Suffolk rights of way have enthusiastic new champion
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk County Council’s green access manager wants to get the county walking
Suffolk has enough public rights of way weaving and wandering through its stunning countryside - the paths and trails that are collectively known as “green access” - to make every other part of Britain green with envy.
The county also now has a new green access manager whose aim is to enable as many people as possible enjoy the delights of Suffolk’s rights of way network - and make the most of the immense health and wellbeing benefits time outdoors can bring.
David Falk is heading Suffolk County Council’s four-strong green access team and is no stranger to either to the county or its huge range of walking opportunities. His first role in the authority was in its rights of way team, where he spent seven years from 2008 before managing Brandon Country Park for three years.
Mr Falk, 51, is an enthusiastic advocate for Suffolk’s wealth of green access options.
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“We have more than 3,500 kilometres of public rights of way in Suffolk and about 80% of that is footpaths, plus there’s permissive routes where landowners give permission for access,” he said. “There’s cycle routes and various other agreements over access, plus 12,500 across of open access heathland and 12,500 acres of forest.
“All that puts Suffolk at the top in terms of the density of rights of way in England - we have the most extensive network of rights of way in the whole country.
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“Suffolk is one of the earliest-settled parts of the country and that has given us a wonderful legacy of routes - maybe we don’t always realise how lucky we are to have such access to the countryside but the number one driver of tourism in Suffolk is its landscape. We have two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, part of the Broads National Park and the Brecks is a nationally recognised landscape.
“My role is very much to enable people to enjoy that landscape through green access and it takes in everything from co-ordinating the county’s walking festival to resurfacing footpaths, and everything in between.”
Mr Falk sees communication and partnership working with Suffolk communities as a key to the success of his mission. “We will be working with towns, villages and all communities to enable people to get the most out of our rights of way, be that by producing more walking guides, getting rid of rights of way obstructions or anything that makes green access as easy as possible for people,” he said.
“We want to remove any barrier to green access - be they physical barriers or psychological barriers - and we will be working to break them down by making the countryside easier to navigate through waymarking, promoting circular walks, clearing vegetation, anything that makes it better for people.”
One of Mr Falk’s major tasks has been co-ordinating this year’s Suffolk Walking Festival. The annual event has become one of the key features of the county’s social calendar and this year runs from May 12 to June 3.
An impressive programme of 125 walks of widely varying degrees of ease and difficulty has been planned. A fringe festival, catering for people who might find walking particularly challenging, has been introduced and features activities such as beachcombing, sketching and poetry, added Mr Falk.