As a landscape gardener and proud lifetime resident of the area, the Parish Lengthsman role suits Scott Mitchell perfectly.
He’s employed in the parishes of Sopley, Burley and Bransgore, in the New Forest to do the small jobs that have a big impact on local communities, such as ditch clearing, hedge cutting and sign cleaning.
There are a growing number of lengthsmen like Scott keeping things tidy in Hampshire parishes - with funding from the County Council.
Lengthsman work is usually short jobs, easily fitted in round my other work, but they’re satisfying because they smarten things up or solve problems that affect the community. I also know I’m saving everyone’s time. If a ditch gets blocked, I can get it cleared straight away. Whereas to report it to Highways, and have a vehicle sent all the way out here, would take longer,
The term ‘lengthsman’ dates back to the 1800s, referring to workers who were responsible for keeping a particular length of road neat and tidy.
The modern role of Parish Lengthsman was reintroduced by Hampshire County Council in 2010, giving local communities more say in the upkeep of their area. This year, the County Council is investing an additional £30,000 in the scheme.
Scott also finds his work as a Parish Lengthsman is a great respite from the world of professional darts. He was British Darts Organisation Lakeside World Darts Champion in 2015. “I go all over the world playing darts,” he explains, “So when I come home, I love doing lengthsman work. It keeps my feet on the ground, reminds me where I came from!”
As Scott works, passers-by frequently stop to say hello. “I feel I know everyone,” he says. “And I can keep an eye out for things that need doing, too.”
Jason Ebury is Parish Lengthsman to some 21 parishes across north Hampshire. He says: “Parish councils can take charge of the decisions about what to spend the money on, and which jobs to do first, so they can be really responsive to what local people want most.
For me, it’s great. It’s varied work and it gives me opportunities to speak to local people. They often stop to talk, and they’re often the ones who know best which tree needs cutting back.
Jason has lived in the area for more than 40 years. He has built up his own business in Basingstoke, employing four staff. Lengthsman jobs also sometimes lead to other offers of work for Jason and his team, enabling him to develop the business.
Laura Musco, Clerk of Grayshott Parish Council, helps to co-ordinate the Lengthsman scheme for the ten parishes in their group. She says: “We’re pleased to get jobs done that might otherwise not be cost-effective. Residents have been very complimentary about the works.”