Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sharnbrook Footpath No. 2

Numerous public rights of way were recorded between 1750 and 1850, when appointed commissioners divided up (enclosed) and apportioned out manorial land. During this process, new legal rights to cross the land were also created. These included both public rights of way (highways) and private rights of way. This task was carried out by appointed commissioners, whose powers were bestowed under more than 5,000 Private Inclosure Acts and Inclosure Awards.

Many such public rights of way still exist. Some are well used, others hidden – forgotten but not necessarily lost yet, and others abused. Sharnbrook Footpath No. 2 falls within the latter category.

Footpath No. 2 was awarded as a public footpath 202 years ago under the Sharnbrook Inclosure Award of 1812.

The footpath seems to have taken its first beating 42 years later in 1857 when the railway line was built over it. The next assault came when a house “Millbrook” was built upon it, north of the railway lines. More recently fences and a substantial hedge, south of the railway lines, act as barricades which prevent the public from walking the path. The latest attack on this old path though could be the final one for part of it – Network Rail has requested that a section of the footpath be extinguished; closed for ever. The Council has agreed to close it. A Bedford Borough Council official has donned his black cap and sealed the public path extinguishment order.

Sharnbrook Footpath No. 2
The view from point B as shown on the Extinguishment Order Plan

What is a footpath preservation society member to do? Give up on it? And let the Council confirm the order - 202 years isn’t a bad run (walk). Or stick up for it? Lodge an objection - a stay of execution to argue the case for better care for the elderly (path).

Well, I am waiting for a reply from Bedford Borough Council before I decide. Situation normal really; waiting is part of the process of dealing with our local authority – let me just say that they usually allow plenty of time for background activities. (Incidentally, the plan accompanying the order is described as a "diversion" rather than an "extinguishment" order, which raises doubts about the accuracy of the order, and which may prevent the Council itself confirming it.)

All will be revealed in due course so watch this space. Follow my blog even, by clicking the relevant button to join this site, to spur me on and enable me to think of you as “Dear ReaderS”.

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