HAVE MAP, WILL TRAVEL

Something caught my attention this weekend. Walkers, or to be more precise, trespassers – although they probably don’t see themselves as such.

Firstly, let me outline the immediate area where I live. It is rural, completely surrounded by fields, mainly arable crops with a couple of fields of horses. Our house, and the houses of our near neighbours, is accessed by a single width, rutted track approx a quarter of a mile long (longer to some neighbours) which is maintained at our own expense without any input from the Council (or our Council Tax).  It has only one entry/exit point where there is a sign saying Private Lane, No Access. The nearest Public Footpath is about a mile away. Clear? Good.

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On Saturday my husband mentioned that he could see some walkers skirting the neighbouring farmer’s field, so I went out to have a nosey. Sure enough, a couple were tramping along the field edge (at least they had the good sense to keep to the edge), pausing at regular intervals to study a map and look around, then walking on again. They continued for quite a distance presumably looking for access into the next field (there is a wide, deep ditch between the fields) but once they came to the wooden bridge over the ditch that is used for farm vehicles they seemed to realise their mistake and began to retrace their steps. I left them to it, but the next time I saw them they had managed to cross the ditch and were tramping along the far field instead.

OK, they weren’t actually doing any damage but their behaviour, so far from legal or public paths, could be construed as suspicious. It seems, however, that either they were incapable of reading the sign at the top of the lane or their map, or they just assumed that because they were in a rural area they could wander wherever they wanted to! This has happened before; dog walkers with their animals tearing around through crops and in gardens, horse-riders looking for somewhere for a gallop, drivers bringing their cars down ‘for a look’, 4×4 drivers looking for a good off-road experience, numerous walkers who are just plain nosey, couples in cars wanting to park somewhere quiet to make out.

What is it about people and the countryside? Normal, law-abiding citizens who would never dream of committing a crime or stooping to anti-social behaviour will undergo a metamorphosis in rural areas and will trespass, climb over fences and walls, push through hedges, pick endangered flowers and turn belligerent if anyone dare point out their wrongdoings.

Here, it isn’t a huge problem (although it is worse in summer) but in some areas, particularly those that could be classed as tourist hot-spots, I imagine that it could grow into a huge issue. And whilst it won’t be one of the things foremost on your mind when you are viewing your potential rural retreat, it is certainly something worth considering.

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