Ringwood & Fordingbridge Footpath Society

         Details of the RFFS annual general meetings



The next Annual General Meeting will be held at Greyfriars, Ringwood on the 19th March 2018


Minutes of the Ringwood & Fordingbridge Footpath Society 43rd AGM – 20 March 2017


Janet Arts, Claire Knapp, Elaine and John Mawhinney, and Hazel and Kelvin Winch.

The Minutes of the AGM held on 14th March 2016 were accepted

Matters Arising:
Rowan thanked Kelvin for all the work he does for the Society & the wider community.

Chairman's Report AGM 2017.

Throughout the last year the Society has continued it's work to try to ensure the rights of way in all our 13 parishes remain open and in good condition.

We also take a keen interest in the neighbouring areas of Wiltshire and Dorset and in the New Forest National Park.
We have worked closely with the Countryside Service of HCC and with the NPA.

National matters of interest to us are the:
1. Development of the England Coast Path. Particularly the route through the New Forest.
2. The Deregulation Bill, previously referred to as the Right to Apply. Although parliament approved the new method of simplifying the making of Map Modification Orders, it has not been implemented. Government guidance on how the new Bill should be implemented is still awaited.

Total membership 02.01.2017 is 310  (family 202 single 108), Over the year a net loss of 29

 Footpath Matters follows this report

Walks Programme.
As you know walking the rights of way is a good means of keeping our paths in good order. "Use it or lose it". We remedy or report any problems we encounter.
The walks programme offered walks totalling 476 miles (458 miles last year).
Very few walks had to be cancelled this year.
In bad weather please contact the walk leader or look for an email alert to avoid a wasted journey. Usually the walk leader is able to go to the start point even if the walk is cancelled.
Catherine Avery Jones has taken over the role of Programme Secretary and has been co-opted onto our committee. I am very grateful to her and to those who took over the role temporarily before she volunteered.
We still need more walk leaders. Help and advice can be given to anyone who wishes to lead a walk. A recce is needed to check for problems and the suitability of the route. A check before putting the walk into the programme and another as close to the walk date as possible as mud, flooding and fallen trees can suddenly cause problems.
Finding suitable parking places from which to start a walk continues to be difficult so car sharing is desirable.
The Health Walks Programme continues. It is very successful in Fordingbridge. Attendees enjoy both the walking and the social aspect.
There are to be changes to the scheme in Ringwood as NFDC are taking over.
Craig Daters of the NPA will tell you more about this later.
I led 3 walks for the New Forest Autumn Walking Festival and this resulted in some new members.

Julie Whiteing is writing articles for local publications.
We had our "stand" at the summer shows in Fordingbridge, Ellingham and Damerham.
Walk Leaflets continue to be sold at Shows and some other outlets.

David Knapp continues to manage the website. Do please look at it as it is a good source of information.

Email Alert System.
Barry Thornton continues to run this. It is an excellent way of communicating with members.
Do sign up for it. If you change your email address please let Barry know.

Charles Sexton continued to produce Waymark until the end of 2016. Marion Westcott has now taken over.
Waymark continues to be appreciated by all who receive it.
We send out about 255 copies of each issue of which 60 are posted and the remainder are hand delivered. Complimentary copies are either hand delivered or send by email.
Thank you to all involved in the distribution process.

This year we again had our Trig Point Walk /celebration, our Christmas event and Mince Pie Walk.
If we are to have additional events we do need a new Social Secretary and volunteers to run them.
We have had a successful talks programme from September to March.
Once again we participated in the Greyfriars Community Challenge Quiz. Unfortunately unsuccessfully. A new team member has been recruited for next year.
Visits took place to:
Martin Green's farm where we viewed the archaeology and flowers.
Ann Sevier's farm where we learnt about plants growing on her SSI and about commoning.
Ibsley Airfield Yomps. 2 different ones took place for small groups. Disappointingly we were unable to visit the Control Tower because of a change of landowner.
A small number of members participated in a walk and picnic in Fordingbridge to celebrate the Queen's 90th Birthday.

I continue to represent you and other walkers through:
The New Forest National Park Local Access Forum.
Hampshire Area Council of the Ramblers Association.
Hampshire Ramblers Footpath Committee with Kelvin Winch.
The New Forest National Park Recreation Management Strategy Advisory Group.
The England Coast Path where I am Chairman of a sub group involved in developing proposals for a route through the New Forest. The plans for the proposed route in the New Forest are due to be published by Natural England 16.05.2017.

Thanks to:
Sam Jones and his team: They are now managing the rights of way network in the south of Hampshire. More from Sam later.
Rowan Brockhurst. President: Vice Chairman and Assistant Footpath Secretary. Always available to give help and advice.
Kelvin Winch: Footpath Secretary who is responsible for the inspection of the rights of way network in our area, including Rolling Review and the BVPI (best value performance indicators). Problems are reported to him and he is able to rectify some himself. He also organises working parties for clearance work and replacing stiles with gates. More details of this work have been given in the Footpath Report given by Rowan earlier this evening. Kelvin also helps in many other ways.
Hazel Winch: Honorary Secretary. Hazel also organises the distribution of Waymark, assists Kelvin with footpath matters and plays a big part in organising social events.
Tricia Holloway: our Honorary Treasurer.
David Knapp: Auditor and Website Manager.
Marlene Sexton: Membership Secretary.
Charles Sexton: our recently retired Editor.
Marion Westcott: who has recently taken on the Editor role
Julie Whiteing: Publicity Secretary. Julie writes articles for local publications and organises our publicity stands at local shows and also deals with the sale of walk route leaflets. Besides this Julie is very involved in the arrangements for social activities. Julie is willing to become Social Secretary if someone else takes over the publicity role. If you are interested please talk to me or Julie.

Barry Thornton: for running the email alert system. It is a very useful way of informing members of any changes to the walk programme that occasionally occur. Please ensure that we have your up to date email address and do look at your emails.

Walk leaders - more are always needed.
All of you who have helped with footpath work - more volunteers are always welcome.
Those of you who have helped erect our "stand" at Shows  -  more volunteers for this task please.
Those who have contributed to and those who have delivered copies of Waymark.
All of you who have helped by walking our paths and supporting our activities.

                                                                                                                             Ruth Croker

Footpath Matters: Rowan read the following Footpath Secretary's Report in the absence of Kelvin Winch

   Footpath Secretary's Report to R & F Footpath Society's 2017 Annual General Meeting.

In his absence on a splendid trip to the other side of the world Kelvin has asked me (his nominal but very much less industrious deputy) to present this year's Footpath Report. This is based on information he has provided but any faults in presentation of that information are all mine.

We are pleased to confirm — and this information appeared in statistical form in the last issue of Waymark — that overall rights of way problems, judged by comparison of the results of two of our successive annual reviews, are once again on the decrease. Rights of Way problems were reduced quite sharply in our first few years but then there were a few years when they increased again so it is encouraging to read the diminishing comparative figures this year — the comparison being between 2016 and 2013 that being the previous year when our path surveyors were in Breamore, Damerham, Martin, Rockbourne & Whitsbury as we were again last year. This year we are in Fordingbridge, Godshill, Hale, Hyde, Sandleheath & Woodgreen and once again we acknowledge with thanks the efforts of all our path surveyors.

In the last year the path network has benefitted from the employment by some parish councils of a part-time lengthsman engaged in smaller repairs to stiles and gates etc and some clearance of seasonal growth on paths not on HCC's annual cutting schedule. Some councils have also employed outside contractors to undertake more extensive work - for example Godshill where gates have replaced all those stiles which the Parish Council had identified as defective or difficult. Damerham & Ellingham are understood to be considering similar use of contractors — Damerham on repairs to broken boardwalks and Ellingham on replacement of stiles by gates.

HCC continue to respond swiftly to problems which clearly endanger path users particularly for example where bridges are involved. They have also undertaken some replacement of fingerposts though I guess most of you will know of some unreplaced posts which have been broken for years rather than months. They also maintain their policy of gradually replacing stiles by gates and these will be particularly welcome, soon we hope, between Linford Bottom and Burcombe Lane in Ringwood parish. Also on that route a bridge, which many of you will know and which sloping ground makes especially awkward, is to be realigned and replaced.

In addition some of our own members have assisted in installing new gates in lieu of stiles this on the AVP between North End and Jim's Bridge in Harbridge. For those who don't know this, Jim's Bridge was the last link in the creation of the AVP in 1992 after we had agreed the extension of a cul de sac path (which then necessitated a new bridge which the County Council's Jim built) in return for a reasonable diversion of an adjacent section of the route. In due course we will also be assisting a new County Council Ranger in the erection of two gates and the removal of a stile on the route that links Ibsley and Gorley Commons at South Gorley.

The foregoing is based on what Kelvin describes as "the positive picture." Alas in the less encouraging part of the whole we do still have paths which are inaccessible or temporarily closed e.g. part of Fordingbridge FP 78 between Marl and Puddleslosh Lanes and Ringwood PF 38 between St Andrews Farm and Knaves Ash. Use of this latter path should, we suggest, be avoided while the landowner is in dispute with HCC over the correct line of the path — especially as the landowner exchanged verbal insults with a party of walkers recently and later, without foundation or enquiry, suggested that those involved were our members. We do now have his solicitor's apology for that slur on our reputation.

Crossings of Dockens Water also remain a serious problem with the bridge at Newlands becoming inaccessible from the south due to lack of ditch clearance which has been several times reported to HCC and to the National Trust as landowners. The bank erosion on Ringwood FP 40 is getting worse despite our having for some time been asking for remedial action. Our concern now is that very soon this will be a very costly problem to rectify just as was the case a year or two ago with the path alongside the stream adjacent to the Chapel at Stuckton, to the ongoing deterioration of which we had been drawing attention for some time.

29 other more serious problems which Kelvin records as "paths that cannot be used in whole or part" include at least one path in each of our 13 parishes apart from Hale, Sandleheath & Woodgreen which have clean sheets — but also, in each case, fewer paths. Breamore, Godshill & Martin, all with rather more paths, have only one such path in each case. Examples of these more serious problems include paths blocked by barbed wire, electric fences, animal pens, paddock fencing without gates or stiles and paths with gates but gates which are locked. Also included in the 29 are the paths which cross Linwood Bog (though the intrepid in Wellingtons may get through this), a path which has a stile which has been uncrossable for years and another with a missing bridge and at least four paths shown on the map which in whole or part simply do not exist on the ground. But the total must be kept proportionate bearing in mind that the totality of rights of way in our area is not far short of 500.

We still encounter paths which are regularly blocked by crops or obstructed by fences and alas it is often the same landowners who are responsible. Division of larger fields into smaller paddocks tends to exacerbate the fencing problem. We also have problems where one path in each of Ringwood and Fordingbridge has had unauthorised gates erected across it. While gates are obviously better than obstructing fences gates are not permitted across a right of way unless specifically authorised by the highway authority. We continue to press HCC for swift appropriate action in all such cases of obstruction since a delayed approach to landowners can quickly result in a route becoming unusable.

We are told that HCC are undertaking a review of all bridges across the county needing major repair works and we are therefore optimistic that all substandard bridges throughout Hampshire will be brought up to acceptable standards over the next few years.

We have always done our best since the Society was formed over 40 years ago to be a self-help organisation: and I now quote Kelvin directly "one of the problems that we always encounter throughout the summer is seasonal growth and we could do with a few volunteers to assist in what is usually light pruning of side growth on paths or around stiles. Ideally groups of two, three or four people could clear paths we identify using small hand tools only. For larger clearance tasks or repairs likely to involve more sophisticated tools work parties have to be organised following liaison with HCC, the appropriate parish council and the relevant landowner(s) and also steps taken to comply with the conditions of our insurance." Please would any of you willing to take part in either the small group clearance or the more major activity contact our Chairman or Kelvin.

Finally - and here, of course, I depart from Kelvin's notes - it is only right that I should pay tribute to the amazing amount of work which Kelvin does on behalf of the Society and indeed on behalf of anyone who wants to use our local rights of way now or in the future. I know something of the work in which Kelvin is involved since there was a time when it was within my remit but I never produced the effort or dedication which Kelvin displays. So although he won't hear us in Tasmania we can tell him later that we did acknowledge now all that he does for the Society — and indeed, indirectly, for the wider community. Thank you, Kelvin.

Treasurer's Report:
The Treasurer submitted the accounts as at 28th February 2017.  It was proposed that the membership fee should remain the same. Acceptance of the accounts was proposed by Rowan Brockhurst & seconded by Patrick Whiteing. All were in agreement with no dissensions.
The Chairman thanked the Treasurer & Auditor.

Election of Officers:
The following Officers and Committee Members were elected:-
Ruth Croker – Chairman, Rowan Brockhurst – Vice Chairman, Hazel Winch – Secretary,
Tricia Holloway – Treasurer, David Knapp – Auditor, Kelvin Winch – Footpath Secretary, and
Catherine Avery Jones, Marlene Sexton, Marion Westcott and Julie Whiteing – Committee Members

Any other Business
1. The Avon Valley Path in Fordingbridge: – HCC have spent a lot of money remedying faults on the network. The Badger path is now usable, having been resurfaced. "Jim's Bridge" leading to Harbridge had been replaced, a boardwalk made and some stiles have been replaced by gates.
There is to be a new information board about the path at Fordingbridge Church. When this is in situ Ruth will organise a 'Reopening', followed by a walk along the path. The event will be publicised on walks and the email alert system.
2. Julie Whiteing reported that a venue (Ibsley Village Hall) had been found for the Summer Lunch on 25th June and it was hoped as many people as possible would be able to come.
3. Ruth Croker advised that 2 of last years Committee Members had stood down.
Firstly, David Seymour who joined in 1991. He became a committee member in 2000 and Social Secretary in 2002. Not only did he organise skittles evenings but, with the help of his wife Ros, took bookings and payments for social events. David led many walks,usually long ones and could always be relied upon to help to erect our publicity stand at shows. He did this for many years before Julie took on the publicity role. Due to poor health, David has had to retire from the committee. As he is unable to be here , a small gift will be taken to him at home and he will be thanked for his work over the years on behalf of all the members of the Society.
Secondly, Charles Sexton who joined in 2003. He became the editor of Waymark in 2005, producing his first copy in September of that year. Charles was also a walk leader and took a particular interest in the Forest and was very informative about the wartime here. Charles was thanked for his input to the Society and a presentation was made.
4. Rowan thanked Ruth for all her work for the Society.
5. Rowan mentioned that he was a founder member of the Society & had been President for many years & would be happy stand down as Vice Chairman if a suitable replacement could be found. However, he will continue in his present capacity at present.
The date of the AGM in 2018 will be published at a later date.