WALKERS are learning the skills they need to join the growing ranks of footpath volunteers in Oxfordshire.
Oxfordshire County Council's Countryside Access Team has teamed up with South Chilterns Path Maintenance Volunteers and the Ramblers Association to train volunteers in improving rights of way.
A recent training day in Watlington saw 20 potential new recruits gain the knowledge they need to maintain and improve paths as a team.
The group learned about legal issues relating to public rights of way, how existing volunteers work and the range of management issues the Countryside Access Team has to deal with.
The day also involved a tour of the Watlington countryside and a session looking at the tools, materials and techniques that the Chilterns Volunteers use to improve paths.
The Chilterns Path volunteers have already completed a huge amount of work to improve their local rights of way network.
Last year alone, some 30 volunteers clocked up a total of 1,900 man-hours installing 28 kissing gates, 55 waymark posts and clearing 15 kilometres of path.
Access team area field officer Jonathan Beale said: "The Chilterns area wouldn't be nearly so easy to use without the commitment of volunteers and their efforts add real value to our team's core work to protect and maintain public rights of way.
"The group are trying to share their experience with others around Oxfordshire to encourage them to get involved in practical work, and events like this are part of that process."
The local authorioty is billing the partnership as an example of what can be achieved by strengthening links with the voluntary sector.
Council deputy leader Rodney Rose said: "We are fortunate indeed to be able to harness the enthusiasm and commitment of countryside volunteers, and I hope this work continues grow across the wider county."
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