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Updated: Dec 5, 2021

The complete story AND history of Cross Lane - referenced in the Newsletter.

Great news! - Runnymede Borough Council has voted to take responsibility for the management and maintenance of Cross Lane, following the concerns of a considerable number of residents when a large section was fenced off by an adjoining owner. It is a great win for keeping another piece of Ottershaw’s heritage of lovely woods and historic walks open for public use!

A Brief Resume: Cross Lane runs from the A320 Guildford Road alongside the Christ Church graveyard and down to the A319 Chobham Road and is an important rural footpath linking Timber Hill to Ether Hill.

The upper ‘paved’ section serves several properties including the old Christ Church Vicarage. Thereafter it becomes a 40’ wide wooded track or lane incorporating a registered public footpath ( Number32).

The History: Cross Lane was initially identified on the ‘Lindley Map’ of 1789 and then more clearly on the 1802 Enclosure Map of Walton Leigh Manor. This Enclosure Act was stipulated and enacted by King George III. It was directed that the lands of the Manor, being the then open ‘common fields, meadows and pastures, commons and waste lands, be ‘divided, allotted and enclosed’. These were what we now know as Ottershaw and its surrounds, where only the occasional small croft or dwelling then existed.

Ownership or ‘Title’ was granted to those who farmed, tended, or lived upon all the land. However, Cross Lane along with the Guildford and Chobham and Coach Roads were unmetalled tracks and were omitted from being granted ‘title’ or ‘ownership’ to owners, being retained as general rights of way ‘on foot, with horses, carts, or carriages’. Guildford and Chobham Roads were later ‘Adopted as Public rights of Way – maintainable at public expense’, hence their status today as ‘main public roads.’ Cross Lane remained a general right of way but ‘unadopted and not maintained at public expense’. There is evidence of it being used as a Coaching Road serving the old Queenwood Manor. Artefacts dug up on the Lane by archaeologists indicated that the stone and crockery discovered was carried on the horse drawn coaches to put under the wheels when they became bogged down, during the early 1800’s.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1806/7 shows the Gate houses, still in existence, on Cross Lane with the track leading through to Ottershaw Park. They give access to what is now known as the walks and woodland of Ottershaw Chase, owned for public benefit by RBC. There is no recorded registered title owner of Cross Lane.

Issues today: Cross Lane is now a natural area of shrubbery and trees, some of which are very large. It has suffered from occasional ‘fly tipping’ and damage caused to adjoining gardens caused by falling trees. With no-one maintaining the Lane or holding liability for damage, a neighbour fenced off an area of land with the intention of taking adverse possession and maintaining it themselves. This caused significant concern and objection by many residents who had enjoyed the previous unrestricted green and peaceful environment of the Lane.

Action: Mike Freshney, Secretary of OWAIRA, your local Residents Alliance, became aware of the situation and having himself used Cross Lane frequently for over 40 years, investigated the History, Title and Rights of Way along with the laws of adverse possession. In discussion with the person seeking possession of the land their concerns became evident. A solution would be for him to be relieved of responsibility and potential damage if the management and maintenance of the Lane were taken on by Runnymede BC for public use, as an addition to the immediately adjacent Ottershaw Chase SANG, which is accessed off Cross Lane.

With the support of Malcolm Cressey and John Olorenshaw, Ottershaw’s two independent Councillors, Mike made a thoroughly researched and reasoned approach to the RBC Chief Executive, Paul Turrell and Mario Leo Head of Corporate Law and Governance. After well considered debate, they agreed to put a recommendation to the Community Services Committee in favour of the Council undertaking the management and maintenance of the wooded Cross Lane.

SUCCESS: The Committee approved that recommendation unanimously on Thursday 11th March 2021.

The efforts of OWAIRA, Local Councillors and Officers, with the co-operation of concerned residents, has together resulted in a valuable piece of the history and heritage of Ottershaw being saved and put under proper management for the benefit of public use and enjoyment.

Mike Freshney

Thank you to everyone involved, residents, councillors and RBC officers for their support – and a special ‘thank you’ to Mike Freshney who put the impetus behind it to make it happen (and provided this written report) - Brilliant job!

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