Core paths increase access to greenspace and help to establish links between neighbouring communities. They are viewed as a tool for achieving a wide range of policy objectives, including health improvement, social inclusion, environmental management and sustainable transportation.
The national importance of public access was raised in 2003 by the passing of the Land Reform Scotland Act. This legislation established a statutory right of access within Scotland to land and inland water for passage, recreation, education and commercial activities. In addition it called on local authorities to uphold this right and requested that each local authority produce a Core Path Plan.
A core path surveyor was appointed to deliver a condition survey of the core paths and their immediate surroundings in the CSGN area of Fife. A distance of 906.17km was surveyed and the results were recorded in the Countryside Access Management System (CAMS). In addition, the surveyor worked closely with the Fife Biodiversity Co-ordinator to develop a methodology to record qualitative information about the condition of habitats immediately adjacent to the core paths and to input that information into CAMS.
The core path surveyor received training from the Fieldfare Trust. This organisation works with people with disabilities and countryside managers to improve access to the countryside. This collaboration helped to ensure that information about the accessibility of the core paths for people with disabilities was included in the survey.
A qualified contractor was also appointed to produce costed specifications for necessary works identified during the survey. These specifications were then used to work with local communities and other departments in Fife Council to apply for further funding to carry out works in 2011/12.
Four young people, aged 16 to 24 were employed on contracts of up to six months to aid with the delivery of this project. They each received training on asbestos awareness, manual handling, strimming and brushcutting, risk assessment and health and safety. They also participated in the Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS), received PASMA training in the use of mobile access towers and have been supported in their search for further employment.
As part of the project improvement works were completed on 45 core paths in the CSGN area of Fife. In additions, the Fife Greenspace Strategy identified ten communities with access to lower than average amounts of greenspace per 1000 population. As a result of the Core Paths Improvement Project, core paths were developed in two of these communities (Auchtermuchty and Kingseat) to allow improved access to the surrounding countryside. Achievements were lower than expected due to the difficult weather conditions experienced in autumn and winter of 2012.
During this project, information was gathered on the condition of all paths in west and central Fife. This information was recorded on CAMS and included details of all path furniture, surfacing, drainage and signage. This process led to the development of a methodology for gathering and recording qualitative information about habitats surrounding the paths.
As a result of the project, 100km of core path have been signposted and opened up for public use. The project has also helped to address the deficit of greenspace in two communities by improving access to the surrounding countryside.
The creation of employment and training opportunities for young people was a key aspect of this project. To date four young people have gained valuable training and experience in countryside management and outdoor paths work. This has helped to boost their confidence and, as a result, two of the four young people engaged in the project have secured further employment and apprenticeships.
Consultation with the general public revealed that increased signage and improved paths would encourage them to make more use of the core path network for walking, cycling and recreation, thus improving the health and wellbeing of the local population.
Quote from a member of the public who has used one of the improved core paths:
"This morning, with the sun shining I took myself off up to inspect how things were progressing with the core path renovations that skirt the southern boundary of Saline Golf Club.
It's looking great, three kissing gates are now in situ; and the vegetation has been cut back allowing for a more visible core path...all the way along to Bandrum Tower. It really is excellent so thank you so much for getting this work up and running."
This project was supported by the CSGN Development Fund. The funding available enabled Fife Council to employ a surveyor and a contractor to survey the condition of the path network and to produce costed specifications for necessary improvements works. The employment of a contractor and surveyor allowed this project to take place at least two years ahead of schedule. If the funding had not been available, the current staff in the Ranger Service and Estates team would have completed the work in addition to their existing workload, thus delaying the project.
The core paths survey work completed in 2010/11 (CSGN098) identified opportunities for biodiversity improvements along the core path network. The recommendation made as a result of this survey work will be carried forward and work will commence on shrub planting to fill gaps in old hedges, enhancing areas of semi-natural grassland by scrub removal, and clearing out ditches to enhance their aquatic environment. Thus the core paths network, while primarily intended to deliver improved access to the outdoors, will also help to improve the habitat networks and wildlife corridors in Fife. Following the success of this project, the Council has made greater and more consistent use of CAMS to manage their core paths network.
The costed specifications developed during this project have supported subsequent grant applications. The Fife Core Paths Improvement Project was successful in securing further funding through the CSGN Development Fund (CSGN423 and CSGN718). Future work focuses on improving and upgrading green-space within areas that are in or are close to areas of multiple deprivation. Work includes tree planting, woodland management, path building and upgrading, clearing invasive species, way-making and interpretation.
As a result, the project has been able to continue to carry out path improvement works using trainees, and the trainees have been able to gain valuable skills and experience which makes them more employable.
|2010||CSGN Development Fund||15,954|
|2012||CSGN Development Fund||66,678|
|2014||CSGN Development Fund||28,950|