In something of a turn up for the book the North York Moors National Park have accepted my argument made here that two signs (one of which was seemingly put up by the park) are misleading and therefore illegal under the provisions of the National Parks & Access To The Countryside Act.
In a somewhat churlish email they have agreed to completely remove the sign stating “You are entering a private garden” and having spoken to the landowners the dog sign will only be displayed when the dog is actually there and the mut will be kept under better control. In addition the invisible path 314042 will be better waymarked.
Not really the sort of sign that fills you with joy whilst out walking. It does kind of put you on your guard and acts as something of a deterrent. In my view that is the only purpose for such a sign on a public footpath. Interestingly the North York Moors National Park, where the footpath is, take a more laid back view. The Park describes the sign as “simply informative” and says the “owners are simply letting people know there is a dog loose in the garden” Pull the other one! It’s got bells on it!
At the same location is a sign complete with North York Moors National Park logo and the area rangers phone number. See below.
I was convinced at the time that this must be fake but no it is the real thing. A publicly funded National Park with a responsibility for public rights of way placing a sign on a public footpath giving the impression you are on private property. Both signs at this location give a powerful message to the public that they are not welcome.
According to the senior ranger the householder has had problems with dogs running off the path and of course this is unacceptable but surely a simple “Please keep your dog on a lead” sign would suffice? The combined effect of both signs is a strong deterrent to public use at the moment.
There was no dog on Footpath 314043 so the signs are illegal as they contain false and misleading information likely to deter the public from using the path contrary to s57 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Arguably the National Parks sign stating “you are now entering a private garden” is the same as it contains equally misleading information. You are not entering anything private but walking on a public highway in public ownership.
We went on to meet the dog! A territorial German shepherd which stalked us behind a fence before blocking our progress along Footpath 314042. No way were we going to open the gate and see if its bark was worse than its bite. Interestingly there were no signs warning of the dog’s presence on Footpath 314042 nor any waymarks or evidence at all that the public footpath existed here. On reflection it is hard to see how the landowner could possibly have any problems with the public and their dogs as there was no easy or obvious access to Footpath 314042. Funny old game.
What is it with some landowners who behave as if they own the public highway like this? And what is it with public bodies such as councils and in this instance a national park who collude with this low level harassment of the public rather than do what they are paid too? When I walk to the shop on the public highway for a pint of milk I’m not normally put off by signs warning of loose dogs, dogs stood barking and blocking the way, deep excavations, buildings, walls, crops , the pavement just disappearing etc. etc. but why is this all ok on public footpaths?
Ok I might hit a bit of traffic or road works on the road network but I don’t recall ever coming across signs implying I shouldn’t be there or dogs blocking the way or buildings built on the road or the road just disappearing like public footpaths do.