Rushmere Common offers an idea off-road cycle route between Martlesham, Grange Farm, Kesgrave and Ipswich. It also offers a good route for a number of major destinations including Ipswich Hospital (3,800 staff), Copleston School (1,800 pupils), Broke Hall School, BT Research (at Martlesham) and others.
There are a number of problems that I am aware of; firstly, the surface of the main paths are very poor, secondly the routes are poorly signed and finally that the maps of the area are not that good either. Some people avoid the route because of the surface and others say they avoid the route because they get lost when the try to cross it.
Here are the main routes across the common from my point of view (blue for sections across the actual common and red for the continuation routes).
Rushmere Common 'commuter' routes
And here is the particular route that the council has been wanting to upgrade and convert to a bridleway for a number of years. Sustrans are keen to route National Cycle Route 1 across the common which currently has to make an awkward loop to the south of the common for avoid a section where cycling is officially forbidden.
Proposed bridleway route
The council currently (June 2010) has money to improve the route.
So why are there no signs and why is the surface so poor? Personally and based on conversations with other people it seems to come down to a resistance from the golf club and the commoners’ committee who object to the proposal on grounds of ‘health and safety’ (see below). This is a shame as it leaves the surface very poor for cycling, parents with pushchairs, people in wheelchairs etc.
As a representative of the local cycling campaign group I have raised this issue with the commoners’ committee on a number of occasions. Here is the explanation I received by email from the clerk of the committee recently:
As you are no doubt aware, SCC have for many years attempted to persuade the trustees to accept the principle of a cycleway across the common. This has been resisted on the grounds of safety, in that conflict would arise between cyclists, golfers and walkers. I appreciate what you are attempting but I am sure that the trustees will resist.
And until a few days ago their website explained:
There is a proposal to establish a bridleway for use by cyclists by upgrading the existing footpaths from the tank traps opposite Heath Lane to the Penzance Road end of Blaydon Drive [Brendon Drive?]. The Trustees are opposed to this proposal as the route would cross very close to the Second and Ninth Tees creating a health and safety problem, as well as encouraging illegal motor cycling.
At the 2009 AGM a committee member explained that they were also concerned about the impact that horse riders might have (not that I could imagine many horse riders using the route).
Finally, I was told a few years ago that they were not allowed ‘to disturb the surface of the common’, but in that case I can’t see how it is possible to create the beautiful greens, tees, fairways and paths between tees and greens.
The council’s position is that that they want to improve the surface of the main path across the common with a surface treatment similar to that used by the golf club on paths between the golf greens and the golf tees and ideally also change the right-of-way from a footpath to a bridleway (which allows cycling as well as horse-riders).
Here is a summary of the county council’s current position based on recent email from the relevant officer (Footpaths 59 and 66 represent the main path running east/west from Heath Road to Brendon Drive).
The proposal that we are investigating is to create a bridleway across Rushmere Common by upgrading Rushmere Footpaths 59 and 66 and creating 2 short lengths of bridleway one to link these routes at the eastern side of the common the other to connect FP59 to Heath Road at the western end. We met with the Trustees of the Common earlier this year. They did not support this proposal and were not willing to enter into the creation agreement for the bridleway. In view of this we are now in the process of considering the options available to us to enable us to proceed with the scheme.
So are there serious conflicts between cyclists, walkers and golfers? Not that I hear when I talk to people on the common and I am not convinced by the arguments being used. The health and safety argument seems to come down to their concern about golfers hitting other users of the common with golf balls – and indeed the golf club manager told me recently that six people had been hit by golf balls in the past 12 months! The club also has a number of signs at the edge of the land owned by the golf club saying ‘Private’ and ‘ Trespassers may be hit by golf balls’! Is golf really that dangerous? (As an ex-golfer myself I don’t think so as long as people are careful).
Personally I hope that by drawing attention to the council’s generous proposal we can help tease out the real issues and come to a satisfactory outcome for golfers and also for walkers, cyclists, folk in wheelchairs and parents with buggies!
Stay tuned for further developments!
Update: October 2010
SCC has unfortunately just told me that they have withdrawn funding.