Pretty much anyone who cycles in the UK will at some point have encountered the National Cycle Network – a series of safe, traffic-free paths and quiet on-road cycling and walking routes that connect cities, towns and villages up and down the land.
This audacious project was brought into being by the sustainable transport charity Sustrans. Their first project was the Bristol to Bath cycle track, which followed the line of the disused railway line. During the summer of 1979 five miles of usable pathway were completed by an army of volunteers. By the early 1990s they had built cycle paths all over the country, but they weren’t linked together. So, in 1995, Sustrans campaigned and won the first ever grant from the Millennium Commission for £42.5 million to create a UK-wide network of high-quality, convenient routes. Today, the Network passes within a mile of half of all UK homes and stretches over 14,000 miles across the length and breadth of the country.
TV presenter and travel writer, Nicholas Crane, is championing a BBC Radio 4 Appeal for Sustrans to raise vital funds for the National Cycle Network in its 20th year. You can listen to the appeal on the BBC website. The money raised will help Sustrans to maintain and enhance the Network, and provide their volunteers with the training and equipment they need to carry out this vital work. You can help by donating; spreading the word to colleagues, friends and family; and sharing news of Sustrans’ appeal on social media. But hurry – donations close at 7:00AM this Sunday, 13 September.
We are hopeful that at least some of the funds raised will be allocated to carry out much needed maintenance work on NCN4, which connects Fishguard to London, passing through West Berkshire along the way, following the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath for much of its length. Although the route is popular for both utility and recreational cycling the path has been badly neglected. In places, the grass has encroached to such an extent that the path is less than a foot wide. In other places, the top coat of the towpath has been worn away exposing the larger stones beneath, which makes for uncomfortable cycling. Also, increasing levels of usage within urban areas has exposed the inadequate width of the path, leading to some conflict and ill-feeling between different user groups. Spokes will therefore be writing to Sustans and the Canal and River Trust, who have responsibility for the day-to-day maintenance of the path to push for NCN4 to be at the top of the investment list and make it fit for purposes again, and restore the legacy for future generations.