Get off my access land

by backpackingbongos

Up until the encounter it had been one of my favourite days in the hills so far this year.  I was wandering the unfrequented tracks of the little known Radnorshire hills in Wales, enjoying the warm sun on my skin.  The track onto the moorland plateau of Llanfihangel / Colva hill was a grassy sheep nibbled pleasure.  The view across the hidden moorland bowl gave a real remote feel, especially considering the English border was only a few miles away.

On the edge of the plateau four figures were watching me approach with interest, their response to my breezy hello as I passed not as warm as hoped.  I continued on the track before leaving it to bash through the heather towards the trig point that marks the summit of the hill.  On my ascent I heard shouting and turned round to see that it was being directed at me with a flurry of waves.  A couple of gunshots from an unknown direction then went off, perhaps they were warning me of shooting taking place?

The trig point was now less than fifty metres away so I decided to continue.  I spent a pleasant ten minutes at the summit taking in the extensive views.  It was just as I was about to leave when a Landrover pulled up nearby and a man got out and approached me with what can only be described as ‘purpose’.

“I have just been told that you have been walking across the heather”, was his opening statement.

“Yes I was”, was my reply.

“You’re not allowed”.

“Yes I am it’s access land, look here on the map”.

I then received a ten minute lecture informing me that you are only allowed to walk across access land if you are on a right of way.  I tried to explain that he was wrong in this matter.  He helpfully informed me that this is the case on all access land and that any gamekeeper on the moors would tell you the same thing.  There was really no point in arguing the point with this chap as he was completely convinced he was correct in this matter.  He was clearly pissed off that the area was becoming increasing popular with tourists and that they were getting the overspill from the nearby Brecon Beacons.  In his opinion tourism was clearly a very bad thing.

With the right of way I needed to get to being a few miles away he reluctantly ‘let’ me continue on my way.  He said that he has to work weekends so that he can ‘educate’ walkers on the moors.  Thankfully I did not have Reuben with me as there is in his opinion only one thing worse than walkers and that is walkers with dogs.

I was under strict instructions not to disturb any grouse and give them right of way.  He then drove back the way he had come, yes drove, obviously driving a huge vehicle across the heather causes much less disturbance than walking………..

I have to admit that I am not one for confrontation and remained polite throughout the whole situation.  Now I am bloody cross and wish I had been more argumentative and stood up for my rights.  Some access land can be excluded or closed for certain periods and I was not 100 percent sure if this was the case or not in this instance.  Therefore as soon as I got back I was straight onto the Countryside Council for Wales website to check out the mapping.

It showed exactly as I thought, no restrictions to access.

The good thing with the mapping on this website is that it will show if there are any specific restrictions in place, the dates and the reason for the restriction.  A good example is given below of some nearby hills.

I do wish I had checked before setting off as I would have been in a better position to argue my case.  Basically he had no right to tell me that I should not be there.  It’s the first time this has happened to me in twenty years walking the UK hills.  I wonder how often he is up there hassling legitimate users of the access land?

Anyone know who is the best person / authority to report the incident to.  You can report a blocked right of way but can you report similar issues with access land?

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78 Responses to “Get off my access land”

  1. Tell the Local Authority anyway. Git. Tell the Ramblers also. One more thing. Tell the Police, as the gunshot use made you scared right? So a chat about firearm use is needed maybe?

    • I will draft a letter tomorrow and send it to a few relevant authorities / organisations and it will hopefully end up in the right place. As to the two shots that were fired, they were close but really hard to establish if for my benefit or coincidence. They were close though, very close.

  2. I don’t know if it is the same in Wales, but in Scotland the local authority has access officers. If there is such a thing, that’s your first stop. As regards the gunshots, if you perceived them as “warning” shots, inform the police.

    • As I just replied to Martin, hard to establish if warning shots or not, although very loud and therefore close by.

  3. I’ve heard of other cases like this in mid Wales, mainly from the RHB group who unsurprisingly come up against this sort of attitude relatively often. I think I would start with the CCW themselves, they should point you in the right direction straight away (they might be the appropriate body to report to).

    • It really is a shame if this sort of incident is relatively common. By the way what does RHB stand for, can’t for the life of me work that one out!

  4. I think Martin has summed up this chap quite succinctly – Git! Wish I’d met up with you now, I’m not very confrontational but I am an exceedingly pedantic and annoying, well, git, I suppose :). Sure I could have politely, with a smile, argued him to distraction. He’d have probably shot me
    I would defintely agree that reporting the inappropriate use of firearms is in order. If nothing else it will annoy the hell out this buffoon. Worrying turn of events as these are close to where I live so be interested to hear if anything results from your actions

    • Aye, it was a shame you were not able to be along Andy, two people would have been much more confident and dealing with him. Aware that this is your local stomping ground so will let you know what if any responses that I get.

  5. I know exactly who I would go to if this was me & the situation was here in Scotland – I’d go to my friend who works for the outdoors access people in EDinburgh. I was told to report any farmers who block rights of way or restrict access on Fife land. This actually happened to me once. I was stopped while walking on a farm track after having just made a wide detour round some livestock in another field. The guy stopped me & asked why I was on their land, & was told I had disturbed their cattle. I thought this odd, because I had avoided them seeing me completely & looking back at them they didn’t seem overly excited or upset. I asked him if the animals were ever bothered by large noisy tractors. He told me to “just never do this again”.

    • I have to say that I have never come across this type of incident before, usually you get a distant wave from gamekeepers / landowners. Even when a friend and I disturbed a stalking party last year they were very gracious about the matter. It’s a shame that parts of Wales have a bit of a reputation with regards to access and rights of way.

  6. did you take his registration number? If so inform the police as the use of a gun was heard and that you feared for your safety. They will take that incredibly seriously….

    Secondly, contact Radnorshire council to lodge a complaint. Having read up on some of the minute of the council, previous issues with rights of way have been encountered in the past. Apparently a landowner applied to the council a few years ago to have a repeal of the access rights in a certain area because of live firing/explosions (munitions/explosives). The explosives act take precedence over rights of way. However in this instance there was a stipulation that daily updates on whether explosions/firing were to be posted. Since the landowner didnt comply with that condition, the council basically told him tough…

    Not sure it helps your incident but I reckon that the chap is a landowner or agent of a landowner that has applied for an exclusion to that area. By contacting the council, you can verify if this is the case. If the reason is for shooting etc then signs should be up everywhere but doesnt necessarily imply that exceptions have been agreed or sanctioned

    • The guy did mention that they were going to appeal the lands access rights. He strongly believed that it should not have been access land in the first place. There were no signs up apart from a couple saying that due to the land being a SSSI that vehicles are prohibited and dogs must be kept on a lead. The bottom of the sign said, ‘We hope you enjoy this beautiful hill’. Looks like Radnorshire council could be a good bet to contact.

  7. Definitely would be useful if there was a procedure in this kind of case, sounds very unpleasant. I have had problems in Cheshire with farmers putting electric fences and barbed wire across marked rights of way or allowing cattle to obliterate paths until they are effectivelt unusual. I am not convinced confrontation often produces positive results but it’d be great to get a definitive (ish) web resource to help people encountering this kind of behaviour…..

    • Agreed, it would be good for there to be a resource to use in these sort of circumstances. Know your rights, that sort of thing.

  8. Blimey. How horrible.
    Your first port of call should be the police. Your second third and fourth, exactly the same, This oaf should be put behind bars to think over his actions. What a reptile.
    Time for a mass walk over the same piece of ground, I think.
    Anyone know any coppers who would like a walk?

    • It did spoil a jolly nice day in the hills. I recon a good old mass tresspass and picnic up by the trig point could well be in order. It’s a lovely bit of countryside well worth spending a weekend in annoying this individual.

  9. I strongly suspect there could be a knipeish and linney-ish prescence on this hill quite soon. I’ll probably need the addrss of the local County Council, although some of them are usele….. short of resources. If anybody discharges a firearm, though, it’ll be 999….

  10. Politeness is probably the best policy when confronted with such pompous behaviour, James. Firmly stating your rights is the ideal scenario, but can be difficult in confrontational situations. I’m afraid I always lose my rag when I encounter the ‘get orf my land’ brigade – probably doesn’t achieve much. It’s a shame that we have to share our countryside with such hideous excuses for human beings… Local authority probably the best bet for complaints relating to rights of way. Good luck.

    • I seem to have had politeness bred into me Pete, I’m only a rebel on the inside! My reaction may have been different with backup but on my own I was pretty useless to be honest. Cheers young man.

  11. Really is sad that these short minded fools still treat us walkers as enemies of the countryside when they couldn’t be further from the truth! These people really do not realise that their days are over and no longer is preparing land for blood sports the way of our countryside. If there is a mini trespass I’ll be there! Sorry to hear it ruined your day out. Shame Reuben wasn’t there to lick him to death! 😉

    • I really thought that these sort of confrontations were firmly in the past Jamie. The only thing that has changed was his tweed jacket had been replaced by a green fleece. He would have been spitting feathers if he had seen Reuben on his precious moor, even captain waggles would not have won him over!

  12. Dunno if this would help or not, but the BMC’s Access and Conservation officer for wales is Elfyn Jones – elfyn@thebmc.co.uk – might be worth giving him an email, as they’ll be best able to argue from a hikers perspective, I guess.

    • Thanks for that email address, I have just this minute sent him an email. I’ll report back on what he says.

  13. Gamekeepers do like to do this -I’ve had the same said to me in Scotland! I would report it!

    • Four seperate emails have just been fired off Andy, it will be interesting to see what the responses are.

  14. I wouldn’t let anyone wave a shotgun around wothout reporting it.

    • Unfortunately I did not actually see the shotgun, just heard it being fired close by. It was bloody loud!

  15. Sorry to hear about this James. It has to be said there are still some landowners and their representatives who are ignorant of the rights of hill users. Some time ago in the north Pennines I was spoken to by a gamekeeper who stopped me and said I was not allowed to be on this land. When I mentioned it was open access land he changed tack to you are not allowed to take photos, as I put that argument down he said it was for conservation reasons as he did not want me to disturb the wildlife. In the end I simply informed him we could argue all day but I was staying. Once he knew where we stood we ended up having a good old natter and we parted on friendly terms.

    Look on the bright side at least you are only dealing with someone who may simply not know the rights of walkers, when it comes to access to my mind the greatest threat seems to be coming from the likes of the National Trust, National Parks etc who are trying (and succeeding) to limit access to the hills to the well off if you happen to arrive by car. It is the better part of a tenner to go for a walk in some of the more popular parts of the lakes – now that is criminal

    • The first time that I have come across this David, it’s a shame as I will now always be a bit nervous when passing gamekeepers in the hills, even though most are probably decent folk going about their job. Don’t get me started about the bloody National Trust and their car parking charges, I don’ mind paying a couple or three quid for a day but a tenner? Thieving………….

  16. James – RHB is the Relative Hills of Britain group with a Yahoo message board, primarily recording data about and completions of the Marilyns but also various other classes of hill. Quite a few Marilyns have summits on private non-access land, braving GOMLs, barbed wire etc. and sneaking to the top is all part of the game.

    On the rare occasions when stroppy landowners really dig in about access and rights of way, the situation can get pretty hairy for the unsuspecting walker – remember the infamous (and ongoing as far as I know) case in Ennerdale below Great Borne?.

    • Aye I know about the famous farmer in Ennerdale, always cautious when walking that area. Not sure what the current situation is though. The RHB group sounds great, I will have to check them out.

  17. Bloody hell, that’s enough to spoil a pleasant day out. Just as well you were Bongoing rather than planning to camp. Radnosrshire hasn’t existed as a county since 1974, so the county council may be difficult to contact: Try Powys instead… http://www.powys.gov.uk/

    Scarily, I realised ‘d walked over one of the ‘restrictions’ on the second map a couple of years back..”Reason: This restriction is for the purpose of avoidance of possible danger to the public from unexploded World War II munitions”. That’s going to hurt…

    • I was really enjoying my walk up until that point Roddy. It really is a cracking area with lovely views and not a person to be seen for miles. Funny that I could not find a boundary map for Radnorshire! 🙂

      Keep of the ammunition dump though!

      • It’s a wonderful area, but there are some access land oddities. Whimble, which is surrounded on 4 sides by access land, doesn’t have access rights. A shame, as it’s a wonderful viewpoint 😉 Radnorshire dialect has some wonderful phrases – molehills are “oonty-tumps”

  18. Well, knowing you as well as I do and knowing you aint one to talk shite 😉 All I can say is (about the gamekeeper I guess) is what an utter and complete NOB END.

    Personally, I’d have soon told him where to go. And politely inform him of my country upbringing, living on a farm etc to make him realise I aint what he may consider to be an ignorant “townie”.

    I had a run in once with a farmer (tenant) near the Roaches, James. Little used path as I was heading to a rocky outcrop thinking it be a good view. It was on access land with no restrictions but the right of way to it lead through a farm.

    They’d done everything possible to obstruct the right of way mate. So, I ended up knocking on their front door asking how I was supposed to get through.

    To be fair, they were civil enough and I’ve no doubt it can feel like I was a stranger strolling across their private yard per se – even so. The overall response wasn’t good.

    First thing I did upon my return was grid ref the farm, right of way and let the local council know. I even rang them after sending my email to check they got it etc. Oh and I took a pic on my mobile too of the obstructions.

    Since then? New signs have been put up, gates and stiles too. Route’s all clear 🙂

    And inadvertently as a consequence of all this one of this farmers barns has been pulled down. Turns out he had no permission to erect one, and it was considered an eyesore! Says it all really.

    Karma 😉

    • Terry, I thought of some really good responses after the incident, too late by then. I really am not keen on confrontation, not something you expect when going for a walk in the hills. No ignorant townie myself either, having been brought up in a small Suffolk village.

      He did actually make some comment about me not looking like a regular hill walker, did not know how to take that or what a hillwalker is meant to look like. Must have been those daft yellow trainers I wear!

      Good to hear that Karma got the farmer in the roaches. Maybe the chap I came across may be reborn as a grouse? 🙂

      • LOL I know mate. Crap happens. To be honest, like you this encounter I described is the only one I’ve ever personally experienced. Most landowners/workers have always been sound as a pound. Same as ought in life, you always get a few bad apples.

        As for that farmer in Roaches? Last I heard he’d been evicted. Lost his tenancy. Apparently he’s been a troublesome so and so for many years. Don’t know if that’s true or not of course. Just a local rumour I heard a month or so ago.

      • Aye indeed, most folk are decent and it only takes one to tarnish everyone else.

  19. James,
    I have noticed that some of the landowners in certain areas of Weardale (near Stanhope, for instance) are now able to get dog exclusions for five continuous years on access land to protect moorland birds (read game birds). If this exclusion was for just a few months I would abide by it, but as it is for such a large period of time and I enjoy walking on those areas of land I have already ignored these exclusions and taken my small dog on a short lead, anyway. If I ever do get challenged, I will just apologise and leave the exclusion area.

    • Hi Mike. There does appear to be alot of restrictions with regards to dogs in the North Pennines which is a real shame, something you don’t come across as much in other parts of the country.

  20. Have you seen Dawn’s blog about this very same hill?
    LINK
    This is actually quite serious. I really think the police should be told about this.

    • I think an organised mass walk and sit down on the hill is required. A couple of off duty police officers, and maybe a barrister or two. Bring some plonk, make a day of it! 😉

      • I have actually been thinking along the same lines. Maybe in September get as many people together as possible and make a weekend of it. There is meant to be a nice campsite down the road too…………

    • I have just read it and left her a comment. Last night I emailed the BMC, Ramblers, Countryside council for wales and Powys Council. I have received a response straight back from the Rights of way and access officer for the local council. He is taking it very seriously and is going to investigate. The BMC confirmed that the area is acces land and I had every right to be there.

  21. Sorry you had this experience; all the keepers I know are 100% top notch guys who keep our moors in excellent condition for both shooting, conservation and walking purposes. I’d guess he’s not on top of current legislation and detail over access land and the estate needs to be sent that information by the County Rights of Way Officers. The restrictions for dogs on open access up to July 31st is obvious because of the disturbance they cause to raptors (yes, raptors – Hen Harriers etc live alongside the grouse, their main food source to rear young) and other nesting ground birds. They either have to keep to the rights of way on a short lead or not have access at all. I would expect that this hill had the same restrictions for dogs? And the keeper was possibly confusing it, thinking it meant people too. (There would have been a sign posted somewhere at the start of the access area – this type of detail isn’t usually on the website) 🙂

    • Hi Rima. I can totally understand that dogs need to be kept on a lead during the breeding season, something that I respect. I’m not so keep on a blanket ban on dogs on access land though as not sure what disturbance would be caused in mid winter. There was no sign even indicating that it was access land let alone any restrictions that would be in place. I have had confirmation from the BMC that there are no restrictions on this bit of access land. There was just a sign on a gate saying that the land is SSSI and that dogs must be kept on a lead. I have a feeling that the keeper thought I would not know my rights and was trying it on!

  22. Looks like a mass “Trespass” type walk should be organised. Not when grouse shooting is on obviously but this chap needs challenging. However after grouse shooting season i doubt he would give a stuff about it. It’s money again you see.

    • The big collective walk idea seems to be a popular one Alan, something that could be organised after I get a response from the council.

  23. Rima’s right about Hen Harriers and other raptors – and some gamekeepers are far from keen on having them on their patch, even though they’re protected…

  24. There is a pattern here, having had the same sort of thing on the same trig point last Saturday. A shotgun discharged very close to me. It also explains why there are no bridleways or foot paths marked in the area. I think you have sent an e mail off to the same chap as I have, Kevin Straw? This is a nasty situation. I hate confrontation but someone is blatantly breaking the law here

    • Hi Dawn, yes it was Kevin Straw that I emailed. Sad to hear that you had a similar experience but good that you have also reported it. It looks like we were both on the same hill on the same day, was it Sat 28th? I was there about 4pm.

  25. Hi there,yes,I was there between 11 and 12. Somebody out there does not like us! I may be a game old bird but I am no game bird??.

    • A big coincidence that two bloggers happened to be on the same rather obscure hill at the same time Dawn! Lovely countryside round there, shame both our days were spoiled.

      • Makes one very suspicious. Mike and myself have plans to be over that way again very soon. Obviously if there is legal, bona fida shooting in process we will give it a miss. However, if not the outcome could be interesting!?

      • Dawn I look forward to reading about your trip with Mike, it will definately be interesting. I have a feeling that Mike will not stand for any ‘funny’ business!

  26. Gayle and I would be up for joining a walk in protest. Got a date in mind?

    • Hi Mick. The mass walk thing does seem to be a popular idea and maybe a few people would be interested in doing it. I recon that a good sociable weekend in the hills sometime at the end of Sept or Oct? Maybe see what the response is from the council, then I could try and organise something.

  27. Excellent – we’ll keep our eyes on your blog to see what unfolds.

  28. Hi Mick, I wondered if I you would mind guest blogging these posts on my blog http://www.stravaigerjohn.wordpress.com? Let me know at stravaigerjohn.wordpress.com Cheers, John B.

  29. Actually, both of you if you would like too. Regards John B.

  30. Here’s an account of my difficulties last year in the Rannoch area;
    http://airdrierambler.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/oh-deer/

    • A bit disapointing that there is a blanket ‘stay off the hills’ in the Rannoch area, especially when not a member of hillphones.

  31. while i enjoy our few walkers i do dislike my home being put on the web. leave your address and photo so i may join in and bring my family and dogs to enjoy your home and walk around in your grounds, as i wish.

    • John, I had to double check this post to see if I had put anyones home on it. It looks to me like I have only put a couple of maps of access land (access land is land which the public have right of access to). I have not put anyones address or photo. The post simply described an encounter I had with what I am asuming was a Gamekeeper whilst legally walking on the moors. My ‘grounds’ are currently not covered by any rights of way and have not been designated as access land. As a two metre square bit of concrete and a further 3 metre square patch of grass I have a funny feeling that the designation may not come. However I’m sure that it would be a pleasure to have you all round, may have to split into small groups though as space is a bit tight……………………

  32. If “john” is indeed the landowner,perhaps it is time to revisit this particular hill en masse. We should bring plenty of dogs and family members. As he might not have room to accommodate us all in his home, we should ensure we have enough tents for everyone to sleep comfortably. He sounds like a sociable cahp – perhaps we could stay over for a few nights?
    What do you think?

    • It’s a lovely area Alan so I would be very happy to revist this hill.

      Just had a quick chat with Reuben, he said that he would also be up for a visit and that it would be great to meet other doggies up there.

  33. A return visit would be nice. Possibly Mike, (Knipe) would be interested too?

  34. It would be fun.A sort of bloggers meet.

  35. Sorry for the above mistake and that I have only found this page four years after the meeting with the gamekeeper on Gladestry hill ,who has since left the position Although I can understand it upset yourday in the area I can not let some of the comments above go unchallenged even after all this time. As someone who knows the area well I can say you were correct regarding access however by hacking through the heather in July in the peak of the breeding season I am less than surprised that he wasn’t thrilled with your actions. Indeed if you and others who have commented claim not to be ignorant townies I would have thought this would be self explanatory. Also the wild accusations surrounding gunfire are also hysterics during the ground nesting birds breeding season the keeper employs bangers on timers across the hill to give any hunting fox the jitters not walkers . As for protests and other wild talk I will say just this as someone who walks mid Wales give me a gamekeeper surly or not,looking after the hills,rather than what most of the principality is a sheep wrecked wasteland with all the bio diversity of a billiard table.

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