The project aimed to map, sign, and publicise three walking routes across Greensand Country. The Ouzel Valley Meander around Leighton Buzzard, Katharine’s Walk around Ampthill, and the Weneslawe Walk around Biggleswade were the three routes from new housing into the countryside and villages of Greensand Country.
The project delivered these routes through physical improvements to rights of way, the installation of finger posts to mark the routes, interpretation boards to highlight the character of Greensand Country, and leaflets to promote the walks. Additionally, volunteer wardens were to be recruited and trained to look after the routes, with subsequent guided walks acting as a launch of the routes.
In terms of physical improvements, 27km overall was improved. This is through a combination of footpath and bridleway clearance, way marking, and interpretation. We are particularly proud of how we overachieved with the installation of finer posts; the original target was 36 but we have now installed 59. This helps to improve the marking on the route and thereby make it more accessible to those that may not be familiar with it. We also recruited 8 volunteer wardens, with a full training day focused on the design, development, maintenance, and promotion of walking trails. We have specific wardens for each route, who going forward will allow the route to remain in good condition and are a source of knowledge to train up potential new wardens. This will ensure the longevity of the routes.
The distribution of the Destination Plus leaflets is another area in which we have managed to engage with the community. Along with publicizing the leaflets on our website, interactive map, and social media, we also have physical copies to share. These have been included in our welcome packs which so far have gone out to 1501 homes. The Programme team also delivered talks in schools across Greensand Country where they shared the Destination Plus leaflets to encourage students to engage with the landscape.
Benefits to people
The project had a broad benefit across the local community. The wellbeing benefit of being able to easily explore the countryside from new developments was a key priority for the project. Equally, by engaging volunteers as Walk Wardens, the project has recruited some members of the local community to play an active role in the maintenance and promotion of the routes.
Benefits to heritage & landscape
The heritage of Greensand Country has been made more accessible, as the routes allow those that might be new to the area to discover the heritage assets along the walking routes.
The landscape is also much more accessible, particularly for those new residents that live very close to the start/finish of the Destination Plus routes. However, the routes also provide short-medium distance routes for users that may already have some familiarity with Greensand Country.
Challenges & Lessons learnt
The biggest challenge for the project has been engaging the volunteer Walk Wardens beyond the training. Challenges also arose in securing permissions for the interpretation boards, as this did not occur prior to the project beginning.
If we were to run the project again, greater ongoing support would be needed for the Walk Wardens to ensure that they remain active and engaged with the routes. Perhaps similar projects could be completed in 2 stages: the first being the physical improvements, way marking, and interpretation boards; a later stage could then be secondary interpretation with leaflets and wider promotion/walk launches.