Saturday, 25 November 2017

Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment

OXFORDSHIRE has an excellent network of local rights of way and accessible green spaces in its countryside, rural communities and urban areas.

The county is also criss-crossed by longer trails such as the Thames Path and the Ridgeway and by regional routes such as the Oxfordshire Way.

Footpaths and bridleways provide opportunities for people to access green spaces for relaxation, exercise and enjoyment.

Walking or cycling has many health benefits and brings people closer to the natural world, while better links along rights of way within and between communities offer scope for reducing car use.

Local voluntary groups that are often involved with looking after local paths and bridleway so now that summer is on the way, what better time to get outside and get involved with local access projects, or just enjoy exploring our beautiful county?

But could we make better use of rights of way in Oxfordshire? Some routes have challenging surfaces, stiles or gates and many lack information and signage about points of interest and circular routes.

Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for managing the rights of way network, doing so by working with farmers and local communities.

But it has limited funding and time to carry out improvements, so this is where the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE2) and volunteers can help.

TOE2 works in partnership with the council, supporting communities to ensure better rights of way networks that are more accessible and easier to use, providing valuable links between and within settlements.

We are keen to support more local voluntary groups to help maintain and improve Oxfordshire’s rights of way network, building on the excellent work of existing groups such as the South Chilterns Path Maintenance Volunteers.

Working alongside parish councils and the county council, such groups help ensure that local people can enjoy better connected paths and bridleways to access local green spaces.

TOE2, a charity and a not-for-profit company, is Oxfordshire’s independent environmental funder, supporting projects that make real and lasting improvements to the environment and to the lives of local people.

It can provide grant funding to support access projects so that local groups can get materials and, possibly, training.

Since 2011 TOE2 has allocated about £200,000 to access projects across Oxfordshire, primarily with funding provided by Grundon Waste Management through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Examples include several significant projects across the southern Chilterns to improve access through replacing stiles with gates. Projects often link to pubs and other village facilities and usually improve a number of stretches of rights of way or even whole routes. Visit https://chilternsociety.org.uk/path-maintenance

A partnership with Brakspear involves local volunteers in providing information to create circular routes from 30 Brakspear pubs. In return, Brakspear is providing funding to support additional grants for access improvements. Visit http://www.pub-trails.co.uk

TOE2 would welcome the opportunity to work with other corporate partners in this way and welcomes funding applications from non-profit making organisations and groups including parish councils, local charities and environmental and other voluntary groups.

We would love to hear from any local organisations or companies interested in supporting better access to green spaces in Oxfordshire.

For more information, call TOE2 director Fiona Danks on 01865 407003, or visit www.trustforoxfordshire.org.uk

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