Newsletter No 33 Autumn 2007
Editorial: Access problems, what access problems?
No doubt you have heard something like this yourself: “I’ve been walking for 20 years in the mountains and have never had an access problem. What’s KIO kicking up about?”
This may well be true of a declining number of walkers but it fails to take account of a few relevant factors. Firstly a lot of Irish hill walkers live in Dublin and walk in Wicklow; access problems are comparatively rare here, mainly because much of the uplands is in the National Park and also because landowners are generally (only generally) more friendly here. If you want the full picture, have a look at our stories about problems in this issue.
Secondly, many walking clubs outside Dublin cave into the humiliating status quo and accept “favours” from landowners, which allows certain local clubs to walk local hills – but no one else. We have spoken out against this practice before: it is selfish, sort-sighted and in effect disguise the extent of the access problem. But what about the bird-watchers, the archaeologists, and above all a great number of people who want a casual stroll? To take only the latter: where can they walk in pleasant surroundings away from traffic-clogged roads? Where is the infrastructure (stiles, bridges etc)? When Fáilte Ireland announces that it hopes(note, only hopes) to have at least one way-marked way in each county, you can have some idea of the extent of the problem. Look at the letter from Anglesey in this issue and its accompanying map. Nearly 1,100km of off-road footpaths in a county about as small as county Dublin! And nearly all of it on private land without (yes, we have checked this) the sky falling in.
We have a long road ahead of us and surely one way of progressing is to mobilise all those who are not hill walkers, yes, maybe your friends and neighbours. Let them know and suggest that they take the only effective action to remedy it, to join keep Ireland Open.
Scotland the brave, Scotland the accessible
A personal report on how Scotland has dealt with access, by allowing recreational users to walk practically anywhere
As part of our ongoing examination of how other countries deal with the access issue, a KIO representative spent 3 days in Scotland at the end of September examining the workings of the Scottish Land Reform Act 2003. This far-reaching law, based on the Finnish and Scandinavian approaches to access, gives the Scottish people the right to access almost all of the land of Scotland – on foot, horseback or cycle.
The emphasis is on responsible access and there is a strict all-embracing code which users must obey. Nevertheless, they have the right to go on any land unless it is under crops, close to a farm or dwelling or environmentally sensitive.
We spoke to farmers, to one of Scotland’s largest landowners, to ramblers and access officers and the general consensus is that this imaginative piece of legislation is working extremely well. Even farmers and landowners, who originally opposed the 2003 Act, are favourable. It has brought a huge increase in rural tourism, with outdoor pursuits worth £3.6bn (over €5bn ) in 2006. While the routes will be a great boon to Scottish users and tourists, one of the biggest beneficiaries will be landowners, who have begun setting up a network of thriving businesses on the strength of the visitors who are now making their way to their doors.
The reality is that most walkers want paths to travel along and the current phase of the Act involves 88 access officers across Scotland getting ready to submit a network of core paths and subsidiary routes by the start of the new year. Within a couple of years, Scotland will have one of the finest networks of interlinked walking routes in the world.
The big difference the Act has made, according to all the people KIO spoke to, is that it gave walkers rights and meant that landowners could no longer assume that they alone dictate what happens. As Dave Morris, the head of the Scottish Ramblers put it “The Act meant that we were in a position to negotiate with landowners and to iron out problems. Whereas previously they could ignore us and even threaten us with the law, suddenly,, they had to not only admit that we existed, but actually talk to us.”
We have an awful lot to learn from our Caledonian cousins.
We should add that our representative generously funded much of the expenses for this trip out of his own pocket with KIO funding the remainder.
C na T: Agreement is a non-event, not a triumph
Minister O’Cuiv’s declaration that his latest agreement is ‘fantastic’ is way off the mark – ‘fantasy’ would be more like it.
Anybody reading the press reports about progress made at the “2nd November meeting of Comhairle na Tuaithe might be forgiven for concluding that the access issue is done and dusted and we can now all live happily ever after. Anyway, this was the spin by the IFA on the agreement reached on payments to farmers for work on access routes.
It needs to be clearly understood : after four years of arguing over the amounts farmers might be paid for work , and whether it would be for access (impossible) or work done what was eventually agreed, C na T has not yet even begun to discuss the core issue which it was set up to deal with: how to ensure responsible public access to the countryside.
There is, however one small piece of good news: a special committee of three farmer and three walking reps has been set up to examine the question of what changes to the law are required. This will hold a number of meetings in the coming months and is required to finish its deliberations and report back to C na t by midsummer’s day, June 21st. KIO is represented on this committee and will be arguing for the kind of reasonable access laws that exist in every other European country.
Regarding the farmer’s payment scheme: this is a pale reflection of the money-for-nothing proposals originally put forward by the farming organisations. Initially three pilot schemes are being set up in West Cork, Donegal and the Suck Valley in Roscommon. Farmers will be paid €14.50 an hour for work done creating and maintaining paths and installing or repairing stiles, signs and even bridges. They will receive full compensation for any materials used and their payment for ‘work’ – whether they do any or not will be a minimum of €750 a year, rising to a maximum of €3,000. If all goes well on the pilot project, then the scheme will be rolled out nationwide over the next year.
While KIO has never opposed reasonable payment to farmers who work to improve access, we object to any minimum payment of public money to farmers who may have only a few feet of path that doesn’t need any work on it. This smacks of payment for access by the back door.
Another downside to this scheme is that it will operate on a five-year contract and, at the end of this, all the temporary rights of access lapse. This means that the taxpayer will then have nothing to show for the millions invested. KIO believes that the money would have been better spent on the compulsory purchase of strips to provide access paths to mountains, lakes, rivers and foreshore where these are needed.
Our best hope is that, now that the farmers are no longer arguing endlessly about money, they might take a more reasonable approach to the question of desperately needed legislation.
And yet another access problem
We recently received a complaint that South Tipperary County Council have blocked off the 6km section of the Tipperary Heritage Trail between Golden and Cashel from 1st Oct to 31st Mar because of what is described as “flooding”. It is hard to believe that this path is blocked for so long (presumably each year) and why the council consider that no similar flooding could occur at any other time. It looks like a case of to hell and back with the public.
This is not the first time that a county council has blocked off one of the very few public rights of way in this country. You may recall that Wicklow County Council blocked off the entire 5km of the Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk because of the subsidence of a few metres near Greystones. The least that would be expected in both these cases is that the council would warn walkers that they walk this route at their own risk. Better still they might take action to eliminate the hazard. We have asked South Tipperary County Council for an explanation and have suggested that they take steps to ensure that this section remains permanently open.
Access problems: an update
We have recently documented an up-to-date list of current access problems and it does not make pleasant reading with 16 mountain areas blocked off and scores of routes in the lowlands now out of bounds. In addition there is a list of general complaints, mostly from visitors, commenting on access problems (see below).
There were two interesting letters in the September/October 2007 issue of Walking World Ireland . One, on behalf of KIO, referred to the ICMSA’s pull-out from Comhairle na Tuaithe, seemingly because of the Expert Group’s favourable (to us) report on the legal aspects of access to the countryside. It also gave the present state of play on C na T’s activities. The other referred to the British proposals to have a coastal walk all the way round England and Wales and asked plaintively if we cannot learn from this.
John G O’Dwyer’s Irishman’s diary in the Irish Times in October gave details of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout in the Peak District in 1932, this being the 75th anniversary of this groundbreaking event. The writer seemed to think this demonstration would not be really necessary in Ireland, on the grounds that he had not challenged in 20 years of walking in Ireland. KIO begs to differ on this evaluation, as you can see from this issue’s editorial/ We also wrote to the Irish Times along the same lines but unfortunately it was not published.
UPDATE FROM THE EU ON FENCING
The following email has been recently received by our Connaught branch. It refers to the case taken by KIO against the extensive fencing of what was common land, especially in the west of Ireland. The case was taken by KIO in 2003 and while it is slowly grinding its way through the EU bureaucracy it is still moving and in the right direction.
Dear Mr Murphy,
I apologise on behalf of Mr Libicki for this belated reply to your inquiry concerning your petition’s current status. The Chairman has asked me to indicate to you his ongoing support for your position on behalf of the Committee and to inform you that the issue, having been taken up by the European Commission, is still before the European Court of Justice. We will get back to you when we have any news, however in the meantime you should use this information to your advantage in any discussions you might be having with the local or national authorities as it seems fairly clear that in many cases such ‘enclosures’ are contrary to what Europe expects in terms of freedom to roam.
Best regards David Lowe
Head of Secretariat.
KIO notes: In the meantime the action being taken against Ireland by the EU Commission is grinding slowly through the European Court.
A LETTER FROM WALES
I now live part of the year in Anglesey. You can get a glimpse of this island as you leave the ferry in Holyhead and speed on your way through agricultural land to more exciting points east, such as Snowdonia or the Lake District.
But there is much more to Anglesey than that. The coastline is varied and in places quite spectacular and the inland agricultural areas neat, inviting and with a good deal of archaeological interest.
But what I want to give you a glimpse of is the scope for walking. There are nearly 1100km of footpaths and by this I mean footpaths, not roads masquerading as footpaths, not forest roads in gloomy conifers. The Council estimates that nearly half of those walking can do so directly from their own door.
Another thing: they are rights of way, not permissive paths that can be blocked off by the landowner if he feels like it. The parts I usually walk are well maintained with signposts, stiles, bridges, planks across muddy stretches; in a word everything has been done to help the casual stroller – and their dogs. However I understand that some of the inland network is unusable, though I have never come across any problems.
In addition to all this there are small lengths of dedicated cycleways and bridle paths and 15 sq km covered by Right to Roam. Not bad for an area which is about the size of county Dublin. Have a look at the map of the footpath network in the two counties (they’re only rough equivalents, mind) – the contrast speaks volumes.
The local council emphasises all the usual advantages about the right of way network: health, recreation, and the local economy (the coastal network alone generates annually a useful €18m per annum). But it also makes a few other points: the network is used for commuting to work and school and so keeps car usage down; and it greatly adds to people’s appreciation of the environment and their archaeological heritage.
I wish Minister O Cuiv would take the short journey to Anglesey and learn something about access to the countryside. Not a hope. He has to go to New Zealand to find a suitable parallel to Ireland.
Cheerio for now,
The Happy Wanderer
TEAGASC: SOFTENING UP FOR PAYMENT FOR ACCESS
Teagasc, the farm advisory body and Galway University have teamed up for a project (wait for it)
‘to investigate attitudes and preferences of the general public for improved recreational access to the countryside for walking and conduct non-market willingness to pay analysis to estimate recreational demands for such access. The project is also exploring conditions important and relevant to landowners to facilitate any such improved access for walking.’
Which translated into English seems to mean: how much can we extract from walkers in return for access to the countryside? And how much cash will have to be made available to landowners to grant this ‘privilege’? This project is a shameful waste of taxpayers’ money, which might be better spent on one or all of the following:
* Evaluating the additional cost in the burden of illness and obesity to the nation caused by the farmers unwillingness to allow access to the country;
* Working out the loss of walking tourism caused by this unwillingness and how this is affecting farmers themselves who might be interested in getting into agri-tourism;
* Estimating the number of deaths and injuries caused on the roads to pedestrians who have nowhere else to walk and the monetary cost of these deaths and injuries.
These, and similar points were forcibly made to the authors of this report by the Western Committee of KIO.
ACCESS OFFICERS TO BE APPOINTED
Access Officers are to be appointed to eleven ‘contentious’ areas of the country. Announcing this development Minister O Cuiv ‘rejected the suggestion that these officers will be asked to perform the unenviable task of negotiating between walkers and farmers in the absence of a national agreement and strategy’ to quote the Farmers Journal. ‘Instead they will liaise with walkers and farmers by ensuring walkers know where they can and cannot go. […] They will let farmers know when walkers will be crossing their property and will keep in touch with the farmers to make sure that everything is OK.’
While we wish the appointees every success we do not envy them their task. It seems to involve running hither and yon, pointing out to walkers on a more or less one to one basis where access problems there are for the day they intend to walk and then informing farmers that (gosh, hold onto your hats!) walkers might be in their vicinity.
This whole crazy scheme is evidently based on the proposition that there will be very few walkers, a proposition that unfortunately will undoubtedly prove to be all too true.
LONELY PLANET AND THE ROUGH GUIDE AGREE: WALKERS TO BLAME!
How about this? This is the complete comment from the latest (2006) edition of Lonely Planet, an international travel guide for the independent tourist. The sentiment, and in places even the exact wording is repeated in its rival Rough Guide.
‘The Republic has no ‘rights of way’ or ‘right to roam’ but there is a tradition of relatively free access to privately own countryside. In recent years, the growing number and occasional carelessness of walkers has led some farmers to bar access to their land but all the same, the majority of landowners do not object to walkers crossing their property, as long as they respect the Country Code.’
This completely ignores the fact of the IFA’s current breath-taking demand to allow permissive ways, and its total rejection of any idea of freedom to roam over rough grazing country. The idea that it is ‘the occasional carelessness of walkers’ that has led to our present access problems is risible and an unfair slur on all the decent walkers in Ireland. As for the supposed ‘growing number of walkers’, these travel books seem to be unaware that the total number of walkers in Ireland is minute compared to those in any part of England or Wales, or probably much of the mountain areas of Europe.
Queries to both the publishers have failed to elicit a response about the origin of these comments. Rest assured though, they do not come from KIO!
Edition 7, Issued October 2007
A Report from ‘Keep Ireland Open’ ………. A HUNDRED THOUSAND WELCOMES?
In this issue we have grouped the serious problem involving major mountain areas first and then briefly listed the more minor ones, though even these are likely to leave a bad impression especially for visitors. Lastly we have gathered some general comments or problems that do not relate to a particular area.
We have also omitted some of the older problems where we have no information on whether they still exist or not. Once again we emphasise the random nature of these problems. Walkers and others wishing to access the countryside do not know from day to day where or why they might be accosted.
We would like to make it clear that walkers’ problems emanate from only a small but growing minority of landowners who do not allow access and primarily from the main farming organisations, which support farmers no matter how extreme their attitude.
In spite of their seriousness, in only a few of these cases has the local authority or any other body taken any steps to deal with them. In a country where walking could be an important component of the tourism industry, the situation is serious and getting worse.
The Glencree case, which established for the first time that a right of way can only exist if specifically dedicated by the landowner in question, shattered the comfortable illusion that there were rights of way in Ireland, though they are not marked on the maps, signposted on the ground or even listed in the county development plans. At least we now know the worst: there are virtually no rights of way in this country and to think otherwise is self-deluding.
SERIOUS PROBLEMS INVOLVING EXTENSIVE MOUNTAIN AREAS
Imagine starting out for a day’s walking and finding at the start or worse, part way though the walk that you are turned back by offensive notices or hostile landowners. This is the story in each of these cases.
Gleniff, co Sligo
Gleniff is a valley at the centre of an attractive mountain circuit including Ben Whiskin, one of the most spectacular mountains in Ireland and extends to some approaches to well-known Ben Bulben. It involves several landowners one of whom has now got two convictions for assaulting walkers. He refused to pay the second fine and as a result he was jailed (January 2004). The leadership of the IFA turned up to welcome him out.
This small but attractive range is almost the only one in the area to offer undulating walking on the high ground and not the normal plateau prevalent hereabouts. There is now a ‘keep out’ sign at the end of a steep climb at the western edge of the range.
Uggool, co Mayo
While primarily involving the blocking of a beach this problem also cuts off access to Mweelrea, the highest and one of the most spectacular mountains in Connaught.
In 1989 this popular beach near Louisburgh was illegally fenced off (the area so fenced is below the mean high water mark and legally in State hands). In spite of numerous protests, Mayo county council has never done anything effective about the problem. KIO brought the case to the Ombudsman, who directed that it take urgent steps to re-open the beach. Even though the landowner has now blocked off an informal car park near the beach the county council has still taken no action. In a court case the landowner concerned was given the benefit of the Probation Act after a blatant assault on a walker. There have also been several other complaints against this landowner.
Delphi, co Mayo and other Nearby Areas
The road on each side of the exceptionally scenic lower Delphi valley, between the Mweelrea Mountains and the Ben Gorm range, has been fenced on both sides so that access to open mountain land is impossible. Discussions with the landowner have lapsed and the Council has taken no action.
Similar fencing has been erected on scenic roads between Leenane and Maam Bridge and the ‘bog road’ between Roundstone and Clifden, among other areas of the West.
Gleninagh, co Galway
The landowner at the entrance to this valley in the Twelve Bens has erected notices barring entry to his land, the bogland part of which is essential if one is to either walk the Gleninagh circuit, one of the finest hill walks in Ireland or to access Carrot ridge, one of our most spectacular rock climbs.
The Twelve Bens, co Galway
Recently a new access problem here in a favourite mountain walking area. An angry farmer stopped a group of walkers and noted the registration numbers of their cars in a laneway leading to Letterfrack from the west side of Ben Baun.
The Cliffs of Moher, co Clare
Access to these well-known cliffs, which are on the Burren Way, is now severely restricted. Where once it was possible to walk considerable distances north and south, ugly fencing and hostile signs now block the way.
The Burren, co Clare
We are in receipt of a complaint by an American visitor about fences and ‘no trespassing’ signs in an unspecified part of the Burren. The visitor ends, “How can this be tolerated in an internationally renowned, unique natural area?”.
The Great Southern Trail (cos. Limerick and Kerry)
An attempt by a local tourism group to develop 85km of the old railway line between Limerick and Tralee, at present owned by CIE, is being frustrated by local landowners, using the excuse that walkers might disturb them. Such projects have been successfully completed in other countries without causing local opposition.
Moll’s Gap, co Kerry
‘Keep Out’ notices have recently appeared at both sides of the Gap, a popular starting point for walks to the Boughil and Peakeen mountain areas.
Mullaghanattin, co Kerry
This is one of the finest routes in the south-west, a high-level one offering magnificent views over the Ring of Kerry and beyond. It is invariably included in walking guides of the area. Walkers have been told by local farmers not to walk this route and at least one group has been told to ‘go back’ even though this would have meant facing mountain country at dusk in December. The local tourist interests are concerned but are powerless.
Three Sisters Head, near Brandon, co Kerry
Warning notices against walkers have been erected by a group of farmers in this area. This case has been reported at length to the then Minister of Tourism, himself a local TD, without any response from him other than an acknowledgement.
Brandon Mountain, co Kerry
There are, or have recently been, access problems on the track leading to the pater-noster lakes route to Brandon, in spite of the fact that the route is on a locally produced and supported hill walking guide. This is a splendid approach to this fine mountain and undoubtedly one of the most dramatic stretches of hill country in Ireland. The signs may be intermittent, but this is of little consolation to those who came here expecting to walk and have been turned away.
Cummeengeara Horseshoe and Valley, co Kerry
Locals are demanding money to access this most attractive walking area, described in several guidebooks. For the popular short walk into the heart of the lonely valley at the centre of the circuit €4 per person is demanded. Parking for those doing the whole circuit it is €3 per car.
Inchiquin Lakes, co Kerry
We have received another complaint about walkers, who only wished to turn their car in the area, being rudely hassled for money at the end of the valley holding the Inchiquin Lakes where a ‘leisure park’ has been established.
Sugar Loaf, co Cork
A walking route up the southern side of this spectacular mountain in West Cork, described in walking books as far back as 1978, and in a German language guide has been blocked off by the local landowner. Cork county council has taken no action in spite of protests.
The Comeraghs, co Waterford
A popular corrie walk and the cliffs above it have been blocked off by local landowner, who is aggrieved that his plans for a leisure centre have been refused by the local authority. Unfortunately another case of someone, who has the power taking out his frustrations on those who are not implicated in causing these frustrations but who have no power.
ACCESS PROBLEMS USUALLY INVOLVING BLOCKED PATHS
These problems range in seriousness from the trivial where signs may be ignored (though visitors are not to know which can be so treated) to serious losses of public amenities. In only a few cases did the local authority involved take any interest.
Glencree, co Wicklow
Two ‘rights of way’ that had been used by locals and others for generations were declared in the High Court not to be rights of way because the landowner had not specifically dedicated them to the public. The results of this judgement are far reaching and most discouraging.
Ardlougher Estate, co Donegal
Extracts from a notice at the above ‘All lands and dunes of the Ardlougher Estate are closed to the Public, NGO and Duchas or similar. Authorised entry is only permitted in writing on presentation of a valid insurance certificate and attendance of a site safety induction course on each visit (4 hours duration €1200 + vat).’
Swiss Valley, co Leitrim
There have been Keep Out signs at the start of a popular path into this scenic woodland near Glencar Waterfall, though this area has not been recently checked.
The Doons, co Leitrim
An ICMSA notice ending with the words ‘Unauthorised Entry is Prohibited’ has been erected in this area leading to a range of small but individualistic hills near Sligo. This sign is on a route described in a hill walking guide.
Culleenmore, co Sligo
About 1,000 locals have recently protested about a fence that was erected by the local authority and is blocking off access to a popular beach and sand dune area.
Scelp, co Mayo
A waymarked path (the Tochar Phadraig) ends on Croagh Patrick. The section close to this mountain has been blocked off by a local landowner. The council have taken no action to re-open it and have even queried if it is a right of way, in spite of the fact that it has been a pilgrim path since early Christian times. A recent edition of the promotional brochure, Mayo Magazine states ‘The Tochar passes through private land and can only be walked as part of a guided tour’.
Lanmore, Aughagower, Wesport, co Mayo
This important pre-Patrician standing stone and monastic site has been blocked off for several years, in spite of being previously accessible for centuries. No public authority, including the OPW, which acknowledges it is responsible for its care, has taken any action.
Ross and Lacken beaches, co Mayo
These two north Mayo beaches have recently been blocked in spite of local and KIO opposition.
Corraun Peninsula, co Mayo
There are unconfirmed reports that visitors have been threatened and extensive fencing has been erected blocking land and seashore on the west of the peninsula (see also KIO newsletter 24).
Slyne Head co Galway
A long-time resident writes: The whole of the S side of Slyne Peninsula [ ] is fenced off with barbed wire and threatening notices running right into the sea. The coast is a series of small beautiful beaches and rocky heads. At the start and finish of every one of them is more thorn wire and notices.
Clarinbridge area, co Galway
We have received a letter from a correspondent that near Clarinbridge there is a ‘keep out’ notice, apparently referring to the shore, even though the area below the high water mark is everywhere State property. To quote our correspondent ‘this means that a very pleasant, scenic walk [which] gives the opportunity to see wintering geese and many birds’ is out of bounds.
Renville Point, Oranmore, co Galway
A resident in this area who had been walking around the Point for 30 years has complained recently that the local golf club has blocked off the path.
Liscannor, co Clare
A correspondent writes: ‘There are nice walks in the neighbourhood but farmers have blocked some of the old ways. I saw three of them blocked by gates, wires etc in the immediate vicinity. Parts of some of these minor roads are paved leading me to believe they must be public rights of way if this was done at public expense’.
Augninish, co Clare
About 30 locals have provided affidavits seeking a write ordering a local landowner to cease attempting to fence off a long-standing walking route beside Lough Derg.
The Old Head of Kinsale, co Cork
The owners of the peninsula, a highly scenic area long enjoyed by the public, have blocked access to the entire Head. Their stance would have been much weaker had Cork co council included a walk around the Head in their development plan. There have been many major demonstrations by aggrieved locals and others, but the end result has been that the Supreme Court has upheld the landowners’ claim.
Three Castles Head, co Cork
This popular walking area has been barred to walkers by intimidating signs claiming that the ruins on the headland are in a dangerous condition. The sign in its present location seems to be a convenient excuse to block access.
Bere Island, co Cork
A sign stating ‘no trespass and no dogs allowed or you will be shot’ was photographed by two Dutch visitors who have been walking in Ireland for the last seven years. The tourism authorities simply stated that ‘this sort of attitude is so rare that it has to be the work of a crank’.
Ballymacadoyle, co Cork
A recent English visitor complained that an access charge (not a parking fee) was being extracted to climb this hill near Dingle Harbour.
Tipperary Heritage Trail
We recently received a complaint that South Tipperary County Council have blocked off the 6km footpath section of the Tipperary Heritage Trail between Golden and Cashel from October to March (presumably each year) because of what is described as ‘flooding’. As in the case of the Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk the council seems to be taking the easy option. ‘If there’s a problem, close it off – don’t bother about doing anything effective. KIO is investigating.
Carnbane, co Westmeath
This is the only area for hill walking in Westmeath, but much more significantly, is an important megalithic complex. A local farmer has blocked off one of the two groups of tombs here. Duchas has stated that it can do nothing about it, any more than it can for any archaeological site anywhere on private land.
Shillelagh, co Wicklow
There is a bitter dispute here over an old graveyard at Balisland outside this village.
Near Lough Dan, co Wicklow
The track here at Ballinrush leads almost to the shores of Lough Dan and has been used by generations of walkers. For some time now the gate at the public road has been blocked off. Although this most scenic route has been used for generations the implications of he Glencree verdict (see above) mean that this route is no longer open to the public.
Hollywood, co Wicklow
The old path south of the village has been blocked with a sign warning of unspecified dangers.
Church Mountain, in co Wicklow
Well-mannered, small groups of walkers have been told to go elsewhere around this mountain in west Wicklow.
Kilmashoge, co Dublin
A much frequented route from the forest carpark here has had a keep out notice for years, which has seeming been erected by Coillte at the request of a local resident some distance away. Though this notice has been ignored by locals, it is difficult for walkers to distinguish between signs which are to be taken seriously and those which are not.
The following is a selection of recent comments (there are others) on the access situation in Ireland gleaned from local and foreign sources
Report from the Cork branch of the Federation of Local History Societies (October ’07) Members report that about seventeen traditional paths in the county, not recorded already in this document, have access problems. This leads us to wonder how many local paths throughout the country are blocked but have not been reported to us.
From a report in a national daily newspaper Two elderly Scottish ladies were insulted and verbally attacked while walking in a remote area [of county Kerry]. The person who reported this said that he could mention 50 places in the county where ‘Keep Out’ notices had been erected.
From the magazine of the Ramblers Association, Britain The Spring 2004 edition quotes a commentator: I know of one landowner [in Ireland] who was forced to remove a “Hikers Welcome” sign from his own property, and have to wonder if things could get much worse that that!’
From an email received by KIO in September 2004: ‘I was always dismayed that a large proportion of the routes of the waymarked ways were on tarmac but now it is easy to see the reason. I have long been a visitor to archaeological sites in Ireland but have noticed increased blocking of access by landowners (usually farmers) in recent years; this should be a serous matter for the responsible Government Department.’
From a letter to the Minister for Tourism: ‘I was surprised to discover that several of the walks we had intended to make – all of them on traditional public rights-of-way, and all of them described in detail in old and now publications – are now impossible or questionable. […] Even the country’s Waymarked Ways, […] are not free of obstruction. […] …my friend and I were prepared for the high price of our visit, but we can’t cope with barbed wire and hostile farmers blocking public ways.
From an email to KIO in 2004: ‘I am English and visited County Cork a couple of years ago. Being a keen hiker, I enquired at the Clonakilty Tourist Information office as to where I could go walking. They looked at me a little sheepishly before suggesting some place that I knew to be many miles away. […] Very reluctantly, they admitted that there were no rights of access if the land was private. Therefore I would advise hikers not to bother with Ireland till they get their act sorted out there!’
From a letter published in the Irish Times in 2006: I used to write hillwalking guidebooks to Irish mountains. No more. I have spoken out and paid the price: I do not want sheaves of solicitors’ letters through my letterbox. Fortunately I am now writing about the mountains of Snowdonia, where I have the freedom that I am denied in my native land.
From an email to KIO in 2003 from two English visitors: ‘We were frustrated, fed-up and angry. Wherever we turned to for advice we were given vague excuses and half truths about the situation and although we enjoyed being in Ireland again and even persuaded two friends to come with us because we though it was such a lovely place, we doubt we’ll visit again until the access problems are sorted out.’
And finally …… Lastly how about this? This is the complete comment from the latest (2006) edition of Lonely Planet, an international travel guide for the independent tourist. The sentiment, and in places even the exact wording is repeated in its rival Rough Guide.
‘The Republic has no ‘rights of way’ or ‘right to roam’ but there is a tradition of relatively free access to privately own countryside. In recent year, the growing number and occasional carelessness of walkers has led some farmers to bar access to their land but all the same, the majority of landowners do not object to walkers crossing their property, as long as they respect the Country Code.’
This completely ignores the fact of the IFA’s current breath-taking demand to allow permissive ways (€5,000 per kilometre, plus €1,000 per farm, all per year), and its total rejection of any idea of freedom to roam. The idea that it is ‘the occasional carelessness of walkers’ that has led to our present access problems is risible and an unfair slur on all the decent walkers in Ireland. As for the supposed ‘growing number of walkers’, these travel books seem to be unaware that the total number of walkers in Ireland is minute compared to those in any part of England or Wales, or probably much of the mountain areas of Europe.
Queries to both the publishers have failed to elicit a response about the origin of these comments.
HAVE YOUR Say!…..
Is there anything you are just dying to express about KIO’s policy, Access problems in your area or about access in general? Then let us know and ypu can have a slot in this newsletter. But keep it short: a couple of hundred words is enough. Send your contributions to KIO’s e-mail address email@example.com
HELP WANTED ….. PLEASE
We need a Planning Volunteer to help with monitoring County Development Plans. This is important work as the Development Plan provides the legal basis for the listing and protection of rights of way and other access issues. It would be great to find someone with planning experience but computer literacy would go a long way. Please contact Roger Garland at (01) 493 4239.
If you have any comments on the newsletter or any other aspect of our campaign or if you would like to describe your own problems with access to the countryside send correspondence to
The Secretary, KIO, 56 Pine Valley Avenue, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
Links to Affiliated organisations
Federation of Local History Societies
Catholic Girl Guides of Ireland
or e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org