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RAISED FOOTPATH – 2013 to 2019

“It gives me great pleasure in saying a very big thank you to Churcher’s and Friends of Petersfield Heath (FoPH) in producing something that was badly needed for the Heath and will make life so much easier particularly during the Winter months.” Cllr George Watkinson, Deputy Mayor

Tribute to Churcher’s College

It is now six years since the Spring of 2013, when Mr Simon Williams, the Headmaster of Churcher’s College, contacted the Friends of Petersfield Heath and told our committee that he would like his college to become involved in assisting with a project for the benefit of the community, and asked if we had any ideas.

It just so happened that we had been contemplating the question of building a path across the boggy stretch of ground immediately to the west of the Sussex Road car park, to provide access for pedestrians who had negotiated the passage under the trees, but who then had to divert to the footpath running alongside the road to avoid the muddy ground immediately in front of them.

Laying down several tons of gravel was the answer, but how to finance this scheme, and where was the labour force to come from?  The Friends of Petersfield Heath had neither the funds nor the manpower to deliver this project, until the offer came from Churcher’s College.

We agreed in principle what was to be carried out and then set about planning the details.  FoPH would order and prepare the material, and then Tony Ostersen from Churcher’s College, together with his students, would be responsible for preparing the ground and laying down and levelling the gravel on the area designated.

In the summer of 2013 an eighty yard stretch of path was laid down running round the southern side of the lake, and the material compacted.  A total of 60 students, were engaged over two afternoons to complete this section during which they shifted some 40 tons of gravel.  Detailed and careful planning by Tony Ostersen from the college, ensured the success of the project.  He had to provide 20 barrows, shovels, rakes, spades and forks, not to mention the ‘student power’ and college supervisors. And all this task force had to be fed and watered.   It was a significant logistical exercise and expertly delivered, the total cost of which came to £3,300.  This cost was met by the College without demur.

This first section, having been met with approval by the wider public, it was decided to repeat the process, and so, in 2014 a second path was prepared and laid down running across the centre of the boggy area, and again the financial commitment was met by the College.

After that it was decided, in years 2015 to 2018, to continue with the path work, but tackling the area under the trees.  Here the scheme required a different approach, because of the presence of tree roots.  Expert opinion indicated that trees suffered stress where their exposed roots were subjected to repeated wear and tear from pedestrian or other traffic, so the emphasis was changed to protecting tree roots, as well as covering trip hazards that threatened walkers and joggers.

Then finally this year, 2019, it was clear that we could complete the whole path by linking up those sections still incomplete.  A final push was needed and this was provided by the students on 19th and 21st June when the two final sections totalling 60 yards were completed with another load of 20 tonnes of gravel.

This  has brought  the total weight of material that the students have personally shifted up to a total of 173 tonnes over the seven year period.  Performing this task has  been carried out in a total of 1260 ‘student hours’.  Allowing for an estimate of  £2,360 for this years costs to be added to the costs of the last six years will produce a grand total of £15,840 all paid for by the college.

These statistics are a wonderful testament to the generosity and contribution  to the community by Churcher’s College and in particular the expertise of Tony Ostersen in masterminding and delivering all the vital logistic support.  It will not be lost on the statisticians amongst you that in 440 yards, there are 15,840 inches, and that this figure bears a remarkable resemblance to the overall cost of £15,840.

So the next time you are jogging round the Heath, you should bear in mind that when enjoying the pleasure of striding out on the path work under the trees, that this has been laid down at the precise rate of £1 for each and every inch of its length.

And so to Churcher’s College, the Headmaster, Mr Simon Williams, all his staff, the students and their parents we all say:

“Thank you very much.”

Finally, these points were all well made by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor George Watkinson, who kindly attended to open this final section of the path at the official ‘Ribbon- Cutting  Ceremony’ held  at 3:30 pm on 21st June 2019

David Burstall

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