Green fields and blue skies on the South Downs Way

Autumn equinox

25th September 2014

The autumn equinox has passed and the nights are drawing in, but the SDW remains busy with people enjoying the dry and sunny weather and the team and I are as busy as ever.

So what’s been happening?

Many events have been run along the trail from ultra marathons to multi day walks. This summer saw around 50 large events use the trail. We have now updated our “Events Guidelines” for event organisors and have launch a pilot scheme to allow event organisors to donate funds to ongoing trail improvement. Thanks to the British Heart Foundation for being the first to donate to this scheme. We have also added a new look events calendar to the event page, which should make it much easier to see what events are coming up. If you’re organising an event, want to join an event or want to avoid an event please take a look at our events page.

I spoke in my last blog about our network of drinking water taps. We’ve now completed the installation of two new water taps. One at Queen Elizabeth County Park and one at Lomer Farm, both in Hampshire. The project was started by the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service to install additional taps and troughs along the South Downs Way dedicated to the memory of Paul Millmore – National Park campaigner, author of the official South Downs Way guide and founder of the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service. The project has also been supported by a grant from the Drinking Fountain Association. More taps and troughs are planned for other sites along the South Downs Way over the coming months.

Our new data base is up and running. After months of tweaking we now have a fully working database linked to digital mapping. This may not sound exciting but the system holds an inventory of very item such as sign posts, gates, stiles, benches etc. along the Trail and more importantly helps us track and manage the never ending maintenance work. So far this summer we’ve already resolved over 130 issues along the Trail!

One type is issue that takes a little longer to resolve are the surface condition issues. We aim to try and complete all our drainage and surface improvement issues before the winter sets in. All our contracts are now let, but I’m still waiting for most of them to be completed. Fingers crossed the dry weather continues for just a couple more weeks.

No sooner has work been completed or commissioned it’s time to plan for  the coming year, so this week I’ve had the exciting job of looking through spreadsheets and budgeting for next year. All done now. Fingers crossed we get the funding we need.

One highlight of the year for us Trail Officers is our annual get together. Each year we meet on a different National Trail to share best practice and lesions learnt and discuss issues common to us all. It’s usually an inspirations couple of days which reminds us we are part of a family of great trails. So I for one am looking forward to our next Trail Officers meeting in a couple of weeks, this year hosted by the South West Coast Path in Plymouth.

My tip of the season it to get out on the trail in the evening on a clear night and watch the night sky emerge.

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Volunteers digging a trench for a new water supply
The first people to test our new water tap
New signposts waiting to go in