Not in my back yard: Sir Ranulph keeps ramblers off estate

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The Independent Online

His adventures have taken him from Antarctica to the far reaches of the Nile but when it comes to his own wilderness it seems Sir Ranulph Fiennes would rather keep the great outdoors to himself.

His adventures have taken him from Antarctica to the far reaches of the Nile but when it comes to his own wilderness it seems Sir Ranulph Fiennes would rather keep the great outdoors to himself.

The British explorer, first to reach north and south poles by surface, was yesterday accused of hypocrisy after he tried to stop several acres of his Devon estate being opened to walkers.

Under "right to roam" legislation, planners want to make 36 acres of moorland and grassland owned by Sir Ranulph on Exmoor available to ramblers. But the 60-year-old adventurer says that would disturb his prized cattle and cost him considerable expense by having to take out insurance against injury by his pedigree Aberdeen Angus bulls.

Ramblers accused Sir Ranulph, who frequently trains for his expeditions on Exmoor, of failing to embrace the philosophy that has allowed him to conquer the globe's most inhospitable corners.

A spokesman for the Ramblers' Association said: "Given the fact that he is the most famous explorer in the world, this does smack of irony. Sir Ranulph appears to be arguing about access to a steep-sided ravine with a gully running through it. As far as we know, cattle being spooked is not a good reason to deny access to walkers."

The land, close to the explorer's home in the village of Exford, provides grazing for beef cattle and stag hunting. The new "right to roam" laws mean stretches of land such as Exmoor will be open to ramblers unless landowners can prove it has been sufficiently improved to justify continued closure.

Sir Ranulph, who last year underwent heart surgery after collapsing on an aircraft, has made his name with feats of endurance, from parachuting onto a Norwegian glacier to walking unaided across Antarctica.

But yesterday the explorer said there was no reason for people to walk on his land. "The land in question is a fenced field with no footpaths, leading nowhere. If people walk across the area with big dogs, my cattle would be disturbed. There is also the chance of bulls going for the walkers, something I would have to insure against at excessive cost to myself."

Recently, Madonna won her claim that part of her £9m Wiltshire estate should remain private. A planning decision on Sir Ranulph's land is expected next week.

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