For the love of foot­paths

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Busi­ness Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

IS there any more invit­ing sight than the lit­tle wooden foot­path sign that beck­ons the cu­ri­ous walker over a stile, across a meadow, along the clifftop, through wood­land rustling with deer and birds and down a shady lane that could lead who knows where? In­trigued and com­mit­ted, the walker presses on. And then—such dis­il­lu­sion!—a sud­denly im­pen­e­tra­ble thicket or un­com­pro­mis­ing barbed-wire fence looms be­fore them.

The Ramblers has car­ried out an as­sid­u­ous sur­vey of some 140,000 miles of foot­paths in Eng­land and Wales and has found many that doom the walker to such dis­ap­point­ment (Town & Coun­try, page 24). Rightly, the char­ity ac­cepts that clear­ing paths, some of which are never used at all and oth­ers by only a hand­ful of week­end walk­ers and their dogs, com­petes with many more press­ing is­sues for lo­calau­thor­ity fund­ing. There are also many con­sci­en­tious, long-suf­fer­ing landown­ers, and ac­tive par­ish coun­cils, who keep paths com­mend­ably im­mac­u­late.

The foot­path is no longer cru­cial to travel, but it is a de­light­ful fea­ture with­out which the coun­try­side, and our health, would be much the poorer. The sign­posts are clear: if we are not to lose them, we must use them and ev­ery­one must share in their care.

RSPCA in the dock

LAST week, MPS rec­om­mended the 192-year-old RSPCA be stripped of its pros­e­cut­ing pow­ers, a move that elicited protest from fel­low an­i­mal char­i­ties and ap­proval from ru­ral bod­ies (Town & Coun­try, page 27).

Ob­vi­ously it’s an anom­aly that, some­how, a char­ity has be­come the only or­gan­i­sa­tion al­lowed to act as a pros­e­cu­tor in an­i­mal-wel­fare cases—es­pe­cially one that has taken two years to put in place of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tions about trans­parency and that has, due to ex­pen­di­ture on some­times over-zeal­ous le­gal cases, had to cut cru­cial staff and res­cue cen­tres—but the howls of dis­ap­proval should cen­tre more on why it’s taken Govern­ment nearly 200 years to get around to mak­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties take re­spon­si­bil­ity. Penal­ties for an­i­mal cru­elty in Eng­land are among the low­est in Europe, shame­ful for a coun­try of so-called an­i­mal lovers in which about one in two house­holds owns a pet.

Build­ing bricks

Lux­ury is… a re­li­able, punc­tual, dili­gent builder who cares as much about our homes as we do. No one minds dusty boots and diges­tive-bis­cuit de­vour­ing— it’s the In­vis­i­ble Man and the Art­ful Bodger who are the stuff of ren­o­va­tion night­mares. Our fea­ture (page 48) about the most renowned com­pa­nies, some of which have been in ex­is­tence for cen­turies, ad­dresses the fact that, as a new generation is in­creas­ingly drawn to more com­fort­able, but less sat­is­fy­ing ca­reers, the essen­tial skills re­quired in the sec­tor have never been more thin on the ground. Schools should be pro­mot­ing build­ing as a ca­reer—you’re guar­an­teed a job for life, as il­lus­trated by the very best of these old fam­ily firms.

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