Fox Hill Public Footpaths Application

I am pleased to say that the application to recognise a network of Public Footpaths on Foxhill has been submitted to Wokingham Borough Council and the land owners today.

Using the evidence forms kindly completed by local residents we have compiled a network of walkable footpaths within the Fox Hill area and supplied evidence of their use for over twenty years. You will notice from the map that we have not claimed for every footpath on Fox Hill as there was not adequate documentary evidence to make a valid claim. The application is not to upgrade the footpaths into hard standing etc as we wish them to remain as they are today but properly recognised.

Map of application paths

Please note this application is totally separate to the SANG application recently entered by Pike Sang Woods Limited (application number 192419) and is considered in a different way by the Public Rights of Way team within the local Council.

We will keep you updated on the application progress and thanks again to all who submitted evidence forms to us. This page will be updated to include a link to our application online once WBC make it available.

Tony, Friends of Fox Hill

Footpaths Registration update

Earlier this year, we asked users of Fox Hill to help us in registering footpaths, by providing evidence of usage and recording where they walked. Thank you to everyone who responded – you certainly gave us a busy summer!

The Friends of Fox Hill’s footpath team has now analysed all the historical evidence submitted to us relating to journeys people have taken through Fox Hill and Round Hill in the past. We have checked that the walks mentioned still exist and have created the map shown below. Please note this map covers the entire geographical area and is not divided into areas of current ownership.

As you will see the network is quite extensive and has taken some time to validate. The team has also taken photographs and map references for the start and finish of each pathway. We have also analysed the number of times each pathway has been used in the evidence that has been provided to us, and we will shortly be making an application to Wokingham Borough Council and the land owners to have the most used officially recognised as Public Footpaths.

We will advise you when this application is submitted, plus the progress it makes.

Tony, Sue and Liz

Friends of Fox Hill

Wonderful working party!

On Sunday 22nd we held our first group session of practical conservation work in the WBC owned section of Fox Hill. It was a great success, so we invited Steph to tell us about it. Luckily she said yes!

A bit of background

Earlier in the year FOFH approached Wokingham Borough Council and asked for permission to carry out conservation activities in the WBC owned section of woodland. Our intention is not to manage the whole site on behalf of WBC, but to enhance areas so that it is more attractive to a greater variety of native wild plants and animals.

As a group of amaetuer enthusiasts we sought the help from more experienced conservation volunteers already working in similar settings locally. They responded extremely positively and we were lucky enough to gain the expertise of:

  • Steve Lloyd leads conservation work on a small site in Ruscombe amongst many other conservation activities
  • Graham Breadmore works with BBOWT, and leads groups locally.
  • Mike Pateman works with Steve and Graham on conservation activities.

All three are experienced in the safe use of hand tools, and have years of experience in managing and revitalising woodlands.

In July representatives from FOFH met with Steve and Graham in the woods, to look at where we might begin and our overall aims. In August Ricky Josie from WBC walked the site with us to ensure that the council were happy that we could make a positive impact. Ricky also added some useful organisational tips. Finally, there was one last visit with Steve and Graham earlier in the week prior to our first session to check that everything was safe, and go over the final details.

On the day

We got off to a great start, despite the rain closing in on us towards the end of the morning. Steph began by explaining our overall intention, which was to create more light in a section of the woods by removing some of the invasive species. Graham then gave a short health and safety talk and some advice about the tools we would be using. Steve demonstrated coppicing, and Mike reminded us to work a safe distance apart. Warning signs were erected for members of the public using the footpath and work began.

Most of the trees removed were holly saplings and sycamore. Sycamore is a non-native species, with a wide canopy which can block the forest floor from light. Holly is invasive and grows over and through other species. Hazel trees were coppiced, and we can now make use of the long straight growths to form hedging posts. Coppicing does not damage the tree and encourages healthy growth. Coppicing is a traditional style of woodland management, and most of the sweet chestnuts in the woodlands show signs that they were once coppiced.

After a short break the rain began to set in, but we pressed on for an hour before finishing at 1pm. The coppiced hazel and undergrowth we’d removed was stacked next to the path, ready to use next time. There was a lot of dead wood in the area where we were working, much of which was left in place. Dead wood is great for beetles so we didn’t want to disturb too much. Instead we concentrated on moving dead wood that had fallen onto living trees.

At the end of the session everyone left with a smile and we hope felt their time was well used and that what we had achieved was worthwhile. Massive thanks go to Steve, Graham and Mike for their invaluable help.

We’re looking forward to next time already! Talking of which…

Future sessions

We are grateful that Steve, Graham and Mike have agreed to continue to help us for some more sessions. Our aim is to make working parties a monthly event, meeting on the third Sunday of the month from 10am-1pm. Provisional dates for the rest of 2019 are:

  • October 20th
  • November 17th
  • December 22nd

Precise details will be confirmed closer to the time. If you are thinking of coming, please email events@friendsoffoxhill.org to let us know.

At our next session we will use the coppiced hazel to support a dead hedge, and the undergrowth removed will be used as hedge filling! Dead hedges are great homes for wildlife, offering shelter for many birds and small animals as well as a multitude of insects.

Update on Public Footpath Application

Committee members have been collating the information on historical footpath use provided to us by residents who used the official Council forms. These will be used as part of the evidence on the applications we will be making.

Part of the work entailed mapping out these paths then ensuring they are actually still there, noting their Grid references and taking photographs. Some were found to be very overgrown or cut off by fencing. We are now in the position of having detailed maps of both the Council and the Privately-owned areas from which we can establish which routes to apply for. Our understanding is that the 39 acres of Fox Hill that was sold earlier this year is proposed to be a SANG which must include public footpaths, in the mean time the committee has decided to include paths within this area in our applications. The process will include involving Wokingham Borough Council and the land owners.

Once the application is finalised we will post copies of the maps and details of the footpaths we have made applications to designate as Public Footpaths for you to see. Our thanks to everyone for the historic details we can use as evidence for this process. If you would like any further information please e-mail footpaths@friendsoffoxhill.org.

Conservation Working Party

Our first conservation party will be taking place on Sunday 22nd September from 10am-1pm. Meet at the Dorset Way entrance for Fox Hill woods.

Our initial aim is to remove some of the more invasive species and create an area with more light. A lighter area will make the woodland habitat more diverse and help the larger trees to grow healthily.

We will begin with a short introduction to using the tools safely. Initially, we will target the young holly and sycamore saplings and thin denser growth. We will also move some of the fallen trees where they are resting on and damaging healthy specimens. Another task might include coppicing some of the hazel trees. The hazel poles will be stored ready for our next session when they can be used as supports for a dead hedge. Lighter tasks will include clearing some of the overhanging branches from the pathway.

Please wear clothing with long sleeves, long trousers, sturdy shoes and bring a pair of gardening gloves. Don’t forget to bring a drink and something to eat.

If you’re thinking of attending, or would like more information please let us know by sending an email to events@friendsoffoxhill.org

Registering Footpaths Update

Picture of two footpath signs pointing in opposite directions

I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to map the routes that they have used within Fox Hill over the years, along with completing the Council Form E.

The good news is that we have enough forms completed that certainly qualify regarding the number of years required and proof of community use. The Footpaths Team will be walking the routes to ensure that they physically exist today, taking photos, and grid references for each path. Once we have reconciled the paths that we believe will be best suited for an application, we will let everyone know.

Litter Pick – Sunday 24th March

Meet at the Limmerhill Entrance to Fox Hill Woods on Sunday 24 March 2019 at 2pm.

Please come along and lend a hand but remember to wear gloves, strong footwear and suitable clothing.

Safety vests and litter pickers will be provided.

Just turn up on the day or for further details please contact Friends of Fox Hill or visit www.wokingham.gov.uk/litterpick

If you would like to publicise this event for us, we’ve a handy A4 poster that you can print off – or simply share this page!

Local Plan Survey – Advice

Wokingham Local Plan Update Survey advice

You can now read our advice on how to respond to the Wokingham Local Plan Update Survey. Hopefully you will find the advice brief, and to the point.

Once you’ve read the advice, please visit the Wokingham Borough Council Local Plan Update page to complete the survey. You have until 4pm on 22nd Feburary to respond.

If you would like to discuss anything with other local residents, please join the Friends Of Fox Hill group on Facebook.

And if you haven’t already done so, please spend five minutes responding to our survey.

Meeting Minutes

Minutes of Sunday’s meeting are now available to view.

Thank you!

Dear Friends of Fox Hill

This afternoon we held a public meeting and our inaugural AGM. The meeting was very well attended with around 90 present including local councillors.

I hope everyone found the presentation informative. Members of our new committee have worked extremely hard to research and collate a huge amount of information about the woods on Fox Hill and Round Hill, and the ways we can protect and conserve them. In addition there are a number of people who didn’t speak at the meeting who are working hard right now to keep the woods litter free, and are monitoring the the wildlife. Others have been hugely influential on social media, and by delivering flyers, in making sure everyone locally knows about the issues surrounding the woodland. Many thanks to everyone.

Please remember the two most important things you can do to help:

  • Firstly please make sure you’re a member of our new community group. If you left your e-mail address at the meeting, we’ll be in touch, otherwise please send an email to membership@friendsoffoxhill.org.
  • Secondly please take the time to respond to the local plan consultation. We’ll be posting information on the website to make sure you have the information you need to make sure that our woodland is removed from the development plan!

Going forward, we’re going to be a community conservation group, and we hope lots of people will get involved in protecting, enhancing and enjoying our beautiful, special, ancient woodland.

Best wishes

Jo Rogers

Chair, Friends of Fox Hill.

p.s. Need reminders when filling in the Local Plan survey? Have a look at the presentations from Sunday’s meeting.