Both the footpath landscape of Kenilworth and the KFPG have come a long way since the Group was formed at a public meeting in 1974 by local walkers concerned at the sad deterioration of the countryside paths. These were often unsignposted, overgrown, blocked by fences and other obstacles, and generally neglected.
& Gordon Quarry Farm Rowington
Before improvements could start the Group had the difficult job of identifying the correct routes of the paths from a draft (and defective) definitive map. Farmers (with honourable exceptions) were often not enthusiastic about paths being opened up and the Group had to be self-supporting in terms of materials for stiles, bridges and signposts.
An early decision was taken to publicise the paths as much as possible as an aid to keeping them open and after three years work the first edition (photocopied) of Kenilworth Footpaths was published in Jubilee Year 1977. The Group set itself the goal of ensuring that every path in the book was open, walkable and clearly waymarked. This is still our aim today with publication of the much expanded 5th edition Kenilworth and Beyond.
Public interest in paths is now much greater than it was over 30 years ago. The Highway Authority (the Warwickshire County Council) has gone from having no specific footpath staff to the present Countryside Access Team of 17 full-time staff. The help given to the Group has developed from early recognition but little else to an effective backup, supplying most of the materials needed for our work. We now enjoy a close working relationship with both Warwickshire CC and with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.
That work too has changed. We still clear and waymark paths and repair stiles. However, currently a lot of our efforts are directed towards erecting wooden and metal kissing gates to improve access for the less agile. We are also increasingly replacing signposts with our new trademark fingerposts giving a destination and distance. Over the years the length of the paths maintained by the Group has grown and now totals well over 100 miles of rights-of-way. We have an attractive website giving details of paths and Group activities with links to kindred organisations.
Over the years the Group has been fortunate in attracting many dedicated volunteers who have worked together to improve the paths around Kenilworth. We still have founder members but today with newer members with new skills the Group is probably stronger and more effective than at any time in the past.
All work done by the Group is voluntary. We meet as a working party on the third Sunday of each month at the Square West car park (behind the Kenilworth library) (see Working Parties) at 9.45am, finishing about 1pm. We are a friendly and informal association (with no membership subscription) and always welcome additional helpers. See our website for dates. Men and women of all ages, the fit and not so fit, can all take part.
We now maintain over 100 miles of paths used in our footpath guide 'Kenilworth and Beyond' which is regularly revised and updated.