The wonderful long-distance footpath that follows the river through the Ouse Valley in Cambridgeshire is one of our greatest assets. The Great Ouse Valley Trust has already replaced the information boards, with the assistance of Highways England and the County Council, but keeping the path clear and safe is not quite so straightforward. Graham Campbell, Chair of the Trust, explains why.
The new A14 has undoubtedly brought many benefits in reducing car journey times. However, it has also had a hugely detrimental impact on one of the most tranquil and beautiful stretches of our Ouse Valley Way footpath.
Much of the section between Brampton and Buckden and Offord Cluny is now dominated by the inevitable noise and visual impact of the new road. A really pressing concern is that the river bank immediately beneath the elevated road is now collapsing into the water. In the darkness of the undercroft the vegetation that once kept the riverbank stable has died and disappeared. National Highways has done its best to tidy up this area but has yet to find any funding for a long-term solution to this potentially dangerous situation. The cost of reinforcing the river bank is small in comparison to the huge cost of the A14 project as a whole. The trustees continue to press for a speedy resolution because, although we are keen to encourage families and individuals to explore our wonderful riverside footpath, we must also ensure it is safe.
Volunteers can do only so much. To ensure public safety here needs the heavy machinery of the responsible bodies. PHOTOGRAPH BY GOVT
Keeping the footpath accessible throughout the year is in fact one of our major concerns. Although the County Council continues to carry out major repair works, severe funding restrictions over the last 12 years have meant it is no longer able to maintain its footpaths as it would wish, and it has sought support from town and parish councils to carry out the more basic tasks.
During the last two summers the Great Ouse Valley Trust has attempted to coordinate volunteers from our Partner Members to go out and clear nettles and brambles to keep the path open. This has been a great effort with much success but the size of the task was such that some sections of the path nevertheless still became too overgrown for easy access.
The Ouse Valley Way was set out in the 1990s and runs for 151 miles from Syresham in Northamptonshire all the way to The Wash at Kings Lynn. Arguably the section through Cambridgeshire is the finest part. Let’s be proud of our beautiful local countryside and do everything we can to value it.
The Great Ouse Valley Trust promotes for public benefit the conservation, restoration and enjoyment of the landscape, wildlife and heritage of the Great Ouse Valley and environs in the county of Cambridgeshire. For more information about the Trust please visit http://greatousevalleytrust.org.uk and follow us on Facebook.