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Campaigners refuse to give up on flooded Solent Way at Milford after Hampshire County Council sinks boardwalk funding

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A MILFORD conservation charity has pledged to continue campaigning for a boardwalk along a popular section of a major walking route that regularly becomes impassable in heavy rain.

The stretch of the Solent Way runs through the village from the Sea Road car park along the northern side of Sturt Pond.

But for walkers it is often flooded for days at a time due to spring tides and heavy rain, forcing them to find detours.

The section of the Solent Way floods in autumn and winter (50982619)
The section of the Solent Way floods in autumn and winter (50982619)

Now Milford Conservation Volunteers (MCV) is asking Hampshire County Council to review its decision not to support the installation of a boardwalk.

MCV spokesperson Keith Metcalf said: “There is no doubt it would be an expensive project but it is an extremely well used and popular footpath.

“In the future there will come a time when the path becomes impassable much more often throughout the year and at that point I think the community will realise what we are losing.”

The footpath is looked after by HCC and New Forest District Council’s open spaces team. It regularly undergoes maintenance work to cut back vegetation and replenish gravel.

However, a report in 2020 revealed that longer term solutions could include raising the level of the footpath with stone for £23,000; a hardwood boardwalk for £30,000; or a recycled plastic boardwalk for £50,000.

Solent Way runs through the village from the Sea Road car park
Solent Way runs through the village from the Sea Road car park

Mr Metcalf said over the last 30 years successive groups – the Friends of Sturt Pond, Milford Environment Group, the Wildlife Recording Group and the Milford Conservation Volunteers – have all volunteered to maintain this path.

But they are now warning it has reached a “tipping point”, and continuously replenishing gravel is no longer a viable solution, especially because volunteers have become reluctant to help on such a fruitless task.

Mr Metcalf said: “If a sensible long-term approach could be reached, then I am sure that we could again muster helpers. But whilst we continually see all our hard work and endeavours simply wash back into the pond because the edging boards are about 60cm too short, we feel that something longlasting must be considered.”

MCV is suggesting that if a 60cm high boardwalk was installed and maintained, the footpath could remain open year-round for the next 50-100 years.

But HCC’s countryside team has advised that no funding will be made available for the work, and walkers must accept that there will be times when it cannot be used.

Mr Metcalf said: “At this time there seems to be no real will, either from the district or county council, to progress the project.

“While we accept that it may not happen in the next few years, it should be something that is included in future planning.

“I realise that funding might be an issue – but there are many other sources where you can apply for grants if there was a real will to progress this.”

County councillor Fran Carpenter defended HCC which she said had a responsibility to assess potential projects very carefully for necessity, safety and cost.

She added: “A boardwalk is quite a large project and it may not even work. On top of everything else, there are all kinds of safety considerations which would make it a much more complicated job than just a simple ‘boardwalk idea’, especially when the tide comes in.

“You also have to think of accessibility and safety for those who are disabled when something like this is built.”

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