Diplomacy is a crucial tool in Katie’s working life. She heads up a seven-strong team of rights of way officers managing more than 3,000 kilometres of footpaths, bridleways and byways that run across the county.
Local knowledge, an understanding of the countryside and farming practices are a vital part of the job. It is also important to have the ability to deal with people at all levels –
The law relating to public rights of way is complex and far-reaching, but it is essential that it is applied with a strong element of common sense. It is important to understand the issues affecting all parties – the users’ need for access to the countryside and the difficulties landowners face at the present time. It means you have to be a diplomat – if you go in heavy handed it can make the situation worse.
A wide range of the public use and enjoy rights of way throughout the county, these together with 240 volunteer Parish Path Wardens (one in each parish) provide the team with valuable local knowledge and up to date information about the condition and accessibility of the network.
A lot of time, thought and investment have gone into enhancing the footpaths, bridleways and byways that span the county. The team works closely with landowners, parishes and user groups to improve accessibility for everyone. This includes the design of kissing gates, bridges and other equipment –recognised as some of the best in the country.
Our team is responsible, not just for rights of way through pretty fields, but also those routes linking communities and those providing access through towns. If we get them right, it encourages people off the roads and gives them safe routes to walk along.
The Rights of Way team also liaises closely with a range of groups and stake-holders. This includes the recently formed Northamptonshire Local Access Forum. The Forum brings together a whole group of people with different interests and responsibilities, including land managers, user groups, disabled groups and community leaders. The aim is to create a rights of way improvement plan that meets the needs and expectations of everyone.