A few days ago, Planning Group members Adrian Gurney, Anne Heymans, Chris Honey and I managed to dodge the June showers and take an enjoyable stroll of just over 3 miles from the Hitchin marketplace to the Cambridge Road Garden Centre. Our route took us via Riddy Lane and the Hitchin Outer Orbital Path (HOOP) along Ippollitts Brook, Gypsy Lane, Kingswood Avenue and the Garden City Greenway. In the process, we explored the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve at Purwell meadows, saw what we believed to be a goldcrest (possibly Britain’s smallest bird) and enjoyed refreshments at the garden centre restaurant with its fine views over the town. With our collective residence in Hitchin totalling well-over 50 years, it was surprising that none of us had ever walked the path through the Nature Reserve before. If you are inspired to emulate this part of our expedition, it is advisable to take steps to protect yourself against the very tall stinging nettles that line stretches of the narrow path. It is well worth the effort for the wildflowers alone – among numerous others, ragged robin and white campion were in full bloom – but also for the possibility of seeing one of the species of secretive warblers which inhabit such wetlands. We were unsuccessful in achieving a convincing sighting, but a more leisurely visit might prove rewarding.
Some weeks earlier, I had made an assessment of the state of some of the paths on our route. With Chris taking meticulous notes, the purpose of our walk was to come to an agreement on the findings. The fruits of our labours can be seen by following the links on this page.
During the coming months we are hoping that you will get involved by completing a similar checklist on one of Hitchin’s rights of way as the first stage of an ongoing project. There are 2 ultimate aims
· To provide walking route guides on the Forum website with links to information on features such as local history, wildlife and buildings
· To make recommendations to Hertfordshire Highways about how to improve footpaths in order to promote walking and reduce car use
For this year, we will limit our assessments to those on the hand drawn ‘About Hitchin’ map – for the map click here, for the list of footpaths click here. The paths are on the google map on this website if you need another view – click here.
What we would like you to do
1. Either print the Footpath Checklist document from the website – click here – or e-mail me on email@example.com for an electronic copy.
2. Enjoy your walk and record your findings. Some tips
· Make it a group activity
· Plan your assessment as part of a longer walk – some paths are very short, so do link them
· Finish at a pub, restaurant or coffee bar to discuss your findings
· Take pictures if you think they may help to back-up points you have made, or simply to show a pleasant view or something interesting
3. If you have completed a hand-written version, return it to the Hitchin Initiative Office in Churchyard Walk.
If you have completed an electronic version, save your file(s) as ‘Checklist footpath xx yyy’ (where xx is the footpath number from the ‘About Hitchin’ map on the website and yyy are your initials) and e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have taken any pictures, please attach them, with a short description of where they were taken in the body of your e-mail.
· Please don’t feel that you need to make very detailed comments – the sample checklists are to show the sort of things you may wish to comment on, not the amount of detail expected
We hope over the summer to achieve coverage of all of the town’s footpaths as shown on the ‘About Hitchin’ map (ideally by Friday 6th September) so that we can start to prepare a report (first draft early to mid October) which we aim to use as a basis for discussion with Hitchin councillors and Hertfordshire Highways later in the year.
Please note that I will be away for some of the time between now and September. I will be looking at my emails from time to time, but please accept my apologies if you do not receive an instant reply.
Many thanks in anticipation of your help. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!