In June of this year, we launched an online footpaths survey. 185 people responded. We’d hoped to follow up with a paper survey, but because of the closure of the Community Office during lockdown we have decided to publish the results of the online survey now.

Who uses our footpaths?

185 people responded to the survey, 88% of whom lived in Bruton (the remainder lived locally but not in Bruton itself). 75% were female, and 5% regarded themselves as having a disability.

Over 45s predominated, with 80% of respondents being at least this age.

How often and how far do people walk?

63% walked almost every day. Most people (53%) walked for more than an hour, but less than two hours. 11% of people walked for more than two hours. Putting these two questions together, a lot of walking was going on: ten hardy souls walked for over two hours almost every day, and 75 people walked for over an hour every day, 40% of the entire group.

Every day or almost every day Once a week or more Less than once a week but more than once a month Less often Totals
Half an hour or less 1% 0% 1% 1% 2%
More than half an hour, but less than an hour 22% 8% 3% 0% 33%
An hour or more, but less than two hours 35% 12% 5% 1% 54%
Longer 5% 4% 1% 1% 11%
Totals 63% 24% 10% 3% 100%

Why are people walking?

Over 80% of respondents said that they walked for exercise. Enjoying nature was the second most commonly given reason, with nearly 70% answering in this way (people were allowed to select more than one option). 45% said that they walked the dog.

Who do people walk with?

Sadly this question was not well phrased, making the answers hard to interpret (people could chose more than one answer, so often people said that they walked alone and with other adults or children, presumably on separate occasions).

However just over 50% normally walked with a dog, and just over 50% with an adult or other adults. Walking alone or with children was less common, with both under 30% of responses.

Route-finding

Maps were the most popular means of working out new routes with 36% of responses. 29% of people used their phone or computer to find a new route, and a further 20% were happy just exploring. The footpaths leaftlets were less popular, perhaps because they are now out of date, at 15%.

Phones were used more for route-finding once people were on a walk:

For those who did sometimes use their phone to find their way, OS Maps was by far the most popular App, used by over 70% of the 61 people who responded. ViewRanger and Google came a distant second.

Which of the following would be helpful for walkers?

People were given a range of options to choose from, and were allowed to select more than one. Signs on the routes was the most popular, mentioned by 68%, but a map showing all the walks was nearly as popular at 67%.

What else should be done to improve footpaths?

The same issues came up again and again. Most commonly mentioned was maintenance, either of the path in general (vegetation, brambles) or of stiles. Broken and poorly maintained stiles were a particular source of frustration (‘Volunteers to regularly cut back brambles, nettles etc and check repairs to styles so that paths are always open’. ‘Cut back the foliage in summer, many paths are difficult to walk through’). These issues were mentioned by over a quarter of the 100+ people who answered this question.

Signs were mentioned by 20%: they needed to be clearer (‘Even with a map and OS app not always visable or clear where we can walk.’).

Obstruction was mentioned by 16% (‘Rights of way to be respected by land owners, or proper process followed to move them.’).

Dog poo was mentioned by 14%.The next most common theme, livestock, was mentioned by only 4%.

An any other comments section largely repeated these themes, but has not been analysed.

So what happens next?

The Town Council will be setting up a new footpaths group, which will replace the group organised by Bruton Community Partnership. The group will discuss the results of this survey, and decide what the priorities for action should be.

If you are interested in joining the group, please contact either james.hood@brutontowncouncil.gov.uk or the town clerk (contact details at bottom of the page).

It would be useful to know the views of visitors to the town who walk, and whether their needs and wishes differ from those of residents. Once restrictions ease, we will look at offering a longer-term paper survey available in the Community Office and elsewhere.

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