South Downs Way Newsletter February 2010
Happy New Year and a very warm (or should I say cold) welcome from the South Downs Way, which as I write this is buried under a foot of snow, even a week after the snows stopped falling, stretches of the Trail are still hidden. We count the number of walkers, cyclists and horse riders but not normally skiers which recently have been a common sight!
Talking of counting visitors, last month saw the installation of some new automatic people counters along the Trail. These clever little pressure pads and induction loops can record the numbers of walkers, cyclists and horse-riders that pass by. When we can find them again under the snow we will check they are calibrated correctly, in time for the busy spring ahead. The Christmas and New Year period was blessed with clear blue skies over the South Downs and the Trail was exceptionally busy with people trying to walk or cycle off their Christmas excesses, so it will be interesting to see what the counters picked up. This information is really useful to use in helping to gage usage patterns and help target work at the busiest or most vulnerable spots. You can also help us gather information and improve the Trail by completing our South Downs Way feedback questionnaire on-line. You donít have to have completed the whole Trail to give us your feedback, but if you have you can also receive a stylish certificate of completion. Last year nearly 250 people completed the questionnaire; Thank you to all those that did.
Visitor numbers on the Trail have been up in 2009 by as much as 40% as have visits to the website. The biggest increase has come from mountain bikers which itís estimated now make up 35 Ė 40% of all users. In response to this we have republished our popular SDW Mountain Bike pocket guide with the help of Harvey Maps. Packed full of useful information this guide can be downloaded from the SDW pages of the National Trails website or by requesting a free copy from the SDW team.
The SDW team is small, just the two of us, but we work very closely with the South Downs Joint Committee and Hampshire County Council and have an army of nearly 400 volunteers. Ian Lock is one of them and below describes his motivations and experience of volunteering as a SDW Warden.-----------------------------------------------------------
Walking With a Purpose
Volunteer Ė Ian Lock, Section Ė Alfriston to Jevington
There is something magical about heading out from Alfriston early on a crisp winterís morning along the South Downsí Way. The anticipation of the stiff climb up Windover Hill and the sheer magnificence of the view across the downs to the sea once you get there, both are experiences that take my breath away. Walking with a purpose through this part of the National Park is a truly energising experience.
I applied to become a South Downs Warden about 12 months ago and after some good training from the team itís now down to me to walk the trail and look after what I can and report the bigger tasks for the other part of the volunteer team to take care of. Walking with a purpose really works for me and the people you meet are often interested in and appreciative of what you are doing. People remind me that Iím a volunteer or that Iím in effect doing Ďcharityí work by looking after and walking this stretch of the Trail. Well it doesnít feel like volunteering or charity work, it feels like a special privilege to be able to take care of such a fabulous walk.
I usually walk the trail with my dad, 76, as between us we can fix most things that need doing to the gates, signs and overhanging foliage. We normally take a bit of lunch and some coffee and stop and sit wherever the view is especially stunning. This requires quite a lot of stopping!!
If you get the chance and have not done so then please do come down to this part of the South Downs Way, the trail is well kept (mostly!) the landscape is worth the trip, however far, and there are some excellent pubs and tea shops in Alfriston that will set you up for the walk or replenish you once you have finished.
It is a very exciting and busy time for the SDW, as well as our regular maintenance and improvement works, the South Downs National Park establishment team are working to set up the new South Downs National Park Authority. There are of course many questions to answer including, who will manage the Rights of Way system and the National Trail, what will happen with the Planning system, will the new National Park have a Ranger Service etc. All of these issues will affect the SDW team and at the moment it is a waiting game, all we can do is supply information about how the Trail is managed and wait for the politics to be played out. The Boundary of the National Park was confirmed in December, 1st April will see the National Park Authority set up in Shadow form and will then take on all or itís statutory duties on 1st April 2011. If you want to keep up to date with the progress of the Park you can download the Establishment Teams regular newsletter from www.southdownsonline.org
Andy Gattiker - South Downs Way National Trail Officer