Letter: Miseries inflicted by trespassers

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The Independent Online
Sir: In her letter of 1 August, Marion Shoard states that there is a 'long-standing tradition of free access to the countryside'. This is incorrect. There is an assumption on the part of an arrogant and vociferous minority of non- landowners that they have the right to wander at will on land that does not belong to them; not the same thing at all.

The countryside is not a free leisure facility and landowners have perfectly valid reasons for denying access to trespassers. Such trespassers are law breakers.

For 10 years I owned a trout fishery. The activity was my livelihood, albeit one that provided a meagre income. It was essential that members of the public who were not fishing should not be on my land since fish are shy creatures who take fright if they are not approached with stealth and caution.

Every day throughout the summer I was confronted by people who assumed that because this environment was an attractive one, they had a right to walk alongside my lakes, throw sticks in the water for their dogs to retrieve and to allow their children to paddle and dip their nets in the lakes. Attempts to dissuade them from these activities were met with incredulity, abuse and often threats of violence.

On one occasion my Sunday lunch was disturbed by a group of ramblers who knocked at my door and insisted that the house I had built obstructed a public footpath and that they intended to walk through my garden. I, with studied politeness, pointed out that they had misread their map]

Most landowners are prepared to grant access where there would not be any disturbance to their own economic activity, provided members of the public had the courtesy to ask. Unfortunately the majority of walkers rarely do.

I and many others welcome a strengthening of the law that may indeed criminalise those whose arrogant assumption of rights (so-called) that they do not possess makes life a misery for the many who make their living in rural areas.

Yours faithfully,

COLIN HARMS

St Mary's Bay, Kent

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