Don’t block our rights of way along the banks of the Ouse

The river Ouse
The river Ouse

How gratifying that your letter writer is concerned about the state of the Ouse bank upstream from Willeys Bridge, and she asks readers to account for the removal of hawthorn and brambles (Sussex Express, April 12).

Wildlife habitat does, of course, need to be protected.

However, the bund along the west bank is part of Lewes’ flood protection, and also the route of a much-used public footpath that gives Lewesians such as herself a route into the countryside.

It’s an important link in the 42-mile-long Sussex Ouse Valley Way. Such an important and well-used path requires maintenance just as much as the much-welcomed repair of the South Downs Way above Plumpton, reported on page 8 of the same issue.

For years the river path has become increasingly obstructed by thorn and brambles, to the extent that walkers have had to divert onto the frequently muddy lower level.

This is at its worst where the ground between tree roots has been eroded, especially difficult and hazardous in winter or after heavy rain.

Despite this being one of the most used paths in the area, it has not been high on the cash-strapped County Highways’ list of footpaths to maintain.

Signs placed by the Environment Agency on the footpath at Willeys Bridge and at Landport Cut last year gave notice of scrub clearance in 2018, to be followed this year by works to the bund in the interest of flood control, which no-one in flood-prone Lewes could object to.

Let us be grateful that a national agency can finance the restoration of this footpath at the edge of Lewes, so that young and old will be able to enjoy easy access along this lovely route.

Walkers now have a chance to keep open the bank-top path. Stumps away from the bank top will re-sprout in time, and fortunately there is plenty of nearby scrub for the yellowhammer and other lovers of bushes.

All land management is inevitably a compromise between conflicting interests and a balance must be struck.

In an age of increasing obesity, when we are all encouraged to engage in exercise, is it too much to ask that a path on Lewes’ threshold should be kept in a state which makes it available to all: the increasingly unsteady, like myself, mothers with tots in hand, and joggers alike?

By all means let thorn bushes and brambles delight us with their flowers, berries and bird song, but not when blocking our rights of way!

Chris Yarrow,

Stonehurst Lane,

Hadlow Down