Letter: A way to keep both sides happy

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Sir: Yet another campaign in the continuing war between the country-loving ramblers and the wicked landowners or, depending on where you stand, between the hard-working farmers and the weekend pleasure-seekers.

Being neither a rambler nor a landowner, but living in a village and enjoying walking the country footpaths, I find the necessity of this continuing conflict between the walkers and workers of the land to be greatly exaggerated.

There is no excuse for landowners who deliberately obliterate or obstruct rights of way, but at the same time the demands of ramblers too often ignore the changing needs of the regular users of local footpaths.

The principal use of most footpaths is no longer to enable people to get from A to B by the shortest route but for pleasure and exercise. The rambler may walk a particular path once a year, the locals use it daily.

So where is the justification for the automatic objection to any rerouting of a path?

A few years ago a farmer in south-east Essex put forward a plan to reroute some little-used footpaths on his land and to create several new ones. The provision of an increased number of more interesting and circuitous walks was welcomed by both the local people and the district council. However, an automatic objection by ramblers threatened court action and the scheme was dropped, with the local community being the losers.

What enjoyment is there for man or his dog in walking through a growing crop? You cannot gather the fruits of the hedgerow or explore rabbit warrens in the middle of a field of wheat.

Next year farmers will be forced to reduce the amount of cultivated land by taking whole fields out of production. A growing number of them would favour setting aside an area round each field. Such a development could be of benefit to both farmers and walkers.

For the rambler there could be a network of trails across whole areas of farmland and set-aside headland bridleways in roadside fields could provide welcome relief for horse riders and car drivers.

Continuing aggression is not the solution, it just increases acrimony and strengthens prejudice. Ramblers' and landowners' efforts would be more profitably spent in co-operating to persuade the Government to accept a set-aside policy that could be of benefit to all countryside users.

Yours faithfully,