Hambledon Bridleway Repairs – At Last

The excessively wet and muddy bridleway 186 beside the Merry Harriers is likely to receive substantial maintenance and improvements next summer, Hambledon Parish Council has been told.

The parish repeatedly raised the appalling state of this right of way with Surrey County Council, which is responsible for footpaths and bridleways, finally resulting in an SCC officer carrying out an inspection.

With an increased budget expected to be approved for maintenance, he has subsequently contacted the parish council to state that it hopes to carry out repairs in 2024.

Bridleway 186 is an important walking, cycling and riding route, connecting the village with Hambledon Common and Enton, but has become almost impassable. At the eastern end, between the Merry Harriers and Dare Mead, run off means the path is wet and boggy all year round. At the western end, where it reaches the common, a small stream floods a wide area.

John Baker, a SCC countryside access officer, has made several visits, including one with parish councillors, and is now proposing a raised section with a ditch and soak-away to one side at the eastern end and an improved culvert to take the stream under the bridleway at the western end.

This is subject to further inspection by SCC-appointed contractors and other approvals.

Mr Baker said: “Our budget for next year has not been set, but assuming it remains as we have been told, I am confident that this path can be done during Summer 2024.”.

Budget restraints have led to rights of way maintenance across the county being shelved, but the increase in outdoor activity during the Covid pandemic, and the pressure that has put on footpaths, has brought about a change of approach.

The parish council has constantly raised the state of Bridleway 186 with SCC. Village volunteers have carried out some maintenance, including the laying of sleepers, but the necessary repairs would be way beyond the parish budget.

Mr Baker indicated the parish council may be able to use Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to go towards repair costs, despite Waverley Borough Council previously indicating this would not be possible. Hambledon’s parish clerk is now investigating this.

Hydestile Field Bank Clearance

Hambledon residents and others living nearby will have seen that the owner of the field beside Station Road and Hambledon Road, at the Hydestile Crossroads, has employed contractors to remove vegetation on the roadside banks.

This has resulted in a considerable change to the landscape, as did the earlier removal of trees. The preservation of hedgerows is important as they are a vital habitat for wildlife. However, Waverley Borough Council stated today that the work has been carried out lawfully and the landowner intends to replant.

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Village 503 Bus Ends Next September – But On-Demand Service to Replace It

The long campaign to keep the 503, Hambledon’s only bus service, looks to be over as Surrey County Council has confirmed it is to be scrapped at the start of September next year.

The route, which connects the village to shops, surgeries and rail and bus links further afield, is operated by Stagecoach under contract to Surrey County Council which heavily-subsidises the 503 and many other rural routes. The council needs to make savings.

The 503 starts at Lane End, Hambledon, and runs through the village to Hydestile, Milford, Godalming and Guildford.

It has been under threat since 2011, but Hambledon Parish Council campaigned to keep the service going and it survived three successive bus reviews.

On those occasions no alternative was proposed and the village would have been left with no bus. This time, however, it is different.

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New Fencing Erected at Feathercome Farm

Fencing work to enclose the footpath across Feathercombe farmland between Hambledon Church and the woods below Hydon’s Ball has been completed.

The new owners of the farm, who consulted with Hambledon Parish Council over the proposal, have installed oak posts and wire fencing and allowed a width of more than two metres. This is considerably wider than the minimum of 1.75 metres requested by Surrey County Council, which is responsible for public rights of way.

The parish council asked if the path could be kept as wide as possible, having first established that it did not require planning permission. It asked the owners to consult with SCC, which they did. The county council raised no objection and nor did the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It was acknowledged that many land owners fence their fields and have a right to do so, to protect crops or animals, and to prevent trespass. The parish council publicised the proposal on the village website and parish magazine and only one objection was raised.

In the past two days several villagers expressed pleasure to councillors at finding the fencing was erected at a generous width. Indeed, it is wider than most other footpaths in the area and the owners have undertaken to ensure that it is maintained to prevent it becoming overgrown.

Public Right of Way 118 crosses what is known as 14-acre Copse, from the kissing gate close to the old lime kiln near the church to another kissing gate at a mid-point in the field and then over to a third kissing gate where it enters the wood. It is a popular and scenic walk for locals and visitors and, until recently, was unfenced.

The new owners of Feathercombe Farm, the Trinity Partnership, have ended arable use of the field and instead will use it for grazing polo ponies, turning it into high-quality grassland.

Earlier this month, Alice Servaes, on behalf of the partnership, offered a site visit for Hambledon Parish councillors to explain the need to fence both sides of the path to ensure the welfare of the ponies, to prevent trespass and to keep dogs from straying.

Councillors were shown dog mess deposited many yards away from the path, a health hazard to grazing animals, and clear evidence that some dog walkers were allowing their animals to run over private land.

A parish council inspection the day after work was completed found that dog mess was evident inside the new fencing, a worrying sign that some inconsiderate dog walkers are letting their pets foul the path without clearing up after them.

PLEASE take dog waste bags with you to ensure the path remains a pleasure to walk for all.

For more background on the footpath and other plans for Feathercombe Farm, please see earlier news story here .

Feathercombe Farm – footpath from church towards Hydon’s Ball to be fenced.

The new owners of Feathercombe Farm invited parish councillors to a site visit to outline plans to fence in the footpath across the fields between Hambledon Church and the woods below Hydon’s Ball.

Alice Servaes, on behalf of the Trinity Partnership which recently acquired the 240-acre farm, met with Stewart Payne, Alison Scott-Bishop and Simon Rhodes in early September to explain why it wishes to erect oak post and wire fencing across what is known as Fourteen Acre Copse.

The popular and scenic footpath 181, a public right-of-way, runs across the centre of this field from the churchyard to a kissing gate in the middle, and then continues at an angle across the second part of the field to another kissing gate where it enters woodland. Currently this path is unfenced.

Alice said that the fencing is necessary to ensure the well-being of polo ponies that will be grazing either side of the path. This is being put to high-quality grass, but was previously used for crops.

She was particularly concerned that some dog walkers allow their pets to run free in the field, and do not keep to the footpath. Evidence of dog fouling some distance away from the path was shown to councillors.

Alice said there will be no obstruction or deviation to the existing footpath and walkers will have a two-metre-wide track, with waist-height wire fencing either side. The view from the path will be unaffected. It is common practice for landowners to erect fencing beside rights-of-way to protect crops, livestock or horses, she said.

No barbed wire will be used and a grass verge will be maintained either side to keep some distance from electric fencing which will be used to keep horses away from the path.

Alice said trespass was a problem and she had also seen horse riders in the lower field area even though the path is not a bridleway.

At an earlier site meeting to discuss a proposed horse exercise track, Alice assured councillors that the owners had no intention of appealing the rejection by Waverley Borough Council for what amounted to a stable unit in the lower field. This proposal was widely opposed by Hambledon residents and the parish council earlier this year. Alice and her planning team said it would not be seeking any similar permission in this field.

The exercise track, which will require planning permission (not yet submitted) will be in a field behind the existing Feathercombe Farm buildings, accessed off Feathercombe Lane. It will not be lit, nor will it have any buildings and is unlikely to be visible from public footpaths.

Councillors asked if the footpath fencing could be wider than two metres, to allow for family groups to walk side-by-side. Alice noted the suggestion but did not give any commitment.

The parish council has confirmed that landowners have the right to fence their fields without requiring planning permission. The path is in the Green Belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The council sought a view from Surrey Hills AONB board, and it said it would raise no objections.

Public rights-of-way are the responsibility of county councils, and the Parish Council has also contacted Surrey County Council. At the time of writing, there has been no response.

More Time to Comment on Railway Station Ticket Office Closures

Rail passengers have been given more time to comment on the proposed closure of hundreds of ticket offices across the UK, including at Witley, Milford and Godalming stations.

Many Hambledon residents use these stations on the Waterloo to Portsmouth line operated by South Western Railway.

The closures (see previous news story here http://www.hambledonsurrey.co.uk/?p=17952 ) are proposed by the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators. Passengers were originally given until July 26 to comment. Following widespread concern, this has now been extended until September 1st.

The RDG says it wants to close ticket offices as many travellers buy on-line or at platform ticket machines. It also states that it wants to bring staff out from behind counters to provide support to customer on platforms, but it is hard to see how such a proposal would work as small country stations such as Witley and Milford with just two platforms and only one train an hour outside peak times.

If you would like to comment on the proposals, you can do so here – https://www.raildeliverygroup.com/uk-rail-industry/customer-focused-reform/customer-focused-stations.html#consultation

Our photograph below shows the ticket office and waiting room at Milford Station.