Letter: Denied access to the countryside

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Sir: Reading Hugh Duberley's article (Another View; "Pathway to peace", 11 April), one could almost believe that the Country Landowners' Association (CLA), rather than the Ramblers', was promoting access to the countryside.

Unfortunately, this could scarcely be further from the truth. The CLA employs a legal adviser, one of whose principle roles is to help landowners with the diversion or closure of footpaths. Some of its most prominent members have been lobbying to reduce the right to use public footpaths to a privilege. The CLA clamoured for nine years to create the new offences of aggravated trespass and trespassory assembly: its members now have a powerful new means of excluding people from their land.

Until the end of the 18th century, with the exception of a few unpopular deerparks, there was a de facto right of access to the countryside. We were deprived of this right by a tiny group of powerful people for whom exclusion was - and is - one of the privileges of ownership. Now their descendants are attempting to reduce the scope of out last remaining right: to cross by means of public footpaths the land which was once ours.

Yours sincerely,

GEORGE MONBIOT

Oxford

London, SW8

11 April

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