HS2 and Footpaths
Since HS2 slices right through the parish of Wendover, our footpaths are obviously in the firing line. Wendover parish stretches from halfway to Great Missenden to Nash Lee Lane and HS2 affects ten of our paths, see https://prow.buckscc.gov.uk/standardmap.aspx. Disruption to footpaths is particularly significant for Wendover as we derive a sizeable part of our income from tourists wanting to enjoy our beautiful surroundings. In addition to local paths, the parish is crossed by the Ridgeway, the Icknield Way, the Chiltern Way and the Aylesbury Ring, all of which are due to suffer disruption, with a consequent loss of revenue. The reduction in walkers on the Ridgeway will certainly incur a cost, as Wendover is either the first or last night stop on the walk (depending on which way you’re going).
Wendover is luckier than some of our neighbouring parishes, in that when the line is finished, none of our paths will be closed or amalgamated. However, many of them will be changed out of all recognition. To take just one example, path Wen 39, a green lane between Rocky Lane and Bowood Lane, will be transformed from a centuries old green lane between ancient hedges, to a tidy fenced path under a viaduct. HS2 apparently think this is the same thing! It seems likely that visiting walkers will not enjoy the new reality of noisy trains and ruined views, so we can expect the financial effects to be long-lasting.
HS2 are required to announce closures and diversions well in advance, and so far they have been quite good at this though I could not find any permission for their closure in February of path Wen 11, over the railway at the station and Wen 6 off Ellesborough Road. With this closure they actually blocked a path that was officially designated as the diversion route for paths Wen 54 & 55, both currently legally closed. The brief closure of Wen 6 & 11 was for safety reasons while they ripped out a hedge and destroyed a badger sett, so that’s all right then. A photograph was published on page 16 of the April 2021 print edition of Wendover News, after the event. Those who have regular contact with HS2 will find this relaxed approach to public relations all too familiar.
As the work gets closer to us, we can expect more mess and disruption. Fenced paths, such as Wen 11 from the station across the field to Ellesborough Road became most unpleasant to walk as they were ankle deep in mud, and people who liked a gentle stroll across the field from Ellesborough Road to Bacombe Lane (Wen 13a) were somewhat affronted to find a very long, strongly fenced diversion around the field.
The kind of stress caused by HS2 is exemplified by the saga of Wen 57 and Small Dean Lane. Wen 57 is the bridleway alongside the bypass from Bacombe Lane to Small Dean Lane. There was a planned closure for 9 months for the bridleway as a pylon was replaced. Annoying but perfectly legal. The work was carried out and the bridleway reopened on time but unfortunately someone had installed a gate at the junction with Small Dean Lane, and this gate was heavily padlocked, blocking the bridleway. I could not find out who had installed this gate, as everyone I asked said it was someone else! Generally the gate was open during working hours but closed during evenings and weekends, to the extreme aggravation of those trying to use the path. Walkers and, at a push, cyclists could climb over it, but it was no go for horses, and it is, after all, called a bridleway. The clue is in the name. I have no precise knowledge of what happened here, but it seems the person who installed the gate may have been under the (incorrect) impression that the right of way status had been permanently, rather than temporarily withdrawn. Happily, the gate has not been locked for several weeks, so there is hope that the misunderstanding is resolved.
Persons of a sensitive disposition would, however, do well to avoid the area of Small Dean Lane, where the scorched earth tactics of HS2 are enough to make you cry. Goodbye to the best blackberry bushes in the area and so many lovely trees. On a recent walk here we passed dozens of orange suited persons, all of whom greeted us with huge smiles and polite remarks. Nice try, HS2, but sending them to charm school doesn’t make them any more acceptable.
It seems HS2 is a plague we have to endure, but we can all observe their activities keenly to keep them on the straight and narrow. Anyone who wants to keep an eye on HS2’s relationship with footpaths can click on https://bit.ly/3m2vjtR where all this type of activity is supposed to be shown.
Volunteer Footpath Warden
for the Chiltern Society
Editor’s note: As we go to press, we are aware that several footpaths in Wendover and The Lee are planned to close in mid-April for 5 years for HS2 work. These include 36, 38, 39 and 40 as well as a diversion for 37.
The Lee Newsletters are available online here. Pages 12 & 13 in the April 2021 edition also discuss local footpaths including WEN/36, WEN/39 and WEN/40 – closed May 2021 to 2026.
There is also an advance notice of works which has been supplied by HS2 relating to the closure of several paths in the area encompassing Wendover Dean-The Lee-Great Missenden. The accuracy of the notice is being disputed by some local organisations, who have been in touch with HS2 regarding corrections to this notice. The notice can be viewed by clicking: Footpath Closures Works Notification – Great Missenden to Wendover Dean. Most of these footpath closures are planned to start in April or May 2021 and remain in force until Autumn 2026.