I do love walking, quite often starting out on a short stroll with the dogs ends up with hours of rambling investigating areas I've never walked before or revisiting areas that are interesting. Two of my favorite areas are the Kennet and Avon Canal (Bedwyn to Newbury) and the Ridgeway (Goring to Lambourn). These are great walks in fantastic locations and your never too far from a village pub for a relaxing moment. I do wonder though, who in David Cameron's big society will be maintaining these AONB and areas of outstanding recreational opportunity?
I know the Kennet and Avon Canal trust will be doing everything they can, but with funding cut to the bone on all of these charitable trusts, I just can't see how they are going to get an army of volunteers to give up a four hours or so a week to help maintain it all.
The K&A Canal already shows signs of wear and in areas is in need of urgent repair. I can understand why trusts are relucant to put money into projects as they really don't know if, after March 28th (budget), they will still have a role or have any funding. So we sit and largely stagnate whilst the big society flops around us – costing the tax payers more than it could ever save.
On the North Wessex Downs AONB there is the wonderful Ridgeway trail. Despite a vehicle ban, it also suffers significant erosion and need for repair. Cars and motorbikes regularly rip up the fragile right of way, horses do their part too – with sections so muddy and ripped up by the hooves of horses that walkers and cyclists are forced into the bushes further extending the erosion.
There are sections where I can stand on the eroded path with the natural land higher than my shoulders above me. Where, David Cameron, are you going to find the money, resources and labour to fix these delicate and utterly unique parts of our country?
I fear that in the rush for political change the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have in effect thrown assets like this into the bin. Off the agenda and into the forgotten pile. Clearly we need more Greens in government – local and central. We need to keep reminding ourselves that money is not everything in life – our health, well-being, friends and society matter more than pounds saved (or squandered on the rich).