Posted by Jim Brooks.
Please note this is not the full report.
The village of Walkington is expanding rapidly at the same time as we come to terms with the pandemic. This paper suggests that we need to invest as a community in walking, cycling and horse-riding facilities. The centre of the village is becoming urbanised, and traditional walking routes are being subsumed into the built form. There is an opportunity to think about what we want the village to look like in future and the facilities available for a larger population of people who live and work in the village (even if it is from home) and who increasingly take exercise and relaxation in and around the village.
The paper argues for the creation of a framework of concentric circles of routes for walking, cycling and horse-riding around the village, building on the existing framework of footpaths and recognising that footpaths do not necessarily need to lead anywhere. The idea is to provide a range of walks, rides, and jogging routes of differing lengths with options to extend or cut short walking, cycling and riding routes around the village.
We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful area and we need to keep in touch with our surroundings.
Society is changing
We are, or hope to become, post pandemic and post Brexit.
Many people are changing work patterns and working from home.
There will be a natural and sustained increase in local walking, jogging, cycling and horse riding.
We need to think differently about local facilities and how we spend time in and around the village.
We need to reverse the primacy of the car, in favour of walking, cycling and horse-riding.
The Village is changing
The natural boundaries of the village, excluding Broadgates, appear to be:
- The traffic lights
- Townend Road
- Middlehow Road
- Little Weighton Road
It would be a great pity if these boundaries were breached, particularly to the south of Little Weighton Road, towards Halfpenny Cottage.
- The open spaces within this area are now under pressure from in-fill development.
- The village has doubled in size in the last decade.
- Th increase in size is not to meet local employment demand.
- It is a dormitory village and most income earners commute to work.
- Local employment in the village is mainly restricted to agriculture, hospitality, and the shop.
The recent announcement of the closure of the Ferguson Fawcett Arms is a real test of the community. The inherent land value of the site may argue for housebuilding but the amenity value of the site is inestimable and its loss would be a serious blow at the very heart of the community.
Local walking has become increasingly urbanised and the surrounding busier roads are inhospitable for walking, dog walking, horse riding and even cycling.
From most houses in the village, you could be adjacent to open spaces or in the open country in a very short time, usually less than 5 minutes. But now, the spaces are increasingly built on or being developed and the village feels much more urban. It is quite easy now to walk for half a mile without being in open space. Once you get to open space, you are often on a traditional footpath route to another settlement and the only option is to retrace your steps at some stage.
There are fewer wild spaces in the village now and the two woodland areas adjacent to the recreation field seem more and more important. Children’s informal play areas are important for exploration, education and personal development.
There have been little or no new local facilities within the village to reflect the inherent value of the new development planning gain to the developers.
We need to think about how well Broadgates is linked to the main village area.
Most of all, we need to think about how Walkington adapts to the new needs of the community. This is particularly important in a period of social change, economic uncertainty, and substantial house building. When profits from house building eclipse other land use options, landowners tend to go for the immediate profit, sometimes to the detriment of the area.
Our rich inheritance is easily lost.
Traditionally footpaths led from one place to another. The busier ones became roads.
A footpath is a pedestrian path not adjacent to a road. Access for cycles and horses can also be included in this broad definition.
We don’t need to extend the network of footpaths leading to other places: generally, the existing network is sufficient. In fact, the direction of travel has been to produce longer distance routes such as the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast routes, by linking together existing paths.
But there is no reason why a footpath should lead anywhere.
The more obvious gap in local facilities is a set of concentric circular paths around the village where footpaths to neighbouring villages are spokes in the wheel of a network of paths with options for short, medium or long walks. These paths could be themed and supported by signs and descriptions:
- Fitness and jogging
- The seasons
It may be possible to use Government grants (post pandemic community investment projects to encourage walking and cycling) or planning obligations money to try to extend the network of paths, whilst working with farmers and landowners to respect the land, livestock and the needs of farmers.
This may entail periods of non-access to allow for livestock rearing, planting and harvesting. It may also require maintenance grants and work by volunteers to keep the paths in good order and to minimise damage to crops and danger to animals.
A permissive path does not concede a right of way and this might be an easier negotiating approach to local farmers and landowners.
The basic idea is to link existing footpaths with small additions to support a set of concentric circular routes beginning and ending in the village.
A list of potential additions to footpath network is attached but it is important that opposition to any specific outline proposal does not undermine the basic idea. It is also important to see this as a gradual developmental approach where the project never finishes, but which matures and changes as the village continues to grow and the local needs of the community change over time.
Post Brexit from the European Union, the continued use of ‘set aside’ land at the margins of fields may cease to be a UK Government priority as it has been under the Common Agricultural Policy. There may be opportunities to continue to maintain such strips as wildlife areas with some footpaths alongside.
There are also suggestions to change the status of some roads to ‘access only’ where narrow country roads could perhaps become dedicated to walking cycling and riding by detrafficking. Again, it may not be possible or practicable to do this but the ideas are included as aspirational and in support of an overall vision.
How about the more radical and crazy idea of a local Walkington right to roam (on the Scottish model)??
Discussions with local landowners and farmers
There are bound to be areas where such ideas as extending the footpath network are unwelcome and perhaps unfeasible.
The overall project would need to understand and incorporate the needs of farmers and reasoned objections. There seems little point in pursuing a project where progress will be minimal and such advances that are made are unwelcome and insensitive to local land use patterns. As the village expands, existing footpaths may be incorporated into the urban road network and may identify the need for other footpaths further outside the village boundaries. Unless we think more radically, we will be walking on urban streets rather than in open country.
Understanding what could be achieved and areas where opposition will be strongest may help to ensure that the programme remains rooted in the community and serving the wider needs.
The local lead organisation
The Parish Council is best placed to lead and to assume this responsibility on behalf of the community.
The Parish Council would, hopefully, see need to support and develop the underlying strategy and to develop a local Walkington Walking Plan setting out the aspirations and objectives of the programme and how it fits into the wider plans for the area.
The Parish Council would be the sponsoring organisation bidding in partnership with East Riding Council in bids for government funds or for planning obligations money. The Parish Council could also oversee the long term development of the concept and changes necessary to maintain its relevance to local needs.
Until a strategy is properly developed, it is impossible (and premature) to set out a comprehensive list of benefits. But more obvious options for inclusion would be:
Health and fitness
Connection with the land
Sense of place and identity
Security (people walking past local properties, keeping an eye out for neighbours)
A key theme is replacing the primacy of the car in favour of pedestrians, cyclists and riders.
It is hard to know what Walkington is best known for. The Hayride was a powerful statement of local community but has gone. The pond and its maintenance and decoration is another. Perhaps a Walkington Walking Map, distributed to all households would increase the sense of local identity.
This paper is a start point, needing further input, ideas and reservations.
It is a start only
Jim (Charlie the brown labradoodle’s owner.)
Editor’s Note: Thank you Jim for this extremely well thought out and professional presentation. The idea of developing more footpaths and linking existing routes around the village is an exciting one especially at the moment when our old Village is being knocked around somewhat! We look forward to seeing a map incorporating some of the ideas outlined in the proposal.