Wokingham Borough Council (WoBC) recently consulted on the next ‘Greenway’ it is proposing to build.
Greenways are traffic-free walking/cycling routes, typically using existing paths and bridleways, and will be shared-use for people walking and cycling. I’m very grateful to the RCC member who told me about the consultation.
The new route would go from Arborfield Cross along the existing bridleway to Ellis Hill Farm, then along Coombe Lane to Bearwood Road, through Foxhill Wood to Woosehill Estate, along Emmbrook Meadows to Reading Road, through Holt Copse and link with the new route in Cantley Park.
My general feedback was that the new route should be tarmac rather than macadamised ‘Coxwell Gravel’, which gets muddy in wet weather and is unpleasant to ride on a road bike.
Gates and barriers need to accommodate disabled access (and will also make it more suitable for child trailers and trikes, if not tandems).
On a more strategic level, the route through Woosehill will be useful, because it’s through a heavily-populated area and passes close to Morrison’s supermarket, Embrook School and the Holt School and links to the station via Kingfisher Bridge and Murray Road.
However, I am not sure building a new cycleway through the Holt Copse is desirable or cost-effective; why not use the railway under-bridge at Mill Mead, or build a proper cycleway along Holt Lane?
I am less convinced by the route from Bearwood Road to Arborfield. First, it will cost a lot. A disabled-access bridge will be needed across Barkham Brook. Coombe Lane becomes a quagmire in winter, so drainage work – and prohibition of motor vehicles – will be needed to make it usable.
The second problem is that this section of the route doesn’t link with any significant destinations or population centres and the isolation of the route will make it unattractive to those worried about their personal safety.
For cycling, the steep hill up from the Brook to the farm makes it less attractive than Barkham Road. All this considered, I feel the money needed would be better spent in other ways; for example, by widening the new Barkham Road bridge to include cycle lanes, or improving the ramps of the Woosehill roundabout underpass.
The recent WoBC election results deserve a mention, with the dominant Conservative group losing ten seats including several senior Councillors. WoBC is still under clear Conservative control, but the losses may prompt some policy changes.
Peter Howe, WoBC campaigner for RCC