29 August 2019 by Deborah Hyde
Chris Riches was searching for a fitting way to commemorate his late father, who inspired his love of getting out into the countryside. Happily, help was at hand from South Wiltshire Ramblers, resulting in a new ‘kissing gate’ being installed at East Knoyle.
In an increasing number of areas, organisations such as the Ramblers are working together with local authorities and landowners to encourage members of the public to commission a kissing gate on a public footpath. They offer an alternative memorial to a bench – natural beauty spots may already have plenty of benches, which also require ongoing maintenance.
Kissing gates are also often a helpful replacement for ageing stiles – and commissioning one in memory of a loved one can help ease pressure on stretched council budgets, as well as enabling local walkers to continue to use paths across countryside and green spaces. A kissing gate can cost under half the price of a memorial bench, but can also be fitted with an inscription plaque.
‘Appropriately, the idea of installing a gate in my father’s memory came to me whilst I was clambering over one rickety style too many!’ says Chris.
He raised the idea at his local Ramblers AGM, and was delighted to learn that the process was relatively simple. Wiltshire Council provided him with the specification for the kissing gate, and where to get it. They then stored it until it could be installed by the South Wilts Ramblers award-wining ‘heavy gang’ – volunteers who have been keeping paths open for over 25 years. Across the UK, Ramblers work to maintain and encourage use of more than 140,000 miles of public.
Chris and fellow Ramblers then incorporated the location into one of their walks, and held a special, commemorative ‘opening of the gate’.
‘It’s wonderful to think that soon my father might be getting appreciative nods of approval from walkers passing through ‘his’ gate’, says Chris.
Find out more about the work of the South Wiltshire Ramblers’ ‘Heavy Gang’.