Village (P3) Footpath Group.
In the late 1990's the Parish Council joined the Bedfordshire P3. In reality a very few people in the village were involved in getting the footpaths around the village back into usable condition. Some paths were overgrown, few had any way mark posts to show the line of the path and in some cases the very route of the path was in dispute. All in all not very user friendly and therefore hardly used.
During 2000 the paths were defined and all the major problems solved. This was mainly due to a great deal of work by a couple of Parish Councillors, Joan Wheeler and Colin Wood. In reality the Wilstead P3 consisted of these two people.
In order to spread the load of looking after the paths and to get more involvement in the village November 2000 saw the launching of an 'Adopt a Path' scheme where around twenty volunteer villagers adopted a particular path and periodically walked it and reported any problems on their path.
Thus the Wilstead P3 Footpath Group was formed.
Initially any problems were flagged up to the County Rights of Way Officer for the Marston Vale for them to resolve. Gradually the group sorted some of the problems out themselves. This started with vegetation clearance and on receipt of some tools from the County Council the group then expanded to way marking the path by putting in yellow topped way mark posts.
The need to publicise these improved paths became apparent and in 2002 the group published a free 'Footpaths in Wilstead' leaflet which showed all the public rights of way around the village.
Subsequently some members of the group were trained to use a Brushcutter ( a sort of strimmer which can have a head with blades). It took a while to get a Brushcutter for the group but now we have one plus a mower and they are regularly used to cut back the vegetation which tries to take over the paths every year.
After a few years additional tasks such as replacing stiles with kissing gates and building culverts were then undertaken by the group with the material supplied by the Council.
Following the success of New Year's Day Walks in 2001 and 2002 the group started organising monthly walks. By the end of 2017 177 different walk around Bedfordshire had been enjoyed. These walks have proved quite successful with sometimes over twenty villagers braving the elements. The optional post walk refreshments in a local pub have proved very popular.
This evolving of the village Footpath Group would not have been possible without the help, support and encouragement of the County Council.
Following the split of the County into Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire the Rights of Way team at the Borough have continued to support the Group.
This support has included providing additional tools, the servicing of the brushcutter and mower, giving advice and guidance and funding the production and printing of a Circular Walk leaflet and the reprinting of the 'Footpaths in Wilstead' leaflet.
The group still continue to monitor the state of the public rights of way around the village and record their condition every two months. Where the group can undertake work to improve the path or overcome problems we do this but we still have to get assistance and support from the Borough Rights of Way team.
Over the years the budgets of the Borough Rights of Way team has drastically reduced and they are dependent more and more on local groups helping them ensure the over 980 kilometres of public rights of Way in the Borough remain usable.
If you use the footpaths and bridleways around the village and are interested in helping to make sure they remain in good condition why not come along to one of the groups meetings and find out a bit more.
If you would like to help in other parts of the Borough please see the section on Rights of Way Volunteering in the Borough