‘The Sussex Border Path was originated by two Ramblers in 1983, so it seemed a good idea to me to keep it going,’ says Graham Elvey, area footpath secretary at West Sussex Ramblers.
The 150-mile route follows the East and West Sussex inland boundary, from Emsworth to Rye. But with signage disappearing, and the highway authorities no longer able fund it, there was a risk it would disappear off the map. This thought spurred Graham to start work on a major four-year project to relaunch the path.
‘It seemed to me that Sussex Ramblers could take it on,’ says Graham. ‘I suggested this to our area council and we took it from there. I designed the waymarker discs, got them costed and set about organising volunteers to go and put them on the posts. Over 60 people got involved – not only from Sussex. We had help from Hampshire, Surrey and Kent Ramblers too.’
As well as waymarking the entire path, the team checked route descriptions on the ground and updated them for a revamped website. The path was relaunched at a special ceremony in September 2016 – but the work didn’t stop there. Graham has set up a team of 40 path wardens who regularly check the route and report any problems, keeping the path open and accessible.
A keen Rambler for many years, Graham is motivated by his belief that the countryside should be open for everyone. ‘I think it’s important we do whatever we can to maintain the rights of way network; to keep it open for everybody long into the future – as there are threats to it. It’s your only access into the countryside. If you didn’t have it, you’d be kept very much on the outside.’
He credits every volunteer who gave their time to make the project a success. ‘It’s been a real team effort with around 80 people involved,’ he says. ‘It’s an award for everybody who contributed – without them it wouldn’t have been done.’
During Volunteers' Week we’ll be publishing interviews with our volunteer award winners, like Graham, and you’ll be able to read them on our Volunteers' Week webpage.