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19 January 2011, 17:09
More Hertfordshire children are stepping out on healthier and safer routes to school, thanks to a County Council rights of way scheme.
Hertfordshire has an extensive rights of way network of over 5200 paths totalling almost 2,000 miles. The County Council's School Travel Team is working with schools to identify areas where the public path system can link up to schools, allowing children to form walking buses.
Benington Primary near Stevenage is the latest school to benefit from the scheme. Two footpaths from the village recreation ground to the school’s rear entrance have been refurbished, including three new footbridges, waymarking and a section of surfacing on the main route.
Benington School headteacher Jenny Munns said: “Half of our pupils come from Stevenage and some parents drop their children in Benington to join the walking bus to school. The route goes across fields and this scheme has made it much safer.
“It’s good for the children to walk to school with their friends and parking is a massive problem outside the school, so the walking bus is helping to ease that as well.”
Rights of Way officer Colin Hambrook said: “The children are going to name the bridges and the names, along with distances, will appear on the direction signs. We hope that this will foster a life-long relationship with the countryside.
“We’ve already carried out a similar scheme with Aston St Mary’s School in Stevenage and I’m happy to go to any school that has links to rights of way which could be improved.”
Stuart Pile, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Schools are looking at ways to encourage children to walk to school and it makes sense to use our extensive rights of way network to link communities with schools wherever possible.
“Walking or cycling to school helps children get the exercise they need, and apart from the health benefits, having fewer cars on the road improves safety and helps to protect the environment.”
The scheme is being co-ordinated by the Environment department’s Rights of Way and School Travel teams.