One of the joys of living in Blewbury is the ability to navigate the village and its environs through the network of footpaths, bridleways and byways, commonly known as public rights of way.
Gone are the days when the paths were kept clear by flocks of sheep and labourers who worked for local landowners. In these times the maintenance of footpaths has to be planned and paid for.
The Parish Council regularly receives complaints/comments about the state of the footpaths and we act where we can. However we would like to clarify some rights and responsibilities.
The duty to maintain public rights of way rests with the Highway Authority, in our case Oxfordshire County Council through their Countryside Access Team. The Oxfordshire Parish Guide to Countryside Access reads as follows: ‘the County Council has a duty to maintain the surface of rights of way. It must be recognised that they are essentially countryside paths, usually with an earth surface, and so, depending on the type of soil, some mud should be expected, particularly during winter months. The County Council will seek to maintain rights of way in a condition suitable for their use by the public, i.e. a footpath in a condition for use by walkers. In this it is assumed that the user will wear appropriate clothing and footwear (for example walking boots, or wellingtons in the winter’.
Parish Councils have a right to maintain public rights of way and Blewbury, in common with many other villages, has undertaken the maintenance of footpaths within the built area of the village. This work is carried out by our lengthman, with the assistance of volunteers and Council members on some occasions, and paid for through the parish precept element of the council tax. The amount of time and money we have available for this work is finite.
Responsibility for vegetation along the side of footpaths and roads in the village lies with the residents whose boundary lies along the public right of way. Many of our residents keep these boundaries well trimmed back – others are not so conscientious.
At the moment OCC has limited resources as does the PC. Grass cutting by the local authority has been reduced to a minimum and the PC is reviewing how to continue the previous level of maintenance as parishioners have complained about unkempt undergrowth.
It would be most beneficial if all residents would pay attention to the land, paths, pavements and verges outside their homes. Clearing leaves, cutting grass or just clearing litter from a small area would help enormously. Two Village Clear Up days a year are scheduled and organised between Sustainable Blewbury and the Parish Council – more volunteers to clear leaves and occasionally help spread gravel on these days would be very helpful. We are well aware that many parishioners already do their bit to maintain and improve the village and that pressures on people’s time have never been greater. But most of us love what Blewbury is – a charming, vibrant village. It will not stay that way if we don’t collectively make an effort to maintain the features that make our village unique.