10 April 2000
Mass protest against blocked footpaths

By FWi staff

MORE than 1500 people held a weekend mass rally to protest against illegally blocked footpaths on farmland and open countryside in England and Wales.

The rally, held at Lightwater Valley Park near Ripon, North Yorkshire was organised by the Ramblers Association. It took place on Sunday (9 April).

A survey commissioned by the association claims there is a problem for every two-and-a-half miles of public footpath in England and Wales.

Two of the worst offenders were found to be Powys and Shropshire, each with a problem every mile, said Ramblers Association president Andrew Bennett MP.

“These new survey figures show once again the shocking state of this nations public footpaths. This is simply not acceptable,” he added.

“Local authorities have a legal duty to see that paths are kept open and properly maintained, and its about time they took this obligation seriously.”

The Ramblers Association claims that one-quarter of the 130,000-mile rights of way network in England and Wales is either deliberately blocked or obstructed.

In an effort to ensure the 32,500 miles of blocked rights of way get cleared, the ramblers endorsed a Government-backed programme – called Target 2000.

Under the scheme, local authorities responsible for footpaths should have ensured all routes in their area were cleared and recorded by the end of last year.

The associations website claims that Northumberland Council has failed in its attempts to open up a blocked footpath at Matfen, near Hexham.

Even after pressure from local ramblers, the councils efforts were almost entirely thwarted by the indiscriminate use of barbed wire, it adds.

The line of the path runs from the hamlet of Ingoe across a field to an old stile in a stone wall which had become dangerously unstable over the years.

Northumberland council took over four years to build a replacement wooden stile, says the website. Barbed-wire fences were then built on both sides of the wall.

The Ramblers Association claims that it informed Northumberland Council that the barbed wire fences were illegal, but nothing was done.

“Indeed, the barbed wire was still there at the start of March,” says the website.

“Further along the same footpath there is a large field which is ploughed but has been repeatedly reported for the total lack of path re-instatement.”