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Some of my Personal Thoughts on Long Distance Walking

Blocked path

If you don't want walkers on your land, put up a sign to show them how to get off it

The photograph on the left is a path on my intended Wild Yorkshire Way route, just after leaving Thirsk, that had been intentionally blocked by the farmer or landowner. I've never seen that before, although I have come across paths which were overgrown and little used. There were further difficulties later on in the same area, with missing stiles, padlocked gates, bridleways and footpaths intentionally blocked by crops. The photo below right shows a path near Crabley Farm on the Humber, where the footpath is clearly marked but blocked by barbed wire with no attempt to provide a stile or gate. This forces walkers to either trespass by circumnavigating fields, adding considerable mileage, or to trample down valuable crops by asserting their legal rights as walkers. I've reported the blockages I found, and it remains to be seen what, if any, action will be taken. I urge you to do the same if you come across similar problems - search for the local highways authority or use one of several links on rambling and walking websites.

Most farmers I've met are normal, reasonable, understanding people. So are most walkers I've met. But inevitably, as in life, there will be 'dodgy' versions in both camps. There will be walkers who leave litter, leave gates open, damage walls, fences, stiles and gates, and are generally anti social. There will be farmers who dislike walkers, because they think they are all like my 'dodgy' version, so they think that blocking paths is the answer. It's not. If farmers take on walkers, the farmers will come second. The law is on the side of the walkers, whether the farmers like this or not. You won't keep walkers off your land by trying to make them feel unwelcome - all that will happen is that even more damage will occur as walkers attempt to re-open blocked paths, cut through barbed wire, break down walls and fences, all quite legally!

Blocked Path 2

My message to farmers is this. We all need you - you provide us with food, and most of you work hard to keep paths open so we can enjoy walking across your land. If you like walkers and welcome them, that's great, thank you. If you don't like walkers, you just tolerate walkers, or even if you hate walkers, you want to get them off your land as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to keep the paths open and well signposted. If you plant crops which block a path, walkers will then spread out to try to find a way round the obstacle. Some will trample straight on, some will go round the edge of fields, usually resulting in the need to climb a fence or wall and damage it in the process. Whatever happens, they will spend longer on your land than you would like, they will walk in places you would not like, and they will damage things which cost you money. Maintain your paths, put signs up, don't be aggressive with walkers who are lost, just help them to get off your land. You won't win, trust me, the walkers will still be there after you've long gone.

As a final message to farmers, why not supplement your income by taking money off walkers? Many of your farms are in remote areas, where walkers arrive tired, hungry and thirsty. An honesty box on a path, replenished regularly with crisps, drinks and refreshments, will bring in a small income for you and give those undesirable walkers much needed fuel to speed their journey away from you. You may want to allow walkers to pitch a tent, provide a water tap or access to an outside loo (the beautiful Cow Dub Farm in upper Dentdale is an example of this). You may even want to do B and B, or even B without B if you can't cook. Walkers only need a bed for 1 night, many will have a sleeping bag and only need a bunkhouse or similar basic accommodation. If a path goes past or through your farmyard, why not offer cups of tea/coffee, with or without snacks to go with it? Ravenseat near Keld is famous for this, and does really well from walkers. Happy farming, and happy walking!