Aldenham Parish Footpaths update
The footpaths network that we have around Radlett suffered a good deal in the wet winter. Many surfaces became badly damaged and, in some cases, impassable.
Thankfully things have dried out now, in time for the considerable extra traffic generated by the current covid-19 crisis. I think a lot of people are discovering the excellent network we have and exploring new routes; at times some footpaths seem busier than the roads! People do seem to be observing the recommended social distancing; the usual camaraderie among dog walkers continues, albeit at a distance.
Herts CC have an active programme of maintenance on the footpaths and keep a careful list of things that need attention. Inevitably their resources are very limited, the more so currently, and things do take time. One product of their work has been the excellent new footbridge on path A54 across the Tykeswater, near to Tabard Rugby Club’s ground.
The Radlett Society has an informal group of Footpaths walkers who monitor the state of the paths and report issues. Thanks are due to them all: David Bagon, Jayne Carr, Allan Cole, Edward Cross, Tom Hendy, Scott McLachlan, Michael Stockbridge, Chris Wilkins and Jane Williams. David and Michael have now stepped down from the team so if there are a couple of walkers out there who would be willing to help in pretty nominal duties, please let me know.
Footpaths around Radlett
Residents of Radlett and surrounding villages are fortunate to have an extensive network of footpaths and bridleways to enjoy. The Parish of Aldenham has a network of over 30 miles, some within Radlett itself but most of it within the green belt, and most pleasantly rural, though noise from the M1 does intrude at the west of the parish and the M25 is not far from the north of the parish. The neighbouring parishes of Bushey, Elstree, St Stephen (bounding the north of Aldenham parish, towards St Albans), Shenley and Watford have similarly good networks of footpaths and connect well to the Aldenham network.
The Hertfordshire County Council definitive map of rights-of-way can be found here: https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/recycling-waste-and-environment/countryside-access/rights-of-way/current-rights-of-way/the-definitive-map.aspx . There are some changes from this map ‘on the ground’ but paths are generally well marked. A few paths cut across fields and so tend to be ploughed and then planted before being re-established. Some rights of way are not strictly designated as such but are technically permissive paths.
The quality of the footpaths is generally good. Most are walkable throughout the year, though in wet weather many will have muddy stretches, especially those near the River Colne in the north of the parish and the railway line to the east. Indeed, some paths will become difficult to traverse after extensive rain and it is hoped walkers are sensible about not making the paths worse when conditions are poor.
Some of the rights of way are designated as bridleways and are available to cyclists and horse-riders. Ordinary footpaths are restricted to walkers. Inevitably, few of the footpaths are easy to traverse for those with disabilities though many of the bridleways offer level and solid surfaces. It must be appreciated that many of the paths are on private land; although they are rights of way, the landowner retains rights and will validly object, for example, to cycling on a footpath.
The Radlett Society & Green Belt Association takes an active role in monitoring the footpath network, including producing a footpath map in 2002, which was updated in 2011. If you would like to purchase this please use the contact form on the website here. Any proposed variations to the network by the Council or by landowners (these can include alterations to routes or changes to the category of a path) will be evaluated by the Society and we will make representations appropriately.
We monitor the condition of the paths through a team of volunteer walkers who report periodically on the condition of ‘their’ section of the network to the footpaths officer. Issues are reported to Hertfordshire County Council to add to their action list; this can include obstruction by landowners or fly tippers, overgrown tress and bushes, or neglect including damage to paths. It must be emphasised that most of those who own and work land in the neighbourhood are very cooperative and will seek to remedy most problems of access when requested. We also liaise with the Council over routine maintenance including mowing and strimming.
The network of paths and bridleways that is available reflects the way that our part of south Hertfordshire has been occupied and utilised over the centuries. Many will be routes that connected small farming communities in days when fields were small and indeed much land was not enclosed. We should all be grateful for the legacy that such usage by so many unknown people has bequeathed to current generations.
John Whiting, Footpaths officer, RSGBA
Footpaths and (pushing) bicycles
It seems that pushing a bike along a country footpath is not allowed
I am sure that everyone is aware that most of our footpaths around Radlett & Aldenham are simply that – footpaths and not cycleways. Some routes are designated bridleways or even ‘BOATs’ – byways open all traffic – which can be cycled. We know that residents respect the sometimes delicate nature of footpaths and would not dream of riding a bicycle along them but someone recently raised the interesting question: Is it permissible to push a bicycle along a designated footpath?
As some will be aware, there are definite rules (and indeed court cases) about riding and wheeling bicycles on footpaths and these generally serve to prohibit such activities. However, most of these concern footpaths in built up areas where those who break the rules can be fined. The position in the countryside is less clear-cut. Groups such as the Open Space Society say that wheeling a bicycle on a footpath isn’t permissible; some commentators say it is OK to do so.
Checking with Hertfordshire Council I was advised that their guidance manual says that path users can take ‘usual accompaniments’ (a pram seemingly qualifies) with them on a path. The manual goes on to suggest that a bicycle is not a ‘usual accompaniment’ of a pedestrian and taking one along a footpath would constitute trespass against the landowner (but not a criminal offence). It is possible that a court case on what is a ‘usual accompaniment’ and whether that includes a bicycle could arise one day to get a definitive ruling but clearly that would be a lengthy (and potentially costly) procedure.
So, to be correct, the advice has to be: please don’t take bicycles on footpaths, even just wheeling them, unless you can see that they are clearly marked as open to cyclists and horse riders.
Footpaths Officer, RSGBA
Click here to go to the Bushey and District Footpaths Association
Click here to go to the St Albans & District Footpath Society
Click here to go to the Ramblers Association