These footpaths are preserved and managed by the ‘Brailes Footpath Group’ (BFG) all are dog friendly having a lifting dog slide at the side of a stile enabling the dogs to run on through. More than useful as the village has a great dog community.
BRAILES FOOTPATH GROUP - Decennial Report
Ten years ago Warwickshire County Council floated an initiative to encourage parishes to improve the footpaths in the parish, giving a grant towards restoration and improvement. From an initial meeting at the Old School interested residents came forward and Rachel Barnicote guided us through our first work session. Our aim was to have all the footpaths in the parish - some 24.6 miles - walkable by the Millennium. Some of those founder members are still with us and over the years we've welcomed many new recruits.
It may be difficult for some to remember just how decrepit the footpath "furniture" was in those days, and how impassable some of the paths were. For instance you couldn't walk footpath SS47a from The Grange, through Upper Chelmscote to Policman's Tree - in parts it was completely overgrown and impassable.
Our first project was the kissing gate next to Stonecroft Barn. Prior to its installation the means of accessing the footpath was to climb over a decrepit metal hurdle! (which I caught my shorts on and fell heavily with my [then] toddler grandson!). On the same day we cleared the path, which was completely overgrown above Honeysuckle Cottage and rebuilt a stile to enable walkers to climb over the fence.
Our major project for the Millennium was the restoration of the 99 Steps. The "99 Steps" are on a footpath between the settlements of Upper and Lower Brailes used since, certainly Medieval times and possibly earlier. The steps are down a steep slope leading to a footbridge across the Sutton Brook. They had fallen into disrepair and the handrail had fallen away making them dangerous. Generations of village children had played around the steps and when we launched the Sponsor-a-Step Appeal we were inundated with donations. For £10.00 (or a greater donation if desired!) people could sponsor a step and in return received a limited edition print (99) of a landscape painting by a professional artist (a member of the Brailes Footpath Group). When all the steps had been sponsored, and together with anonymous donations, we had raised £1,550.00. We were fortunate in receiving a grant from "Awards for All" to make up the rest of the money needed for the work to go ahead.
The refurbished steps were opened with great ceremony on 3rd January 2000. Our Vicar, Nicholas Morgan, gave a blessing and the oldest walker in the village, a sprightly 93 year old, cut the tape and descended the steps with other elderly village walkers. Altogether over 100 people turned out for the event and the Group were delighted with the positive feedback we received for our work.
Another major project was the "Iron Bridge". We rescued an old hedge bridge, made of redundant cart wheel rims, from Steep Orchard and after refurbishment installed it as a bridge from Mrs. Freeman's land onto Gilletts Hill.
Two of our members showed great ingenuity in designing a computerised router to make directional signs and these have contributed to greatly to the enjoyment of the footpaths.
In the ten years we have worked with six different W.C.C. footpath officers. We began with Rachel Barnicote who was our mentor and worked with us on our first projects, then James Fretwell, Sarah Manchester, Haley Gilmore, Simon Timbrell and now Ian Merivale.
Over the years we have built up a good relationship with the farmers and landowners and they have been co-operative and accommodating towards our aims. We have built steps on slippery slopes to make them safer and have built sleeper bridges over ditches. Our statistician (Jim) tells me that altogether on the 31 footpaths in the Parish there are 106 stiles, 41 gates, 11 flights of steps and 32 bridges - all to be monitored and maintained.
We have worked toward having a number of stile free routes, particularly close to the village centre, by installing kissing gates/gates instead of stiles to make access easier. We spent quite a considerable sum of money having the local blacksmith restore the metal kissing gate at Salcracks so that it was in keeping with the adjoining railings and gate.
As a group we have exhibited at Brailes Show - even constructing a stile on the Playing Field, taken part in the Queen's Golden Jubilee Celebrations by supplying a team for "It's a Knockout" and conducting a walk as part of W.C.C. Walking Festival. We meet at The Gate each month to discuss the work to be done and almost every month members actively work on the footpaths. We all enjoy our annual Christmas Dinner when members and their partners can get together.
We've received many compliments on the state of the footpaths in the parish, both from locals and from visiting walkers, some of whom have even taken the trouble to write and congratulate us. We know that organised walking groups often centre their walks on Brailes and we're pleased to have been able to contribute to people's enjoyment of the wonderful countryside we are blessed by being surrounded by.
So you can see we are not just about stiles! Let us hope that in ten years time we are still going strong.
"FOOTPATH FURNITURE" IN BRAILES PARISH 2007