Friends group formed to keep Newbury's Speen Moors walk open
A FRIENDS group has been set up to ensure a popular walking spot can remain open to the public.
The Speen Moor Permissive Pathway is a well-known open space in the centre of Newbury and, particularly during the lockdowns of the past year, it has been a much loved place for runners and walkers alike.
But sadly a number of health and safety issues, including swimming and jumping into the river, as well as incidents of vandalism arose throughout last year and the owners of the land, Sir Richard Sutton Limited (SRSL), were looking to close the path.
It is not a public right of way and the landowner has no obligation to allow the public to use it.
After talks between a group of Newbury town councillors and Grant Baker, rural operations manager for the Benham Estate of SRSL, however, an agreement has been reached to keep the path open while putting in place measures to ensure that the community works to address the issues of litter, anti-social behaviour, vandalism and swimming.
Newbury town councillor and organiser of the friends group, Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, West Fields), said: "The community would like to express its thanks to Sutton Estates for keeping the path open despite recent problems. This is a much valued local resource and we welcome this opportunity to work with Sutton Estates to help ensure safe use of the path.
"We also look forward to assisting in expanding the community's knowledge of the history and biodiversity of this area."
The arrangement, which will be reviewed in March next year, has seen the Friends group form a rota to walk the path on a regular basis and Newbury Town Council has agreed to provide flourescent jackets and litter picking equipment for the volunteers.
Mr Baker added: "SRSL is absolutely committed to trying to make this initiative work; however, it must be stressed that a repetition of the numerous acts of vandalism and expensive damage to estate property that occurred in 2019 and 2020 can only have a negative impact on our review in March 2022."
In a joint statement from SRSL and the Friends group, they said: "Everyone recognises that the Speen Moor Permissive Pathway is a much loved and valued open space. It is particularly popular with those living in central Newbury. Every day, whatever the weather, people can be seen there: walking, running, strolling in family groups or just sitting enjoying some relative peace and quiet
"The Speen Moors Walk has been an easily accessible focus for people’s daily exercise during the pandemic, contributing to the mental and physical health and wellbeing of the local community."
The Town Council also funds two outreach workers, managed by Berkshire Youth, and the Friends are talking to them about ways to effectively communicate with members of the public, particularly young people.
There are currently 14 councillors and members of the public volunteering with the group.
SRSL is now developing plans to enhance the area and hopes that the community will become involved in future projects over the coming years.
In the interim some fencing is being put in place to protect the riverbank and to prevent access to the dangerous wall by one of the bridges, and to the dangerous banks around the largest, northern bridge.
It is also hoped that there will be some riverbank restoration in various locations over the next few months, which will mean that the pathway may need to be closed while works are undertaken.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Friends of Speen Moor please email firstname.lastname@example.org.