Bushwackers Logo

Welcome! I can only conclude that you must be visiting this web page after seeing one of our signs whilst out walking, cycling or horse riding down a freshly cut trail. So thanks for visiting and I'll explain below what the Bushwackers initiative is all about.

Intro

For over 30 years mountain biking has been the joy of my life and overgrown trails the bane of my life. I fully understand that the responsibility for footpath and bridleway (trail) maintenance falls to both the council and the land owner; vegetation growth from the ground is the responsibility of the council and vegetation growth from the side and above is the responsibility of the land owner.

The process for reporting an overgrown trail is to raise a report via the Dorset 4 You web site. However, having raised the request and received your corresponding reference number, the process from here on in seems to disappear into a large blackhole. Status reporting is not available and you are not notified as to when or if the problem will be addressed. My personal experience is that sometimes you get lucky and your request is actioned and other times it isn't and the required clearance work is not carried out. As an avid mountain biker, overgrown trails really take the enjoyment out of off road cycling, I have on many occasions had to stop riding certain routes during the summer months due to their overgrown condition. I suspect this is also the case for horse riders out there who come across an overgrown and narrow bridleway.

Now I just want to set the record straight here and say that I have a good relationship with the Rangers who carry out the maintenance of the trail network and I fully understand their struggles in trying to maintain the miles and miles of trails with an ever decreasing annual budget and the work they do is massively appreciated. There are also those land owners too who deserve a very big thanks for keeping the bridleways that cross their land maintained even though in theory it is not their responsibility to do so.

Vision

If trails are not to slowly descend into a state of complete disrepair, then maintenance needs to be proactive and not reactive. By adopting a proactive clearance strategy, the required annual maintenance can be carried out which will not only ensure that the trail does not become terribly overgrown, impassable and potentially lost forever, but also makes seasonal vegetation clearance a much easier task. The current system of reactive trail clearance means that too many trails are not receiving the required TLC each year and therefore slowly descend into an overgrown state. When you think that these trails are steeped in history and have been in use for hundreds of years it is a real shame to watch them be neglected.

The Bushwacker initiative is to try and make this proactive maintenance a reality. By securing private funding from both business and individuals the required machinery can be purchased and volunteers trained in their safe and effective use. If enough funding can be obtained then it would not require many volunteers to make a real impact. I regularly daydream about living in a county that prides itself on having the most clear and open trail network in the country. Clear trails are much more of an incentive to get off the sofa and go exploring the great outdoors than overgrown ones.

So whether walking, cycling or horse riding is your passion, just imagine how great it would be if every year the trails you frequent were cut on a regular basis and the days of stung legs or thorn scratches were a thing of the past! It might sound a far fetched pipe dream, but I personally feel that if enough of us who enjoy the great outdoors, either donate a few pounds each year to the cause or offer to get stuck in a few weekends each year, then I do think it is most definitely achievable.

The Covid pandemic has pushed the national debt to new levels and if the government embark on an austerity drive like they did after the financial crash in 2008, then I suspect the amount of funding allocated towards bridleway clearance may well be reduced again. Bridleway clearance in the scheme of things is most likely way down the list of priorities for local councils. As a result, if you want to be mountain biking or horse riding clear trails then you have two choices. Do nothing and just accept that trails will become more impassable year on year or be proactive and either offer to volunteer or put your hand in your pocket and donate a few pounds to the cause.

I personally feel that there should be a centralised organisation that is independent from local authority who oversee rights of way related matters, and who are not affiliated to a particular trait of trail user. The organisation would work with all users of the trail network and have a common vision of "access for all". I digress, but I think you get the picture.

Next Steps

Currently, I have a petrol multi tool which consists of a brush cutter, pruner and hedge trimmer (purchased with my own funds). It is not a trade rated tool, but so far it has enabled me to clear many years of growth from a number or local bridleways.

Hyundai Multitool

This certainly does speed up the process of clearing an overgrown trail, but the aim is to purchase a BCS Tracmaster 740 with a flail unit as this enables large patches of stinging nettles and brambles to be cleared quickly and with ease.

BCS Tracmaster with flail

The cost unfortunately is in excess of 5.5k and I personally do not have that amount of money to spend on a unit that is for voluntary use and at present does not have the volunteers to hand to be putting the machine to use at weekends. The plan therefore, is to raise funding through public donations and business so as to enable purchase of the required equipment. The equipment can then be stored in a central location (TBD) which will then be accessible to trained volunteers to utilise when time permits. I appreciate this is not going to happen overnight and there are going to be a great many obstacles that need to be addressed surrounding insurance, gaining access and consent, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

Get in touch

If you are a business or individual who can offer financial support to the initiative or can assist in any other way then please do Contact Me as I would love to hear from you. Alternatively, if you appreciate the work I do and the associated vision then any donations would be greatly appreciated. All donations will be used for fuel, insurance, brush cutter blades or towards the dream flail purchase. If you know of a trail that needs some TLC then please do get in touch and I will see what I can do.



Happy trails

Justin