I support the concept of ‘least restrictive access’ defined by British Standard BS5709 which means removing as many obstructions from the rights of way network as possible. Stiles are difficult for many walkers to negotiate deterring them from accessing the countryside safely. I made this presentation to the Local Access Forum in 2007, while now a little dated, the principles and objectives remain exactly the same. Inclusive access includes a range of users, including pregnant women, parents with young in carriers, people with replacement hips, short legs, and a range of other difficulties who find stiles a real obstruction. CBC adopted a policy which gives more details of BS5709. The landowners in Toddington parish have been really supportive so over 64 stiles have been removed since the mid 1990s, with now none remaining. There is no doubt the removal of stiles has encouraged more walkers to get out and about.
Chalgrave parish has a quarter of the stiles in the whole of Central Bedfordshire Council area – a disproportionally high number – one stile every 457 metres of path! The photo is an example of a double stile in Chalgrave parish. The maintenance of stiles is a continual challenge, as the steps work loose and the frames also rot and break.
How many stiles are there?
The following statistics were provided by CBC to the Joint Local Access Forum in Jan 2021. The numbers of stiles in each local parish is shown.
In Toddington in May 2022, the stile on TOD61 was replaced by a gap earlier in the year, and the last remaining stile on TOD33 was replaced by a kissing gate in the autumn of 2022. In Chalgrave there are a number of stiles being removed as part of bridge replacement work. In Milton Bryan one stile was replaced by a gate in late 2022. Current count as at March 2023:
|Parish (abbreviation)||Area (Hectares)||Network (km)||Stiles||metres/stile|
|Chalton (CHL)||459||13.29||–||no stiles|
|Harlington (HAR)||713||19.14||–||no stiles|
|Milton Bryan (MBR)||1,659||18.14||13||1,395|
|Tingrith (TIN)||389||6.39||–||no stiles|
|Toddington (TOD)||1,637||50.71||–||no stiles|