Forbidden Britain: Ramblers given hard hats as building site blocks footpath: A golf course is being built across the line of the Oxfordshire Way, and walkers are likely to be diverted. Stephen Goodwin reports

LOBBERSDOWN HILL is not the place it was. For walkers following the Oxfordshire Way from the Cotswolds, it was a tranquil spot to draw breath and take in the imposing line of the Chilterns escarpment. Heading north-west, the view is of rolling farmland, unsung in terms of bureaucratic countryside designations, but quintessentially English.

Attempt the walk this summer, and on top of Lobbersdown Hill you will have to put on a hard hat and thread your way through a building site. The hill is now the focus of a pounds 20m golf course development, and the luxury clubhouse is being built slap across the Oxfordshire Way.

Nitto Albion Co Ltd, the Japanese developer, hopes the course will attract major tournaments - the parent company owns the Turnberry course in Scotland - but its attitude to the footpaths and bridleways which cross the 260-acre (105-hectare) site has angered ramblers' organisations.

With planning permission granted, the company submitted its application to divert and close paths in December 1990. But by starting work on the two-storey clubhouse before the diversions are confirmed it appears to have jumped the gun.

Guidance to developers from the Department of the Environment includes a strict warning not to go ahead with any work which would obstruct a right of way. This year when Oxfordshire County Council realised what was happening on Lobbersdown Hill, Nitto was ordered to 'reinstate' the paths.

The Oxfordshire Way is now picked out by wooden posts rising through bulldozed hummocks. Just beyond the putative 18th hole the walker is confronted by a notice which begins: 'The Oxfordshire Way continues directly through the clubhouse.' Hard hats are taken from a wooden box and a 'guide' is on hand to oversee safe passage between the scaffolding, down the stairs and out through the basement. Last weekend there was some queuing for hats.

Work is almost completed on a bridge to carry a bridleway across one of the artificial lakes on the course.

At a public inquiry yesterday, the Ramblers' Association and the Open Spaces Society, Britain's oldest conservation body, put their objections to an inspector appointed by the Department of the Environment. He can either confirm the proposed closures and diversions himself or refer the issue to the Secretary of State - at the earliest, a decision could take two months.

The odds are Nitto will be allowed to divert the Oxfordshire Way to the south of the clubhouse on what the RA considers an inferior line, divert a bridleway, extinguish two other footpaths and create a new one. This last, meandering, line was dismissed by Jo Bird, chairman of the Oxfordshire RA, as 'a sop'.

'Poor little footpaths are so vulnerable. It is so easy to destroy them. That is why they need us to defend them,' Miss Bird said. By pursuing Nitto all the way down the legal road, ramblers hope to make other developers more careful.

Alex McMillan, a Nitto director, said the company's first priority had been to keep the best possible relationships with amenity groups, the local community and local authorities. 'We have complied with every request we have had.'

He said the bridleway would have an 'all-weather' surface and claimed the scenic view from the Oxfordshire Way would be preserved. 'We are not trying to take anything away from the ramblers. We are trying to get a reasonable compromise.'

Mr McMillan would not speculate on the possibility that the diversion away from clubhouse might be refused. 'That's hypothetical at the moment,' he said.

To join 'The Oxfordshire', as it will be called, will cost a five figure sum. Having parted with that kind of money, members will not want to share the bar with muddy-booted ramblers following a chalk line of the Oxfordshire Way across the carpet.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before