Meeting with Norfolk County Council

Today I had a meeting with two people from Norfolk County Council to discuss possible improvements to cycling provision in and around Thetford. Those present were myself; the Council’s “Walking and Cycling Champion”, Cllr Hillary Cox; and the Environment Team’s “Countryside Manager (Trails and Projects)”, Dr Andrew Hutcheson.

We had a useful discussion about various issues in and around Thetford, and I learn about some of the plans the Council already has in progress. In particular, the Council has recently established a Walking and Cycling Working Group, which is in the middle of producing a strategy document coving the whole of the county. This will soon be available for feedback from stakeholders, before being put out to wider public consultation. Council officers are also currently involved in discussions with the Crown Estate regarding a possible upgrade of the Public Footpath along the Little Ouse between Thetford and Santon Downham to either a Bridleway, Restricted Byway, or Cycle Track.

 

Presentation to Thetford Town Council

This evening I was given the opportunity to make a short presentation to the planning committee of Thetford Town Council about my ideas for improving cycling provision in and around Thetford.

I spoke for around 15 minutes, and concentrated on two schemes: the first for a signed link from the town centre to the High Lodge forest centre, and the second for a cycle path along London Road to link the new A11 cycleway to the Thetford Connect Network.

The members were receptive to many of the ideas, and there was a useful discussion afterwards.

Route Inspection: RR30 Thetford to Harling Woods

I went out to check my section of Regional Route 30 between Thetford and Harling Woods this evening. One sign needed a bit of re-attachement to a telegraph pole, which I did. Another sign just before the left turn off Kilverstone road onto Green Lane in Thetford was obscured by undergrowth, which could do with cutting back at some point. The only other issue I found was that Bridgham Lane was again rather sandy. We may have to look to divert the route is the surface can’t be improved.

Ride Leader Training

Today myself and my partner attended a Sustrans Level 2 Ride Leader Training Course, which took place at the Moreton Hall Community Centre, in Bury St Edmunds. We had a fun day learning about how to compile the ride plan and risk assessment, how to lead a small group and then putting it to practice. I’m pleased to say we’re now both qualified Level 2 leaders — which will allow us to take groups of up to 16 people on quiet roads and traffic free routes.

Watton–Griston Cycle Path Weeds

While out putting up volunteer recruitment signs, I also noticed a few places on Stan’s Walk (the Watton–Griston cycle path) where weeds have been pushing up the surface and in some cases breaking through.

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Things aren’t too bad at the moment, but they’ll only get worse if left untreated.

Update (2015-06-12): I’ve now reported these to Sustrans and Norfolk County Council to see what can be done. The Council reference number is 514511.

In Search of New Volunteers

The Breckland and Waveney Valley Sustrans Ranger Group is in need of some more volunteers, to help look after various parts of the National Cycle Network, around Thetford, Brandon, Watton and Dereham. For an up-to-date list of areas in need, and details of what help is needed, see the Volunteer Page. To help attract new volunteers, Sustrans has some special signs available to put up on NCN routes. I’ve acquired a few of these, and have just put some up along Green lane in Thetford, and the Watton–Griston cycle path.

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While out putting up the signs, I also noticed a few problems with the surface of the Watton–Griston cycle path.

Sign Repair

While on a recreational bike ride, I stopped to repair a pair of NCN signs on Regional Route 30 just north of Croxton. They were two self-adhesive ranger signs stuck to a telegraph pole, which had been on my “to do” list for some time.

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The two old signs had been somewhat damaged by the wood preservative that had been applied to the telegraph pole. They’ve now been replaced by a new shiny pair.

Brecks Forest Way Meeting

I had a useful and informative meeting today with Russell Wilson and Sharon Bland from Norfolk Trails. Russell and Sharon are delivering the “Brecks Forest Way” part of the HLF-funded Breaking New Ground project. They had agreed to meet with me to talk about the “Brecks Forest Way” and other cycling-related projects in the county.

First, the bad news: despite the bid document stating that the project would “create a multi-use route, with short sections and circular paths, connecting Thetford to Brandon along the Little Ouse valley”, the agreed plans are now only to provide a river-side cycling route between Santon Downham and Brandon. This is a great shame, as that’s the one part of the route where there are already suitable cycling alternatives — either on the quiet C622 or off-road along Santon Street. The section where there is the greatest need, at the Thetford end, is now not to be upgraded or improved for cyclists.

Russell and Sharon seemed unaware of the intentions expressed in the bid document, so I’m not sure if the plans have been changed somewhere, or the impression from the original document was in error. The reason they gave for only concentrating on the section between Santon Downham and Brandon is that this is already a Bridleway, whereas the rest of the route is only a Public Footpath. While they would be keen to see it upgraded in the future, there were no resources to do so within the Brecks Forest Way project. This is all very disappointing, especially given the importance given to establishing a cycling link from Thetford to High Lodge in the Thetford Area Action Plan. Thetford is now missing out on any benefits from either of the cycling projects in Breaking New Ground.

On a more positive note, I learn about various other plans for cycling improvements. Russell and Sharon seemed keen to improve cycling facilities in general and to sign and promote new routes. The main problem holding them back at the moment was a lack of resources. But various bits of funding may become available thanks to new housing developments in the county.

Within the Brecks Forest Way project, there are plans to extend the route west from Brandon to Lakenheath, making use of existing Rights of Way, with some missing links being upgraded from Footpaths to Bridleways.

On the other side of Norwich, there are plans to extend the Marriott’s Way alongside the Bure Valley line to Wroxham. From there the planned Three Rivers Way will provide a link to Horning and Lundham on the Broads. There are also plans for a link back to Norwich from Wroxham, which will then form an excellent 50-mile loop with the Marriott’s way.

The Norfolk Trails teams are investigating the possibility of a new multi-user route running from Kings Lynn to Thetford. Presumably this will follow the existing Fen Rivers Way for a while, before branching off to Thetford.

I also learnt that Norfolk County Council have recently appointed a “Walking and Cycling Champion”, which apparently is a pre-requisite for accessing certain funding streams. I didn’t get a chance to ask who this was at the meeting, but I believe it is Cllr Hilary Cox.

Route Inspection: NR13 Dereham to Gateley

I went out for a circular ride today, taking in the section of National Route 13 between Dereham and its junction with Route 1 just north of Gateley. We then followed Route 1 to Reepham (with lunch at the Kerris Farmhouse Pine Tearooms), before returning to Dereham. This was the first time I’d cycled most of this part of Route 13, and it hasn’t had a volunteer ranger for some time (anyone interested in volunteering?). Nevertheless, the signage was mostly fine, largely because a lot of it was done with permanent metal signs erected by the local council. There were a few places where an additional confirmation sign might be useful, and several instances of the hard-to-spot tiny square “13” plates in use. I didn’t stop to address these, as they weren’t that urgent. There was one permanent sign on the B1146 that needed a little rotation to get it back pointing the right way, which I was able to do. I also checked the two Millennium Mileposts on this section of the route. There’s a Mills Post at the junction with the B1146 between Beetley and East Bilney, and a Rowe Post at the junction with Route 1, just north of Gateley.

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Both had firm bases, and the arms and posts were all securely attached to each other. However, the Post at the junction with Route 1 looks like it could do with a new coat of paint. This is something I’ll look into in conjunction with the East Norfolk Ranger Group who look after that stretch of Route 1. Finally, while I was following Route 1 jest west of Broom Green, there was a missing sign at a left turn. I didn’t have any “1” patches with me, nor my staple gun, and the only available place to put a sign was a telegraph pole. So I did my best with a self-adhesive sign. Hopefully it will last long enough until a local ranger can do something better.

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