7 June 2002

Walkers hit at path standards

AN organisation that campaigns on behalf of walkers has launched a stinging attack on farmers for the way they look after footpaths.

In the latest issue of its magazine, the Open Spaces Society blamed highway authorities and land managers for what it claimed was the sad state of public highways.

It suggested that anyone going for a five-mile walk on public paths in England would encounter at least four serious problems and more if they were in Wales.

It also complained about farmers attitudes towards rights of way across their land. "Although we willingly co-operated with farmers and landowners during foot-and-mouth, obediently staying off the paths, they repay us by continuing to plough, crop and block public paths," it said.

It continued: "And now they want to shove us out of farmyards, on grounds of alleged biosecurity, when not one case of foot-and-mouth was attributable to walkers."

But Ben Thomas, access adviser for the Country Land and Business Association, said claims that walkers would encounter serious problems when out walking were exaggerated.

According to the Countryside Agency, 89% of footpaths are satisfactory and usable with obstructions easily circumvented, he said. &#42

"Farmyards can pose risks to walkers and the CLA are actively encouraging diversions around them, where appropriate, on grounds of security and safety," he said.

"We would hope that the Open Spaces Society would continue to work with farmers and landowners to overcome specific difficulties."