Land of beauty and barbed wire

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The Independent Online
Snarling dogs and shotguns apart, nothing is more off-putting to country walkers than barbed wire, writes Stephen Goodwin. And in few areas are the entanglements more numerous than in the neighbouring parishes of Whitford and Ysceifiog in Flintshire.

Walking is the most popular recreation in Wales yet it can often seem an unwelcoming place for the rambler. More than half of the paths in its 25,000-mile network are reckoned impossible or difficult to use - a worse record than in England.

A deep-rooted dislike of outsiders in the quieter communities is tactfully hinted at by Welsh footpath campaigners who try to explain the difference.

Whitford and Ysceifiog could not be described as remote. They are close to the busy North Wales coast and part of the attraction of the green hillsides is the splendid view over the Dee estuary, but it is hazardous terrain for the walker.

The Ramblers' Association's latest survey of the area lists 185 obstructions in the two parishes - 69 in Whitford and 116 in Ysceifiog. Barbed wire is the most common. "Stile wired", "electric fence", "effluent flooding", and "locked gate" are others. Well over three-quarters of the paths in the area are blocked. The ramblers drew attention to the dismal record in 1992 and little has changed since, although the local squire, Lord Mostyn, did put footpaths on his own land in order.

John Robinson, the RA's North Wales secretary, is not optimistic thatFlintshire County Council will take action against farmers who refuse to cut away the wire.

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