Jeremy on the right trail to earn Best Campaign accolade

Caroline Russell with Best Campaign award winner Jeremy Gartside

Jeremy on the right trail to earn Best Campaign accolade

Jeremy Gartside has metaphorically moved heaven and literally moved earth to make the North Dorset Trailway a more attractive and usable cycle route in his community.

And his sterling efforts were recognised at Cycling UK’s Annual Members’ Get Together in Manchester last Saturday (8 October) when he was named winner of the Best Campaign award.

Jeremy realised that people were deterred from cycling to nearby towns just a few miles away via the Trailway, because it involved using narrow, de-restricted hilly lanes and poor access options off an even busier A357.

But he found a missing link, an unclassified highway known as Little Lane, which could link one village directly to the Trailway.

It had been mooted some years earlier but any funding opportunity was thwarted by a large landowner and the lane had fallen into disrepair, becoming impassable.

Jeremy, who lives in Okeford Fitzpaine, near Blandford Forum, organised volunteers and promoted his ideas to the Highway Authority and wider community at every opportunity.

By manual labour, and later with driven machinery provided voluntarily, tons of mud have been cleared from the lane to reveal its original hardcore base.

Cycling UK Trustee Welna Bowden, Chair of the Awards Committee, said: “Jeremy’s ability to energise, organise and lobby for change, plus his determination to roll up his sleeves, are what impressed the judges most with this campaign. He deserves all the congratulations going.”

Jeremy describes himself as a commuting cyclist. For nearly 30 years while living in Southampton he cycled to work and used the bike as his main means of transport where practicable.

He and his wife, Dilys, ‘cajoled’ their friends and neighbours to walk and cycle where possible and not drive half a mile to buy a newspaper, figuratively speaking. They led rides and walks and still do “at a modest level”.

I was very flattered to receive the award on behalf of our Project. I am especially pleased as it raises awareness of leisure off-road cycling at a local level.  Many folk want to cycle but are too afraid to do so on busy and often narrow roads.”

Jeremy Gartside, winner of Cycling UK’s Best Campaign award

Jeremy explained: “Three years ago we moved to rural Dorset and ended up where we are following discovery of the North Dorset Trailway, which follows part of the old Somerset and Dorset railway line. Our village is situated about one mile from the Trailway which enables us to cycle to the nearest towns.

“We soon discovered that 21st century country folk do not walk or cycle – the culture is very different from the cities. A year after moving, I volunteered to become the Parish Footpath/Rights of Way Officer.

“From our village a narrow, bendy and often busy road which is not cycling or walking friendly leads towards the Trailway but, running nearly parallel and almost flat, is an unclassified road which has fallen into a sorry state of repair.  The council had long since abandoned it and as a result it was barely walkable.

“After consulting the Highway Authority and adjacent landowners, I and a group of local volunteers set about clearing the lane as best we could by hand.  We had to drain a small lake just so we could walk through in wellies, and it is now walkable.

“The next stage is to make the lane cyclable for all, including families and children on normal road and hybrid bikes. It will make a wonderful safe and scenic link to the neighbouring village and to the Trailway.

“We now seek funding to enable the lane to be scraped and re-contoured and a firm base laid, with signage to be put up each end to tell people where the lane leads.

“We can then show our fellow villagers how they can get out and about, leaving their cars at home, and also promote our village to outsiders.

“I was very flattered to receive the award on behalf of our Project. I am especially pleased as it raises awareness of leisure off-road cycling at a local level.  Many folk want to cycle but are too afraid to do so on busy and often narrow roads.

“I commend Cycling UK for introducing this category of award which can encompass many different campaigns in the future.”

Jeremy was presented with his award at the Members’ Get Together by transport campaigner Caroline Russell, London Assembly Member and national transport spokesperson for the Green Party of England and Wales.

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