Over 20 people gathered on the evening of 11th June (2013) at the top end of Shropshire’s first permissive footpath which completes the pedestrian access route from Hodnet to Marchamley to hear the story of how the path came to be, and to see Councillor Karen Calder cut the ribbon and declare the path officially open.
Richard Underwood (Hodnet Parish Councillor and Hodnet Footpath Group member) opened proceedings by thanking everyone for coming along. He recalled the days after the opening of the bypass when the Parish Council wanted to build new roadside pavements to fill gaps in the existing provision so as to create safe pedestrian routes between Hodnet and its outlying settlements of Marchamley and Wollerton. The prohibitive costs of construction and land acquisition prevented further progress on this option, so the Council then considered another alternative – paths created behind the roadside hedges with the permission of the landowner.
No further progress was made on this until an opportunity arose to formally seek residents’ views on improving walking links between the main parish villages. The replies to the 2008 Parish Plan questionnaires showed clear support for such links, and when the Hodnet Footpath Group was formed shortly afterwards, it was asked to look into the matter further. An agreement in principle was soon reached with the landowner, John Powell, and the matter was then referred to Shropshire Council Outdoor Recreation team for legal advice and practical help. Next a questionnaire was issued by the Footpath Group to all households in Hodnet and Marchamley in order to gauge their support and expected use. 91% of responses were favourable, on both recreational and safety grounds.
In 2012 it was decided in principle to proceed with a proposal that Shropshire Council would build and maintain the path, Hodnet Parish Council would pay an annual rental for the land and Hodnet Footpath Group would help promote the use of the path. Matters were finalised early this year, the path was built this spring and already appears to be being well used.
Richard Underwood expressed thanks to local residents for completing questionnaires, to Richard Knight and Shropshire Council’s Outdoor Recreation Team for their support and practical help and finally he thanked John Powell for his kind co-operation in first agreeing to discuss the matter and then permitting the path to be built; “Without it we would not be standing here tonight.” Richard also promoted the Footpath Group’s walks leaflets, specifically Walk 3 which incorporates use of the new path.
Richard himself commented: “I’m very pleased to see this project come to fruition. It’s the culmination of many years’ work by many people – much of it behind the scenes, and essentially means that walking between the villages is now much safer. Taking a wider view, it means that Hodnet Parish Council have fulfilled another of the commitments made in the Parish Plan and it has also helped to establish the Hodnet Footpath Group. I am very grateful to all who have helped in bringing this path into being and hope that it will be well used, and perhaps provide a role model for other similar projects. If anyone wishes to join the Footpath Group, they’d be very welcome. See www.hodnet.org.uk/fpg for more details.”
Declaring the path open, Councillor Karen Calder said, “Congratulations should go to a very successful group which came out of the Parish Plan, that is the Pathways Group. They eventually succeeded in doing something which was thought aspirational but not really doable, but they have proven that it was doable just by thinking about it in a different way.”
Speaking afterwards, John Bourne (Hodnet Footpath Group Chairman) thought it was “gratifying to have been involved in something which achieved a result,” and Angie Lunt from Market Drayton Ramblers’ group said, “The path is good news for us. We walk round the area a lot and do evening walks in this vicinity. We are highly delighted that we can now make use of this footpath.”