The National Trail network set up after World War II by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 has always benefited from public funding, enabling it to maintain higher standards than those applied to the ordinary rights of way looked after by local Councils and Highways Agencies. Annual grants have been disbursed through the series of couontryside quangos reporting to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), currently Natural England (NE). With its budget under pressure, NE called in 2013 for a New deal for National Trails, whereby management responsibility was delegated to new Trail Partnerships to be set up under NE supervision.
Responsibility for the management, improvement and promotion of The Ridgeway National Trail was assumed, from 1st April, 2015, by a new Ridgeway Partnership, that manages the Ridgeway National trail today. The Partners include all the local authorities along the route, The North Wessex Downs AONB and the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Chiltern Society, the Ramblers, the National Trust, the Country Landowners Association, and more. Oxfordshire Council is the Lead Partner, holding funds and accounts, hosting staff and supporting a team of volunteers, assisted by Chiltern Society working parties, who continue to maintain the high standards expected for the Trail. A Ridgeway Officer co-ordinates operations, and provides a constant point of contact for the public. Natural England retains an overview of the National Trails network as a whole, and provides a base level of grant funding for its maintenance, reporting to DEFRA. The Friends of The Ridgeway is a founding Partner and played a significant role in setting up the new body. Our ex-Chairman, Ian Ritchie, is the first Chairman of the Partnership.
The Partnership has identified five themes for the promotion and enhancement of The Ridgeway, building on aspects of its unique appeal. These themes, listed as the Natural, Living, Ancient, Sporting and Creative Ridgeway, highlight its wild-life and bio-diversity; the superb landscape and scenery; good food, country pubs and services; sporting events and family recreation; its wealth of heritage and pre-history; and its role as an inspiration for art and literature, or just peace and quiet.
The Partnership aims to engage the whole community in celebrating and raising visitor awareness of the appeal of The Ridgeway. A Strategic Links project designed in conjunction with local communities and Highways Agencies will improve access to The Ridgeway from villages along the route, linked to public transport, and links with other nearby attractions.
The Ridgeway Partnership may be contacted as follows:
|Sarah Wright||Ridgeway Officer||sarah.Wright@oxfordshire.gov.uk|