Scotland has long been miles ahead of England in terms of public access to the countryside. The long tradition of “right to roam” was enshrined in law in the Land Reform Act of 2003 which simply recognised the existing situation on the ground. Access rights in Scotland go beyond just walking and include amongst other things access to open water, camping and biking & riding.
Scandinavia enjoy’s “every man’s” rights of access to land that even extends to fishing!
Back here in good old Blighty we have the dear old National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act which largely set up the limited protection for England’s existing public paths network. The Act was visionary at the time but has proved vulnerable to local authority indifference and corruption. Outside of a national trail or park or popular local route it is almost impossible to walk a public path in England without quickly coming across an obstruction – nearly 2 a mile here in Kirklees.
The Crow Act of 2000 is a dog’s dinner of access rights given with one hand and taken away with the other. Access land can be closed, you can’t take a dog, you have to stand on one leg patting your head and rubbing your tummy on a Wednesday etc etc.
Isn’t it time for an “every person’s right” of access to the countryside in England (and Wales) ?
Much to the surprise of Path Watch Kirklees Council has received an award from an organisation called City Connect. The award is apparently not a spoof but a genuine recognition of the Council’s efforts to get more people walking. (Surely this should be an award for getting less people walking? Ed.) Our path blocking council is now an accredited “walk friendly workplace” according to the suspiciously spoof like article.
The Chair of the combined West Yorkshire Transport Committee is quoted as saying “It’s great to see Kirklees Council joining the other organisations across our region recognising this and doing their bit to encourage more of us to build walking into our daily lives.”
Our elusive Chief Exec Ms Gedman and a Councillor are wheeled out of Civic 3 for a photo op and a few platitudes. They show a previously unknown enthusiasm for the great outdoors and walking in Kirklees.
So there you have it. Path Watch has been out spoofed by our walking friendly Council. They’ve shocked us by coming out of the closet as bobble hatted ramblers all along.
A few weeks ago this post described an odd situation on Colne Valley Footpath 144. Fly tipping obstructing the path was being buried beneath the path rather than simply being taken away and the matter investigated. Kirklees Council, the local authority with statutory duties to keep both public rights of way open and to enforce environmental protection legislation aimed at just this sort of activity, were fully aware of what was happening. They have subsequently confirmed that permission has been given for the fly tipped waste to be buried beneath this public footpath.
Current legislation places a duty of care on anyone producing waste to follow certain procedures outlined in the Waste Duty Of Care Code Of Practice . Dumping builders waste on a public footpath prior to burying it there would not seem to be a legitimate option. Furthermore Kirklees Council has a duty to remove such tipping from public highways and investigate who is responsible rather than allow the activity to go unchallenged as in this case.
The actions of the council in this case would seem to contradict its own recent publicity
Why would any local authority with clear statutory obligations for public highways and environmental protection act against the public interest in this way?
Local ramblers were up in arms after our post highlighting special Council help for equestrians in the form of new smaller Shetland ponies aimed at helping riders navigate the districts overgrown bridleways.
Local rambler and member of Peak & Southern Footpaths Society, Benny Rothmans told Path Watch “This is outrageous! The Council are showing favoritism to horsey types whilst ignoring ramblers pleas for help. When I rang Kirklees to complain about the difficulties of walking paths overgrown with weeds and branches the only thing they could suggest was a smaller bobble on my hat! You’d have to be a bloody limbo dancer to get down some of these paths”
Funnily enough Mr Rothmans words proved somewhat prophetic. When Path Watch contacted Kirklees we were put through to the authorities newly appointed Limbo Dance Liaison Officer, Winston Tobago-Lilt. Mr Tobago-Lilt told us “Sup bro? I’m here to help my rambling bros get down low and all I need to know is how low you need to go! Know what I’m saying? I got the moves to get you down under any low hanging head room and you can keep your bobble hat on bro!
Mr Tobago-Lilt went on to outline the Council’s vision of free limbo dance classes being rolled out across the district starting at Holmfirth Civic Hall this autumn. The limbo classes will equip local ramblers and visitors alike with the dance skills needed to negotiate the 2018 footpath network.
“It ain’t cool to stand up straight bro” continued Mr Tobago-Lilt “and as you can no longer do that on Kirklees paths limbo dancing is the way to go. Know what I’m saying?”
Our elderly Ramblers rep Mr Rothmans was unimpressed “It’s alright for that Tobacco-Lilt fella but I’m 84, have two artificial hips and a dodgy knee! If I get down low with the bro’s I’ll not get upright again.”
Back in June I came across this picturesque landscape feature, or fly tipping as it’s probably better recognised as, on Colne Valley Footpath 144. Some 3 months later I received the positive news that the fly tipping had been “removed” from the path. I put the word removed in inverted commas because what has happened is probably stretching the definition of the word beyond breaking point.
As a picture tells a thousand words take a look at the ones below which show what has happened to the fly tipping.
As you can see the public footpath has been extensively excavated and the fly tipped waste is being buried beneath the path in the style of a good old fashioned landfill site. Fly tipping is of course a criminal offence which carries hefty penalties. I don’t believe it is normal practice for those caught fly tipping to be given the opportunity to bury the waste where they’ve dumped it when caught out but perhaps this is a new initiative like the Shetland Ponies?
The Council have been asked if they know the waste is being “removed” in this way and if it has their seal of approval.
On a more positive note the John Manure Trail mountain of dung at the top of Footpath 144 has been removed (no sign of it being buried under the path) and the overgrown sections strimmed. This is good to see.
And finally here’s an image showing off the lovely walking country to be found in the Colne Valley.
Path Watch would like to clarify that our last post on Shetland Ponies was not in fact a joke. During a recent shipment of Shetland Ponies to Batley Equestrians our local paper reports one of the ponies escaped onto the M62. The incident led to the motorways closure and real life becoming briefly stranger than fiction.
In a novel way to cut down maintenance costs on Kirklees bridleways the Council has launched a campaign to persuade local riders to swap their trusty steeds for something smaller,preferably a miniature Shetland Pony.
Lucy Foreshank-Smythe, the Councils horsey person, explained the scheme to us here at Path Watch. “We’re running the groundbreaking initiative in conjunction with Pedigree Chum who are providing the new tiny ponies and recycling the old full sized ones.”
Ms Foreshank-Smythe reassured local riders that no bridleways in Kirklees are being closed. “They are all open, so there’s no need for any long faces” joked the jolly Council equestrian. “What we’ve found is that all our bridleways are getting smaller due to 8 years worth of vegetation. As we got rid of all our strimmers some time ago we came up with this new horse exchange scheme after a fact finding mission to South America where there is a strong equestrian tradition”continued Ms Foreshank-Smythe.
“Unfortunately we didn’t find any facts on our 6 week fact finding mission but we came up with the Shetland Pony wheeze after a few drinks on the plane coming home. I’d also like to stress that there is no truth in the rumours currently circulating that should our bridleways continue to shrink because we don’t look after them only riders less than three foot six will be allowed a Shetland Pony. It’s actually a generous three foot eight!”
Equestrians can sign up for the scheme at the “We buy any old nag” centres now open at Town Halls across the district.