Bath & North East Somerset Council has started work to improve a path for walkers through the lower slopes of Beechen Cliff in Bath.
There is currently a well-trodden track through the woods that has been used for many years but it gets very muddy and slippery during wet weather, particularly the steep slope down to Alexandra Road, which often prevents people from using it.
The new path was the idea of the Beechen Cliff Steering Group, which includes local ward members, representatives of the National Trust and local residents’ groups.
Bath & North East Somerset Council agreed to fund the installation of a natural path made from crushed limestone with timber edges.
This will improve access through the woodland, though in some places there will have to be steps where it is too steep for a slope.
Cllr David Dixon (Lib Dem, Oldfield), Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “This is a great example of working with the local community to open up our beautiful woodlands, so that more people can use them. It will be similar to the paths that the National Trust has installed at Combe Down. There will be no excavations carried out in close proximity to trees so no tree roots will be damaged or severed.”
The path is due to be completed by December.
It is excellent that the woods are getting some much needed care, this is to be welcomed after some considerable time of neglect.
It is also excellent that access to the woods is being improved – the entrance from Magdalen Gardens is, at times, almost impossible so the improvement here is most welcome. It would also be welcome to address the path surface in Magdalen Gardens, as when it is wet it is very slippery indeed and is much the most treacherous aspect of a walk in the woods.
I understand that the plans also include repairing the existing steps and handrail from Carlton Gardens Road – if this is the access I think it is it doesn’t really go anywhere except into brambles and scrub and then a very steep slope upwards, so seems largely pointless. The best place to aid access to the woodland is from the Eastern end by Carlton Gardens / Alexandra Road adjacent to the play area – I assume this will be part of the hoggin path under construction. If so, this improvement is welcome as this is the only section of the existing passage through the wood that causes a problem as it is very steep and often muddy.
What I would question is the need for the hoggin path that is proposed to run through the wood – as a daily and year round user of the path through the woods I can tell you that the existing path through the wood is even, well draining and mud free, with the exception of one small patch at the Eastern end of the path that gets muddy when it has been wet which would be simple to resolve. If you have made it to the path through the woods you have either come up the steep slope from the Eastern end, up the steps from where Carlton Gardens meets Holloway, through Magdalen Gardens again negotiating slopes and steps, or down Jacobs Ladder from the path at the top of the woods. Whichever route you have taken, the path through the woods will be by far the least challenging aspect – a hoggin path to ease access is simply not necessary.
What concerns me most is the raised nature of the new path, which is going to be particularly hazardous at night as, if the section already completed is a guide, there is a drop of up to 30cm at the edge of the path (please don’t get ideas about adding lighting). This is simply going to be dangerous.
The contractors have now succeeded in making the woods almost impassable by driving tracked vehicles in the woods making it into a quagmire. I appreciate that you must break eggs to make an omelette, but not when the no-one knows who has ordered the omelette. I was aware of the plan to pass management of the National Trust because a notice was placed at the entrance to Magdalen Gardens. I knew nothing of the current plans because a similar process was not followed. Had known I would certainly have wanted to get involved, the fact that this was not possible, and that it clearly wasn’t considered necessary to consult the daily users of the woods is particularly disappointing.
I would have thought that the priority would be to focus on the trees, especially those that might have an impact on the houses along Carlton Gardens, the general arboricultural heath of the woods and any measures needed to prevent landslip, along with improving access to the woods. The hoggin path seems a very misguided place to start, especially if machinery is needed to enable works within the woods, as this will inevitably cause damage to the new path.
It should be urgently considered as to how the remainder of the path is constructed through the woods – at the very least where it is not necessary for the path to be raised, it should not be raised. For the most part the existing path is on a hardcore base that will makes it not only difficult to build a raised path but also entirely unnecessary. This is a particularly beautiful spot that gives many people great joy. I’m delighted that as a result of these works more people will be able to enjoy it as I do, but it shouldn’t be changed it from it’s natural state more than is absolutely necessary.
And if you are unfamiliar with the woods yourself, do visit in March as the wild garlic in bloom is magnificent. But do watch your step on the edge of the path, those raised edges are going to be hazardous.
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