With the pedestrian route deemed ‘unsafe’ the county council have been paying £250 a day to ferry schoolchildren from the village to the school at Salway Ash. Next month that all changes with the opening of a new footpath that Margery Hookings points out has been more than thirty years in the making.
On 10 June, for the very first time, children will make their way from the heart of Salway Ash to the village primary school, along a pavement which has been more than thirty years in the making.
It represents something of a milestone for the village, whose school and church have always been rather out on a limb.
‘The school is so delighted,’ said Sara Bennett, one of the parents who has been spearheading the campaign in recent years. ‘It’s just 800 metres of footpath but it means the children can now safely walk to school from the village.’
Previously, the pedestrian route along the busy B3162 had been ruled unsafe, so the county council was paying £250 a day for short bus trips to and from the school.
Mrs Bennett added: ‘It was coming out of the transport budget, which pushed the council even more to do the path. They’ve been desperate to get it done. Some people feel the project was handled badly in the past and there could have been better communication with the landowners involved. But, in the end, it turned out okay.’
The £250,000 project, which started at the beginning of February, has also seen the removal and replanting of an ecologically important hedge, which was one of the conditions of planning consent.
The county ecologist’s survey report highlighted a number of notable species in the hedge, meaning it was covered by official hedgerow regulations and therefore protected. A method statement had to be provided by the council to show how the hedge would be moved and kept alive.
Andrew Bradley, Dorset County Council project engineer, said: ‘There is a fair bit of ash in the hedge. As it came out, there were gaps so we’ve put in some whips of holly.’
This part of the project has been a massive undertaking, with a new trench dug several metres from the side of the main road between Broadwindsor and Bridport, before the old hedge could be carefully transplanted.
Mr Bradley has been involved in the scheme over the last four years.
‘It’s been around in various guises for some time,’ he said. ‘I’ve been at the county council since 1999 and remember it being talked about then.’
The obstacles were what Mr Bradley describes as ‘an impasse over land issues’. But it’s clear these have now been overcome.
‘We had an open evening in the village hall last October and the general feeling was positive, although there were some people with concerns about narrowing the road in the village and changing the access to Pineapple Lane. Some people did question whether the footpath would be used but we’re doing it for the community and with parish council support.’
District councillor Rebecca Knox said: ‘It may not be the longest stretch of footpath but for local residents it will make the biggest difference. Local children will have a safe route to walk or scoot with their friends and family, giving them a bit more exercise and the chance to be out in the fresh air. The school run will be a school walk for many, which is what they have all wanted for a long time.’
She also pointed out that the path will also benefit everyone who is going to the school or the Holy Trinity Church. ‘It should also help with the vehicle congestion that sometimes appears at the beginning and end of the school day, and it would be great to encourage more children to walk to school wherever possible. It’s been a long time to get to where we are and I’d like to thank the community for their help and support.’
The official launch of the new footpath will be carried out on the morning of Friday 10 June, with children from the school supported by local MP Oliver Letwin.