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.