A Guide to Using Footpaths Through Farmland

Many of us appreciate the local area using the footpaths that criss-cross our countryside. With Spring arriving, there will be the chance to make the most of longer and warmer days, budding and blossoming plants, and the wide array of birds, insects and mammals that can be observed out in the open.

As the opportunities increase, where can we walk? What rules should be followed and what routes are there to enjoy?

Where can I walk?

On Public Footpaths: Public footpaths are usually waymarked with yellow or green arrows attached to posts. They will be shown on official maps of public rights of way and in turn, listed on Ordnance Survey Explorer and Landranger maps. These paths are for walking, running, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs. Horse riding and bicycles are only permitted on bridleways.

Please keep to these waymarked footpaths. If conditions prevent you from doing so, you can report problems with public footpaths to the local council, or the landowner.

On Permissive Footpaths: These footpaths take you over private land and are not rights of way. The landowner has granted permission for the route to be used by the public, but they also have the right to withdraw that permission if they choose. They are often waymarked with white arrows and additional signage.

Again, please keep to these waymarked footpaths and do not assume you can use any track, field edge or grass margin.

Walking Etiquette

The following points should always be adhered to:

  • Walking should be on designated footpaths only, public and permissive. Please keep to the waymarked paths.
  • Walkers should not use field headlands or grass margins. Please keep to the waymarked paths. Grass margins can provide valuable nest sites for groundnesting birds, boost numbers of beneficial insects and spiders on arable farmland and provide habitat for small mammals1 . This is aside from the fact that they are not publicly accessible and are part of private farmland.
  • Dogs should be kept under close control and not be allowed to roam freely through crops or across fields and woodland.
  • Dog walkers should wherever possible clear up dog mess. However, do not bag up mess and then leave it lying around or hanging in trees or hedges.

 

Footpaths running through Polehanger Farm

We have 3 public footpaths running across Polehanger Farm that link Meppershall with Shefford and Campton. In addition, over the years, we have added various permissive paths that extend this footpath network and link these walking routes together as well as providing additional access in to the village.

All the footpaths, public and permissive, are extremely popular and enjoyed by many walkers in the local area. I wanted to take the opportunity to remind people of both the available path network here at Polehanger Farm so that everyone can benefit as Spring approaches (see the map below). The footpaths available through Polehanger Farm are as follows:

  • Public footpath (FP5) that includes part of the Bunyan Trail. This runs from Shefford under the A507 and diagonally across the farm towards Meppershall.
  • Public footpath (FP10) running alongside the River Hit between Shefford and Campton.
  • Public footpath (FP4) running from the River Hit past Woodhall Farm and up our farm track to the Village Hall and The Orchard in Meppershall.
  • Permissive footpaths running through the Polehanger Farm River Woodland (FP15) linking FP5, FP10 and FP4.
  • Permissive footpaths running across our farm tracks through woodland and up past Nunswood towards the Shefford Road entrance of Meppershall. These also link FP4 and FP5.
  • Permissive footpaths running from the entrance of Meppershall on the Shefford Road, crossing Shefford Road and continuing field side down a prepared path towards the Esso roundabout on the A507.

 

Path maintenance

Here at Polehanger along with the Public footpaths, all permissive paths are officially logged with the council. We are always looking to update signage and repair waymarking posts in conjunction with Central Bedfordshire Council to make it as clear as possible where the paths run on the ground.

Maintenance also takes place throughout the year to ensure that footpaths are clear of obstructions and remain an enjoyment to all. Public footpaths are the responsibility of the council, whereas permissive paths are our responsibility to maintain.

As users of the footpaths, we remind everyone to ensure they take any litter home with them. A bin was installed on the path that runs alongside Shefford Road that the council regularly empty. Disappointingly, the amount of litter along this permissive path up to the village, on the field edges and by the side of the road does not seem to diminish. We welcome any suggestions on how to minimise the issue.

If you think any routes are unclear, have potential health and safety issues or are obstructed, or indeed if you have any general questions regarding the footpath network, please either contact me or the council.

Further Information

Central Bedfordshire Rights of Way team: http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/leisure/countryside/rights-ofway/public.aspx

Rights of way in our area via the My Maps feature on My Central Bedfordshire at: http://my.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/

References:
1 Arable Field Margins. RSPB. Available online at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-andsustainability/farming/advice/managing-habitats/arable-field-margins/

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