North Downs Way Warden Scheme

22nd April 2016

What do you do if you need 153 miles of National Trail surveyed in the space of a few weeks? You call in the people who walk the sections regularly, know the local issues and can drum up a few like-minded friends to help out. So this is what we did. In a 12-week period between January and end of March 2016 the North Downs Way was surveyed by a team of dedicated trail wardens. Many of these wardens were operating for the local authorities. Surrey and Kent County Councils both run Footpath Warden and Countryside Access Warden schemes across their rights of way networks and the local Ramblers Groups have well-established footpath officer and working groups who carry out reports and on the ground works. Within a matter of weeks each section (typically 4-6 miles) had a dedicated warden or a group of wardens for longer sections.

Their first task was to survey the trail for immediate resolvable issues- missing way markers, signposts that had been damaged/ been removed and any obstructions that could cause users any inconvenience. To assist them the wardens were provided with a trail maps supplied by A-Z Maps who recently launched an “Adventure Series”; as a business located on the North Downs Way it was only natural for A-Z that they would want to see their local trail well supported. The Wardens walked their sections, marked the issues up on their maps and reported the issues back to the local authorities using their online fault reporting systems.

Once logged the issues are then scored and prioritised depending on the impact each issue presents. Many low level issues can be resolved by the Wardens themselves who are happy to replace way marker disks to ensure navigation is simple and to remove any overhanging vegetation that obstructs the route or the signposts that point the way. The more serious issues are dealt with by contractors. This has already lead to the clearance of a number of fallen trees and signs being replaced.

Thankfully all this hard work doesn’t go unnoticed; we’ve had several comments from the Wardens and members of the public thanking us for removing a tree, replacing a sign post or just improving way marking in some areas where this had become a little ambiguous.

It’s amazing what you can achieve in a short space of time when everyone works together. We hope to build on these successes by continuing to help support our Volunteer Wardens through additional training, equipment or resources to help repair and enhance the trail, we’re very grateful of the generous sponsorship of A-Z Maps and would ask anyone who walks the trail to consider donating to help keep the trail in shape. Donate here http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/north-downs-way/donate

Finally we’d like to thank the Wardens themselves who have been out (sometimes in all weathers) to survey and maintain the trail for the enjoyment of so many. 

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