The Isle of Man is 32 miles long by 12 miles wide set in the Irish Sea and is criss crossed by 200 miles of footpaths. There are more miles of footpath than there are roads but they receive a fraction of the Highways department budget. Whilst there were several walking groups on the Island with some members carrying Secateurs etc., for those difficult Briars there was no voluntary group undertaking clearance and/or repairs to the footpath network.
At the start of 2000 the network of footpaths was showing evidence of neglect due to budgetary restraint. Several active walkers felt that mere secateurs were no longer good enough and the situation needed more positive action. At first this was low key and very informal although discussions were taking place with Highways Operations regarding notorious black spots. A healthy working relationship was established and it was decided that a small dedicated team could be established to undertake limited works on the Footpath Network under the guidance of Highways Officials.
It was felt that this would free up Highways limited resources for major repairs and improvements whilst at the same time we could demonstrate the worth of Voluntary work in minor tasks such as way marking, scrub clearance and minor repairs. This has worked very well over the years it has been in operation and the benefits are there for all to see. For want of a name we became known as the "Task Force" as our flexibility could deal with minor tasks quickly and efficiently.
To date we have been in operation at several locations around the Island sometimes to effect modest clearances and repairs and in others to 'kickstart' the clearance of more long standing problems leaving Highways to follow through with longer term solutions.
In April 2008 we completed our first major undertaking in Glen Mooar closing a gap in the Heritage Trail from Douglas to Ramsey. In 2010 we laid out and constructed a new path over the slopes of Colden that is now an Official Warden's Walk. You can read about these and more under "Projects".Whilst the Administration side was, and still is, minimal there is some secretarial work involving letter writing etc., so the group name has become formalised as The Manx Footpath Task Force or MFTF. We take pride in how little paperwork we generate with members keeping in touch by email and telephone.
There is no hierarchy within the Task Force and anyone is free to come along and help. Many of our tasks are well within the abilities of anyone and involve simple 'gardening tools such as Secateurs, Loppers and Saws. We do NOT use Power tools of any kind just well honed muscles lubricated by good humour. One thing you will get is a great sense of satisfaction and pleasure at helping to keep the Island's footpaths open for all users to enjoy.
Design By David Kinrade - visit www.davidkinrade.com for more details