A new project aimed at improving the footpaths and accessibility of the Ross area is set to begin thanks to funding from the Ross Council.

Walkers Are Welcome, which has been promoting Ross as a walking destination for the past 13 years, has partnered with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) funded project to replace the stiles with gates across the footpaths in the region.

The group has identified over 50 stiles that could be replaced and has ordered 41 gates for installation in the next few months. The grant provided by Ross Council will enable the purchase of materials and the training of volunteers who will install the gates. The project is set to begin in April, and if the group receives further funding from AONB next year, they hope to remove all stiles from the area.

The gates will provide improved accessibility for people with disabilities and allow farmers to move their vehicles through the footpaths more easily. The majority of the gates will be simple metal self-closing gates, while the gates at the main roads will be kissing gates.

“We’ve all been out photographing and surveying and studying all the footpaths around here,” said a member of the Ross Walkers Welcome Group. “The Heritage Trail, White Valley Walk and of course, all the other numerous footpaths.”

The group has been working diligently to prepare for the project, and the volunteers are set to undergo training in about a week’s time. “If we get a little more money from AONB next year, we will continue and get rid of all the stiles we’ve got in the area, which would be great,” said the group member.

The Ross Council provided a grant of £750 to the project, and their grants range up to £1000. The council has given grants totaling around £8000 in the current year and plans to give around £10,000 in grants next year. The Ross Council has also agreed to store the gates safely free of charge.

The Ross Walkers Welcome Group is excited to begin the project and is grateful for the support of the Ross Council and AONB. The project will not only provide improved accessibility for walkers and farmers but also enhance the beauty of the area.

Last year the Gazette reported that record numbers of walkers showed up to participate in 2022’s Ross Walking Festival.

Over 300 tickets were sold, a 50 per cent increase on the average over the past decade.

Organisers thanked walk leaders and were also grateful for delightful weather.

The most popular single walk was a seven-mile circular route along the edge of the River Wye with a great climb up to the viewpoint and on to the Caplor Iron-age Hillfort; and the Hidden History of Ross, which ran on two separate days had the most overall walkers, with people engrossed in the storytelling around the town.

Old favourites like the steam train to Lydney and the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail continued to attract good numbers, as did new ideas, such as the photography walk put on in conjunction with Ross Photographic Society. Over 1,600 miles were walked over the three days, taking in some of the most glorious parts of the local countryside.