an enclosure that is usually choked by brambles etc. This is almost certainly council owned land.

I hope that you can assure me that these problems have already been dealt with. Otherwise, I would be interested to hear what you propose doing about them.

Yours sincerely

Chris Bloor

Watch this space for further developments

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