So-called 'modest increase' would create havoc on the Heath

I was intrigued to read Jean Dollimore s statement: I believe the Corporation will put in more cycle paths on Hampstead Heath (Future is animals and bikes, H&H February 1). Really? On what does she base this belief? Perhaps, as joint co-ordinator of

I was intrigued to read Jean Dollimore's statement: ''I believe the Corporation will put in more cycle paths on Hampstead Heath'' (Future is animals and bikes, H&H February 1).

Really? On what does she base this belief? Perhaps, as joint co-ordinator of the Camden Cycling Campaign, she is privy to information that the rest of us do not have.

When pressed, Alderman Bob Hall, Chairman of the Heath Consultative Committee, stated: ''We have agreed to a review. I don't think we should put in a firm statement about whether there is more or less cycling at this point.''

It would seem then that this statement of Ms Dollimore's is yet another example of the bullish approach of CCC to an increase in shared paths on the Heath: in this instance that something repeated and pushed for sufficiently loudly and often, even if unsubstantiated, may become a reality.

Ms Dollimore goes on to describe the 'additional links' that the CCC wants, as a 'modest increase' of 60 per cent in the length of cycle paths. She may call it 'modest' but the implications for pedestrians are huge.

This is not a question of 'length' but of strategy: it becomes perfectly clear to anyone perusing the map of 'additional links' on the CCC website, that these proposed cycling 'extensions' are in reality quite crucial to opening up the Heath to the area's commuter cycling network.

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The CCC spokesman at the town hall public meeting on November 27 made no bones about this when he expressed his frustration at having to cycle to work every day from Kilburn to Highgate around the Heath instead of across it. He at least was frank.

Bearing all this in mind, it becomes clear that if these cycling extensions were to be granted by the Corporation - resulting, for example, in an unbroken cycle route from East Heath Road to Millfield Lane - the word would spread quickly.

In a matter of months we would have a stream of commuter cyclists across the Heath morning and evening, and people specifically arriving at the Heath to cycle for exercise and recreation at all hours, particularly weekends.

This is not really hypothesis: we already have numerous transgressions on unauthorised paths, on the grass and even through woodland. What price the safety, enjoyment, relaxation and peace of pedestrians who constitute 95 per cent of Heath users?

We at Heath For Feet receive many e-mails from people, including cyclists, wishing to register their names with our campaign, and extolling the virtues of Hampstead Heath. The words 'unique', 'peaceful', 'quiet', 'restful', 'a haven', are used so often they might be termed clichéd; but like many a cliché, they are habitual only because they express an enduring truth.

So many people love the Heath for what it is - as raw a piece of countryside and natural habitat as it is possible to find in London - and they do not want it to change.

Heath For Feet represents those people and will soon be presenting a well-researched document to the Corporation as part of its campaign to stop the opening of any more paths to cyclists.

What bliss it would be if the scales suddenly fell from the eyes of CCC spokespersons, poetic sensibility struck and they finally saw what many of us pedestrians are on about: the integrity and uniqueness of a glorious piece of countryside which we fear for, love for itself and keep close to our urban hearts; where old and young can be as they wish safely and peacefully.

As things stand, however, Heath For Feet will continue to campaign vigorously against the introduction of any more shared paths across Hampstead Heath.

Christine Fox

Co-founder, Heath For Feet