Sunday, May 29, 2016

Walking a tightrope:Why are we still denied a right to roam?



So....it's happened again. For the third time in the last two years I've been stopped from walking freely in the hills and effectively told 'Get orf my land' Yes...this is North Wales 2016 even if a lot of landowners still think its 1916!

I had parked up at Bonwm just outside Corwen in NE Wales,with the aim of following an old quarryman's track which I've used dozens of times,to visit the old quarry of Penrhyn. You can make a nice circuit by breaking out of the quarry and entering the coniferous forest which loops back to the start. I've even parked a minibus full of kids at the start to take them up to explore the underground tunnels which begin within the impressive gallery which is as high as a church steeple.

On this occasion, I was stopped by some minion of the landowner, probably a gamekeeper, and told 'there was no access to the quarry and Mr Feckface doesn't like people crossing his land'. No access? Not even a well used track that until the early 1960's was the quarryman's route to work and which has been used by walkers ever since?

'What about the right to roam?' I asked..'The Right to Roam is crap and doesn't apply here!' Not wishing to get involved in a pointless discussion with some estate lick spittle I lifted the hound back in the car and drove a mile or so to another access point which was a designated right of way.

A couple of years ago I blogged about being thrown off Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) by a farmer near Beddgelert who refused to let me cross his land even though I was on a track recommended to me by a well known outdoors writer. I was attempting to meet up with friends on a David Hooper memorial walk and because I was unceremoniously turfed off the land I was unable to make it on time. More recently, a goon working for the German energy giant RWE threw me out of Clocaenog Forest because of the work on the wind farm they're constructing up there.

For any outdoor person who believes passionately in the public's right to roam freely in the uplands and open countryside then still being denied access by landowners, private companies and their jobsworth minions is truly galling in this day and age. It's worth repeating a point I've made before about access. One of the many failings of the three Blair governments was its failure to deliver a promised right to roam bill. As is the norm in many European countries including Scotland. What was delivered was the half baked cRow act which in the vernacular of my home city 'Is neither me arse nor me elbow'!

As things stand, with a right wing government made up of the very people who hold private property as sacred and who jealously guard privileged positions, there is no hope of getting an access bill off the ground any time soon. Perhaps the increased powers being given to The Welsh Assembly might help circumnavigate the dead hand of Westminster in this, but to be honest, I'm not sure just how much power the assembly has actually got in this matter.

So....as it stands, recreational walkers are still being denied free access to the countryside despite the best efforts of campaigners going back nearly 100 years. The depressing thing is, I'm not sure I'll ever see the right to roam in England and Wales in my lifetime. What a backward country this still is in so many ways!

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