Big muddy puddles on Heath Walk

27 10 2010

It is now Autumn and when it rains Heath Walk becomes one long line of muddy puddles. I will email the committee and ask them if they have any plans to improve this important and well used path?

Approaching Heath Road on Heath Walk

And another by the ninth tee this time

Heath Walk by the ninth tee

Here is another view of the same place

By the ninth tee again

This section has got badly rutted.

Deep ruts

All I ask is that the main ‘commuting’ paths across the heath are in as good a condition as the paths provided by the golf course for the golfers so that people can walk to work or to school without having to use walking boots!

Here is a path by the first green when it was newly laid and before it had gone hard. I was told that they used a mixture of sea shells and stone chippings that goes hard once it has got wet.

This would be nice!

The path is now completely hard and dry

The new path around the first green

I have already blogged about the money the County Council offered recently to improve this path and how the offer was ‘resisted’ by the commoners committee and was then withdrawn. Hopefully the commoners committee have set some money aside to do something themselves. Notice the blocked Police Station Path in the above picture which is another story.

Bridleway funding has been withdrawn

20 10 2010

Some time ago I posted about a proposal by Suffolk County Council to improve the path across the common. Unfortunately I have just be told that ‘SCC have withdrawn funding to ensure savings are made on capital projects’.

Do remember that the Commoners Committee were not supportive of the project, explaining that ‘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‘.

This means that without without support from somewhere else the paths will continue to look like this during the winter.

Puddles across the main East/West Rushmere Common path

The ‘police station path’

25 06 2010

The main approach to the common from the Ipswich side is via the footpath to the south of the hospital and then across Heath road using theĀ  toucan crossing. From there one goes down Heath Road and onto the common at the tank traps.

The suggested route onto the common from the tank traps is pretty clumsy with a number of sharp bends; it isn’t convenient for cyclists or for pedestrians being beside a busy 40 mph road part of which is dual-carriageway.

A preferable route which has been available for about 6 months until it was blocked under instruction from the commoners’ committee is more direct. Here it is:

The 'police station' path

The entrance to the path is from the neighborhood police station and avoids the busy Heath Road section.

The normal approach to the common along Heath Road

Here are the routes (original route in blue, the ‘police station path’ in red).

proposed route onto Rushmere Common

As well as being shorter the proposed route avoids passing in front of the 2nd tee (which was one of the reasons for the committee objecting to council’s Bridleway proposal).

I had a meeting with a representative from the committee and with the general manager of the club a few days ago to discuss this path which had been partially blocked by a log. They said they objected to the route on the following groungs:

  1. The route round the back of the green was dangerous (Health and safety).
  2. A cyclist had been spotted using the route at high speed causing a danger (Health and safety)
  3. Part of the route was along a path created by the golf club for their members and this was not available for use by the general public
  4. A section of the route had been created without permission
  5. The route exited by the police station which would create a danger of collision with police leaving their car park in a hurry (Health and Safety).

Personally I am not convinced by the above arguments. The antisocial cyclist can be dealt with by some natural ‘traffic calming’ and by sending a photograph to the police if necessary – no need to inconvenience everyone else. I don’t believe any of the ‘health and safety’ concerns would stand up to scrutiny, especially considering the potentially deadly risks from walking beside busy roads (two boys killed on Bishop’s Hill and then two young adults walking beside Foxhall Road).

The following day these impressive logs arrived across the path.

Logs blocking 'the police station path' on Rushmere Common

Cunningly the golf club also resurfaced the golfers’ path around the green on the same day. It will need a bit of rain and rolling before it is firm, but it will then be a fine example of what some of the public paths across the common could be like with a little effort.

Do note that one can still faintly see the new squares of turf to the right of the path in the above picture. Six months ago there was a gorse hedge and a number of mature trees separating the path from the green. The gorse and trees were removed by the golf club with permission from the commoners’ committee and replaced with turf visible in the picture.

The aerial imagery in the picture below clearly shows the line of gorse and trees to the right of the path (shown in red) prior to this work.

With reference to routes across the common generally my local St John’s Ward councilor commented:

I am a bit fed up with the notion that cyclists are perfectly ok doing 90 degree bends and cycling 50 m out of our way here and 50 m out of our way there.

A local cyclist also commented:

The situation as described by Peter has prevailed for at least 10 years to my knowledge.

Personally I would suggest that there is a little more consideration given to the needs of other groups beyond the golfers (who I have no argument with – all the folk I have spoken to have not had a problem with walkers and cyclists as long as they don’t have picnics on the fairways, ride on the greens and drop litter etc!).

Bridleway proposal

25 06 2010

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 theĀ  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.